After our half day tour of Jerusalem we exited by the Jaffa gate and were driven to the Dead Sea past sections of the separation wall and Jericho. On arrival we were taken through a Dead Sea beauty products shop to the changing rooms. We then descended the steps to the lake and climbed in. It was a strange feeling to feel so bouyant, because of the salt (10x saltier than seawater). We floated around being careful to try to avoided getting the salt water in our eyes and mouth. What a different and amazing experience!
On our last full day in Israel we had another 7.15AM pick-up from Ben Haim, this time to embark on the half-day tour to Bethlehem. After a short drive our Israeli guide got out, as he wasn’t allowed in by the Palestinian Authorities due to recent troubles. The he driver took us through the wall into a town neighbouring Bethlehem, called Beit Sahour. We didn’t need to show our passports and the border crossing was very easy, although you could see the separation wall, the murals and the watchtowers. Our first stop was the Shepherds’ Fields, where we met our annoying new guide, (he was quite slow and he made us count ourselves all the time). It was here that the shepherds saw the Angel Gabriel who told them a child had been born, and to follow the star. We learned that these were special shepherds as they were the ones who provided the animals for sacrifice at the temple (a practice which Jesus abolished when he became the ultimate sacrifice). We saw a small chapel with murals telling the story and the caves where the shepherds lived.
Next stop was a large bus station in Bethlehem, which means house of bread. We walked to the Church of the Nativity. It was there we saw the place Jesus was born and was the manger stood.
Next on the agenda was the Milk Grotto. The story was that the Holy Family hid in there and some milk dropped from Mary’s breast while she was feeding baby Jesus, and turned some of the rocks white. Lastly we were taken to an olive wood and jewellery shop where Mark got me a Jerusalem cross pendant (made of one large central cross and four smaller crosses).
To our surprise the tour guide dropped us by Jaffa gate in Jerusalem not back at Tel Aviv (the sales agent should have explained this apparently). If you’re taking that tour just be aware you’ll have to find your way back. We returned to the old city to see a famous stone inside the inner temple in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This stone was where Jesus was entombed, and it was from here that he rose from the dead. I prayed.
We then stopped in some of the countless souvenir shops to get something for my mum and brothers. After that we took the tram to the Central Station where we bumped into Jonathan and Jackson (the American father and son we met the day before), which was a pleasant coincidence. Next we caught the public bus to Tel Aviv, which ran every 20 min. We alighted at the main station in Tel Aviv, where caught the No.4 bus back to the hotel.