September 6 and 7
We arrived very early on Sunday to the port of Haifa and we had a full day excursion to Jerusalem planned. As I mentioned in a previous post, ours had been canceled and we added the same one but not the exclusive. It ended up to have 18 people, which was great.
So the song, Sunrise, Sunset was appropriate – here is the sunrise from the ship and the sunset from the bus!
It is about 97 miles to Jerusalem and there was a lot of traffic on the road, so it was almost a 3 hour trip. Our guide was Nurit, and she was terrific. She told us that one way to remember Israel’s location is that it is between the Med, the Red and the Dead. All seas of course! When Israel was under British control it was a law that buildings in Jerusalem had to be built of local limestone, and they still are today. Interestingly, in Malta, they drive on the “wrong” side of the road and most everything on signs is in English. But here the signs are in Hebrew, Arabic and English and they drive on the same side as we do.
Our first stop once in Jerusalem was the new Yad Vashem museum, also called the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority which opened in 2005. We had visited the old one and this was amazing. One of the people on our cruise had arranged to install a plaque in the Hall of Remembrance here in memory of her husband, a Holocaust survivor, and she had a private tour. You couldn’t take pictures in the museum, only on the outside and in the outside exhibits. The building looks like a big long triangle and the exhibits require you to zig zag through them. There are exhibits documenting the history of the Jewish people during the Holocaust period, emphasizing each victim’s experience through original artifacts, survivor testimonies and personal possessions. The most touching for us was the final one where all victims are catalogued and pictures appear with the names being read off. Brought us both to tears.
Outside the museum there are other exhibits and there is a tribute inside and outside the museum to the people like Schindler who saved many Jewish people. There is also a children’s memorial which I made a video of but won’t post here. The reason I made the video is because Norm was being his usual wonderful self and went back into the museum to find a woman who got separated from us and he missed this part.
After several hours at the museum, we had lunch at the Olive Tree hotel, complete with wine.
We made several stops for panoramic views of the Dome of the Rock and the Mount of Olives.
We then had a long walk through the Old City. We entered through the Jaffa Gate and wound all through the old city stopping for stories about the buildings. We ended at the Western (Wailing) Wall, where men and women have separate areas to pray and people who visit leave notes, prayers and requests on paper which they leave in the wall.
It was an amazing day and made us realize that we want to come back. We arrived back at the ship at 8 PM – the bus had internet so I reached my sister, my dad and also Mark facetimed me – connection wasn’t the best but with the time difference, it worked fine.
Today we spent the morning in Haifa, Israel’s third largest city. We took a long walk to the Bahai Shrine and Gardens. One of the people at the tourist info spot at the port couldn’t believe we would walk, she kept saying – “it’s up on the mountain”, but walk we did. Unfortunately, the shrine itself and the inner gardens were closed for maintenance until September 12, but we did get to see the lower gardens.
We then walked through the Arab markets of Wadi Nisnas where Norm rescued a container of tomatoes on display from being upset by a large truck going through a small street. I wish I had a picture of that. He got a lot of thanks from the owner.
Terry Bishop, one of the entertainers and lecturers we had on the ship does a song – and this is the chorus:
I’ve seen the Mona Lisa and the Leaning Tower of Pisa
I’ve been to Timbuktu and back again
But the only thing I know is that everywhere I go
The Coca Cola always tastes the same!
Now, this afternoon, we have an unexpected event. This letter from the captain was in our room last night:
It essentially tells us what to do as we enter the HRA (High Risk Area) for Piracy. We will have a drill today at 5:15, the deck 5 will be closed to everyone and we are told to reduce our lighting and keep the curtains to our balcony closed. I will fill you in on the drill in my next post as we travel the Suez Canal tomorrow, but I am told it involves big hoses that spray high pressure water. A sister ship, the Nautica, was approached by pirates several years ago and fended them off with this water.