Teri's Travels - Israel...Holy Land - Day 1

by Teri E. Popp, Tastemaker in Residence

The Story of Christ. The Dome of the Rock. The Wailing Wall. Much of Christian, Muslim and Jewish history lies in Jerusalem and Israel. For that reason, we felt compelled to take the trip of a lifetime to the Holy Land and investigate for ourselves, the mystery of the faithful.

Our group, consisting of two couples, chose to book a private guide for our touring. This enabled us to see more historic locations in a shorter period of time. However, I will warn that an ambitious itinerary, such as ours, can and does lead to a fair amount of information overload.

On our first day, we started our tour with trip to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. In the Garden, we walked amongst centuries old olive trees--trees that were alive and growing when Jesus Christ and his 12 apostles spent the night there.  

From there, we traveled into the Old City of Jerusalem while learning history on our Christian-centered tour with our tour guide, Ofir Horn. Ofir offered us insights to the history of the Christian church with input from the Bible, the Torah and the Koran. His balanced approach, taking into account all of the major religions occupying the same small patch of space, helped us better understand the intricacies of the Jerusalem community while giving us historical information regarding the building of the City, along with its destruction by the Romans and subsequent rebuilding.

We first walked through the Armenian Christian Quarter of the Old City.  One of 4 quarters in the Old City, the Armenians were the First Nation to declare themselves Christian back in 301 AD.  Believed to be the site of Mt Zion, the Armenian Quarter covers approximately 1/6 of the Old City.

From the Armenian Quarter, we moved on to the Jewish Quarter of the City. The Jewish Quarter, containing numerous synagogues and schools for Jewish studies, borders The Wailing Wall. While in this section, we learned about the ancient Roman Cardo (ca. 135 AD), enjoying shopping in its Byzantine bazaar (ca. 325 AD) and lunch. We finished our tour of the area by taking time to contemplate at The Wailing Wall--men on the men's side, and women on the women's side.

We then traveled to Bethlehem to visit the birthplace of Christ. In order to enter Bethlehem, we had to go through passport control and join up with a Palestinian guide and driver. Since we had requested a Christian-centered tour, we had a Palestinian Christian guide. Comprising only 3% of the Palestinian population, much of this group have emigrated to other countries (primarily South America and Europe). After a reverential visit of Christ's birth location, we ended this part of our day at a lovely Palestinian Christian gift shop that featured many artistic works in praise of Jesus and his birth.

We ended our first full day in Israel with a scrumptious meal of Palestinian delights.