Danielle Matulis, Art teacher
The King David School
With a much anticipated sleep in and having the morning to slowly ease into the day, Saturday and day five of our tour was off to a good start.
The day brought with it a separation of the group as two tours were being run, both of which were optional. There was the walking tour of the Yemen Moshe neighbourhood or the walking tour at the Christian Quarter in the old city.
With the desire to see Jerusalem from another religious perspective I took the Christian Quarter tour, gaining more of an appreciation for the melting pot of beliefs that is Jerusalem.
Our tour took off as we entered through the New Gate of the old city, new because it opened in the 19th century.
As we started walking the busy streets trying to get to the first station of fourteen of the Via Dolorosa, we could hear prayers playing over speakers from a mosque.
However with the request for a much needed toilet break our destination became delayed to the great benefit of all when we stopped at the Austrian hospice, a place that used to be a hospital but now it is a boutique hotel. Clean toilets (the cleanest in Jerusalem) were found inside along with a rooftop opening out to a great view. This view included the Mount of Olives, the Dome of the Rock, the Kotel, and the Franciscan Bell Tower to name a few.
We finally made it to the Church of the flagellation, this is where Jesus was given the crown of thorns and began his journey carrying the cross to his execution site.
From this point we wove our way through the busy streets, past merchants selling many brightly coloured trinkets, stopping at each station along the Via Dolorosa.
The most significant moment was at the last station where we entered the church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the place where Jesus was crucified and is said to have been buried and resurrected.
We then concluded our tour and enjoyed exploring Jerusalem ourselves for the remainder of the afternoon.
After a delicious dinner at the hotel we visited Ammunition Hill for a tour of the new museum.
In the cold and dark night we arrived at Ammunition Hill and split into groups. We entered the museum, viewing videos and hearing the stories of the six day war from our guide. We then ventured outside and walked through some of the remaining trenches, hearing the story of brave Eitan, a soldier who ran alongside the trench shooting at the Jordanian soldiers to distract them from throwing grenades into the trenches at his comrades. We walked to the spot where Eitan was shot and killed, a very sobering moment for us all.
Thinking our tour was almost over we all converged outside the JNF funded memorial hall. This is when our night took an emotional turn. Here we heard Alon Wald, one of the tour guides who had taken a group through the museum, tell us about his father. His father had fought and died just meters from where we were standing during the six day war. Alon was just ten months old and would grow up not knowing his father. He was however raised by his brave mother and ten of his fathers comrades who promised his mother that they would be his role model, a promise that they kept. Many of us were in tears as we walked around the memorial looking at personal photos of the men who lost their lives. These photos were unique as they did not depict them in their uniforms, but rather as they were living their lives, holding their children, dancing with their wives, farming in their fields.
Many of us were feeling very emotional at this point and were expecting to be ushered out onto the bus to go back to the hotel, however the night took an unexpected turn.
We were sent into a warm hall and greeted with drinks and desserts and soon found ourselves dancing the night away, with the beautiful voice of Hagit Maoz who sang and danced with us. We were celebrating life in honour of the men who lost their lives fighting for Israel. We were celebrating the 70th birthday of Israel.
The night came to an end at 11pm, boarding the bus and driving back to the hotel, feeling a strange mix of emotions and surprise at the unexpected night we had shared.