Our Honeymoon In Israel

Romance and adventure in the Middle East.

Day 4 (Tour of Jerusalem)

So, the day of our pre-booked wedding gift tour of Jerusalem finally arrived! This conspicuously coincided with the day that our body clocks seemed to finally adjust to Israeli time – we had to set an alarm to make sure we were up-and-at-em for the 7:15AM pick-up.

We were collected from the door by an older Jewish man who could best be described as “crotchety”. He explained that he was just there to pick us up, and he would take us to a central depot to hand us over to our tour guide. In my usual (hilarious) form, I quipped: “So, you get all the good jobs, yeah?”. He waited a beat, looked at me rather seriously, and said: “No,”.

On we went!

At the depot, the tourists were corralled into buses with typical Israeli efficiency (see: none). It was about 9AM when we finally got on the road.

The tour guide was Hava, and she was great! She gave us quite the geography lesson, and covered quite a bit of Israeli history as well. It turns out, Israel is bloody tiny – 196km from north to south on the west side, and 490km on the east side, so you can basically drive around it in a day. Blew our little Aussie minds.

Our first pit stop was an Elvis cafe (of course!) plonked into the middle of the desert. You really do get ’em everywhere. We milled around, checking out the memorabilia, side-stepping the dozens of roaming cats, and paid a shekel each to use the bathroom before we got back on the road.

Rowan with Statue at Elvis Cafe in Jerusalem Israel

Elvis Memorabilia on tour of Jerusalem Israel

Sheree with Statue of Elvis outside Jerusalem Israel

The pit stop wasn’t really necessary, unless one has a connoisseur’s interest in massive Elvis statues – we were in Jerusalem in no time at all (told you, the country is teeny tiny!). We started with a drive through The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, established by Albert Einstein some number of decades ago (it was hard to take notes and rubberneck at the same time, don’t hate). We stopped at the Wall of Life, which formed a kind of look-out over East Jerusalem.

The Wall of Life

Hava gave us a more detailed history lesson on Old Jerusalem, and the various comings and goings over the past three millennia. Turns out, every few centuries or so, a bunch of yahoos sweep in, trash everything that the last bunch of yahoos built, and proceed to build their own shit on top. Repeat ad infinitum. (This is my own abridged version of the history Hava gave – please don’t judge her skills as a tour guide by my recount!)

Rowan at the Wall of Life Lookout over East Jerusalem Israel

Sheree at the Wall of Life Lookout over East Jerusalem Israel

Our Tour Guide at the Wall of Life Lookout Jerusalem Israel

The history was interesting and the view was amazing, but Rowan and I were more fascinated by the thousands of names etched into the Wall itself (assumedly donors to the university), and – this was the best part – the handful of names that appear to have been scrubbed out. We were hoping for some kind of explanation as to (a) what the Wall of Life means/why someone would donate a significant sum of money to get their name on it, and (b) what kind of delicious scandal leads to a name being scratched off… but no such explanation was forthcoming. We did ask Hava in a quiet moment what she knew about it, but she just shrugged and gave a non-committal answer about graffiti.

The Wall of Life Jerusalem Israel

Names scrubbed out of the Wall of Life Jerusalem Israel

The Church of All Nations (Garden of Gethsemane)

Next up was the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane. Hava said something about Gethsemene meaning where the olives are squeezed for their oil – but we never really got up to speed with the lingo, so we may have missed a trick there. The story goes that the Church of Gethsemene is where Jesus hung out after the last supper, having a bit of a cry about his impending demise while his mates had a nap. Lots of shit went down here. To add our own piece of history: on the day of our tour of Jerusalem, a hawker outside this very church told me that I looked like a 14 year old, “with a moon face and electric eyes”, and that Rowan was a lucky man. Thanks, mate!

Church of All Nations on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

Facepalm on the Church of All Nations Jerusalem Israel

A century-old facepalm – nice! (Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gesthemane, Jerusalem)

Church of All Nations on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

Fairly poignant sign at the Church of All Nations, no?

Olive tree blessed by the Pope at the Garden of Gethsemane Jerusalem Israel

On the hill face out the front we saw the world’s most expensive and desirable cemetery, the Mount of Olives. Apparently, the dead buried there will be the first to rise again when the Messiah returns, and they pay about $80k for the privilege. I guess you could say people are dying to get in there! HA!

Honeymooners at the Mount of Olives Tour of Jerusalem Israel

Old City Jerusalem

Then, the main event: inside the walls of Old City Jerusalem. On our way in, we passed an actual bar mitzvah in progress – the poor kid became a man while thousands of tourists were shuffled past. Smh…

We passed through security, with separate scanners and metal detectors for the men and women. There were IDF soldiers everywhere, all very heavily armed. It would be enough to make the casual tourist a bit wary, but we were pretty much used to it by that point and – most importantly – Hava didn’t seem fazed.

Security at the Old City on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

The separation of men and women is a Big Thing in Old Jerusalem, if the security gates didn’t clue you in. Men and women pray in separate areas at the wall, and in tombs and houses of worship throughout the city. Hava repeated an explanation that a rabbi once gave her: apparently, everyone should be praying to get into heaven, but if a man is praying right next to a beautiful woman, his prayer might “zig zag” on the way up to God. Fair enough!


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The Western Wall

The big f-off wall goes by many names: Western Wall, Wailing Wall, and pretty much every other alliterative combination you can imagine. There were literally thousands of people milling around, all sorts – tourists like us, traditional Jews in their top hats and black coats, ladies dressed for the races, more soldiers, nuns, a woman handing out scarves to the inappropriately-clad ladies (bare shoulders are a big no-no)…

Appropriate Attire at the Western Wall Old City Jerusalem

Honeymooners at the Western Wall on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

Our Tour of Jerusalem guide at the Western Wall Israel

Crowds at the Western Wall on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

Stations of the Cross (Muslim Quarter)

Old Jerusalem is split into “quarters”, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. In reality, it’s 40% Muslim ground, 20% Jewish, 20% Christian, and 20% Armenian (of all things! Hava gave a really great explanation as to why the Armenians get their own digs but… I forget).

From the Wall, we hustled through the Muslim “quarter”, checking out some of the Stations of the Cross. We ended up behind this slow-moving Christian pilgrim group, who stopped at each station to pray and sing (they’d even brought their own guitars, for backing – who knew a pilgrimage would be so rock’n’roll?). My favourite station was the first one we saw, Station V, where Jesus didn’t quite “fall” per se, but he stumbled and braced himself against the stone wall. They’ve framed his “handprint”, which seems more like a non-descript indent that has become more hand-shaped over time from all the tourists sticking their mitts in as they walk past (and yes, we joined them)…

Stations of the Cross on our tour of Jerusalem Israel

Honeymooners at the Stations of the Cross on our Tour of Jerusalem IsraelWe hurried through the rest of the Muslim quarter. It was packed, kind of like a bazaar with shops and shopkeepers every inch, but Hava seemed pretty determined that we stop for nothing. (We figured out later that she may have just wanted us to save our sweet tourist dollars for her mate’s shop up the road, ha! Wily!).

While everyone else on the tour was getting suckered in to that ruse, we wandered around the square outside. Rowan couldn’t resist the lure of the man with his cart of baked pastries, and got once-again ripped off purchasing some kind of chocolate bagel (believe it or not, it wouldn’t be the last – or worst! – time we got ripped off that day).

Rowan buying Pastries in Old City Jerusalem Israel

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

No tour of Jerusalem would be complete without the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which houses the final Stations of the Cross and the site where Jesus was buried once that whole crucifixion business was over and done with (well, allegedly – as Hava pointed out, it does seem a bit suspect that they managed to get all of those spots crammed in under a single roof).

The place was bloody packed with tourists and nuns and pilgrims – there was barely room to swing an iPhone. We followed the crowds through all the key sites, squeezing in photographs where we could. I would have loved to light a candle for my Nana, but I couldn’t find any anywhere – apparently, everyone knew to BYO candle, apart from us. So, if that’s something you’re into, plan ahead!

Outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem Israel

Pilgrims Praying in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem Israel

Mural in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

Lunch (aka The Great Lunch Rip-Off 2017)

It was great checking out all this holy stuff and everything, but by this point in the day we were absolutely starving. We’d seen a note in the T&Cs that our tour of Jerusalem wouldn’t include lunch, so we figured we had to fend for ourselves. While everyone else was praying, we made a beeline for the passage we’d passed with a half-dozen restaurants.

And this is it: the time we got one hundred percent the worst type of ripped off in all of our time in Israel.

In fairness, it was entirely our own fault – we didn’t actually ask the price of the two kebab plates sans bread until the restaurateur was handing them to us. At that juncture, he would absolutely not tolerate any attempts to bargain, and the sum of it is that we ended up paying a truly embarrassing amount for this single meal. (Seriously, I’m ashamed to say how much we paid: rest assured that we probably could have bought a week’s worth of groceries for the same amount back home.)

Restuarant on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

The Site of the Great Lunch Rip-Off 2017

This was a bad – terrible, horrible – call on our part, in more ways than one. When we rejoined the tour, Hava took us straight into a far more reasonably priced (and air conditioned!) restaurant. While everyone else lived it up, we finished eating our kebab plates sitting on a stoop outside (with our hands, no less, because apparently our thirty pieces of silver didn’t buy us any cutlery). We wandered around a bit, looking at souvenirs, and used one of the most poorly maintained bathrooms in the Middle East.

Fun fact: shop owners in Old Jerusalem get rather cranky when you say you won’t buy anything. One literally shouted at us to “get out and never come back”, which was hilarious! (And only slightly scary…)



The Jewish Quarter and Zion Gate

After lunch, we followed Hava as she plunged back into the busy streets, those of us a little tired and dehydrated at the back scrambling to keep up. We passed some more cool relics, including the pillars of an old Roman arterial road, as we emerged into the Jewish Quarter. We rested for a minute, stopping to watch a very bouncy orthodox Jew play Hava Nagila and dance for us. He was so enthusiastic, we couldn’t help but drop a shekel for him.

Jewish Quarter Street in Old Jerusalem Israel

Roman arterial road on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

Orthodox Jew in the Jewish Quarter of Old Jerusalem Israel

We perked back up a bit when we came to the Zion Gate – it was truly incredible, riddled with bullet holes from assaults on the Jewish quarter throughout the 20th century. Our jaws literally dropped. It was the highlight of our tour of Jerusalem, and I would strongly recommend making sure that any tour you take includes it!

Zion Gate on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

The Room of the Last Supper & King David’s Tomb

Hava had saved the standard big-ticket items for last. The Room of the Last Supper seems to draw quite a crowd, but – once again – Hava pointed out some pretty major flaws and inconsistencies in the theory that this was where it actually went down.

Room of the Last Supper on our tour of Jerusalem Israel

Selfie on the roof of the Room of the Last Supper in Jerusalem Israel

Turns out, the roof of the Room of the Last Supper has quite a view!

King David’s tomb (the burial place of David, King of Israel) has similar question marks hanging over it, but nonetheless remains pretty bloody important to the Jewish community. As usual (for Old Jerusalem), men and women had to split up to enter, and Rowan scored his first complimentary skull-cap. (Well, he assumed it was complimentary – I’m pretty sure it was a loaner and he actually stole it.)

The Area of King David's Tomb on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

King David's Tomb on our Tour of Jerusalem Israel

And that was all she wrote!

We were herded onto the bus for our commute back to Tel Aviv. We were anticipating a pretty uneventful journey, until we realised we were just casually cruising along the West Bank. (Little did we realise what was in store for us on our journey to the Dead Sea…)

We also managed to have our first skirmish as a married couple: generous tipping versus financial responsibility. I’m pleased to say that neither of us “won”… we used our conflict resolution skills to reach a position of mutual understanding.

Luckily, the stores in Tel Aviv didn’t appear to take Shabbat as seriously as we were afraid they might. We’d been told to expect that everything would be closed from 1PM on a Friday, but we found a couple of places still open to pick up some drinks and snacks for the evening.

All in all, a fantastic day! We were incredibly grateful for our tour of Jerusalem – the honeymoon certainly wouldn’t have been the same without it!

If you’re better at preparing for adventures than we are, you might like to check out the Lonely Planet guide to Jerusalem before you go. It covers off a bunch of the attractions discussed here: the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and more!

 

 

 

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40 Comments

  1. gr8 stuph…excellent slant on others realiteez…. you se would appear to have qualified for marriage ahead of most with empathies and ballz….AAND conflict resolution skills indeed…even knowledge of same starts you on the front grid….pluto…

  2. Wow, what a day! Even holy sights you have to watch out for scams. It’s really heartbreaking! It’s never a good feeling getting taken advantage of. In spite of it all, it looks like you guys had a very memorable day! And what an amazing experience to see all of those places. Cheers!

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:34 PM

      You know, we laugh about it so much now, and it’s become one of our favourite stories to tell about our honeymoon: the time we got ripped off in Jerusalem πŸ˜‰ It was a bit of a disaster at the time, but nothing is ever wasted. It certainly was one of the most memorable days of our honeymoon, an incredible experience. Thanks so much for reading! πŸ™‚

  3. This was so helpful! And so is the rest of your blog lol. My boyfriend has family in Israel (not sure what part) and we were thinking of going later this year.

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:33 PM

      Oooooh, how exciting, Kendra! It will be well worth the visit, trust me! Please do get in touch if you have any questions or if you just want to chat first-times in Israel πŸ˜‰

  4. I’ve come across pictures of that Church so many times and ever since have wanted to visit. However, what really surprises me is that you went to Israel for your honeymoon which is so unique and offbeat. I’m glad I’m not the only one to want an offbeat honeymoon destination.

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:32 PM

      Heck yeah! We were determined to get off the beaten path for our honeymoon, and we’re so glad we did (I wrote about it more here and here if you’re interested). When the time comes to choose your own honeymoon destination, I hope Israel is in the mix! πŸ˜‰ Thanks so much!

  5. This is one of the reasons I include Jerusalem in my bucketlist. The city and the country itself is teemed with storied histories!

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:30 PM

      Absolutely! Everywhere you turn there’s something new to discover, there’s a story attached to everything. I really didn’t do Hava justice in sharing all of her knowledge and insight. I really hope you make it there soon! Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

  6. So many awesome things to see in Jerusalem, your photography captures it really well! I’d love to go to Jerusalem one day, thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:30 PM

      Hahahaha thank you, Greta! I must say, I’m not a fan of my own photography (it’s a hundred year old camera on a hundred year old phone, and half the photos are distorted by either the phone’s protective case or my fat fingers haha), but I’m glad to hear you enjoy it πŸ™‚ I hope you make it to Jerusalem, it’s well worth the visit!

  7. Oh I have been wanting to go to Israel for ages! I really hope I will be able to make it there in 2018, would be a dream come true. Especially after seeing your post, it just seems beautiful!

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:29 PM

      Oh Odette, I really hope you make it! It truly is a dream destination – and, given the difficulties and expense of getting there, so many people only make it there once, so do make the most of it! Israel has everything: it’s beautiful, it’s ugly, it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s deserts, it’s forests, it’s cities, it’s small towns… got my fingers crossed for you! Thanks so much for reading x

  8. What a fantastic experience! I never would have expected to see and Elvis cafe! I’m looking forward to reading more about your adventures!

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:28 PM

      Hahahaha we were a bit surprised by the Elvis cafe too (a weird note on which to start a tour of Old Jerusalem), but it was fun and naff in the way that all Elvis cafes are. It’s great to have you, thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

  9. I really want to go to Israel!! It’s one of my bucket lists and I totally want to go. Thanks for sharing this awesome post!

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:27 PM

      Definitely make some time for a day in Old Jerusalem while you’re there NieNie, it’s so worth it! Thanks for reading x

  10. Thank you for a fun but informative share. I am so sorry but cracked up at the feat lunch rip off of 2017 but happens to us all. And congrats on your new marriage. Would love to check out all the history and culture of this historic area, like the wall of life. Great share!!

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:27 PM

      Hahahahaha no worries Kelly, we crack up now too when we think of it! Comedy is just tragedy plus time… πŸ˜‰ I definitely recommend checking out the Wall of Life (if nothing else, the views from there are stunning) – if you ever do find out why people’s names have been scrubbed off, please get in touch and let us know!

  11. Wow, such an insight into Jerusalem. Must have been so interesting to see all that history come alive omg don’t of you. And what a great start to your new life as a married couple, despite the bumps along the way!

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:26 PM

      Hahaha absolutely, Caroline! In fact, I think the bumps along the way are the best way to start our marriage – we know we can handle whatever we’re in for πŸ˜‰ We’ll have great stories to tell about our tour of Jerusalem for the rest of our lives. Thanks so much for reading!

  12. Wow, this is a long and complete day. You guys saw a lot! Sorry to hear the lunch story. I have heard the hard way to never buy a good of service without knowing the price. It is very difficult to get out of the price once you have consumed or used what you are buying.

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:25 PM

      Yep, we’ve now learned the hard way, too! Hahaha. It was definitely a long day, we crammed in so much so fast, but it didn’t feel “rushed” at all which was great. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  13. Would love to visit Jerusalem some day! Looks like it is a great place for history buffs like me.

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:24 PM

      Oh, 100% Rashka! My husband is quite the history buff and he looooooooved it. He tried to give me his own history lessons along the way (indeed, he tried to do that all over Israel). Unfortunately, most of it goes right over my head. I still thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated it, though, so there’s something for everyone!

  14. Sounds like there’s plenty to see! Sorry you got ripped off though. I hope the kebabs were at least tasty!

    • ShereeStrange

      November 19, 2017 at 6:23 PM

      Hahahaha you’d think they would have been, given what we paid for them, but they were remarkably average! I comfort myself with the thought that we paid for a good story, at the very least πŸ˜‰ There is definitely a lot to see in Old Jerusalem, we never could have done it all on our own! Thanks for stopping by x

  15. That must’ve been a very interesting tour! Can you believe that I’ve been here for 2,5 months and haven’t seen everything you guys have seen in just one day…?
    Honestly, I didn’t like Jerusalem THAT much. Yes, it’s very beautiful and special but the energy was just too much for me. Being in Jerusalem kinda drained my energy of a whole day in just 3 hours. After 3 hours, I was extremely tired and just wanted to go home and sleep. Idk, maybe I’m exaggerating, but there’s too much there; the 3 main religions, all different kind of people, soldiers everywhere, hardcore religious people and… so. much. hate. It was so hard for me to hear that this one politician wants to blow up the Dome of the Rock… (did you guys go there btw?) and that so many people agree with him… These things make me sad. Why not live in peace? Like, you don’t have to become best friends but why fight all the time though?
    How did you feel about this? I can imagine such a big tour in Jerusalem would’ve been too much for me to handle. But how did you experience this day?

    • ShereeStrange

      November 20, 2017 at 3:48 PM

      Oh, I completely know what you mean Cristina – it IS a lot, and I think it’s all compounded by the heat! (It was starting to warm up when we were there, but I’d imagine the last few months have absolute scorchers for you.) We didn’t see the Dome of the Rock while we were there; we were with a Jewish Israeli tour guide, she advised us that access was restricted to Muslims (though this seems to change quite frequently?). We were there a couple of months before the shooting, and quite happy to go along with what she felt was safest/most appropriate. It really is heartbreaking, the politics and the blind hatred. We made a conscious decision to rise above it as much as we could, and not delve into it too much here on the blog, because (1) we’re just two atheist kids from Australia, what do we know? and (2) it is so draining and can easily escalate. The trip – especially seeing some of the Palestinian communities on the West Bank – completely changed our perspective, and really gave us new understanding (which is why I strongly recommend that anyone with strong opinions either way on the conflict actually goes there to see for themselves, you know?).
      The day itself touring Jerusalem certainly was draining, but it was far more efficient than we ever could have been trying to do it ourselves. If our (mis)adventures around Tel Aviv and the rest of Israel are anything to go by, we would have had an even longer, harder day and seen far less had we gone it alone. πŸ™‚ We did start to peter out after lunch, I was looking for any excuse to sit down, but the great thing was every time you started to feel tired there’d be something (for us, it was the Zion Gate, and then the view from above the room of the Last Supper) that blows you away and perks you right back up again. The all-in-one-day strategy isn’t for everyone, but it worked well for us πŸ™‚
      Thank you so much for coming by and sharing your thoughts!!

  16. I absolutely fell in love with Jerusalem when I visited. I can understand, though, how trying to see everything in one day would be massively rushed. I had a couple of days and some time on my own, which made all the difference. It brought it all back, and yes – I think he did steal the skull cap! (But it probably doesn’t count as stealing if he didn’t realise, right?)

    • ShereeStrange

      November 20, 2017 at 3:50 PM

      It was a bit rushed I suppose, Jill, but definitely more efficient in a lot of ways than had we tried to do it ourselves! Glad I could evoke some memories for you πŸ˜‰ We loved it too. Maybe my (silly) husband can return his ill-gotten skull cap when we go back for some future anniversary? Hahaha. Thanks for reading!

  17. We really want to go to Jerusalem <3

    Carmelatte

  18. I always enjoy reading your posts because you’re really funny! Sounds like a great tour apart from being royally ripped off in that restaurant! happens to us all at some point!

    • ShereeStrange

      November 20, 2017 at 3:51 PM

      Hahahahaha cheers, Jess! πŸ™‚ It was a really great tour, I don’t think I’ve done Hava justice in this post (she was so great), and at least we get a great story out of the lunch rip-off… and a good chuckle now when it comes up. Always glad to know we’re not alone, though! Thanks for reading x

  19. Sounds like a really fun and educational day! I would love to visit Israel. Sorry about getting ripped off, that sounds terrible! You’ve definitely made me want to visit though!

  20. I loved reading this! So well written πŸ™‚ The part about the Elvis statues made me laugh! I’m sorry you got ripped off, that’s never a good feeling. But seems like you got to experience a lot in one day! Israel is definitely on my travel wish list

  21. Wow, you guys managed to do a lot in one day! I would love to visit Jerusalem some time. Seems to me there is a lot to explore πŸ™‚ Will be looking into some of your other posts as well!

  22. This is seriously a dream trip for me! It sounds like you had a great day; some day I will make it so great to know you would recommend your guide Hava πŸ™‚

  23. I would love to visit Jerusalem, great post!

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