BETHLEHEM AND JERUSALEM - ONLY A FEW DAYS FROM EASTER
This day embraced the most wonderful experiences one can have in a lifetime - a visit, although very short, to the Holyland. We were greeted early this morning by our guide, Ruth, on the Ashdod pier and we started our drive to Bethlehem. When we arrived just outside Bethlehem, we were greeted again by Ali, an Arab Christian, who took us into Bethlehem under Palistinian control. Ruth could not go with us. As we rounded a corner with Ali, the car slowed and another person, Ashraf, jumped in and was our guide for the Church of the Nativity. As we came over the hill, we could see Bethlehem in front of us...."Oh, LIttle Town of Bethlehem....." with the shepards fields in front of us and the Church of the Nativity in the distance. And the sheep and the shepards are still there!
As we entered the Church, a beam of light pierced the area of the santuary and as we moved to the side, Judy and her world traveling teddy, "Coco" rested for a moment of reflection. We could see a long line for the visit to the Nativity Grotto, but Ashraf took us around to another entrance and we were in the Grotto and the Manger before we knew it.
There we were........at the Manger and all those memories of our religious upbringing and the meaning of Christmas overwhelming us. We can not explain the feeling except that we knew we were in one of the most Holiest places on earth.
We spent almost two hours in Bethlehem before Ashraf and Ali returned us to Ruth for our continuation of the day to Jerusalem.
We arrived at the King David Hotel, the meeting place of all Presidents, Heads of State, Kings, Queens, and leaders from countries all over the world. We had lunch with Ruth and then started our afternoon visit to the Old City of Jerusalem.
It was Passover and only 2 days from Good Friday so the word, crowded, didn't start to describe the scene. We entered the Old City via the Jaffa Gate, named because it faces the ancient Mediterranean port of Jaffa.
Religions processions were abundant and navigated their way down the very narrow Via Dolorosa. We finally arrived at Mt. Calvary or "Golgotha" and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of the Crucifixion. For the second time in only a few hours, we were once again silenced with very strong emotion and reverance. The scene was hard to describe which is understandable.
We spent some time leaving The Old City due to the crowds and then Ruth took us to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemene where we had a wonderful panoramic view of the Old City of Jerusalem including the Dome of the Rock.
Time was up and Ruth then drove us to the Grand Court Hotel where we were to meet our Crystal Full World Cruisers for our big event in the Bet Gurvin (The Bell ) Caves located half way between Jerusalem and the Port of Ashdod.
These Caves, a UNESCO site, hosted all of us for one of the most memorable evenings we have ever experienced - and we mean an experience! After such a long and emotional day, this was the perfect finale for everyone.
Many in our group of the Jewish faith spent time at Masada, the Dead Sea, the Wailing Wall in the Old City and others followed in our footsteps. The entertainment was superb and the final song with "Peace" emblazened on the wall of the Cave was almost too much to absorb. His last song, "Over the Rainbow", was gripping and made such a statement about our day and the hopes and dreams of everyone.
OUR THOUGHT FOR THE DAY......