After another satisfying buffet breakfast at Galei Kinneret, Avi and Ofer took us down the Jordon Valley to our first stop, the ancient city of Bet She’an. Strolling down the city’s once elegant boulevard, we visit the Bathhouses, the spas of the 4th Century. Continuing on Palladius Street, the Fifth Ave of the times, we passed what were once designer-type shops and imagined what transacted between merchants and patrons. Did they have January White Sales then?At the intersection of Palladius and Silvanus Streets Mark Saidens discovered Ofer’s replacement, an automated tour guide. Actually, Ofer has no replacement.
Built in the 1st Century, the 7,000 seat theatre had three tiers of seating, with VIPS seated in the more desirable sections and the lower class with their two-fers possibly acquired at an ancient TKTS Booth, in the nose bleed seats.
Each day of our journey brought about yet another bathroom challenge and our visit to Bet She’an was no exception. However, Howard Stern found the best seat in the house and looked quite at home with these facilities.
From Beit She’an, we drove to the ancient synagogue of Beit Alpha in what was once the Jewish village of Ilfa. Built in the 5th century, the synagogue was uncovered accidentally in the fields of Kibbutz Heftziba. And in 1929, excavated by archeologists of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Our group viewed a cleverly produced video about the creation of the synagogue’s intricate mosaic floor laid at the beginning of the 6th century.
On this day, we actually had lunch during lunchtime, a truck stop that provided anything you would want as long as it was falafel or schnitzel.
As we traveled by the West Bank on our approach to Jerusalem, Ofer and Rabbi Sobel shared historic perspectives about the ever changing borders throughout time. It was also interesting to hear that formerly nomadic people, the Bedouins, eventually settled and got stuck in a land between Jordon and Israel, remaining there today.
Our excitement began to build as we approached Jerusalem and anticipated Ilene’s and my first experience to the Holy Land. The bus climbed Mt Scopus where we disembarked and viewed for the first time the City of Gold, the City of Peace. Overlooking the Temple Mount we recited the Sh’hekiyanu (and – Rabbi Sobel’s note: a special prayer for Jerusalem and our sojourn here) and shared challah and wine and hugs.
With the walls beneath the Tower of David as a backdrop, the evening’s Sound and Light Show told the tale of the history of Jerusalem from the time of the Israelite kings to the present day; a most unique way of kicking off our Jerusalem experience. A cool, but starlit sky enhanced the wonder of the show.
As we learn about Israeli life, we’re learning about one another. Essie and Mark are still on their honeymoon. Glenn and Ilene don’t sit next to each other on the bus. And Rabbi Sobel steals tissue boxes from hotels (Rabbi Sobel’s note: actually, Avi, our bus driver gets them for her b/c she has a cold). And I can relate to Orange and Blue (Rachel and Michelle) – I have an identical twin.
We’re looking forward to continuing our journey with our new friends: our journey of heart, mind, and spirit.