S: ISRAEL - 2005
2: We arrived on Friday and walked to the Western Wall where Jews traditionally gather to welcome the Sabbath. The holiest of all Jewish sites and a major center of pilgrimage, it is all that remains of the Great Temple, built to hold the Arch of the Covenant containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Second Temple was reconstructed by Herod but destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. | LOOKING WEST: THE OLD CITY | Jerusalem
3: Another Israeli tradition is to go out with family and friends at the end of the Sabbath on Saturday night. After dinner, we attended a concert at the Tombs of the Kings sponsored by the Consulate General of France, which was also being performed in the Palestinian settlement of Ramallah. | Our cousins Mimi and Simcha
4: The walls of the Old City are guarded by entrance gates. | Zion Gate, entrance to the Jewish Quarter. It is pockmarked by bullet holes from Israeli soldiers desperate to reach the Jewish Quarter inside, under siege by the Jordanians.
5: Jaffa Gate, the main entrance to the Old City, through the Armenian Quarter. The Armenians were the first country to make Christianity the state religion and establish a community in Jerusalem to guard Christian places in the Holy Land. | The monumental Damascus Gate, entrance to the Muslim Quarter. The steps lead down to the remains of the original Roman gate and parts of the Roman city. It is also a starting point for walks along the ramparts of the city wall.
6: Haram esh-Sharif or Temple Mount is a vast rectangular esplanade. The site of the second temple became an Islamic shrine in 691 A.D. with the building of the Dome of the Rock, the most beautiful of all mosques. | The flights of steps up to the platform of the Dome are each topped by a qanatir or free-standing arcade, with columns recycled from Roman-era buildings.
7: Verses from the Koran decorate the drum of the Dome and tell of Mohammad's night journey. | The smaller Dome of the Chain has magnificent 13th-century tiling on the interior.
8: OLD CITY | The Market Place
9: The American Colony Hotel, built in 1865, was originally the home of a rich Turkish merchant. It then became the center of an American religious community until it was turned into a beautiful hotel. We had lunch in the tree-shaded courtyard.
10: Roman artifacts in the outside courtyard | The oldest known representation of the seven-light candelabra or menorah dating from the 4th century B.C. | The Shrine of the Book houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls, discovered in 1947 jars found in a cave date from 300 B.C. and are the oldest existing versions of biblical scriptures. | The Israel Museum
11: Israel does not have a written constitution -- the Supreme Court interprets Old Testament laws. The pomegranate sculptures represent righteousness. Pomegranate seeds are said to number 613 on average -- one for each of the Bible's 613 commandments. | The serene pyramid area acts as an inner "gatehouse" of the court. | Across from the Supreme Court is the Knesset Passageway, reached by a path which represents both the connection and the separation between the legislative and judicial branches of government.
12: The Pillar of Heroism Inscription: "to the martyrs, the ghetto fighters, the partisans, the underground, the soldiers, and those who saved others -- all the heroes of valor and revolt."
13: The Children's Memorial The lobby is filled with photographs of children. The single room is lit only by a few candles but 500 mirrors reflect them. Names of the 1.5 million children destroyed in the Holocaust are read aloud -- it takes six months to read them all.
14: Tel Aviv The commercial center of the modern Jewish state, established in 1909, and a Mediterranean resort city. | We had lunch at the Port in Tel Aviv. Karin chose lobster--and protection!
15: Jaffa, an ancient port city, is the oldest part of Tel Aviv, dating back to 2000 B.C. Predominantly Arab before 1948, the majority fled after attacks by the Irgun and the Haganah. Today it is undergoing gentrification.
16: Jewish Freedom Fighters fought against the Romans. Its fall signaled the destruction of the Kingdom of Judea in 74 A.D. "Masada shall not fall again" is a swearing-in oath of the modern Israeli army. | THE LAST BASTION OF FREEDOM | Masada
17: Marilyn and Stuart took the cable car | Ira, Zachary and Karin walked up the 1,500 feet by the twisting Snake Path.
18: The large bathhouse has some original frescoes | The model shows Herod's home and terrace. | The base of the synagogue had two pits where Torah scrolls were found.
19: Stuart and Ira looking out over the Dead Sea | Beautiful patterns and welcomed shade at Masada
20: A refreshing dip in the nature reserve.
21: We had a lovely last get-together with our cousin Mimi before leaving Jerusalem.
22: We crossed the border at Eilat into Aqaba under photos of the deceased King Hussein and his son Abdullah II. Hussein became king in 1952 at age 16 when his grandfather was assassinated. Until his death in 1999, he worked for peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict and recognized Israel in 1994.
23: The Nabataeans, merchants and entrepreneurs, established Petra in the 6th century B.C. By the 1st century, it was the center of a rich and powerful kingdom, supported by an elaborate system for channeling water. It was buried by an earthquake in the 8th century and lay forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer disguised as a Muslim scholar. | THE LOST CITY | Petra
24: Petra at Night We were fortunate to experience a night-time tour, only available when there is a full moon because flashlights are not allowed. | The first breathtaking glimpse of the Treasury is when the finely chiseled facade suddenly appears through a chink in the dark, narrow walls of the Siq. | We walked through the Siq, the half-mile gorge leading to Petra.
25: The ethereal sound of the flute greeted us, creating an other-worldly atmosphere.
26: We took a horse cart through the Siq to conserve our energy. The Siq itself is intriguing, with water channels cut into the rock and carved niches with worn-out lines of ancient deities.
27: The magnificent treasury with its distinctive architecture.
28: To access the Outer Siq we first rode camels, then donkeys up the steep, rocky terrain.
30: We reached the Monastery and the burial chambers with their tightly packed tombs.
31: Relaxing and cooling off inside a tomb