Here it is. My Pilgrimage reaches its peak today.
Again, remember to retain your ISRAELI LANDING CARD you received in Day 6 along with your Sea Card and photo ID. Basic information and recommendations are the same here as it is for Day 6 in Haifa in fact they are strict in the dress code especially in the old city of Jerusalem. Additionally, on Jewish holy places, you have to cover your head with a cap (opposite the Christian Church’s I know it is confusing but you have to simply remember where you are visiting and adjust accordingly).
Also, if you didn't notice, this day is Sunday and though at first I was concerned that there will be many holy sites closed because it is Sunday, turns out they don't consider Sunday the Sabbath day. Saturday is the day of Sabbath so Sunday is their Monday here in Israel. Just so you know.
Getting off the ship and into Ashdod port was a bit nerve racking considering the snafu the day before. This time, for Ashdod, the entire cruise sponsored excursion buses AND the personally arranged tours are right outside the gangway. We did have a bit of hard time finding the guide again but this time, our now new friends Lou and Sharon from Canada went up and down the entire length of the port where all the tour buses was waiting and found our guide at the very end of the port. I personally would not have walked to the other end of the port to find the Port Promotions guys so my recommendation is to look up and down the area where all the tours are starting especially when you see a bunch of small vans parked together. For some reason, Port Promotions (ADC Holidays) didn’t bother walking all the way down to where the passengers disembark so you may have to do it for them. Anyway, just make sure you look all the way down the line of parked cars and look for them.
Our guides name was Avraham Shomer and like David on the previous day, he was originally from another country and an immigrant (from Sweden) and moved to Israel in his 20s though he spoke perfect Hebrew, English and some Arabic. He also lived in a Kibbutz. He was very knowledgeable as well. Highlights of the tour included the Garden of Gethsemane, Church of All Nations, The Western Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
A note about the Church of Holy Sepulcher: There are literally thousands of people in this wide complex of twisting and turning hallways. You can easily lose your party or friends if you are not careful. Make sure you arrange for a designated area to find each other in case someone in your party gets lost.
Lunch is Jerusalem was in a small tavern in the Jewish Quarter where they served us the best freaking’ falafel I’ve ever had!! (About $20 Euros for two people).
Without going through any politics, I have to say that I was left with sadness that the people of Jerusalem will not solve their differences easily. Israeli’s are very proud people. They are proud of their accomplishments such as one of the best governmental social programs, strong economy, good mix of cultures and strong tourism. For a country no larger than the size of New Jersey, they have carved themselves a small, yet fiercely independent nation.
I really, really liked Israel and I really enjoyed visiting, meeting and talking to Israelis. I find them very friendly, culturally accepting and truly kind people. Just remove politics off the discussion and you will find that these people are just as much alike as you.