So I am apparently no longer a spring chicken sigh… March 26th I celebrated the milestone 30th birthday and as I say to all my family and friends, I am so fortunate I don’t feel a day older than 21 ahahha. But seriously I am so happy and blessed to be able to welcome this birthday in great health, a wonderful husband and a loving family who cares about me and always wants the best for me.
I spent that weekend in Israel, Jerusalem thanks to my amazing husband who took me across the seas (literally 45 mins plane ride from Cyprus) into the holy land Jerusalem. The experience for me was like no other. After visiting just over 20 destinations, I can truly say Jerusalem hits the full 10 points on my scale. The city is just magical, the sites, the sounds and most amazingly the history and its significance to so many cultures and religion around the world. I say to everyone even if you’re not religious and have no faith this city still amazes and encourages awe in so many people.
We booked a 3 day tour with Abraham Tours and had our first stay in a hostel, Abraham hostel, it doesn’t sound very nice hostel but let me tell you this place was better than a few hotels I have been in around the world. The tours were amazing, professional and organised, I was very pleased. Our itinerary went as follows:
Mount of Olives:
This was our first tour and began a few hours after we arrived. The tour took us to the Church of the Ascension where Jesus was said to ascended into heaven when he appeared to the disciples. We went to the biggest Jewish cemetery in the world and it was massive! Walking down the slope, you come to the Church of the Pater Noster built next to the site where, according to tradition, Jesus instructed his disciples. Further down, the Church of Dominus Flevit is claimed to be built over the site where Jesus wept for Jerusalem, and further along is the onion-domed Russian Church of Mary Magdalene. The Gardens of Gethsemane (where Jesus was arrested) and the Church of All Nations, we also saw the Tomb of the Virgin Mary which was the last big attraction on the Mount of Olives.
Masada, Ein Gedi and Dead Sea Tour:
The second day we took a hour hour bus ride out of Jerusalem to the enticing Masada old city, where we took a cable care to the top of the Canyon. An old city built by King Harold, it has a fantastic view all the way to the Dead Sea and Jordan. Then off to Ein Gedi nature reserve, this is the garden where King David was said to be in the bible. We took a good hike up to the waterfalls but I didn’t go all the way up because it was really steep and tiring. We turned back at Kind David’s waterfall that was spectacular, see pictures below. The final stop of the day was the most amazing and memorable the Dead Sea. The sea was literally dead and salty, stepping in it was warm and the mud was gooey that we applied to our bodies as a body mask. The water was warm and salty, you can literally float but don’t make the mistake of putting your head back because you won’t be able to stand back up. This was displayed when a Muslim lady dressed in her robe of clothes and head covered tipped her head back and literally had to get someone to pull her back up. It was quite a spectacle and very baffling that someone can actually drown on a sea that allows you to float effortlessly and so shallow!!! We were also sternly warned before we went in, not to try to dive or swim because it won’t happen ahahhaha. That was a truly memorable experience and like no other. On our return that afternoon we took a quick nap and back out for dinner on the town.
Holy Land Tour:
The next day Sunday 26th March was my big day and it started out with a huge Bday wish and love from my hubby, breakfast and off to our final tour the Holy Land Tour. It was being conducted by Ryan our tour guide on the Mt Olives tour and it was brilliant. Ryan was amazing once more, a fully qualified tour guide with a Masters degree in archaeology from Jerusalem, a Texan by birth but was married to a native from Jerusalem and has been living there for the last 20 years. He was so knowledgeable and the information he was giving we sucked it up like ‘the word’. This tour took us through all the different quarters of the city, Armenian, Jewish, Muslim and Christian quarters which all have their own history and architecture. Then off to Mount Zion and the Zion Gate where ‘the Last Supper Room’ was located and the tomb of King David as well. Just to the east is the Church of St Peter of Gallicantu where Peter is said to have denied Jesus. Next we visited the Temple Mount, this is the iconic gold dome which is Jerusalem’s most iconic landmark and has huge significant for Muslim, Christians and Jews. This is the site that host the sacred stone where Abraham (father of all three monotheistic faiths) is said to have offered his son up as a sacrifice to God, where Solomon built the First Temple for the Ark of the Covenant, and where the Prophet Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven during his early years of preaching Islam. It's a place of deep significance (and contention over ownership) for those of faith. It is the centre of the old city of Jerusalem and we were allowed to visit inside, it was controlled by Muslims and non Muslims are allowed in for a short period of time per day. The southern side of the mount is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, said to be one of the oldest mosques in the world. The experience was also an amazing one, their rules, no holding hands, covering bare shoulders, necks and arms and a rigid search and inspection for all entrants. Then onto the Wailing Wall also known as the Western Wall which is very important to the Jews, there is a separate area for male and female, here they write their prayers on paper and stick it into the wall as they believe this is where they are most closes to God. J and I also took this opportunity to go through the tunnels and get lost in the old markets that sell everything including the Christmas stories gifts for baby Jesus; Frankincense and Myrrh, can you image our amazement to see these gifts in person!! Amazing…
The final stop was the most important to me as a Christian but I must admit it was nothing for me as compared to many Christian fanatics who were crying and rubbing themselves and possessions on memorable areas where Jesus was believed to have been crucified, laid to be wrapped after his death and finally buried in the tomb. This was the ‘Church of the Sepulchre’ which to Christian pilgrims is Jerusalem's holiest site and is said to have been built on the site where Jesus was actually crucified. The site for the church was picked by Empress Helena - mother to Constantine the Great during her tour of the Holy Land. I’m sorry but as a Christian who believes in Jesus Christ and the holy trinity I believe that Jesus is always in my heart, lives with me and can hear me wherever I may go. I do not need to go to the holy place to be closer to him and for him to heal or hear me. But regardless it was amazing to see and it is believed the last remnants of the cross lives here. This was our final stop in the tour and I felt touched, amazed and inspired. I couldn’t believe that I could see this place in my life and I was so grateful for this amazing opportunity. We went home to rest for my bday dinner later that night which was really special, hubby and I in the holy city and toasting to my BIG 30!
The entire trip was just amazing there is no other word to describe my experience, the people we met, the places we saw and the experiences we hold with us. Thank you Jesus for this amazing opportunity and a huge thank you to my hubby for taking me on such a wonderful journey. Thank my amazing family and friends and if I can say it again I feel so extremely blessed. If you have the opportunity people, go to Jerusalem it would be as no other city, touches your mind, heart and soul.
Love and Blessings