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Day 3 Blog

by Karin and Tom Zafir

We started the day with a leisurely breakfast in the hotel dining room. As it was Shabbat no made to order was on offer, however there was lots to choose from. The vast array of salads, smoked and cured fish, cheeses, breads, cakes and much more.

Our first stop was the Israel Museum. David took us past several impressive works of art, including an original Rodin Sculpture. First, we saw the breathtaking model of the old city, with the temple mount surrounding the holy of holies. We saw the oldest section dating from the time of King David and the adjacent pathway via Robinson’s Arch to the Temple, Herod’s Palace, an amphitheatre based on the assumption, and later, archaeological evidence that one must have existed there at the time.

From there we moved on to the building housing fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as a large replica from one of the scrolls. The rest of the scrolls are held elsewhere for preservation. The top of this building is shaped like the lid of the urns the scrolls were found in and alcoves in the entrance contained two of the original urns. From here we had a good view of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

The museum contains a wealth of exhibits from Jewish communities over several hundred years, such as beautiful Ashkenaz and Sephardi Torah covers. We walked past a room containing sarcophagi where we had a group photo taken of the ‘mummies’, past a painted Sukkah rescued from Germany after the war.

We visited four synagogues that had been reconstructed in the museum. The first was the Horb Synagogue. This is a small town near Bamberg in Germany. All the surfaces are painted with motifs of animals, plants and flowers. The paintings date from 1735. However, from 1864 the synagogue became a barn for hay and was only rediscovered in 1913.

Next was the Vittorio Veneto Synagogue, which was completed in 1700. Despite the fact that it looks like a typical Italian Synagogue, it served an Ashkenaz community from the Middle Ages. By the end of World War 1 it was no longer in use. The beautiful timber Bimah, with steps leading up to it, while at the other end is the extremely ornate Baroque style ark. The women’s gallery had metal lacework windows that open out from the bottom. From the ceiling are beautiful elaborate lamps.

The third synagogue was the Kadavumbagam from Cochin, India. The ornately carved ark contained two beautiful Sephardi Torahs. The spiral shaped Bimah is very unusual. On interesting feature is that the second reading is read from the women’s gallery.

Finally, we saw the Tzedek ve-Shalom Synagogue from Surinam, which used to be a Dutch colony. The distinguishing feature is the sand on the ground to muffle the sound of clogs on the wooden floor.

As it was Shabbat, we could not visit the Knesset, however, we were driven to the gates where we got a good view, as well as seeing the large Menorah donated by the British is 1956. Great opportunity for a group photo.

After passing a beautiful bridge modelled on a harp, we arrived in the Arab town of Abu Ghosh where we had a lovely lunch. The impressive mosque was unfortunately closed but even just from outside it is very attractive. Many of the residents originated from Chechnya and that country paid for this beautiful mosque.

On our return to Jerusalem, David led a few of us on a leisurely tour of the old city. It was great stopping at the shops of the stall holders he knows, and to taste a unique drink, sachlav, made from cornflower, rosewater and a sprinkling of cinnamon. A high point was meeting the keeper of the key of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He showed us photos of his father and grandfather posing with Australian troops.

After Shabbat we went to the Sound and Light Show at the Tower of David. Wow! This has to be the highlight of our trip so far. The moving images covered all walls and surfaces and, with the amazing sound system, tells the story of Jerusalem. It was breathtaking.

This concluded the program for the day.

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