Recap of SharePoint Middle East Trip – Part 2

That night after one of the longest days, you’d think I could have slept in, but no, I woke up and wanted to know what there was to explore in my area before going out with Avi for a holy land tour.  The conscierge suggested Jaffa and the clock tower and flea market.  I’m big on flea markets after spending some time in the south.  I’m always after a good bargain, especially when it involves cool foreign finds.  Without even having any sheckles yet, I jumped in a taxi and asked him to stop by a cash machine on my way to Jaffa, which I’d later find out is the same as Joppa, the city that Jonah wanted to go to when he was suppose to go to Ninevah.  I found the "big fish" also known as Jonah and the whale. 

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Beautiful area.  The shops were amazing.  I realized how much of a world traveler I was when I was negotiating with a shop keeper for a bronze mask and he was happy to take non local currency… $20 USD, $20 AUD, 100 U.A.E. DHM, and 20 MYR (Malyasian) 10 JOD (Jordanian) as well as some Isreali Sheckles.  He nearly cleaned me out, but I got the $100 bronze mask with silver eyes.  I’m sure a local could have gotten a much better deal, and my various currencies didn’t help.

I also got some other good gifts for family including some cool bags and touristy stuff.  I then flagged down a taxi and headed back to the hotel in Tel Aviv.  After arriving at the wrong Sheraton in Tel Aviv I started to get a bit worried after I explained it was the other Sheraton in Tel Aviv, and he said this was the only one.  I was pretty confident with myself and guided him up the street to the hotel.  What a relief after we arrived.  Avi was there waiting for me with his son.  I was excited to see him and we were off.  Our first stop was in an amazing hill with an awesome view of the surrounding area.  I started taking pictures of the thistle which was beautiful and asking if this was considered good here or not.  I guess it wasn’t like Scotland where it’s more respected.  As we were wandering around the cliffs I heard some people speaking English and I asked them where they were from.  One said Provo, the other said American Fork.  I was floored.  I was in Provo/American Fork the weekend before this trip for my sister Maralee’s wedding.  They explained to me that they were on this hill filming a movie on the life of Christ with Dr. Truman Madsen!  No WAY!!!  He’s only one of the foremost on Jerusalem and the life of Christ.  (Like the guy that I’d want to explain what’s to see.  He was the head of the BYU Jerusalem Center for a decade or so.)  A few minutes later, he’s walking up the hill and I’m getting my picture with him. 

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I’d find that from that location you could see the Mount of Transfiguration, the place for the Sermon on the Mount (The Beatitudes), and the Sea of Galilee (the place where Christ walked on water and found his fishers of men.)  Breath taking and beautiful.  You could also see Syria, the West Bank, and Jordan.  From this location it was easy to point out where the 1967 boundaries changed.  If that’s not enough you could also see locations where Elijah and Elisha did a lot of their miracles.  It was definitely easy to see how it was the promised land.  A very beautiful location flowing with milk and honey.

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After the view, we went into the valley to the Jordan River from this side.  It was interesting to see all the people lining up to get baptized in the same river.  I think the Jordanian side had the right spot, but this section of the Jordan river was better setup for mass baptisms.

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Our timing was perfect to see a good group of orthodox Jews who were gathered around the car of an evidently important Rabbi on his way.  It was fascinating to learn about the differences between the Orthodox to Hasidic to reformed Jews.  The hats and locks are the easiest ways to tell them apart.  It was enjoyable to see a few hitch hiking.  I’m thinking to myself wow that’s amazing they’d be so trusting to take a ride from a random person.

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We then went close up to the Sea of Galilee, so Avi’s son could play a bit in the water and cool down.  We then stopped by where the sermon on the mount was.  The church that was there was closed, but we found a spot to take a picture (next to the private property sign.)

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As you can imagine we were all pretty exhausted.  This picture sums it up.

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The next day was Friday.  Meron had volunteered to take me to Jerusalem and Avi would be getting ready for Shabbat (the Sabbath), but I’d get dropped off at his place before sundown so I could get ready as well.  I was very excited to be invited to spend the Sabbath with Avi and his family.  What an Honor!

I’d later find out after our deep conversations, Avi would loose his voice that night and finally be getting it back as I would arrive.

Friday April 4.

So, again I wake up and felt like exploring.  I decided to go out in the surf.  I didn’t have a surf board, but I could at least enjoy the water where Jonah himself went for a quick swim.  It’s tough to take a picture of yourself in the water.

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It was a great swim.  The water wasn’t too cold and the waves were surprisingly good.  There were even a few surfers out there.  You can surf Israel on the Med sea.  My Auzzie friends would be a bit disappointed, but for the Italian surfers, they wouldn’t be too disappointed.

So Meron arrived and I was ready.  We went straight to Jerusalem and started at the top of the hill and worked our way down.  It was all about the view, and then we ended up in BYU Jerusalem.  Nice real estate.  I can see why it was a bit sensitive with the locals.  We didn’t have time for much of a tour there, but did see the organ (the biggest in the middle east?) and the awesome view of the dome of the rock from the rose garden.

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We then went to the mount of olives to find out that it closes from 12-2 (for lunch?)  So we went where everyone else was going to find out that, oh this is the place where Mary the mother of Jesus is supposedly burried.  It was quite the gothic church with massive chandeliers and guys with massive black robes and long beards.  This theme for Christianity would persist in a lot of the other places where there were sights.  Eastern Orthodox, and Armenian and mostly not the Catholic that most of us are use to seeing in Cathedrals.  I’d find out that it’s offensive to cross your legs on a very short list of things you shouldn’t do in church.  Someone needs to tell my bishopric.

So old Jersualem is divided into quarters.  Jewish Quarter, Muslim Quarter, Christian Quarter, and Armenian Quarter?  Not sure how the Armenian’s ended up with their piece, but it’s fascinating still the same.

The contrast between either side of the hill that the mount of olives is on is amazing.  You’d see very dry even deserty to roses in bloom.

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In the Christian Quarter, the main thing to see is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  In that building alone, based on the info I gathered from various random tour guides and people we’d ask, we’d find that Constantine himself would say that this is where the tomb, calvary’s hill, the crucifixion, all the main things would be there.  Right near there is the path where he walked carrying the cross.  You can find a stack of spare crosses you can borrow if you want.  There’s even a crack where they say, this is where the earth rent in twain at the death.  There’s also some stained dirt that they say is where the blood went…  It’s all fairly incredible.  I’ll leave it up to you to determine.  I was asking around for the other tomb, since I’d heard there was another one that was more realistic.  After searching online, I’d find another one that is in most of the modern pictures you see of the "garden tomb" that is a better place for pondering or meditating.  There’s also some other places that are claimed to be "the place"  That garden tomb is just outside the Damascus gate in the Muslim quarter.  I recommend it.  It is closed on Sundays.  Is that an Orb in the picture of me in front of the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher?  One of my favorite "evidences" is this excavation that shows a huge area of baby graves from right around the birth of Christ.  If you follow the story, it’s a very sad time in Jerusalem when King Herod has all babies under 2, killed.  It’s up the road from the mount of olives.

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The Muslim quarter and all of them essentially do have some great shopping for gifts and trinkets.  I ended up with a big sheeps horn, and lots of candy and sweets.  For lunch Meron and I ate at a very special place in the Muslim Quarter and had some of the best Humus and falafel and pita I had on my trip.  Muhammorah (sp?) is the best stuff.  Mo and Mohammed introduced me to it and were saying it was spicy, but man it was amazing.  I hope to find it in the states.  They had that here as well.  I would ask for it at every place that had Humus from then on.

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The best in the Jewish quarter by far, was the western wall also known as the wailing wall.  Lots of emotion and passion and real feeling.  Even being there I also missed the temple and there was a strong feeling to touch the stones of the west wall of the temple that stood in Christ’s time.

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Looks like it will be part 3 before I get to the Dubai SPC and Istanbul SPC 😉

More later…

Joel

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Joel Oleson

I LOVE traveling our little planet. In my quest to visit every country in the world I've got about 35 UN countries left! I'm not just country hopping, but looking for the most immersive cultural experiences and capturing them as photos and videos. Yes, I'm also a geek. I've been recognized as a Microsoft Regional Director, a community leadership award. When not traveling, I'm in paradise in sunny southern California as I'm a Senior IT Manager at Blizzard Entertainment.

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