As we drive through town, people on the bus get excited. "It's the sycamore tree!"
I'm lost. It's just a tree. Then, finally, someone says, "You know, Zacaiais climbed the tree to see Jesus!"
The penny dropped as I remembered the story.
Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house." Luke 19:4
I peered out the bus window and snapped a few photos. I'm pretty sure this isn't the actual sycamore tree he climbed, but I can see how sturdy and easy to climb it could be.
We see another tel, a small hill, and a spring and learn that Jericho is the oldest city on earth. We stop at a souvenir shop where I purchased postcards.
There, a very nice Palestinian man purchased stamps for me, and took the postcards with the promise that he would mail them that evening. He was friendly, saying he has a brother in Halifax who says he hates the amount of snow they have.
I laughed. Now that is a real person, not one made up for tourists! I'm grateful this man has promised to mail my cards. Nowadays, postcards can take a long time, so I must be patient. But I wanted the stamps, as they are different than in Israel. I was in a hurry and probably made a number of spelling mistakes in the cards.
It's busy at this stop, with buses parking and cars squeezing past and construction and people everywhere. From deep within the shop, a man blows a long shofar horn. They are ibex horns, and we would not be allowed to bring them into Canada, but they make an impressive sound.
After we get on the bus, we are again impressed by Good-Deal's driving as he eases by awkwardly parked cars. Soon, we're on our way up through the Judean hills to Jerusalem. This rugged countryside is stark, rolling and yet steep, and we learn that it was in this area that the Good Samaritan helped the beat up man. It may only be a myth, but to see first hand how easily one could succumb to robbers makes it so real to me.
Our driver, or Rafe, has put on a CD for us to listen to.
It's not hard to catch on to the chorus and as we climbed up into Jerusalem, we are singing, The Holy City, a beautiful song, and it stirs our hearts to sing as we enter the city. Although much bigger than 2,000 years ago, we can see how travelers would have felt, tired and grateful they arrived safely, when they captured their first glimpses of the Second Temple.
Our first stop is the Holocaust Museum, or Yad Vashem.
A duty to soldiers to attend, this museum is a must-see. Not so for its artifacts, though they are heart-rending to see, but for the virtual reminders, the interviews now recorded. We saw the Garden of the Righteous among the Nations, and saw Schindler's name.
There are many more whose names are not known. We pass quietly through the Children's Memorial, a darkened, circular hall where the names of each of the 1.5 million children are recited. It takes 2.5 years to go through the list.
It's not a pleasant, uplifting place, but a place all should visit and we leave it in quiet contemplation.
Our drive to our hotel takes us past tall security walls, and after supper, Allan and I walk up the hill from our hotel for our first glimpse of the Old City.
It's cold here in Jerusalem, but we're looking forward to tomorrow.