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msk1

Guided Tours Israel Recently??

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We just returned last evening from the Mediterranean and used Guided Tours Israel in both Ashdod and Port Said. Different guide in each port and both were great!!

I've heard several people used them and really liked them. I tried the one e-mail that MSK suggested. I'll try the other one. If not I'll wake up in the middle of the night and call them. LOL. I have a particular driver I want so I want to book it asap. Little over 4 months out. Can't wait. Thanks for the help.

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I've heard several people used them and really liked them. I tried the one e-mail that MSK suggested. I'll try the other one. If not I'll wake up in the middle of the night and call them. LOL. I have a particular driver I want so I want to book it asap. Little over 4 months out. Can't wait. Thanks for the help.

I really meant we used them in Haifa and Ashdod ... obviously not Port Said (there we used Ramses).

 

Here's the email I used and got quick responses from Alon: http://www.guidedtoursisrael.com/

Edited by BigGuy25

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I see they mention fire wall issues on their website. They will call if you send your number. Sounds like something they have encountered before. My son is coming over tomorrow and this one of his talents.

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Hi MSK1,

 

Since you did ask for details about GTI, here is how our tours with them went:

 

My husband and I recently returned from the May 3rd sailing of the Azamara Quest with two ports of call in Israel (Haifa and Ashdod). We arrived in Haifa Israel on Thursday May 7th. There were immigration tables set up in a lounge for a face to face passport check. The line was long but went fast. We were given an entry card to keep with our passport and had to be returned to the officials at the port entry control point in Ashdod on the last day before reboarding the ship. We had allowed ourselves a half hour for these immigration formalities and were off the ship with time to spare.

 

We used Guided Tours Israel for our christian themed tours here. Alon Schneider handeled the coorespondence and was extremely helpful in planning the trip. All of my queries were answered quickly. We had a comfortable Mercedes Van for our group of six. Our guide Jacob was extremely knowledgable about Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, often quoting the appropriate bible verse. He offered a few alternatives to our original plans and off we went!

 

Our first stop was Nazareth with the Basilica of the Annunciation. The lower church centers on the Grotto (the remains of the home of Mary, Joseph and Jesus) and the Cave of the Annunciation, where the angelic announcement to Mary is believed to have occurred.The vast upper church is decorated with mosaics of the Virgin donated by communities from around the world.

 

The Church of St. Gabriel is the Orthodox counterpart to the Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. According to Orthodox tradition, the Virgin Mary first received the news from Gabriel that she would bear the Savior while she was out fetching water. The Orthodox Church is therefore located over the spring that fed Mary's Well.

 

Our road trip through Galilee continued on to Mount Tabor. The road up to the top was nerve-racking but we there safely. Christians have identified a rock atop Mt. Tabor as the place of the Transfiguration of Christ. The Church and gardens are beautiful but the views of the Jezreel Valley were the highlight for us.

 

For our next stop took us to Yardenit, the Baptismal site on the Jordan River. It was beautifully done with very nice landscaping, big shady trees and pavement (steps or paved path down to the water), a large gift shop and very good restaurant. We had a typical Israeli lunch there with lots of salads, Hummus, Pita bread and Saint Peters Fish. After lunch we bathed our feet in the beautiful clear water of the Jordan. There were quite a few Orthodox Christians there who purchased a white gown there for their complete immersion baptism. Jacob told us that the gown is saved and used as a funeral schroud. The gift shop had alot of nice quality, typical Israeli souvenirs.

 

We moved on to Capernaum which is often mentioned as being Jesus’ home base during his Galilean ministry. Jesus lived at his deciple Peter’s home. Our guide Jacob told us that Capernaum is one spot where historians are absolutely sure that Jesus lived and preached. The ruins of Peters home are displayed below the chapel and the ruins of the Synogogue are close by. Of all the places we visited in Israel, I was awed by the knowledge that I was literally walking in Jesus’ footsteps here the most.

 

The next stop was what Jacob kept refering to as the “Beatitudes”. It took me a while to catch on but he was referring to the “Mount of Beatitudes” the location of the famous “Sermon on the Mount”! I refreshed my memory when I got home and relearned that itis the greatest sermon Jesus ever preached containing the Lord's prayer, the beatitudes, and the golden rule. There is a church here but the views of the sea of Galilee and surrounding countryside are what draw the visitors.

 

After a long day of touring, we headed back to Haifa. Jacob drove through the German Colony that had been built by the Templers. It looked lovely, with lots of shops and cafes. If we had had time, it would have been a great place for a break. We drove to the top of the Baha’i Gardens for the views. We just had time for a Photo Stop from a scenic viewpoint where we could see the city, harbor and gardens. We could see the Quest in Port below. Should we come to Haifa again, I would do a tour of the gardens and stroll through the German Colony.

 

We arrived back onboard and slept soundly that night. The next morning we arrived in Ashdod, Israel. The Israeli Immigration officials quickly checked our Entry Card and passport as we left the ship (no lines at all today!). Jacob was waiting for us and we got an early start for touring Jerusalem. After about an hour we arrived at a viewpoint across the valley from Jerusalem above the cemetary. The city was spread out before us. Jacob pointed out the different quarters, churches, mosques and historical sites to highlight where and how we would be touring the city. This was a great orientation because once we entered the city, I would have been completely lost. We moved on to park by the Jaffa Gate and began our adventure. Stepping into the Arab Quarter was like stepping back in time. The narrow roads (pedestrian area) with shops to our right and left, the clothing, spices, foods were in colorful diplays. It was very crowded and very noisy. All of a sudden the call to prayers sounded throughout the city and the people suddenly started moving to the closest Mosque. The roads cleared quickly- we moved on to the Jewish quarter. The shops here seemed to be more western, clearer diplays and more modern. Maybe it just was because since the crowds had cleared, we were able to see everything! Whatever the reason, it was a pleasant walk through the streets. Jacob took us to a local wine shop where we got to sample the local vintages. We were told that the Vineyards in Israel have in the last decade begun to produce high quality wines. I had never thought of Israeli Wine when I was in my local wine store but when you think about it, wine had a few thousand years of tradition in this region. The wine could be purchased and mailed back to the states (or where ever you lived), a nice souvenir !

 

We moved on to the Westen or Wailing Wall. There was a large police presence. When I commented on it, Jacob told us that this wasn’t large but normal. Visitors of all religions are welcome to approach the Wall and to pray silently beside it. Men who would like to go to the wall must wear a hat or take a free head covering from a box beside the entrance to the prayer area.Women may also borrow the required shawls and short-skirt coverings. A dividing screen reserves an area at the extreme right of the Western Wall for women, who are not allowed into the men's section in keeping with Orthodox Jewish tradition.

 

We moved on to the Via Delorose and walked the Stations of the Cross. By this time we needed a rest room break, Jacob brought us to a public bathroom. Ladies beware! There were just holes in the floor and no handles to hold on to. With a skirt it might have worked if we had been desperate enough but in pants, no way! We waited until we reached the Church of the Holy Selpulchre were there were (Unisex) clean western type bathrooms.

 

The Church of the Holy Selpulchre is the holiest of the Holy sites for Christians in Israel. It is built over Golgatha, the place where Jesus was cruicified and the tomb where he was buried. We spent a while here, the place is steeped with history and stories, some good – some horrible.

 

We moved on to the Armenien Quarter and on to the Room of the Last Supper. We then made our way back to Jaffa Gate, tired, hot and hungry. We found a bakery on the way out of the city and grabbed a snack and some water for our next stop- The Dead Sea.

 

We drove throught the desert for about an hour to reach the Dead Sea. We stopped at a Kibbutz for lunch close to the beach. It was very crowded with busses and tourists. The caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found were behind the buildings and could (for a fee) be visited. Lunch here was a disappointment after our feast the day before. The shop here had lots of Dead Sea Souvenirs. We were glad to get out of there and finally make it to the beach. The area had a changing room, restaurant and gift shop. We made our way down to the water, only one other member of our group decided to bathe with me. We went into the water until it was about knee high and the next step had me dropping down, the water was chest level, I had landed in a sinkhole! I crawled out of it scraping up my knee (which was lots of fun with the high salt content of the water) only to find myself falling into not one but two more of these stupid holes! We couldn’t stop laughing! I gave up and just laid back and floated for a while. We didn’t stay in the water long, it was very hot and the sun was beating down on us. With blood pouring down my knee we made our way to the openair showers to clean up. The gift shop had bandages for my knee and Jacob used his army medic experience to bandage me up. No one there seemed to know about these sinkholes. I was okay with just a few scrapes but for a child or frail guests, it could be dangerous. Please be careful there! We had a quiet drive back to Ashdod. The late afternoon sun had the rocks and sand of the desert glowing in with pale red highlights. It was beautiful. The guards at the Port Gate collected our Entry Cards and we, tired but happy, went back onboard.

 

We were in Jerusalem on a Friday, most sites and shops close down in the afternoon for the Sabbath. If this were not the case, we could have easily spent the entire day in there. We got in a lot of the major sites but is was all in a rush. A liesurely day with breaks to compensate for the heat would have made it a better touring day. I don’t regret going to the Dead Sea. Even with my injuries I look back to it as being an fascinating, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 

It was an incredible experience to walk through the showplaces of the bible. I didn't realize how small Israel is (about the size of New Jersey). Since our tour had the christian theme, it was easy to do 2 seperate day tours (Galilean Ministry and Jerusalem/Dead Sea) and overnight onboard ship. For those of you considering doing an overnight is Jerusalem, it wouldn't be a problem to drive there from Haifa and enjoy 2 days there. You could easily spend 2 days in Jerusalem and still not see everything! I would highly recommend a private tour here. Fellow cruisers that did ships tours saw much less than we did and IMHO large groups and heat don’t mix well.

No matter how you do it remember to drink lots of water! We were there early May and the heat was taxing. I am sure that later in the season it will be worse. We exchanged about 100$ for the two days for entry fees, small gifts and meals.

 

I hope this info helps you plan your trip!

Happy Cruising!

 

What a wonderful visit! This is exactly what are looking for. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with us.

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GTI is all booked up as of 7/1/10 for Oct. 18th itinerary on Celebrity.

Oh my.....I wonder how far in advance I should contact them. my cruise isn't until next year so I am sure we good now but I wonder when I need to email them. Maybe a year out?

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oh my.....i wonder how far in advance i should contact them. My cruise isn't until next year so i am sure we good now but i wonder when i need to email them. Maybe a year out?

 

 

we have already booked with gti for our 10/15/2011 cruise on ncl jade holy land & egypt.alon at gti is very quick to reply to emails .we booked thanks to the great reviews here on cc.

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During our (christian based) tours in Israel we only had entrance fees in Capernaum archeological site, small parking fees (minimal, easily covered by the coins we all pulled out of our pockets) and at the Dead Sea beach area (which we ended up getting for free because we had lunch at the Kibbutz that owned the beach facility). Our guide got free parking in Jerusalem, otherwise the parking garage would have cost extra. All the other sites we visited were open to the public, no entrance fees required. The gift shop at Yardinit baptismal site accepted dollars (www.yardenit.com) and had a nice selection of gift items (the honey products could be sampled and seemed to be very popular). They have an online shop so you can see their selection and compare prices before you get there. Rolf and I had exchanged 100$ for both days of touring for lunch, entrance fees and small gifts.

 

The cost of the tours depends on how many are in the group and what you plan to do and see. Our tour of Jesus' ministry in Galilee from Haifa (May 2010) was 99$ per person for our group of 6 and 135$ pp for the second days tour out of Ashdod of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. GTI did require a credit card number to secure the tour but this wasn't a problem, my card wasn't charged. No deposit was required. Our guide collected the tour fee in cash each touring day. This seems to be the common practice. It was the same with the other private tour companies I have used in Russia, England, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and now Israel. Some have required a credit card to secure the tour but a deposit has never been requested.

 

We were pleased with our tour/guide/pricing. We were out and about for 8-9 hours each day. The mercedes van was our guide's private vehicle. It was new, air-conditioned and comfortable for our group of 6 (we switched off with three persons in the back seat, two in the middle in seperate seats and one in the front next to our driver/guide). There were other vans awaiting passengers for private tours and ours was one of the nicest.

 

Israel is small, only about the size of New Jersey. There is lots to see and do in there, alternative arrangements can easily be made when you have a private tour. Our guide made a few suggestions after picking us up in Haifa to change the tour, we ended up doing some completely different things that we had originally planned (and had a great day and saw an amazing amout of sites, way more than any ship tour had!) An interesting tour option: a group from our ship left the ship in Haifa, toured Masada/ Dead Sea overnighting at a Dead Sea Resort and then toured Jerusalem the next day and picked the ship back up in Ashdod that evening. Other fellow cruisers overnited in Jerusalem which was reported to be a wonderful experience but beware -the hotel prices in Jerusalem are sky high. We did two seperate day tours and slept at home on the Azamara Quest!

 

Cancellation policies differ from company to company and are subject to change. It is probably best to question the policy in advance when booking any private tour.

 

Happy cruising everyone!

 

Thank you for such a wonderful review re. Israel. We are planning to go next year in October and is planning ahead since we are organizing a small group of 16. We would like to do as you by staying aboard ship since we may stay overnight while in Egypt.

 

Regards,

Pinkie

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Hello and thank you the detailed account of your excursion.

 

You mentioned the tour stopped at Yardenit. How long did the tour stay there?

 

Did people prebook the Baptism? Was enough time alotted for Baptism?

 

Once last question. Did you find your own group of 6 or were they independent?

 

Thank you again for a wonderful posting.

 

YodaIII

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Our group of 4 loved touring with Guided Tours Israel for the 3 days we were docked on the Celebrity Constellation in November, 2018. We had 3 full days and saw as much as anyone can see for such a limited time in this country. They were prompt in picking us up and very conscious of time in getting us back to the ship on time. Our tour guide, Mickey is a must. If you can request her, you will have the time of your life. So knowledgeable, interesting, friendly, and a remarkable sense of humor, but I do not doubt the guides are all great and capable. Our group was on a Jewish themed tour which was our preference. Amazing! Whatever was described that we were going to do in their comprehensive online itinerary , is what we did and then some. Commentary was excellent and fascinating. My frequent communication with Leo @ GTI while planning these excursions was always timely, efficient, and on point. The website is also easy to navigate. I was recommended to this tour group from Cruise Critic and I am paying it forward - The Best!! 5 stars out of 5 for value, professionalism, itinerary, and communication with tour company and just about everything else. Our safety was taken very seriously as well.

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I am with a group doing the 3 days in Israel with Guided Tours.   I have already asked about admission fees being extras and that was answered fine.

 

However, although we can choose to pay cash on the day, I have to give our credit card number in case of a no show.   Their information says if the ship does not stop, we are not charged (and this has happened to me before where there were shooting in the area - but I had not booked a private tour that time).   Just want to know were you happy with giving your credit card details to them as a 'hold for no show'.   I know we do this for hotel accommodation but just feeling jittery because of the total cost for a 3 day tour.

 

 

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Question: if the ship will be docked at Ashdod for the night do you have to go back to the boat?  Our ship - Royal Carib - will be in Ashdod for two days and then move to Haifa.  Can we stay in Israel overnight for two nights and just meet the boat at Haifa or is that a big no-no?

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23 hours ago, BuckeyeMark said:

Question: if the ship will be docked at Ashdod for the night do you have to go back to the boat?  Our ship - Royal Carib - will be in Ashdod for two days and then move to Haifa.  Can we stay in Israel overnight for two nights and just meet the boat at Haifa or is that a big no-no?

This is usually no problem - contact your cruise line as it is advisable to let your ship know that you will be leaving in Ashdod & returning in Haifa.

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Anyone do a Jewish based tour with GTI. I have arranged for 3 days in November 2020 for such.  Most want to take Christian based one. Only the Jewish ones go to Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl.

 

Thanks

 

Pam

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11 hours ago, pamrose228 said:

Anyone do a Jewish based tour with GTI. I have arranged for 3 days in November 2020 for such.  Most want to take Christian based one. Only the Jewish ones go to Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl.

I have visited both Yad Vashem & Mount Herzl but not with GTI. Yad Vashem is, IMHO, an absolute 'must see' whether or not one is Jewish - the cemetery is also well worth a visit (probably would be more meaningful to those of the Jewish faith though).

There were tons of tourists in the old city during our stay - the majority seemed to be on Christian tours (same with Bethlehem, Nazareth & Yardenit).

Is there a possibility to visit Masada (which I highly recommend visiting)? 

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32 minutes ago, dogs4fun said:

I have visited both Yad Vashem & Mount Herzl but not with GTI. Yad Vashem is, IMHO, an absolute 'must see' whether or not one is Jewish - the cemetery is also well worth a visit (probably would be more meaningful to those of the Jewish faith though).

There were tons of tourists in the old city during our stay - the majority seemed to be on Christian tours (same with Bethlehem, Nazareth & Yardenit).

Is there a possibility to visit Masada (which I highly recommend visiting)? 

Yes, the second day in Ashdod is a trip to the Dead Sea and Masada

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3 hours ago, pamrose228 said:

Yes, the second day in Ashdod is a trip to the Dead Sea and Masada

Excellent!

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Just returned from a Cruise to Israel. My husband and I used GTI and were most impressed. 

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On 2/8/2019 at 11:39 PM, pamrose228 said:

Anyone do a Jewish based tour with GTI. I have arranged for 3 days in November 2020 for such.  Most want to take Christian based one. Only the Jewish ones go to Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl.

 

We're taking the Christian focused tour but requested to visit Yad Vashem...which they were fine with.

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We were a small party from the Viking Cruise Ship, Jupiter, and did the 3-day tour 29-31 March 2019:  1) Jerusalem and Bethlehem, 2 Masada and the Dead Sea, and 3) Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee from a Christian Perspective.  The entire experience was superbly incredible.  We worked closely with Leo J. to set everything up -- he was very responsive and followed up quickly with every inquiry.  For the 3 days we had Erez as our guide, and Jocko as our very safe and competent driver.  Erez led three masterful tours with his excellent English-speaking skills, and his detailed and thorough knowledge of all the geography, history, and archaeology of this incredible land that is the birthplace of three religions.  This small group tour was infinitely better than the large ship-provided bus tours with ear buds that herd you around, and was also at a better price.  Being small, we all bonded together, and really learned a great deal from Erez who responded to our every request for details and more.  Definitely a tremendous experience that would benefit all!

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The Cruise Critics that were going to Jerusalem & Bethlehem on a GTI private tour (CMV only offered these sites separately despite them being only a 20 minute drive apart) met at 7.30am and we left the ship (The Vasco da Gama) and went effortlessly through immigration and our guide, ‘Dikel’ was waiting for us with our driver and a very nice 16 seater BMW Bus… I just love it when things go to plan.

 

Dikel explained our day to us on the way to ‘The Mount of Olives’ up on ‘Mount Zion’, where it is said the Messiah will resurrect the dead on judgement day. It is Jerusalem’s holiest cemetery and the view from the top is amazing, taking in the whole city, of both Old and New Jerusalem.

This is where it is alleged that the Virgin Mary ‘fell asleep forever’. The fortress-like building, with a conical roof and four corner towers, stands south of the ‘Old City’s Zion Gate’, where most of us where singing or at least humming, the old ‘Boney M – Rivers of Babylon’ song.

We walked to the ‘Dormition Abbey’, which is situated in the ‘Garden of Gethsemane’, the olive grove where Jesus prayed after the ‘Last Supper’ and was betrayed by his disciple Judas the same night. The garden was ablaze with roses in full bloom and they even had a ‘Jasmine’ vine climbing up a stone wall. It was a shame that there were so many people pushing and shoving to get through, as it would have been a lovely spot to spend some time in.

We also visited the nearby ‘Church of All Nations’, also known as the ‘Basilica of the Agony’. The altar enshrines a section of bedrock, known as the ‘Rock of Agony’, where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest… the lines to kneel and kiss this stone were so long but I managed to get behind an old priest and get a nice photo of it anyhow… oh the power of the zoom lens!

‘King David's Citadel’ is a medieval fortress that is located near the ‘Jaffa Gate’, the historical entrance to the city and the point where the East meets the West, near here we also visited the ‘Room of the Last Supper’ and the ‘Chamber of the Holocaust’ in the Protestant Cemetery and ‘King David’s Tomb’.

 

The sun was getting very hot now and we walked to ‘Via Dolorosa’, the path that supposedly Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. Here we entered the ‘Jewish Quarter’. Being a Sunday, it was just another day here and we saw many Jewish school children and adults, in various forms of dress going about their daily business.

This pathway lead us to the ‘Church of Holy Sepulchre’, the stairway climbing to Calvary (Golgotha), traditionally regarded as the site of Jesus's crucifixion and the most lavishly decorated part of the church. This is the place where Jesus was crucified and later buried. Here again, was another stone, said to be where Jesus was laid and anointed in oil when he was taken down from the cross before he was buried. So many people here also praying and crying and putting gifts on the slab for blessings and then taking them off again… My husband and I managed to push our way in and do a little hand rubbing ourselves but yes I had a pack of ‘Wet-Ones’ to cleanse ourselves with afterwards.

 

We stopped for lunch at one of Dikel’s fav cafes, the ‘Everest Cafe’ and we shared an Olive and Tomato Pizza, which we washed down with an ice cold Diet Coke. Very welcome.

 

Next it was onto the ‘Western Cardo’ which is where we were told the word “Cardiac’ comes from and after walking this path our hearts and breaths sure knew why.

We walked quickly through the ‘Arab Market’ that sprawled across the Christian and Moslem Quarters in Jerusalem's Old City but didn’t buy anything as Dikel said that a lot of it was ‘Made in China”. Ho hum!

 

Our next stop was at the ‘Wailing Wall’ or the ‘Western Wall’ where we entered through the ‘Dung Gate’ to see the "Wall" because of the centuries of endless tears, shed by Jews. My husband and I had pre-written a prayer each to leave here and I had to give him strict instructions that it was not to include any, Lottery, Lotto or Soccer Pool words. He ensured me it didn’t… but I do have my doubts. The wall is divided into Male and Female sections with the Male section being 2/3 and the Female 1/3… go figure!

 

We did a drive past of ‘Temple Mount’, a holy site within the Old City for Jewish, Christian and Muslim people. All visitors are able to tour the compound and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, with the exception of the Dome of the Rock but we didn’t, as we were keen to get to Bethlehem.

Back onto the bus for a 20 minute rest while we drove to the West Bank into Palestine. Here we stopped at the obligatory ‘Tourist Gift Shop’ where we could shop while we picked up our Palestinian Guide. My husband and I did a quick walk through of the shop and then went next door to ‘The Bakery’ to watch the young baker knead, roll and flip his dough. Much more interesting to us than shopping!

 

Back in the bus and with our new guide we set off to explore ‘Manager Square’, where the majority of religious activity in Bethlehem takes place… nothing very exciting here just another large limestone paved park.

 

We then walked across the road to the ‘Church of the Nativity’, where the birth of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ is said to have occurred. Unfortunately there was a funeral being conducted here, a 72 year old man, who died peacefully in his sleep… or so our guide told us.(???) Anyhow we waited outside with our guide as he said they would be out soon. This they were, the males carrying the coffin, came out through one door and the females all wiping their eyes through another. Our guide spoke to one of the woman, whom we assume was the wife, patted her hand and led us through another door inside.

 

Talk about not wasting time, flowers (sadly silk ones) were being stuffed back into boxes and roles of white tuille were being unwound to wrap around the pews for the next event, a wedding… life sure does go on here in these churches in Bethlehem!

 

There is an underground cave that they believe marks the spot of the ‘birthplace’ with a 14-point star set into the marble floor.  But our guide said that the waiting time to enter the cave would take up to two hours, and while I was keen, unfortunately the other ‘’scaredy cats’ were not as it would have brought us back to the ship close to ‘All aboard Time’.

 

Our guide must have seen the look on my face (pretty hard to miss I’ve been told) so he took us across to another Church, St Catherine’s for a look in there (Everyone, EXCEPT me groaned) and then he sang us a version of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ in ??? mmm… it was the 3rd language in the Bible… Hebrew, and some other one and then this one that sounded like Armenian but probably is spelt wrong… anyhow it was a nice gesture and I appreciated it.

 

There was a large painting of ‘St George’ as we were leaving this church and I must look up why it is there?

Our bus driver took us the scenic drive back to the port but everyone except two others and myself slept... so serves them right as it was lovely diving through the Jerusalem Mountains.

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