Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Jerusalem and Dead Sea Tour, Israel

This morning we set off from Eilat on a tour to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

The southern part (the Israeli section) of the Dead Sea is 220 km (137 miles) from Eilat through the Negev desert.  Along the way we passed Mount Sodom and the rock that is said to resemble Lot's wife.

The Dead Sea, יָם הַמֶּלַח, in Hebrew is Yam ha-Melah which translates to the Sea of Salt.  It's a salt lake bordering Israel, Palestine, and Jordan.

At 394,6 metres (1269 feet) below sea level, it's the lowest point in the world.  It is super salty!  It's 9.6 times more salty than the ocean which makes it impossible for plants and animals to survive which is why it's called the Dead Sea.  Because it is so salty you can't really swim.  Since you can't sink you just pretty much float there.

It's an awesome experience.  But when you get out you notice that the water has a sort of greasy feel to it.  Also be sure to wear waterproof sandals or aqua socks because the the salt crystals on the shore are jagged and will hurt your feet getting in and out of the water.

After a shower and change we got back on the bus and headed to Jerusalem which was about an hour's drive away.

Temple Mount
We only had a couple of hours in Jerusalem.  Our guide hit the major sites and showed us the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Wailing Wall.

We saw the Temple Mount at a distance but some day I actually want to go inside it.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is jointly managed by the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic Churches, and it's considered the holiest site in Christianity.  It contains the last four Stations of the Cross, was the spot where Jesus was crucified and is where he is said to have been buried.

Jerusalem's municipality believes that tax exemptions have been incorrectly given to the church-owned commercial properties, which are not places of worship, so they want their tax revenue which I heard was several million dollars.  In protest, the church leaders closed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Sunday.  Obviously this didn't go well with all of the tourists.  After the mayor backed down, the church was reopened at 4 AM this morning.  The church was extra busy this today as everyone was trying to get in.  There were lots of reporters there interviewing various church leaders.

Here's a video I found out on YouTube about the situation.

©Al Jazeera

In the late afternoon we took an optional tour to Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity.

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