Posts Tagged With: Jerusalem

Jerusalem to Tel Aviv

Jan 11 2009

Our last morning in Israel! We had breakfast, loaded the bus, and checked out. It was a pain in the butt to get the luggage down to the lobby, but we all managed. I think we were all glad to be done with Shalom Jerusalem’s horrible tiny elevators.

We drove to an environmental place in Jerusalem to listen to a PowerPoint. It wasn’t working and we were all dead tired and not in the mood. Eventually the lady just gave up with the computer and spoke to us. I don’t think anyone was listening.

We boarded the bus and were off to Tel Aviv. Our first stop was Rabin Square, named for the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, which included a visit to the Rabin Memorial. Shabat spoke to us for a bit.

Then we went to Independence Hall, site of David Ben Gurion’s proclamation of the State of Israel in May 1948. We listened to a film and a guide talked to us. When we were standing outside the museum for a bit we were shooed a way because it was dangerous. We walked back to the bus and headed to the Carmel Market.

At the Carmel Market we were given free time to explore and get lunch. I skipped most of the market and explored the side streets. In the first store I went to I picked up some Tel Aviv postcards. I got a Jaffa one for Ms. Jaffe. After that I found some Sephardic bakeries where of course I bought my lunch. I met up with Deb and we browsed a bunch of stores. We bought some stuff to take home. In particular, I got more pop rock chocolate. Then we met up with Nora and Maddy in this park. They had made some new friends so we all chatted for a while. I left them after a bit to buy more Sephardic food to bring back to the states for my mom. I found Ali in the ice cream place where we used the restroom.

Our next stop was old Jaffa. We had time to explore the flea market. Shabat gave the group a challenge, which was to find the most unique/unusual item at the flea market and buy it. I decided not to participate as did most people. I went with Ali, Lior, and Jen exploring. I bought a necklace for my grandma and a shirt for my dad. After that we got bored and kept walking. Suddenly, the neighborhood started to get really shady. We decided to turn around. As we were walking back I saw a guy behind us move closer to us and signal to a guy across the street. I watched both of them get closer, just as I was about to get Lior’s attention the two guys saw Lior. In particular, his gun. Suddenly, they both stopped and turned around. Oy that was close. After that incident we still had more time in Old Jaffa. So a bunch of us sat by the clock tower bored out of our minds. Little did we know that our trip mates were at the beach watching the sun go down.

Eventually we all met up and Shabat warned us it would be a while until the next bathroom. Ali and I went to a coffee shop and paid to use the restroom. Some of the other girls did the same thing. Shabat had us walk through some winding back streets to this area that had all the zodiac symbols. There was even a bridge with the symbols. The bridge was called the Wishing Bridge. We were supposed to touch our zodiac symbol and make a wish while looking out at the Mediterranean Sea. By the way, my wish came true.

After that we got back on the bus. The people who bought stuff for the contest showed off what they got. Then Shabat showed us what he got. It was this blue insect thing on a stick. He won. Then he told us one of his infamous jokes.

Then we drove to a farm to eat dinner. We were all a little worried and confused by this piece of information. We ate in an indoor tent. The food was actually very good. My table went around and said what we’ll remember about each other. Our table consisted of Jen, Lindsey, Ali, Kevin, Alan, and myself.

After that we drove to a school. We created a yarn web by taking turns throwing a ball of yarn and saying what we liked about each other. Sarah Dickey picked me and said how sweet I was. I picked Ali. Then we cut our individual strands so we could wear them as bracelets. Staci and Anna handed out our group pictures and t-shirts. A bunch of us used the bathroom which was super gross and sketchy.

Back on the bus we packed up our cell phones so we could give them back. Some how we got on the fact that we sucked at the bus countdown. So we started to challenge ourselves by counting down in 30 seconds then 15 seconds then 13 seconds. We also did our countdown backwards. We had a lot of fun!

We watched Tel Aviv slip away as we drove to the airport. Shabat started to give away things on the bus, such as our signs and our map. I wanted the map, but Zac got it. When we got to the airport Shabat left us. We all thanked him and he gave us his card. Anna went and joined another trip. Shabat will meet another tour tomorrow. I don’t know how he isn’t exhausted. We all were beyond exhausted and 75% of our group had colds.

We got on a super long line to check our bags and get our tickets. I was little bummed that I didn’t get an aisle seat. We went through security and had time to kill before our flight. I walked around looking for a place to spend my leftover coins. I bought a bottle of water and a huge thing of Baklava for my mom. We hung out in the waiting area for a bit. Everyone was comparing seat numbers to figure out who was sitting next to whom. I was getting very tired. It was almost midnight so it had been a long day. Not to mention a long 11 days. We finally got the signal to board and we were ready.

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Shabbat in Jerusalem

Jan 10 2009

Wake up was later today because of shabbat. I chose to wake up earlier than everyone else because I wanted to attend the optional services at a synagogue down the road. I felt it was important to go to shabbat services in Jerusalem. The Pardo sisters and a couple of the guys went. We had a super fast breakfast and then walked to the synagogue. The Pardos and I sat upstairs in the women’s section. We were completely lost, which I knew I would be since I am lost during American services. The cool thing is that during services you are supposed to face Jerusalem, but since we were in Jerusalem we had to face the Kotel. When they called up members from certain special Jewish families there were actually people from those families in the congregation. That’s something you don’t see everyday.

I had originally wanted to do yoga after services, but I was tired and too lazy to change out of my long skirt. The yoga was a bit different this time and was more of an ab workout. So I’m glad that I decided not to change and just watched.

After that, we ate lunch and packed. The packing proved to be difficult because of the new stuff I had gotten and because my space bag no longer seemed to be working. Then I watched Sara braid Jacob’s hair. Next up were the Bat and Bar Mitzvah ceremonies. We were all very tired and out of it, but we tried to be as supportive as possible. The people that got Bar/Bat Mitzvahed from our bus were Joanna, Travis, and Margaret.

Next we went up to the roof for the Havdallah ceremony. We had a lot of fun. We sang, danced, and the guys lifted the Bar/Bat Mitzvah people on chairs. It was a great final bonding moment as a group.

We drove back into the heart of Jerusalem and had dinner. Ricky, Ali, Lindsey, Zac, and I ate together. Both Sarahs, Marc, Maddy, and Nora got the table right next to us. Our table had an interesting conversation about relationships.

We then walked to a lecture about unity without uniformity. Ruthie was there, so I was very happy to see her. It felt like just yesterday I saw her in the airport. I can’t believe our trip is almost over. After the lecture they brought out a band and there was a lot of dancing. I took a picture with Lior. After a while we were all tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. When we finally got back to the hotel, we all finished packing and then crashed.

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Saddness, Shopping, and Laughter in Jerusalem

Jan 9 2009
Another early morning wake up call. Again, I was the first one to get ready. We had to dress conservatively today because we were headed to Yad Vashem. It was extremely cloudy out and was misting a bit. We stopped in front of the museum to take a group photo. We were just one of many tour groups there.

We got our tour guide who guided us through the museum. We had to listen to him on headsets. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the museum. I didn’t think the tour guide was very good and I didn’t feel the museum was comprehensive. Nor did I find it very moving. We got to see a room full of records from survivors, which was a bit interesting. The museum was very gray and dark. It opened out to a beautiful view of Jerusalem. To show the hope and renewal after the destruction. Morgan was in a wheelchair because of her Masada incident and her poor brother had to carry her up the stairs. For me the most moving thing was of a statue towards the exit of the museum complex. It was of a teacher who was given the option to be saved or die with his students. He chose to die with his students.

After that we went to the shuk. Ricky was my shopping buddy. First we hit the amazing bakeries and candy stores on the street outside of the shuk. Then he haggled for me in Hebrew so I could get a t-shirt. After that we got zatar from a spice merchant. We walked around the shuk for a while and looked at all the yummy food. The we wandered down a side street and found a Sephardic bakery that was cheap. We loaded up like nobody’s business. The food was amazing!
We headed back to Mehane Yehuda St., which was the meeting spot. We looked at what everyone bought. A lot of people were jealous when they saw the good looking items Ricky and I picked up. We met Shabat’s son. He was so shy. We had to leave because shabbat was about to start.
We got back to our hotel in time to hear the shabbat alarm.


We then did the candle lighting and had services. It was our 2nd shabbat Friday in Jerusalem. Let the shabbat elevator fun begin! We had dinner, which was yummy. I decided to get more adventurous with my food choices and was pleasantly surprised with everything I ate.

After that we went back to Jen, Lindsey, and Jordi’s room and hung out. Sarah, Sara, and both Jens were there in addition to Ricky, Ben, Marc, Jacob, Julie, Lindsey, Lior, Jordi, Emily, Rachel, Michelle, and myself. Jen flat-ironed Ben’s hair, while Ricky prank phone called Alan. It was hilarious! We were laughing so hard! Then we went up to Alan’s floor to continue the prank by knocking on his door. But when the elevator opened on his floor he was standing there. We let the elevator door shut and fell on each other laughing.

After that we went downstairs to hear what Hebrew names the soon to be Bar/Bat Mitzvahed people picked out for themselves. We then headed back to our rooms only for a fuse to go out. The hallways turned into a party. A couple of us eventually called it a night after an hour or so because we had to wake up for services in the morning.

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Masada in the Morning

Jan 8 2009
The lights in the tent turned on and I heard movement. Wake up time. It was extremely early and still pitch black outside. I got dressed and ate some of the crackers they put out for us. We boarded the bus and waited. It turned out that Jordi was sick. We waited for her for a bit. Finally, we learned that we’ll have to leave her behind with Anna. Staci boards the bus and immediately gives us a lecture about staying hydrated. We each purchased a bottle of water from the bus driver.

We reach Masada National Park and Shabat and Staci rush us up the Roman Path. We can’t miss the sunrise! The Roman Path is the easier path, but a lot of us were having a hard time breathing. This was probably because it was steep, early in the morning, change in altitude, and we were rushing. Not to mention my 9/11 weird asthma thing didn’t help matters. Eventually we got to the top! All of us thought we missed the sunrise because the sky was light, but we were wrong. Shabat had us sit on the mountain and wait. We sat watching another mountain. Slowly, the sky went from red to yellow to orange. Then we slowly started to see the sun peek out from the mountain in front of us. We kept watching as it rose. It was magical!

Then Shabat made us sit in a circle and told us the story about Masada. All the Jews living on Masada killed themselves instead of letting the Romans take them. It was a very sad story and it impacted all of us. Next he took us over to the side of the mountain where we could hear an echo. We screamed a bunch of phrases and heard them come back to us.

We looked at some of the ruins including a synagogue and then we used the restroom. After that we started our long trek down the Snake Path. Where do I even begin with the Snake Path? It was super scary and super long! There were no handles most of the way, so if you slipped you could pretty much fall off the mountain. The walk down was narrow and took forever. Morgan slipped and hurt her ankle. When we got to the bottom I wanted to jump for joy!

We walked to an area with tables and we were given a boxed breakfast. I only ate the chocolate and the bread. I gave my food to whoever wanted it. Then we were given some time to shop in the gift shop. I bought a pair of earrings and some postcards. Then I spent a while debating about which expensive necklace to buy for my mom. I finally decided on a blue and white star. Alan bought a really cool shirt about climbing and conquering Masada.

While we were leaving Masada we found out that the northern part of Israel (where we were yesterday morning and the last time we had cellphone reception) had been hit with a missile. Pretty much none of us had spoken to our parents in 24 hrs and the last they knew we were in northern Israel. Needless to say a bunch of us called home.

We drove to the Ein Gedi Spa where we would spend some time by the Dead Sea. We each got a towel and we had to share lockers. I changed into my bathing suit. We had to wait and catch a shuttle to take us from the spa to the Dead Sea. This is because the Dead Sea has dried up and is no longer right next to the hotels and spas.

When we finally got to the Dead Sea, Lindsey, Jen, and I put our stuff on lounge chairs at the farthest end of the “beach” area. Then we all headed over to the mud pit. Everyone (but me) covered themselves in the mud. Ricky even swam in it. Since I didn’t go in the mud, I took all the pictures. I put a bit of mud on my screwed up thumb and that was it. A family even approached me to take pictures of them. Everyone’s pictures were hilarious.

Afterwards, we all went into the Dead Sea. I was a little scared since I hate water and swimming. It felt extremely strange to just lay back and float. The entire bottom of the sea was covered in hard sharp salt. I cut my toe open and the salt water burned so badly. After I got out of the water I felt nasty. The salt residue was gross. Before we went back to the hotel the girls took a group shot. Then we boarded the shuttle.

Back at the hotel some of the people went into the mineral pool, but I didn’t feel like smelling like sulfur. I already smelled like camel and salt. I went to the showers and rinsed the salt off. After that I walked around the shop for a bit. I got a couple of free samples for my mom.

When everyone was ready we headed to lunch. We each got a ticket that was good for certain items. We had to wait on a really long line for food. We were able to get a drink, desert, bread, and one item. I got baklava, a roll, and yummy french fries. The place was packed and it took us a while to find a table. Unfortunately, we were rushed through lunch because of our tight schedule.

We then drove to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. I immediately spotted a press a penny machine and got a penny. Yeah! So did Alan. We walked through the reserve and there were so many animals. They got so close to us, which was freaky at times. Shabat had us sit down and talked to us about some of the animals. He had Noah taste poop. He also had Ricky, Zac, and Roi act out a mating ritual for us. It was hilarious.


We stopped at some waterfalls and some of the group went swimming. I spoke to Dror for a bit about his upcoming trip to the USA. The reserve was absolutely beautiful and very calming!
We drove to Jerusalem and dropped Guy off. Then we went back to the Shalom Jerusalem Hotel with its horrible elevators. Rachel, Sarah, and I got a room in the middle of the hallway. We were directly across from Lindsey, Jen, and Jordi’s room. Sarah took the cot. Our shower didn’t flood this time, which made us all happy. However, our toilet wasn’t acting right. We all put our clothes on the shower rod to dry and went down to leave for dinner.

We drove to Ben Yehuda St. for shopping and food. I walked in and out of shops with Jen and Lior. It was a little unsettling to see signs thanking the brave tourists for shopping. Someone, maybe Lior, told me that the street had been attacked before. I ate a bagel for dinner. I found a Sephardic bakery and loaded up on goodies. The bakery was on a small side street so I was so glad I found it. I bought a shirt, some postcards, and an evil eye bracelet. I didn’t want to buy too much because everything was a bit over priced. Josh got a shofar and kept blowing it. Ali and I went to McDonald’s to use the restroom before we boarded the bus again.

I went back to the hotel and immediately took a nice long hot shower. Bye bye camel salt sand smell. After I showered I hung out with a bunch of people in Lindsey, Jen, and Jordi’s room.

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Exploring Jerusalem

Jan 4 2009
One of the cell phone alarms went off at 6:15am. I let the other girls sleep until the 6:30am wake up call. We went to breakfast, which was yummy. I ate my bagel from last night and a lot of cake. I packed up croissants and cake for lunch. We then got on the bus for our ride into the heart of Jerusalem.

We stopped at the Haas Promenade where we listened to music, drank grape juice, ate challah, danced, took pictures, and listened to Shabat lecture. It was beautiful to see the Dome of the Rock in the distance. I was so glad to finally see it. The grape juice was really good and the challah was the best I have ever had. There was no bathroom so I was mindful of how much I ate and drank. I really enjoyed watching everyone dancing and the Israeli music was great. Shabat started to lecture us about the City of David. Staci stopped him to remind him that we had soldiers waiting for us. Shabat brushed her off and continued talking. There was a stray cat walking around that freaked Collin out. One thing I liked was that Leo called the cat over to him and was petting him. It was a strange contrast the gun and the petting of the cat. While we were at the promenade there was thick black smoke in the distance. It was scary and reminded us that they were in the middle of a war.

We then got back on the bus to head to the Old City. The Old City was interesting, but we went through it very fast. The buildings were amazing to look at. It really transports you back in time. We saw the room where the last supper took place. I honestly didn’t know it was located there. It was not how I imagined it. The room was empty, plain, and boring. If Shabat hadn’t told us that was the room I would not have been able to guess it. Shabat took us through a maze of side streets and then stopped us to tell us about the Kotel (Western Wall). Then we were able to take some pictures of the Kotel and the Dome of the Rock from a place adjacent to the wall.

We then went down to the Kotel. I was shocked that the men had so much more room than the women. There were barely any men there, but there were tons of women. There wasn’t any room to put our notes in the cracks of the wall. All the cracks were full. I touched the wall, but sadly did not feel a connection to it. A lot of the people took out their phones to call home and have their family members pray at the wall through the phone. I did the same thing and my mom answered the phone.

After we left the wall we all joined in a circle to talk about it, but a guard came over because we were all holding hands. Male and female students shouldn’t be touching. Most of us were disappointed by the wall. We then were given some time to eat lunch.

I chose to shop instead of eat lunch. I quickly shoved my breakfast leftovers in my mouth and started to wander in and out of the stores. In the 1st store I bought a Kippuh for my dad. I also bought bracelets for my mom and I. I also bought a charm for my grandma’s necklace. I went to another store where I bought some postcards and a pen. In the last store I got some more postcards and some keychains.

After we went shopping we went back to the bus to meet our soldiers. 4 of the soldiers were male and 3 were female. They were all in their uniforms. They were given role call #’s. The male soldiers are Roi, Idan, Guy, and Dror. The female soldiers are Karen, Sarit, and Hilla. All but Roi sat in the back of the bus. Roi told us that he teaches rookies and has about 3 months left in the army.

We then went to the military cemetery. The graves are different from what we are used to. They are all above ground and they are all the same. Shabat told us stories about some of the soldiers that had died. Roi told us about a soldier who jumped on a grenade to save everyone else. We also saw them starting to prepare the graves for the soldiers who had died in Gaza the night before. That was really emotional for me. Then we learned about some of the soldiers who were captured and mutilated. Shabat showed us pictures of other soldiers going through the sand looking for body parts to bury. That was so moving.

We got back on the bus and started our 2 hour drive to Tiberias. I fell asleep for a little bit. I woke up right before we got to a security check point. A man got on our bus with a gun at the check point, which was scary. I’m glad I woke up before he got on the bus.
Our hotel was Moriah Gardens and our room was 1206, which was another corner room. I was happy about that. I was also happy that we were on the 4th floor so we could walk if we wanted to. I was done with 16 flights of stairs or forever elevator rides. The room had a mini fridge, which I was thrilled about. I could finally have cold water and juice! The only problem was that there was one bed for 3 girls. I would need a bed. The door to our bathroom was broken, but the shower didn’t flood.

At dinner I found out our room was the only room not to have an extra bed, cot, or sleeper sofa. The dinner was disgusting!!!!! The rice was cold, the potatoes were spicy, the bread was hard as a rock, there was no dessert, and the carrots were nasty. I went back to the room and ate some of the cereal I packed. The tap water wasn’t bad. It tasted less salty than the bottled water and the tap water in Jerusalem.

We broke off into two groups to have a discussion about faith. All the soldiers aren’t religious except for Hilla. Guy’s comment about the Israeli Army protecting any Jew anywhere really struck me. The soldiers seemed upset that American Jews don’t give them more help. They were also very shocked to hear our stories about what it is like to be a Jew in America. They’ve never been in the minority. Then we played some games in the basement of the hotel.
Then Ricky, Kevin, Alan, and I continued the faith discussion in my room. It was nice to have an intellectual conversation. Then we went to hang out in Jacob’s room. Julie, Lindsey, Jordi, Jen, and Jacob were already in there. Marc, Leo, Rachel, Roi, and Josh floated in and out. We watched football, listened to music, and gossiped. Then Deb came and told us that she had an extra bed. I wanted it! I gathered the whole crew and we went to Deb’s room at the other end of the hall. Alan orchestrated the movement of the mattress, frame, and bedding down the hall. All the guys and I had the frame. A couple people had the mattress and someone else had the bedding. It was a team effort and it was a lot of fun. I wound up going to bed around 2am. However, most of our tour mates were drunk and passed out much later.

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Going to War

Jan 3 2009
I woke up at 6am and couldn’t fall back asleep. The girls’ alarms went off at 9am and 9:15am for breakfast, which they decided not to attend. I got out of bed and got dressed. I went to breakfast where I ate a lot of chocolate croissants and cake. I then watched everyone while they did yoga. The roof had beautiful views. Yoga looked like a lot of fun. I then went back to my room, but it was locked because the girls were still sleeping.

I went to 1612 to hangout with Jordi, Lindsey, and Jen. We talked for a while and I discovered that one of the memory cards I bought didn’t work. That was a waste of $20. We then went to lunch where I had rice, potatoes, carrots, and cake. I also took chicken and eggs for Ricky in my purse. It was kind of funny.

Lindsey, Jen, Jordy, Emily, Sarah, Chloe, and I got on the shabbat elevator. A guard from another group got on. We got stuck on 17 and the guard was scared. We were teasing him that for being a military guy with a giant gun he was a chicken. He wound up getting off the elevator. Then we had a guy from bus 803 join us. We chatted with him for a while. Then some Israeli girls got on the elevator and started flirting with the 803 guy in Hebrew. However, he doesn’t speak a word of Hebrew. They took his hat. As we stopped on every floor we got more and more annoyed. We wound up being late to the meeting.

At the meeting Shabat went over the rules for the Migash, our schedule, and we got our role call #’s. I’m #8. We went out for a short walk near the hotel. We got to the top of this street that had an amazing view. Then Shabat had us stand in a circle and throw our right shoe in the middle of our circle. Then we each had to pick a shoe and listen to a story from that person. I picked Sara and Collin picked me. The stories were all interesting. Then we walked back. I spoke to my mom when I got back to the room.

Then we drove to a street in Jerusalem for dinner. Everyone got falafel which looked and smelled amazing. I went to the market and spent 50 shekels on chocolate bars, a water, and mints. Leo suggested a chocolate bar so I added it to the bunch. Alan bought postcards, but I didn’t see an open store to get some. I decided to buy a bagel from Holy Bagel because they had just opened so the bagels were right out of the oven. I also bought one for tomorrow’s breakfast. Jen also got one.

Afterwards, we went to Ammunition Hill. We saw an old tank, pics, and a movie. I was so tired that I didn’t really pay much attention. Then we walked around a bunker. I happened to stand near Staci and Anna when Shabat called them over to tell them that Israel had invaded Gaza. That freaked me out! Anna and Staci said, “Thank G-d we are in a bunker!” We then went out to explore a tunnel and I had to turn on my flashlight because it was so dark out. I called my mom to inform her about what was going on.

When I got back to the hotel I packed my bag and we all watched the news. Then we put MTV on and then Pirates of the Caribbean. We wound up going to bed at 1am.

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Shalom Jerusalem

Jan 2 2009
Our landing was pretty rough and security took forever. Josh got my bag for me and Collin put it on the bus. We met our guard/medic (Leo/Lior), our tour guide (Shabat), and our bus driver (Moishe). We drove to Jerusalem. We were in a rush because of Shabbat.

The scenery we passed looked like Greece. There were signs welcoming us, which was very cool. We saw the new bridge and a lot of Hebrew graffiti.

We got to our hotel, Shalom Jerusalem, and I found out my roommates were Rachel and Sarah from Lehigh. Jordi was with Lindsey and Jen. Our room is 1624. The elevator took forever! We changed and went to shabbat dinner. I sat with all the Lehigh kids plus Noah, Ben, Travis, and Daryl. The wine was awful. I ate rice, potatoes, and carrots. The bread was stale. The pumpkin pie was way too spicy and the chocolate mousse was awful. However, the vanilla cake was great.

We then had a meeting about the size of Israel, our schedule, the rules, etc. Then we played a name game where we went around in a circle saying our name, an adjective that starts with the letter of our name, and an action. We had to remember everyone’s. I picked Jolly Jackie.

Then Shabat gave us a book, schedule, emergency card, and a scarf. I really liked the scarf. I picked black with blue lettering.

The room is ehh. It’s a fair size with a nice view. The bathroom is a nice size. However, the hair dryer barely works and the shower floods. Also, the toilet takes forever to fill. The sheets are very dirty. O well.

Sarah and I took the beds and Rachel took the cot. We went to bed at midnight.

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Couple Finds 2,000-Year-Old Archaeological Treasures Under Their House

Love this article.

All rights belong to The Blaze, Sharona Schwartz, and Yahoo!

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The Blaze

Sharona Schwartz September 16, 2013 11:12 AM

When Miriam and Theo Siebenberg purchased a plot of land for their new home in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City that Israel had just a few years before captured from Jordan, they had no idea of the antiquity treasures dating back from Jesus’ time and before that lay underneath.

Before the Siebenbergs built their house in a neighborhood where archaeological finds were regularly cropping up, Israeli Department of Antiquities inspectors examined the site, but found nothing of historical significance that would have stopped construction.

.The Couple That Found 2,000 Year Old Archaeological Treasures under Their House

Siebenberg-Museum-Tazpit

Descending into history at the Siebenberg House (Photos Credit: Tzuriel Cohen-Arazi/Tazpit News Agency)

In 1970, they moved into the new home and were soon to discover how wrong the inspectors had been.

At the time, archaeologists from the Hebrew University were excavating all around the Jewish Quarter.

“I went over one day and asked the archaeologists if they had checked the area where my house was,” Theo Siebenberg told the New York Times in 1985. “They said they had and that they were sure nothing was there.”

But to Siebenberg, that answer didn’t seem right.

“I would stand here and picture myself in the Second Temple Period. The temple was just over there,” he told the Times, pointing to the nearby Western Wall, the most holy site in Judaism. “Why wouldn’t Jews have built here then? Every inch of land near the Temple must have been very valuable.”

.The Couple That Found 2,000 Year Old Archaeological Treasures under Their House

Siebenberg-House-Digging

The enormously challenging digging project in the early 1970s (Photo courtesy: Siebenberg family)

So he took matters into his own hands. He approached the engineers who had built his new house, asking if he and his wife could conduct an archaeological dig underneath. They told him that if an excavation upset the stability of the land, it could cause the neighborhood to slide down the hill.

Still, he didn’t give up.

Engineers came up with a pricey plan to construct a restraining wall held down by steel anchors which would secure his neighbors’ homes. A wealthy man, Siebenberg was able to fund the project independently, according to media accounts 30 years ago, and to guarantee his neighbors that he would pay for any damage the dig might inflict on their homes.

So the wall was built and the Siebenbergs were able to embark on their treasure hunt. They hired a team of architects, engineers, archaeologists, laborers and even donkeys to bring the rubble up from down below.

It was only after eight months of digging that they found their first artifact, a bronze key ring from the era of the Second Temple which may have been used as a key to a jewelry box.

.The Couple That Found 2,000 Year Old Archaeological Treasures under Their House

Siebenberg-Second-Temple-Era-Ring-Tazpit

The first find: a bronze key ring from the Second Temple period (Photos Credit: Tzuriel Cohen-Arazi, Tazpit News Agency)

Soon after, they came across an abundance of ancient archaeological treasures. Among them: the wall of a 2,000-year-old home, two mikvehs (Jewish ritual baths), arrowheads possibly used by Jews defending themselves from the Romans, a Byzantine water cistern, an ivory pen and an ink well. Encouraged by their finds, they dug further. Sixty feet below, they found empty burial chambers believed to be at least 2,600 years old, dated to the First Temple.

“The Siebenberg excavation is not only a monument to determination and plain bull-headedness, but an engineering and structural marvel,” wrote Biblical Archaeology Review in a 1982 article about the project.

.The Couple That Found 2,000 Year Old Archaeological Treasures under Their House

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Arrowheads on display at the Siebenberg House (Photo courtesy: Siebenberg family)

After digging for 18 years, they converted the lower levels of their house to a museum where visitors can view the ancient treasures and descend into the excavation to feel what it was like to dig into ancient history.

For Theo, the project was motivated by his personal quest to find his roots. At age 13, he was forced to flee Belgium to escape the Nazis. After moving around Europe and eventually to the U.S., he felt he was missing a connection with Jewish history. His wife Miriam tells TheBlaze that he dedicated his life to finding a true home he felt he had lost in Europe.

The project “was motivated by wanting to find his roots. My husband was born in Antwerp. He felt like a boy without a home. He was searching for a spiritual home,” Miriam says.

“All of the investment and the dedication and effort were aimed at finding the home he was looking for his whole life. That was the idea, finding the historical continuity,” she adds.

The Siebenbergs decided to one day donate the museum and its contents to the Israeli public. They have set up a non-profit organization for that purpose.

You can view many more photos of the museum and collection on their Facebook page.

(H/T: Tazpit News Agency)

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Postcards from Israel

Here are my postcards from Israel. This should be all of them. If I find more I will add them to the set on flickr. To view the set click here. To view the slideshow on flickr click here.

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