Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Taking a moment to brag about our daughter Jennifer's latest writing assignment. The Wall Street Journal on line (only) has hired her to blog about being an ex pat in Israel. This is the second installment:

(if this link does not work copy and paste into your browser or try

On December 28, 2000, we boarded a small ship for 20 plus days in Antarctica with approximately 90 other passengers. Amongst them were Josh and Wendy Cocker from Tasmania, an island state off the southern coast of Australia . We became fast friends and spent many fun times together. At the time they were working in Saudi Arabia and tho we begged them to visit us in Israel, the timing never worked out. 

From left: Tony, Jenny, Wendy, Josh - Tasmania 10/2013
They retired, returned to Australia, built a home on a farm in Tasmania with a lovely guest suite. In October of 2013, we visited them at which time they introduced us to their wonderful Uniting Church (an Australian combination of Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational) minister Tony Duncan and his wife, Jenny. We spent time discussing the Middle East and Tony told us he was pro Palestinian after a visit to Israel earlier that year. We invited him to come to Israel again and we would help to show him the other side.

Josh planned the trip for the four of them, they stayed in our home and below are many photos and a few words of the most wonderful time we spent together. Before arriving in Jerusalem, they drove around the north of the country for nine days, dividing their time between a small Arab hotel in Nazareth and a nearby kibbutz. Tony mentioned to us how in Australia many churches pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  Now retired, he and his wife moved to Melbourne, their hometown, to be near their children and grandchildren.

And yes, all four of them fell in love with Israel; its people, its sites, its food and on...And yes, we and others showed Tony the other side of the coin and he and they came to understand the Israeli attitude. Tony was inspired to write beautiful poetry while here.  All four of them were like kids in a candy store soaking up the sites they had been reading about in the Bible their entire lives!

Josh and Wendy were taken with the greenery and architecture. They found Jerusalem far more beautiful than they anticipated. Josh felt that Israelis have to adopt an attitude and have a psychology that enables them "to deal with a constant enemy at the gates."

From traffic stopping and everyone standing at attention on Yom HaShoah

to visiting Yad vashem, the Holocaust Museum;
Detail of the Hall of Names with 600 photos and testimonies.

(On our other visits, we had never walked the grounds outside the museum building. There are numerous memorials commemorating various events.)

My favorites were the Cattle Car memorial to the Deportees, the real car having been donated by the Polish government, and the Valley of the Communities. Nearly 5000 names of communities either destroyed or barely survived are chiseled into 107 stone walls, a very moving site.
Valley of the Communities at Yad Vashem
 to falling so in love with the Israel Museum, the four of them visited the better part of two days!

From the churches and Jewish cemeteries on the Mount of Olives...

View from above the Jewish cemetery all the way to the modern city of Jerusalem.

Tony took us to the Church of the the Pater Noster, named for the "Our Father" or "Lords Prayer" where Jesus is purported to have taught.  Constantine built a church over a cave here in the 4th century that has been partially reconstructed. As with so many churches and monuments in Jerusalem it is impossible to follow the history much less understand it! (We never knew this church existed!)

Plaques in the cloister have the "Lords Prayer" in over 100 different languages.

Pater Noster
in Spanish

Dominus Flevit or Teardrop Church

View from within Teardrop Church

Built in 1955 to commemorate Jesus' weeping before his capture, thus the name Teardrop Church.

View of the Russian Orthodox Church
Church of Mary Magdalene—Russian Orthodox Church

Interior of Church of Mary Magdalene

Built in honor of the Czar's mother in 1888. Approximately 30 nuns from all over the world live here. The view of the spectacular gold domes can be seen from many vantage points. 


A group of Ethiopians visiting the churches.

The Garden of Gethsemane
 Within the walled area around the Church of All Nations is the Garden of Gethsemane with its ancient olive trees. Jesus is supposed to have prayed here before his crucifixion.

Interior of  The Church of All Nations

The Church of All Nations

The Golden gate is located on the east walls of the old city, leading to the Temple Mount. It is regarded as a Holy site for the Jews for the arrival of the Messiah and the Christians as the entrance of Jesus on Palm Sunday and the Muslims as the site of future resurrection.

It was built in the 6th/7th C AD over the ruins of the second temple gate and sealed since the 16th century.

Ezekiel 44 2: "This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut."

Jews have always sought to be buried on the Mount of Olives. In Jewish tradition the Messiah will descend on the Mount on Judgement day and enter Jerusalem through the Golden Gate. The area serves as a main burial place with an estimated 150,000 graves.

Wendy, Josh and us with the Dome of the Rock

 To Machane Yehuda, where we enjoyed the best fish and chips outside of London (and New Zealand)!
Tony choosing fresh tea leaves

Wendy watching tahini come out of the machine

And breakfast at everyone's favorite book store, Tmol Shilshom in downtown Jerusalem. It turns out the owner, David wrote his last book in a remote area of Tasmania. He and Tony hit it off and ended up meeting for what will probably be the first of many talks.

The six of us spent a Friday night Shabbat dinner at Marc's house where Tony and Marc entertained us with their bantering back and forth about everything Jewish.

And we attended the Night Spectacular at the Tower of David; a sound and light show displaying the history of Jerusalem on the rocks of David's Citadel. It was conceived by a French company several years ago and is a feast for the eyes!

We walked the Via Dolorosa or Stations of the Cross where Christ is purported to have walked and ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was so crammed with people we could barely see the important sights within.
The church contains the last four or five Stations of the Cross. It is an important Christian pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century as the purported site of the resurrection of Jesus. Today it serves as the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem; control of the building is shared by the Christian Church in complicated arrangements unchanged for centuries.

 Josh and Wendy stayed with us a full six days while Tony and Jenny left after three. This was only one stop on much longer trips for both couples.

After Tony and Jenny left, the four of us walked both the Western and Eastern ramparts of the Old City. From Jaffa Gate to the Western Wall there are numerous interesting sites. A view of Mt. Zion, purported site of the Last Supper, can be seen from many vantage points. Israel and the Vatican have been fighting for years over who should be in charge of this site and the last update I could find was before the Pope's visit in 2012. It doesn't seem to be settled.

"The Last supper is one of the most important events in the life of Jesus, which happened in the upper room of a building in Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples held a Passover dinner, on the night before Jesus was captured by the Romans, trialed and crucified."

The present day hall is a 12th century crusader structure built on top of King David's tomb.

Religious boys walking to pray at the Western Wall.
Arab woman at eye level cleaning her arbor

We visited the roof of Aish HaTorah, Marc's yeshiva, from which there is a spectacular view different than from the ramparts. There were several groups of both male and female soldiers admiring the view and taking photos.

Everyone wants to get into the act! Look closely at the man on the right.

The Western Wall from the rooftop of Aish Hatorah

On to The Western Wall Tunnels...
An underground tunnel/s exposing the full length of the Western Wall. The above ground portion of the Wall is 200 ft or 60 meters but the majority is hidden underground. The tunnel allows access to an additional 1,591 feet or 485 meters. It is adjacent to the Western Wall and located under the Old City.

After a fascinating introduction by a very theatrical, delightful and knowledgeable religious woman, we snaked our way through tunnels and around corners with deep gashes going down hundreds of feet below the pathways. Although we were encouraged to take photos, it was very difficult between the light and the size of the group.
Guide in front of the largest stone in the wall.
View down

...and the Temple Mount where we could walk around but not go into the holy places.
We waited in a long line at the end of which our belongings were thoroughly searched by Israeli guards. The Mount is open for an hour in the early morning and early afternoon on certain days.

The sign that greeted us made no sense to me but then there a lot of things here that make no sense to most people!
Women praying outside the Al Aqsa Mosque

Old man at door of mosque
Side of Al Aqsa Mosque with dome in background

Al Aqsa Mosque seen thru arches that used to encircle the Temple Mount

If their mothers only knew my religion!

with cell phones!

The Dome of the Rock in all its splendor!

The Temple Mount has been used by Judaism, Christianity, Roman religions and Islam. Only Muslims are allowed into the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque. But the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. It was the site of the First and Second temples. The story of why only Muslims can enter the mosques is much too complicated to tell here. However, there is an excellent opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post that can be accessed by googling something like why Jews can't pray on the Temple Mount. It goes back to Moshe Dyan  making an agreement with Jordan in 1967 after the Six Day War.

It was a joy to share our country and our religion with our Christian friends. And they with us. It was a special joy to have them tell us how much they now appreciate Israel and its position with its neighbors.

Till next time...


No comments:

Post a Comment