Flying from Amman to Tel Aviv, I looked out to see where that fabled river Jordan would appear, and it was quite remarkable to see the green after the barren, desert mountains of Jordan.
Swoop over the sea and land at the Ben Gurion airport. Very efficient shared taxi to Jerusalem, the driver drops you right where you have to go - for us it was the rather charming and very comfortable legacy hotel, which according to all my Jewish friends is the wrong area, but it is a 5 minute walk into the Old City, which is what we have come to explore essentially.
Church of the Sepulchre
The Old City of Jerusalem, I honestly was not sure what I expected, but it certainly was not a cleanerversion of Chandni Chowk. Local shops rub shoulders with tourist fare, little cobbled alleys crisscross each other, tucked away arches and tiny corridors, what stories the stones could tell!
Unfortunately we are here on Friday and so cannot visit the Dome of the Rock, it's good Friday for the greek orthodox church so visiting the church of the Sepulchre was also an impossibility, there were barricades and very efficient security. But everything seems to move quite smoothly and it was not uncomfortable and we walked the via dolorosa, immersed ourselves in the sights and smells of old Jerusalem.
We did get to the tower of David and the top of the Citadel to see the panoramic views of Jerusalem spread below. Also managed to see the museum and the history of Jerusalem, which is so varied - Solomon, David, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, Alexander, Ptolemies, Constantine and on and on... So like I say if stones could just tell the tales, I guess they do to archeologists and such!
We finally did an early morning dash to the church and found it wonderfully empty and accessible. So the parents got to see all they wanted which was good. Later I got panoramic views from the mount of olives aswell.
From Jerusalem to the north. A drive along the valley of the Jordan river, finally getting to understand the area and piece the stories together, sectors divided, one town Palestinian and the adjacent one Israeli, it defies description why a people that co existed once cannot continue to do so, but there is ample evidence around the world that this phenomenon persists and that men who might play a game of chess together one day will build a wall between them when some political or religious propagandist tells them to!
Mount Meron area
Regardless, its a fruitful and blooming valley, the river is rather a trickle because water has been diverted for irrigation in both Jordan and Israel, and it was dissapointing to finally see such a mythical river and find a stream. It still greens the desert however.
The sea of Galilee, was large and beautiful, surrounded by the mountains, the water was soft and warm, rather special. I got to visit the Druze community at Mount Meron. They live and farm in the national park area, and gave us a great off road tour of their oak wooded mountains. Stood looking off the Golan heights, standing next to a bunker and seeing just how and why these heights are so key to security.
Little streams cut magical canyons through these mountains. Walked up one to a paradisical waterfall and pool surrounded by pink flowering oleanders, straight out of a Mills and Boon romance. Cold, refreshing swim after a warm walk. There are so many little areas of wilderness and interest all over. It is just so my kind of place.
Tel Aviv, it’s a city that I enjoyed thoroughly. The sea makes it happen as does the energy. Bicycles, motored and all other kinds of funk, scooties and scooters, kayaks and sail boats. Old ports with charming to funky restaurants. Friendly and vibrant. I also flew, over the beaches and skimmed the surface of the water, soaring like a bird with the controls in my hands and a colourful parasail billowing overhead. All in all a smorgasbord of experiences that describe this mixing bowl of a city.
Israel was fascinating.
Hey that’s me in the distance…pangongso