Although the title of this blog post suggests that it is about both Israel AND Jordan, it is in fact only about Jordan. This is a continuation of my trip to both countries in December 2019. You can read part 1 of 2 here.
If I continue where I left off in part 1, we had arrived back in Tel Aviv on Thursday, December 26th.
Friday morning, we dedicated the day to visit Jerusalem. I really enjoyed Jerusalem and would have liked to stay there overnight. Below is a skyline view of Jerusalem. The city is divided into quarters — Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Armenian.
We went to the Armenian quarter next, and visited St. James Cathedral Church. During our trip, it was actually beginning to pour down with rain. Luckily, we had waterproof clothing. The church wasn’t open at the time that we visited, so here’s just a photo from the outside.
Next we went to the Jewish quarter. We spent a majority of our time there. It was fascinating just walking around, looking at the city, and knowing that people live there.
Also being a Christian who grew up in California probably made it a bit more interesting as well. The US school system teaches a lot about the Jewish history as well as Hanukkah. I’ve never seen it celebrated so seriously!
At the Western Wall, or what a lot of people refer to as the wailing wall, people gather to pray and worship. It’s interesting because the wall is split into a men’s and women’s only section. The men’s section is more than double the size of the women’s, and even includes an indoor library of some sorts (at least from what Erick reported back to me).
One thing that I learned during my trip is that Orthodox Jewish practice is sexist. Some prayers require a minimum of ten participants, and women don’t count! Say what!? Sexism aside, the wall is definitely something.
In every crack and crevice on the wall, you can find little scraps of paper. I also noticed that a lot of individuals don’t turn their back to the wall, meaning that when they walk away from it, they walk backwards to leave.
After the Western Wall, we took a short break for lunch. We did however pass by the Muslim quarters, but we weren’t allowed to enter because they were having their Friday service.
For lunch we had a bagel, which is basically these long rounded sesame breads. It’s really great. We also got a pita sandwich, so good.
I didn’t feed the cats, because these cats already had lots of food. But you know me, I love photographing cats.
After lunch time was over, we went on The Way of the Cross (Via Crucis), which is a religious path that follows the sites of Jesus’ Passion. There are 14 spots in all (I – XIV), and I tried my best to document them, but it honestly isn’t all that interesting through photos.
The starting point (I) is at the Church of the Condemnation. This is where Jesus was condemned to death, hence the church’s name.
Just across from the church is the next location (II), the Monastery of the Flagellation, where Jesus carries his cross.
The rest of the walk was mostly just spots that had a way to identify that it was “the spot”. I’m just going to list out the rest here.
- III – Jesus falls for the first time
- IV – Jesus meets his mother, Mary
- V – Simon of Cyrene helps carry the Cross
- VI – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
- VII – Jesus falls for the second time (I think he supposedly touched the wall here, or maybe it was IX, and there’s a spot where everyone likes to put their hand)
- VIII – Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
- IX – Jesus falls for the third time
- X – Jesus is stripped of his garments
- XI – Jesus is nailed to the Cross
- XII – Jesus dies on the Cross
- XIII – Jesus is taken down from the Cross
- XIV – Jesus is buried
The last location, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, pretty much covers X – XIV. I was actually very shocked that I could see the location of where Jesus was hung from the cross and buried, all right next to each other. I guess in my mind, I always imagined it to be much further apart.
Inside the church, it was a very strange mix of atmosphere. The flooring was quite beautiful and the ceilings ornate. There was the burial site of Jesus, as well as the stone that his body was laid on. This is where many people have come to pray on. It’s easy to get lost inside!
Finishing up our Jesus Walk, we got some beer and desserts. We also bought some roasted coffee beans for home.
It was late Friday afternoon, and there were lots of people shuffling around quickly before Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.
This was how we finished up our day in Jerusalem. Back in Tel Aviv, I saw a Mexican restaurant and had to try it. It was good!
We pretty much went on a food binge this night, because we also got ice cream and super duper sweet hot chocolate.
We finished off the night by checking out some art in the gallery of the hostel that we were staying at. It was a nice day.
The next day, we went to Nazareth, Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee. I could have done without visiting Nazareth, unfortunately (shhhh, don’t tell anyone). I liked Jerusalem much more.
We started the trip by visiting the Basilica of the Annunciation. This was a super huge church and property, and also where Mary’s original home was. Yes, the home where Angel Gabriel appeared to her.
Next to Mary’s church was St. Joseph’s Church. Joseph’s Church was much smaller in comparison to Mary’s. Below the church was an underground grotto where you can see Joseph’s home and where he worked.
Once we finished our walk around both churches, we hopped in a bus and traveled to Tabgha. Located on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee, Tabgha is believed to be the location where Jesus performed various miracles, such as the multiplication of loaves and fishes.
Following Tabgha, we made our way further north to Capharnaum. This is where a majority of Jesus’ ministry took place. It’s also where you can find the first church and Peter’s house.
For lunch, we went to a buffet style restaurant where you can help yourself to any sides you like (the good ole pre-COVID days). Erick and I also shared a grilled fish.
The last stop of our trip was to Yardenit, the famous baptismal site on the Jordan River, the same river where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. This is a very popular attraction for visitors to get baptised. I considered doing it, but the weather was so cold! We enjoyed watching other people getting baptized however, while sipping on our vin chaud and beer.
Back in Tel Aviv again for the night, we walked alongside the ocean towards Old Jaffa. When you live in a landlocked country, you learn to appreciate every chance you get at being next to an ocean.
There were lots of little shops that sold all sorts of nice quality items. I wanted to take everything home! We ended up purchasing two pillow cases. I’m still very satisfied with that purchase.
Come dinner time, we began our search a little too late. Most of the restaurants that we went to were already full for the night. Aimlessly walking around to find a place to eat, we did stumble across some interesting events that distracted us from our stomach’s grumblings, such as a large warehouse filled with massive balloon art.
At some point, we arrived at Cafe Puaa. This restaurant was buzzing with people, and the food looked amazing. There was already a line of people waiting to be seated, so we added our name to the list and waited alongside. It was like we were back in California, we waited for at least an hour! I do recommend trying this restaurant if you’re ever in town.
For dessert, we went back to Erick’s new favorite ice cream shop, Otello.
Today is our last full day in Israel.
To make the most of it, we woke up super early to climb Masada to see the sunrise. I really love doing these morning sunrise hikes. Waking up at 3AM is never fun, but oh so rewarding in the end.
When we arrived at Masada, there was a super long line to pay to get into the National Park. Luckily, we ran into a couple of friends that we had made from our trip to Jordan! We were able to cut the line and start our hike up a little sooner.
The hike was tiring, but overall nothing of a real challenge. And once you’re at the top, everything becomes worth it.
Erick and I found a secluded portion of the ruins to set up camp to watch the sunrise.
We later wandered around the ancient fortress ruins of Masada. In terms of ruins, this one ranks pretty high on my list of rubbles visited. There was just the right amount of information available for us to self guide around the massive plateau overlooking the Dead Sea.
Next we went to the Ein Gedi Reserve. Here laid a diverse network of trails marked by natural pools, waterfalls and scenic viewpoints of the Dead Sea. Truly an oasis in the desert.
Finishing up our hike around Ein Gedi, we were getting to be quite famished. For lack of better food, we stopped by the convenience market and grabbed some instant noodles and chips. Only the junkiest kinds of food we could find.
Our next and final stop for the day was Kalia Beach. We made a stop off at a vantage point to look at the Dead Sea. It’s sad to say, the Dead Sea is slowly evaporating, just like many of the water reservoirs in California.
Welcome to the lowest place on Earth! At Kalia Beach, you can float in super saltwater or spread the mineral rich mud all over your body. Just make sure to not get any of the water on your face — eyes, nose, mouth — all of which would be highly unpleasant.
Some pro-tips before entering the water would be to not shave yourself 1-2 days before, and also to be careful of any existing cuts or scrapes you may have. They will burn!
I chose to wear my sandals into the water, and I’m glad I did. The surface under the water can be quite hard and sharp in some places. What I found so fascinating was the swirls of color created by the salts and sand mixed together. Wow!
It’s quite a bit of effort to clean up after floating in the Dead Sea. And somehow awkward for me to rinse my body out in public. I feel that there aren’t very many Asians around, so it’s easy to attract some unwanted attention.
In one of the changing rooms, there was a creepy guy who came in and just stood there watching me and another female change. I immediately yelled at him to let him know he was in the wrong room. I’m pretty sure he knew he was. When I left the changing room to find and report the guy, he was already nowhere to be found. What I appreciated is how seriously the staff at the beach took my report. Actually, I’m positive they were ready to jump the guy if he was found.
By late mid-day, we had returned back to our hostel. We relaxed for a bit before heading out again.
There’s a really good takeaway pita sandwich spot that specializes in barbecued meats, called Jasmino. This is probably one of the best pitas that I’ve ever had.
Down the street, we got some average tasting dessert pastries. Not even worth mentioning the location.
We made our way back to the beach again to watch the sunset. I’m in love with the colors.
For dinner, we had made plans to meet with our friends at Night Kitchen. The food is family style and super tasty. They also have great cocktails.
After what felt like course after course of meals, we did what we do best, and got some ice cream from Otello again.
To cap the night, we got some beers from the Beer Shop. It the perfect end to our trip.
The next day, we flew back home to Switzerland.
Overall, our trip to Israel and Jordan was one of my favorites in a long time. I’ll always remember it, and look forward to revisiting again in the future.
Until next time.