Day 1: We start with a breathtaking view of Jerusalem . As if in the palm of our hand, we see the Old City and the Temple Mount area spread before us and imagine the Second Temple destroyed in 70 CE and Solomon’s Temple before that, destroyed in 586 BCE. As we drive along the Kidron Valley we have an excellent view of Mount Olives ,the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations as well as of the monumental ancient Jewish burial tombs. We enter the Old City through from Mt. Zion, passing the Armenian Quarter to the excavated Byzantine Cardo. Although this fifteen hundred year old main street of Jerusalem was partially destroyed and unused during the Moslem conquest it had a brief new lease of life during the Crusader period and the excavated Crusader shops are now modern stores. Continuing through the Jewish Quarter we proceed to the Western Wall (Kotel). This two thousand year old wall is part of the encircling and supporting wall built by king Herod when of the Temple Mount area was enlarged. As we walk along the Via Dolorosa we join the many pilgrims who are following the Stations of the Cross ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the church built over the place of the crucifixion of Jesus and the burial tomb. Originally built in the Byzantine period, it was partially destroyed during the Persians and Moslem conquests and then rebuilt and slightly altered by the Crusaders. After a short stroll through the market place we exit the Old City and continue to Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum commemorating both the annihilation of six million Jews and those righteous among the nations who endangered their lives while trying to save Jews.
Day 2: As we descend 1,200 meters from Jerusalem through the wilderness of the Judean Desert to the Dead Sea, we pass the Inn of the Good Samaritan and stop briefly at the “sea level” marker. In the distance we see Jericho, the oldest city in the world. Changing into our swimsuits we head for the Dead Sea. At four hundred meters below sea level this is the lowest place on earth, so low that the cancerous sun rays are filtered out enabling sufferers of such skin ailments as psoriasis to expose their bodies to the sun without worry.We take the opportunity to cover ourselves with black mud, even our faces and bald spots! As long as two thousand years ago, Queen Cleopatra realised that it was the mud which kept her young and alluring for Mark Anthony!Finally we enjoy a therapeutic swim in the Dead Sea. The water is almost 35% salt and even those who cannot swim can float.Tired but feeling and looking years younger we admire the reflection of the mountains of Moab in the still waters of the Dead Sea. Who knows if we will be awake to hear our guide as he show us from roadside the caves of Qumran where the two thousand year old Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered!