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Europe Cruise Day 21
Sunday, September 26th
Ashdod (for Jerusalem), Israel

The ship will arrive at Ashdod at 7:00AM this day. Here is the map.

Day 21 Map

Holland America provides this description of the port of Ashdod.

The largest port in Israel, Ashdod is a gateway to Jerusalem, the 5,000-year-old walled city that is considered sacred to more than a third of the people on Earth. Numerous sites exist nearby, including the Jewish sacred Western Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—said to be the site of Calvary and to contain a piece of the true cross.

In Ashdod, meander along the seaside promenade, or HaMidrehof—this area is being termed the Southern Riviera of the city and includes many spectacular beaches. Dip your toes in the Dead Sea waters, long known for their health benefits. Visit the Bar-Gera Museum to view a collection of art by artists who were either banned or persecuted by the Nazis and other fascist governments. The Yad Vashem Memorial Museum is dedicated to the six million Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust.

Meanwhile I will be in Jerusalem.

Picking up where the Haifa to Ashdod Overnight Tour left off yesterday. Here is the Day 2 description.

Day 2 (B, L)
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and drive to Bethlehem and visit the Church of Nativity built above the place where Christ is said to have been born. The actual Cave of the Nativity is a small crypt with a vaulted masonry roof. Poor Bethlehem families used the rocky hollows of the region as stables or dwellings, so the tradition that places the Nativity in a cave is consistent with local lore. This church was first built by Queen Helene in the 4th century and is the only Byzantine church in the Holy Land. Next, leave Bethlehem and return to Jerusalem. You’ll take in a magnificent view over the “Golden City” from atop the Mount of Olives. Then walk through Gethsemane Garden where Jesus spent the last moments before his arrest. After lunch, begin your walking tour of the Old City from the Jaffa Gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Emperor Constantine constructed a vast sanctuary on the site of Christ’s resurrection. The building was later destroyed but was rebuilt by the Crusaders. Here you will see the last five stations of the Via Dolorosa. Continue your walk through the Christian Quarter to the Roman Cardo, the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall—the last vestige of the ramparts that surrounded the Temple of the Jews built by King Solomon. At the conclusion of two exciting days in Israel, your motor coach will bring you to Ashdod’s port where you will re-board the ship.

The ship is scheduled to sail at 6:00PM heading for Alexandria, Egypt a day and a half from now.

How it actually happened!!!
(written November, 2011)

Here I am on day 2 in Israel. I seem to remember that I did not sleep that well that night but I do not remember for sure (after all this happened over a year ago now). One thing I did was to take a couple of pictures of the view out of the window of the room I had which I think was either on the fourth or sixth floors (long term memory problem again). Here are some of those pictures.

Hotel Room View 1 Hotel Room View 2
The view out my hotel room window. My best guess is that this is looking to the north from the hotel. Another view just to the right of the previous one.
These pictures were taken at 6:19AM.
Hotel Room View 3
The coaches of our excursion group were parked here for the night.

From the blog comes the following talking about the hotel departure and the first stop of the day.........

Sunday morning’s departure was scheduled for 7:45AM. This meant that breakfast had to come before that as well as checkout from the hotel.  The breakfast was buffet style as well and there were no issues with the hotel check out.

The bus left the hotel at approximately 7:50AM and headed for the Mount of Olives. If you read the description for this day, it indicates that Bethlehem is done first. The order was changed to do all the items around the Mount of Olives first and then Bethlehem. The view was excellent. The lighting was just right to see everything. This turned out to have worked very well as later in the day a dust storm blew in from the south and significantly reduced the visibility. One would not have seen much if one had been there after lunch. After some time there, getting the explanations of what we were seeing and photos of all types, the bus traveled down the Mt. of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane which is right at the bottom of the mountain. Here is a grove of 7 I think it is, olive trees which are believed to be the same ones that were there is Jesus’ time. Olive trees have very long life spans and constantly grow new sprouts from the same root. This grove of Olive trees is where they think Jesus was arrested. Beside the grove of trees is the Gethsemane Church.  Inside the church is a part of a rock that they think he may have prayed on before being arrested.

Here are some pictures and panoramas of pictures taken from the Mount of Olives.

Panorama 1

This first panorama is the widest of the group showing the Mount of Olives Jerusalem Cemetery on the far left
and then sweeping across the old city from south to north showing part of the viewing area of the Mt. of Olives on the close up right.

Panorama 2

This second panorama uses several of the same central pictures as the one above showing a less wide view of the old city.

Panorama 3

This third and last panorama uses a completely different set of pictures taken showing the old city closer/bigger than the ones above.

Old City 1 Old City 2
This is the dome of the Rock Mosque which sits either right on or very close to Temple Mount. A closer view of the Rock Mosque.
That is some long ladder going from the roof to the dome.
Old City 3 Old City 4
The viewing/seating area at the view point
with the old city in the distance.
This is a closer view of the area where the Western/Wailing Wall is located and where we will be doing our walk later today.
Old City 5 Old City 6
The al'Aqsa Mosque, which is the same one we saw last night. A no longer used gate in the old city wall.
Old City 7
This may be the Church of Mary Magdalene but I am not sure.

On our way down the Mt. of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane I took this picture from the coach of the same old gate as the one above in the city wall.

City Gate 1

As mentioned above the next stop was the Garden of Gethsemane. Here are some pictures and panoramas from there. The first one below talks about the Garden and the areas around it.

Garden 1

From a sign in front of the church.

Olive Trees Panorama

The grove of Olive trees.

Church Facade

A close up panoramic shot of the facade of the Church of Nations (or Gethsemane if you prefer).

Church of all Nations 2 Church of All Nations 1
The inside of the church.
A service was in progress while we were there.
I believe this is the "Rock of the Agony" mentioned above.
The black mark in the centre was caused by a lens hood blocking the small flash on the camera used for this picture.
Church from a Distance
The church from a distance. I think this was taken from almost the same spot as the night picture last night was.

Continuing from the blog......

From here we drove to Bethlehem which is controlled by the Palestinians. It has a high (probably 30 foot) wall around it. It is like a country within a country. Israeli citizens are not allowed to enter. That meant that our guide could not go in. He was dropped off at a monastery just before we got to the town. In case you are wondering, our driver, Jimmy, was of Arab heritage and he was allowed in. Getting in is like driving from Canada to the US through the border only with guns extremely visible. Not too bad going in, more of a problem coming out. Once in we were joined by a Palestinian guide who took us to the Church of the Nativity. Oops, I forgot that the 30 minute mandatory shopping stop came first.

Here are some pictures taken once in Bethlehem before arriving at the church.

Bethlehem 1 Bethlehem 2
Part of the mandatory shopping stop mentioned above. A view of the city as we headed to the church.
Bethlehem 3 Bethlehem 4
More of Bethlehem. It is a bigger city than one might think.
Bethlehem 5
Bethlehem City Hall, I think.

The next stop was the Church of the Nativity and the blog continues saying.......

Being Sunday and the church is multi-faith there were services going on and that meant that we were not able to visit the thing that most people go there to see which is the Cave of the Nativity. They showed us one that was similar in lieu of being able to see the real one. 

Here are some pictures of the church.

Church 1 Church 2
I believe this is the Door of Humility, the main, and very short I might add, entrance to the church. This is the main Basilica of the Nativity
which is Greek Orthodox in design.
Church 3 Church 4
The bright sunlight shining in the windows. Another view looking towards the alter.
Church 5 Church 6
These are golden mosaics that have seen better days. A closer view of the alter area. Apparently the wooden rafters in the roof were donated by King Edward IV of England.
Church 7 Church 8
I think this is the Church of St. Catherine, the Catholic church here. These next pictures show an area under the catholic church that we were taken to in lieu of the Cave of the Nativity
Church 10 Church 11
This is the picture on the wall in the right picture above. They were small people back 565 AD when this was built.
Church 12 Church 13
An alter of some sort with that lens hood shadow again. Another alter in the same cave.
Church 14 Church 15
A wider more complete view of the alter in the right picture above. The Church of St. Catherine again.
The following three images are from Wikipedia and show the Cave of the Nativity which I was unable to see on my visit here,
because it was Sunday and it was closed.
Grotto 1 Birthplace of Jesus
The Upper part of the Altar of Nativity. The Alter of Nativity beneath which the star marking the spot where tradition says the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Nativity Grotto Star
The silver star, beneath the alter of Nativity, marks the spot believed the be the Birthplace of Jesus.
Back to my pictures......
Church 16 Church 17
The outside of the catholic church. I think we were in Manger Square here.

The blog continues....

After an hour or so there we went to a restaurant and had a pretty good lunch. After that we departed. The entire time there was just under three hours. When leaving the city, the bus is searched by Israeli solders for weapons I suspect. They also walk through the bus looking for weapons and any of the locals who may be trying to leave illegally. The guns are loaded and very visible.

There were no pictures taken of where lunch was or during it. There was no special reason for this. It seems to me that the streets were rather narrow and it just was not possible to get any pictures. The next group of pictures has pictures in it taken during the trip from the church to lunch and then from lunch to just before leaving the city. Needless to say there are no pictures of the "border crossing", that is not allowed!

Bethleham 6 Bethlehem 7
A Star & Bucks cafe.
Looks like a bit of a Starbucks rip off does it not.
More of the Bethlehem area.
The flat topped mountain in the background is something important but I do not remember what or why now.
Bethlehem 8 Bethlehem 9
More of Bethlehem. A Bethlehem street.
Bethlehem 10 Bethlehem 11
The wall that surrounds the city with a watch tower. Lots of graffiti on "the wall".

The blog continues......

After picking up the guide at the monastery we went back to Jerusalem and did a walking tour of the old city which took about two hours.

There was one picture taken on the way back. Here that is.

Traffic 1

You can see evidence of the previously mentioned sandstorm in this picture.

Continuing from the blog.....

The main two things that one sees here are the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Jewish Quarter where the Wailing Wall is.  The church sits on what is believed to be the site of Christ’s Resurrection.  It contains the last 5 stations of the Via Dolorosa and what is thought to be Jesus’ tomb. There is some question about that last one. There are many pictures but this is getting so big that I will not try to include any here. You will just have to wait for those. After going through the church, which as you can imagine was a mad house of people, our guide who seemed to know some back alley ways took us through them to a view point overlooking the Wailing Wall. It was not quite as busy as the night before but still going strong. With this Jewish festival going on there was a major police and heavily armed military presence in the city. There were no issues.

Here are some of the pictures taken during the walking tour of the old city.

Walk 1 Sandstorm 1
Getting instructions from our guide in the shade under the tree. The sandstorm continues.
Walk 2 Walk 3
Part of the old city wall. A market area.
Walk 4 Walk 6
More of the rather busy market. It was Sunday which is not a religious day in the Jewish religion.
Walk 5
Some tee shirts on sale at one of the shops.

At this point in the walk we arrive at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Here are some of the pictures taken in the mad house that that place was.

Holy Sepulcher 1 Holy Sepulcher 2
The entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. An inside view.
Holy Sepulcher 3 Holy Seplucher 6
A painting. The Rock of Calvary can be seen in the window.
This is in the Calvary or Golgotha part of the church.
Holy Sepulcher 4 Holy Sepulcher 5
The Altar of the Crucifixion, located at the place, according to tradition, where Jesus was crucified. Apparently there is a hole underneath the alter said to be the place where the cross was raised.
Holy Sepulcher 7 Holy Sepulcher 8
The painting of Christ after death near the stone of Anointing. One of the chapels I think but I do not know which one.
Holy Sepulcher 9 Holy Sepulcher 11
The Tomb of Christ. Also known as the Edicule. It contains the Holy Sepulchre itself.
Inside of the Edicule Holy Sepulcher 10
I was not allowed to take a picture inside of the Edicule,
so here is one from Wikipedia in lieu of that.
The dome of the rotunda with the top of the Edicule.

The church visit concludes and the walk continues towards the Wailing Wall.

Walk 7

Items for sale at a stall we passed by.

Talking those back routes that our guide seemed to know we finally ended up at a view point over looking the Wailing Wall. Apparently of the four coaches on this excursion we were the only group to get to this spot. Here a panoramic view taken from this special location.

Wailing Wall Panorama

The entire Wailing/Western Wall area. You can see the sandstorm going on in the far right side of the picture.

The walk concludes with these four remaining pictures.

Walk 10 Walk 11
Old city walls. Just to make sure you know we were in the Jewish Quarter.
Walk 12 Walk 13
A street in the Jewish Quarter. One of the city gates.

The blog continues......

We completed our walk, found the bus, which was occasionally difficult to do, and started the trip back to the ship.

There was a brief side trip to show us the government part of town, their “Parliament Hill” you might say and then on to the ship.

Parliment 1

The Israel Parliament building.

There were no further usable pictures taken during the trip back to the ship, partly due to the sandstorm as well as the sun angle was all wrong from where I was sitting on the coach.

The blog describes the return to the ship and the problem encountered as part of that, so here that is.......

I think it took 75 minutes to get to the ship. When we got there, there was this incredible line of busses waiting to enter the area where the ship was located. At one point there were 19 busses waiting. Everyone thought the worst. Was it that the port security was inspecting everything or some kind of security problem? The bus drivers were having a competition on who would be next to get through the narrow opening to the ship. It was chaos out there. There were about 700 passengers waiting on those busses at the peak. I was one of them!!!

After 45 minutes of waiting the bus I was on finally made it to the ship. Things seemed rather tame. From the time I got off the bus to the time I got on the ship was less than 5 minutes. I got up on deck 5 minutes after this and there were still 9 busses waiting.

So, what was the big issue? One quick piece of background here, Passports were required for Israel. The next stop is Egypt. They are also required there. The passports need to be stamped by the Egyptian authorities before we get there. The Front Office on the ship wanted to collect them from the people as they got back on. It seems logical. It seems that early in the collection process they had only 2 people processing the collection of the Passports. These people need to give each passenger a pre-printed receipt for their passport so they can pick the passport up when leaving for Egypt tomorrow. It also seems that somebody had not told somebody that all the shore excursions were going to arrive back at around the same time. It seems that the passport process got overwhelmed rather quickly. It was so bad that the bus company asked the captain to come and investigate. From people who were on the ship at the time I heard that he was not happy, apparently angry would be a good description. I guess he went into the ship and things started happening. It appears the main thing was the adding of a bunch of people processing the passports. By the time I got there they had 5 people doing the passports. The ship was scheduled to sail at 6:00PM. It was ready to leave at 7:30 but there were no pilots available so they finally sailed just after 8:00. The captain made an announcement apologizing and accepting full responsibility.  

As you will see on tomorrows page the delay did not cause the ships schedule any issues what so ever. Here are some pictures taken as the ship finally departed Ashdod two hours late.

Departing Ashdod 1

 

Departing Ashdod 2

The dock the ship was at. Near by container docks.
Departing Ashdod 3 Departing Ashdod 4
More of the container docks
with the moon shining brightly overhead.
More moon over what I think is a power plant.

 

Daparting Ashdod Manual Panorama 1

Usually Photoshop creates the panoramas I use automatically but it would not do this one so I tried myself.
Photoshop does a much better job of it than I do but it is not too bad.
Needless to say this is Ashdod harbour as the ship sailed away.

Departing Ashdod 5

The moon over Ashdod.

This concludes the Israel part of the cruise. It really was quite interesting. Tomorrow is a day "At Sea" as the ship moves very slowly from here to Alexandria, Egypt on Tuesday. Tomorrows page will explain why, what seems like such a short distance, had to take so long.

On to Day 22!

Page Created: August 3, 2010
After Trip Update Started: November 10, 2011
After Trip Update Completed: November 13, 2011
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 12:03 PM

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