We finally went to Jerusalem!
The drive from Haifa to Jerusalem is about an hour and a half. Maor says it use to take three hours before they built a highway that made it a straight shot instead of driving from town to town to get there.
We parked at the Jaffa gate. There are eight gates to the old city. No matter were you park you pretty much have to go through a ton of bazaar type streets and endure people trying to get you to buy things to get to where you want to go. We bought a few rosaries, a jewelry box, post cards, and Maor got himself a bracelet.
From the Jaffa gate you can get to the dome of the rock or swing to the right and go to the Western Wall. We didnt go to the dome because Jewish people really arent welcome there.
To get in to see the Western Wall you have to go through security (I wouldnt recommend buying any souvenir knives before you go there because as one British guy found out, they wont let you keep it even if you did just spend $200 on it). We watched a little of a mass Bat Mitzvahs then went up to the wall. When you are facing the wall men are on the left and women are on the right. There is a huge size difference between the mens side and the womens side. I think they should have made it equal because the womens side seemed a little crowded when we were there and it was jam packed later in the day while the men could have spun around in circles with their arms out and never hit anyone.
I did put a wish in the wall, which wasnt easy because just about every crack is filled with paper. I also figured out very quickly that if you want to look like you know what your doing dont just turn around and walk away from the wall, walk backwards till you get back to the ramp and try not to run into anyone.
We wanted to go straight from the wall to the under ground tour but the only openings they had were a Hebrew tour at 4 and English at 6 so we bought tickets for the Hebrew tour and went to go kill some time by looking around.
I really wanted to go to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher so we headed out in kind of the right direction, asked for directions, were given very good directions, then were "lead there" by some kid who came up to us and said "I'll show you." even though we said we didnt want him to show us he proceeded to walk with us saying he was going that way anyway then ask for money for "being helpful". I wanted to kick the kid. People pull the same thing in Egypt all the time and get really insulted when you get fed up with it and say "Get the hell away from me!"
Anyway, the church is very interesting. When you walk in you see the stone that they prepared Jesus for burial on, then if you walk around counter clockwise like we did you see the crucification site (the most lavishly decorated part of the church) on the second level and on the first level is the crack in the stone which is supposed to be from when they put him up on the cross, then you can go downstairs to the Church of St. Helena where Helena found the original cross, then back upstairs there is area that looks like someone tried to set on fire (actually it looks that way because the Romans did set it on fire at one point) that is supposed to be where Jesus was in prison, then you get to the tomb. You can go in the tomb but you dont want to go in if your claustrophobic, if you arent sure you will figure it out really quickly. There are two tinny rooms inside. The first one has part of the stone that was blocking the burial site when Jesus rose again and the second even smaller room has the tomb. Its really pretty but you have to look quick because there is a very angry priest that will try to stuff you in like sardines and hurry you along. If you want to pray practice ahead of time...maybe write it down like an Oscar speech and read it like the band is playing you off.
After we walked around a bit and took pictures. Maor and I killed time in the archeological site by the western wall where you can see the different levels of excavations for the first and second temple. You can see where there use to be shops, purifying baths, and main streets.
The last thing we did was the tour of the western wall under the city. Very cool! They give you a nice visual history about King David buying the land, building the first temple, destruction of the first temple, exile, building the second temple, destruction of the second temple (where the Romans did a really REALLY good job of taring everything apart until they got to the western wall where they apparently got tired and said "aww the heck with it, good enough, lets go"), exile, and then Mohammed coming in, and today. Then you move on to where you get a really nice view of Western wall under the city and you can see where the Romans tried to build a spa. You get to walk all along the wall under the city (you cant be claustrophobic here either)where you can see the western gate which is sealed but its the closest any Jewish person is going to get to the Holy of Holies which is the place that Ark of the Covenant was held in the first temple. When they show you a model during the beginning of the tour you can see the Holy of Holies isnt even close to the wall but I guess its the best they can do right now.