After a 3:10 wake-up to meet at the IKEA parking lot at 3:45 to get to Geneva airport by 5.00 for a 7.00 flight we were on our way. It’s only a 4-hour flight to Tel Aviv, which seems long at the time when you have a wiggly 18month old who doesn’t sleep – but considering we flew to the Middle East I suppose it’s pretty good. (and paying less for all 6 of us than the cost of 2 tickets to Canada is nothing to complain about either)
Since we were 12 altogether, it was actually cheapest to hire a mini-bus to drive us from the airport to our rented house, so once we finally found that (after walking in and out of and around the airport carrying bags and children and a car seat for about 20 minutes) we were on our way to Jerusalem. That would be us and our four kids plus our friends Rob & Michelle and their four – so 8 kids between 18months and 12 years old.
If you notice above that it looks like Matea has a few tears in her eyes, its because her eardrum ruptured as the plane landed in Tel Aviv. She has a freakishly high tolerance for pain but was still in pain all evening. It wasn’t until the night that we were sure it had actually ruptured.
As soon as we left the airport, things looked different
When we got to the house the kids ran across the street to play at the play-park that we saw listed on the information for the house. Except for the place where the play structure used to stand was now just a large black rubberized circle in the middle of the park – so the kids improvised.
Once we got settled we walked over to the Old City of Jerusalem. Even though modern Jerusalem is a large metropolis, the old city is still surrounded by the 16th-century walls built by Suleiman the Magnificent when the Ottoman Empire controlled the city. These were close to the 11th-century walls built to keep out the Crusaders, which were then destroyed so they wouldn’t gain a walled city. Most of these followed the 1st-century walls rebuilt by Herod the Great during Roman times, and many of them are pretty close to the 7th century BC walls built by Ezra and Nehemiah when the people of Israel returned from exile in Babylon. Prior to that, King Solomon extended the walls to surround the first Jewish Temple which he had constructed, making the city walls larger than his father King David had done. So yeah – this city has some history.
We climbed up Mount Zion (which all the kids who have been raised in the Alps considered “not a mountain”) to enter through Zion Gate.
This gate is a stark reminder of the blood that has been shed in the centuries-old battle to control this city, as the entire gate is pockmarked from bullets fired during the war of 1948
Once inside the Old City – one very quickly gets a strong “we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto” kind of feeling.
We walked through the Arab Markets, without losing any of the children I might add.
We made it to the Western Wall just before sun-down on Friday-when the Jewish Sabbath begins.
The Western Wall is actually one of the giant retaining walls built to hold up the Temple Mount – where the first Jewish Temple (built by Solomon in 10th century BC and destroyed by the Babylonians around 586BC) and the second one (built around 516BC and destroyed by the Romans 70AD) used to stand. Ever since the Dome of The Rock was built in the 7th century when one the great Arab caliph empires controlled Jerusalem, the struggle for control of and access to this wall which is the closest thing remaining of the temple has been highly fought over. Jewish people were denied access, then given access, then lost it again, then upon gaining back Jerusalem in the 6-day war they razed an entire Moroccan neighbourhood to get better access to it.
After the Western Wall, we needed to find a place to eat, but being Shabbat, everything in the Jewish quarter was closed, so we wandered back to the Arab quarter and had our first (of many) falafels.
We finished supper and headed back through the old city to our house.
Day 1: success.