RENT A GUIDE PRESS REVIEWS

Part 1 - Finding Family in One's Homeland

  4/8/2008

Splash magazines

Lawrence Davis, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Splash Magazines Worldwide, fights back tears when describing the powerful impact of his 2007 visit to Israel with the tour company Rent-a-Guide Tours. It was Davis’s first visit to Israel and he declares that “it just couldn’t have been better” because of Rent-a-Guide Tours.

A view of jerusalem

A view of Jerusalem

“If I try to imagine what it would’ve been like to have gone to Israel and have just been there by myself, it could have only been at the most 10% of what I experienced,” said Davis. In fact,Davis was so pleased with Rent-a-Guide Tours that he believes making 10 trips by himself to Israel still would not give him as much knowledge, experience or stir up as much feeling as this one trip did. While Davis had never been to Israel, he travelled with his Aunt and Uncle who are world travellers and had been to Israel a few times. Rent-a-Guide Tours showed them parts of Israel that they never even knew existed, leaving everyone extremely impressed. Davis believes that the tour guides’ knowledge and genuine care for their guests really make Rent-a-Guide unique. As the guides are Israeli natives, Davis found that their accents added to the flavour and they spoke clearly.

They understood Israel, were able to answer all questions asked and always provided a wealth of information to the guests. Theireducational knowledge was endless and to top it off, they were gentlemen and always opened the doors for the elderly. Davis’s group had 4 tour guides and each had a unique personality. Offer was a fairly recent addition to the company but full of knowledge and interesting tidbits. Moshe, named after Moses, was formerly involved very highly with Kabbalah and he was remarkable. Ossi was full of stories and his immense knowledge wasfascinating, and Reuben, the man who created it all, was modest and easy-going, leaking his personality throughout the entire company. 


Lawrence Davis with tour guide Ossi


Rent-a-Guide was established about 23 years ago by Reuben. He started the company when he was 21-years-old, thinking that it would just be a part-time job while in college. It is now the largest tour company in Israel with 52 guides and 700-1000 tours every monthyear round. It is the only company that has received 2 awards from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism for Best Tourist Company, and no tourist has ever heard a gunshot or had anything bad happen to them the entire time Reuben has been giving tours.

 Rent-a-Guide works with most of the big travel agencies in Israel and they deal with incoming tourism and the military industry. Rent-a-Guide has private tours, daily tours and weekly tours. Their speciality tours include the Jewish Heritage Tour, Christian Heritage Tour, Bar/Bat Mitzvah Tours, the Classic Tour of Israel and more. Tours are offered in all major languages and the transportation is provided in luxury vehicles such as Mercedes and Cadillacs.


Tour guide Offer and his Mercedes van

Tour guide Offer and his Mercedes van

Davis’s tour guides travelled in brand new Mercedes vans that were clean and air-conditioned. He enjoyed that they weren’t quiet between locations. Instead, during almost all trips, the guides were answering questions, telling the group facts about things along the way or what was to come ahead. They even shared political knowledge with the group, telling the good and the bad. Davis calls their words and communication complete and unfiltered.

Car rides were always informative

Car rides were always informative

Davis recalls that Offer, the driver who picked his group up from Jerusalem and took them toTel Aviv provided a very educational ride. He showed the group the Arab village, the people selling different foods and the different neighbourhoods. It was a beautiful introduction before the group actually met Reuben for the first time.

When they met Reuben, he graciously gave them a tour of his offices and took them in his new Mercedes into Jaffa. There he bought them a phenomenal lunch where the food kept on coming and coming, and introduced the group to the woman who owned the restaurant.

Awards inside Reuben's office

Awards inside Reuben's office

Lunch with guide Reuben
Lunch with guide Reuben

Davis was impressed by Reuben’s ability to run this huge business yet have no trace of an inflated ego. He found Reuben to be a l ovely man who was very laid-back, relaxed andcalm. “His personality permeates the business,” Davis believes, as Reuben aims for nothing but the best and the guides he finds are understated people with endless knowledge and care for their guests, young and old.

Courteous guide Ossi


Courteous guide Ossi

The guides were really kind and helpful towards Davis’s elderly Aunt. They would adapt the tour around the elderly to let Davis continue to explore. For example, if there was still something to show Davis but his Aunt and Uncle needed to rest, the guides would let them relax in an area with food or drinks while they took Davis around. “There’s no way to fake thatthese people cared about us, and they cared about us being in Israel and they cared about us knowing about what we saw and what we experienced and they wanted us to know history and they wanted us to know current events and it just couldn’t have been better,” Davisstated. The spectacular guides took Davis’s group wherever they wanted to go. They would make phone calls and set up tours for the very next day if Davis requested. After dropping the group off, the guides would take a hotel room somewhere else but because Davis’s group felt such closeness to them, they invited the guides to join for meals on several occasions.

Rent-a-Guide made it possible to do things that Davis’s group would not have been able to do on their own. One of the tour guides, took Davis to a firing range where he and his Uncle shot oozies, hand guns and anything else they wanted to shoot. This was only possible because of the guide’s relationship with the Rabbi of the Kibbutz, as he used to live there. “I would absolutely definitely recommend them in all the cities that we did go to,” he said, which include Jerusalem, Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Eilat, Tiberias. Even though Rent-a-Guidedoesn’t go to Jordan, they arranged with another company that they have an affiliation with to meet Davis’s group at the border of Israel and Jordan and take them into Jordan.  Daviseven got to enjoy rides on camels, horses, carriages and donkeys. After the tour was done, they took them back to the border where the Rent-a-Guide tour guides were waiting.

Lawrence Davis in Jordan


Lawrence Davis in Jordan

When asked what his best day was, the memories bring tears to Davis’s eyes. As the emotion overtakes him, he says that Masada, the Wall, and the Dead Sea were all amazing in their own ways. “There was probably nothing more powerful than going to the Wall,” he reflected. “Going to the Wailing Wall would be number 1 and Masada would be number 2and the Dead Sea would be number 3.” At the Wall, Rent-a-Guide took Davis to where he could wrap T’fillin and he was taken behind and under the Wall. This memory will be with him forever and he is grateful that he found a tour company that presented him with thiswonderful experience.

 

Putting on T'fillin at the Wall
Putting on T'fillin at the Wall

Massada
Massada

Davis describes the tour guides “very much like somebody had set you up with their friend in another country and they did everything that they could to make sure you had a wonderful time and that you learned everything and that you wanted to come back.”

Praying at the Wall
Praying at the Wall

He truly believes that he received the best experience possible from Rent-a-Guide Toursand will never forget his visit to Israel because of them. “They were far beyond just tour guides, they ended up being like members of the family,” said Davis.


Part 2 - A Story-Filled Drive with Offer

  4/8/2008

When Lawrence Davis, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Splash Magazines Worldwide, looks back at his visit to Israel with Rent-a-Guide Tours, the memories leave him smiling. It all started when Davis and his Aunt and Uncle were picked up by a tour guide and taken to meet with the man who created Rent-a-Guide Tours, Reuben. But before they even approachedReuben’s office, the fantastic driver Offer filled the drive with information about the company,Tel Aviv, and Israel. Offer is a 56-year-old Israeli who has been in the hotel and tourism industry for 37 years. At the time of the tour, he had only been with Rent-a-Guide for less than a year, but one would never know. Offer even says that a concierge from one hotel in Tel Aviv calls him up whenever he doesn’t know anything, and even though the concierge is supposed to know, he will ask Offer to find the information for him.

Tour guide Offer
Tour guide Offer

Reuben, the owner, says that Rent-a-Guide does about 700-1000 tours monthly, but Offerthinks that Reuben is underestimating himself and that it’s even more than 1000 per month.Offer is confident in the company and has only fond words about Reuben. He believes that since they work with the Israeli aviation and military industry, they would not receive one day of work if they weren’t good. Offer says even if they were the cheapest company, they would not get a day of work unless they were 100% a solid company. Right away, Davis’s group can tell that this is true, and that Rent-a-Guide is a fabulous tour company that made a visit toIsrael 10 times better than it would have been without them.

Driving through the city
Driving through the city

Offer shows Davis’s group the Tel Aviv airport, Ben Gurion International. This airport is for local flights and is also a military airport. The group sees the northern part of the old city of Tel Aviv, which is filled with restaurants and clubs. Offer explains that in the old harbour, there’s a lot of nightlife, bars, restaurants, clubs and clothing stores.  It’s a hip place, he says. In Tel Aviv, Thursday and Friday nights are the happening nights. The southern part of Tel Aviv is also a very hip and happening club area.

The city lights up at night
The city lights up at night

Offer tells the group that the area with all the hotels is called the German Wall, because after World War II the Jews after came there with money from unknown places. They put up the hotels, spent a lot of money and generously gave a lot of money to hospitals and charitable situations. Offer points out the Mosk of Jaffa, where many Muslims still come to pray from time to time. He shows the group where the industry buildings are located and explains that to the side, that is Tel Aviv and looking forwards, one can see Jaffa. Today the group is going to the Southern part of Tel Aviv, which is the old part. It is a beautiful neighbourhood with many small houses. Offer says that when a big building was built in the middle, it destroyed the neighbourhood feeling. He describes that the area is popular with wealthy people who like to buy land and build there. Since they started to build around, there are lots of different kinds of homes and not just old ones anymore. Speaking of architecture,Tel Aviv was awarded by UNESCO for being one of the most important cities with a unique type of architecture. Tel Aviv is known for its white houses and buildings, called Bauhaus. This style is found in Jerusalem as well as Tel Aviv.

Bauhaus, the white stone
Bauhaus, the white stone

Jerusalem stone (Bauhaus)
Jerusalem stone (Bauhaus)

Davis’s group passes by some graffiti, and when they ask Offer about it he tells them that there isn’t too much graffiti around but there is in some places, just like everywhere else in the world. Offer confesses that he’s been in the industry so long, he’s found that sometimes it’s hard to trust people’s honesty. He says that he’s been faced with many jokes and people calling him asking for things and saying they’re big name people, and he’s learned that one needs to really learn about who he is dealing with. “When you go to a war, you need intelligence, you need to learn about the other side,” he states.

Looking out the car window
Driving through Tel Aviv

Once, Offer got a call from a man in England. The man said he was coming a certain date to the hotel Offer was working at during that time. The man said that he owned hotels of his own in England, and wasn’t calling to ask for any discount because he had enough money, rather he was calling because he wanted to be treated properly. So Offer told him to introduce himself when he arrived, and promised to take good care of him. The first day he arrived, Offercouldn’t give him a suite but the next day he upgraded him to one. Offer found that the man was really nice. They used to “sit at the bar and drink together,” and they became great friends. Over the last 25 years, whenever he came to Israel he did everything through Offer, such as setting him up at hotels or restaurants.

Looking out the car window
Looking out the car window

Now the reason he wanted to be treated well at Offer’s hotel was because he had a kosher hotel in England, and his hotel was on the sea.  Since he owned this hotel, most of the Jewish wealthy people used to holiday there. At the time that he was coming to Offer’s hotel, a bunch of people that stayed at his hotel were at the hotel where Offer was working. This is why the man thought it was important to show them that he was an important person.  “He was really a good friend of mine,” reflected Offer. The man is not alive anymore. As the group gets closer to Reuben’s office, they pass the Shalom Tower. Offer comments that it used to be one of the highest buildings in Israel but it is not anymore.

Shalom Tower
Shalom Tower

Then Davis and his group spot Independence Hall. This is the building where Ben Guriondeclared Israel an independent state in 1948. He did it in Tel Aviv because he could not find anywhere to do so in Jerusalem, explains Offer. Offer says that the area aroundIndependence Hall is also full of nightlife, restaurants and pubs and bars and clubs. He describes a typical night out, and tells the group that if an Israeli goes out at 10 or 11 p.m. they are not finished partying before 6 in the morning. When work starts at 7 or 8 that morning, they have to be at work so they go to work.

View from the car
View from the car

And so ends the drive with Offer and the car stops outside of Reuben’s office, leaving the group eagerly anticipating many more tours ahead.



Part 3 - A Wonderful Introduction

  4/8/2008

When Lawrence Davis and his group meet Rent-a-Guide Tours creator Reuben for the first time, he tells them all about the city of Jaffa, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Jaffa is a mixed city with Israelis and Arabs and it used to just be sand dunes and mountains. The sand dunes come from the Nile, describes Reuben, and the Northern stream in the Mediterranean pushes the sand. He tells the group that through digging, archaeologists have found earlier civilizations covered by sand dunes. Over time, Jaffa has gone through tremendous growth and the prices of property have risen enormously.

Reuben and his car
Reuben and his car

To hear Reuben describe where the sand dunes come from, click here: (Coming soon!)Reuben takes Davis’s group into his wonderful office and shares a wealth of knowledge with them right away.

Rent-a-Guide staff
Rent-a-Guide staff

He explains that in the biblical times, the port of Israel was the Jaffa port and from there, the sinners of Lebanon were brought to build the Temple in Jerusalem. When Solomon built theTemple, it is written that he brought the sinners of Lebanon through Jaffa. As one comes toJerusalem, they see the Jaffa road. This is the beginning of the road connecting Jerusalemto Jaffa, which was actually the exit of Jerusalem to the Mediterranean. After introducing the group to his friendly staff, he shows them some of the awards displayed on his walls.

Rent-a-Guide Tours awards
Rent-a-Guide Tours awards

Reuben informs the group that the hill they saw on the way to his office is called “Tel” inHebrew, which means an artificial hill that is built, so over time, different layers of different cities become a hill gradually. Tel Aviv got its name because its ruins reflect and symbolize the past. When Nahum Sokolow translated the book of Herzl, the founder of Zionism, he found that Herzl predicted that the Jewish people would come back to live in Israel in 1898.Herzl wasn’t a greatly religious person but he had a dream, and 50 years later, in 1948, Israelwas established. Herzl wrote a very interesting book so Nahum Sokolow translated the book into Hebrew and wanted to translate the name Tel Aviv in a symbolic way. “Aviv” meansspring in Hebrew, so the new land is like spring time to the Jewish people, Reuben clarifies.

Reuben with Davis's Aunt and Uncle
Reuben with Davis's Aunt and Uncle

From Reuben’s office, he shows Davis’s group the Shalom Tower, an office building, and a painting of the famous Herzliya High School which was removed to the northern part of Tel Aviv.

In the time of Little Tel Aviv, Herzl Road, one of the first and main streets of Tel Aviv, went under Herzliya High School, Reuben began. The school had a gate at the entrance in those days. Today if you go to the new Herzliya High School, in a very exclusive part of Tel Aviv, they have a replica of the same gate. Reuben’s daughter just graduated from this high school. All of Reuben’s paintings are by Nachum Gutman, who lived in Little Tel Aviv in the old days. Reuben calls him “the most famous painter of those days.”

Artwork inside Reuben's office
Artwork inside Reuben's office

Reuben has so much more to share about the city. Tel Aviv was established in 1909. In the biblical times only Jaffa existed. There were waves of immigration and there wasn’t enough space in Jaffa so the people went to the North, but this area was almost covered in sand dunes. The first neighborhood out of Jaffa of Jewish settlers was called Neve Tzedick, and it became the first neighborhood in Tel Aviv. Gradually, Tel Aviv was developed from the South towards the North. The further you go towards the North, the more you see new and modern places, Reuben points out. As Davis’s group learns all this, they also learn they are in Little Tel Aviv because then Tel Aviv was very little.

Inside Reuben's car
Inside Reuven's car

Inside a beautifully new Mercedes car, Reuben talks about Old Jaffa and New Jaffa. Driving through New Jaffa is very busy at night but dead in the day time.  Old Jaffa is filled with artists and it is where tourists go to find shopping, jewelery and art. The group passes anArab Juice Bar that seems to be popular. Signs outside the store say that they serve coffee and ice cream, along with fruit and juice.

Arab Juice Bar
Arab Juice Bar

Then Reuben tells  Davis's group about a restaurant that has “the best pita bread” calledAbu-Nassar-Hinnawi restaurant. The restaurant is owned by an Arab and the group heads there for lunch.

The restaurant's exterior and interior
The restaurant's exterior and interior


Lunch with Reuben
Lunch with Reuben

Reuben introduces the group to the restaurant’s owner, and she graciously keeps the food coming and coming, making for a scrumptious meal.

The restaurant's owner
The restaurant's owner

After lunch, the group heads to Davis’s Aunt and Uncle’s hotel, the Sheraton Moriah Tel Aviv Hotel. Their hotel has an incredible view of the ocean. To read a full review on theSheraton Moriah Tel Aviv Hotel, click here: (Coming soon!)

 View of the ocean from inside the hotel

Davis takes a cab to Jerusalem for his stay at the Jerusalem Plaza Hotel, a hotel that he really enjoys. The cab driver is full of knowledge about Jerusalem, and Davis is happy to take it all in. The view from Davis’s room at the Jerusalem Plaza Hotel is beautiful during the day and even more special at night.



The view at night
The view at night

Tomorrow, a new day with a new tour guide will begin, and Davis’s group knows that the trip is only going to get better and better.


Part 4 - Ossi’s Panoramic View and the Golden Dome

  4/8/2008

On the morning of his second day touring with Rent-a-Guide tours, Lawrence Davis, Splash Magazines Worldwide Editor-in-Chief/Publisher, was greeted by tour guide Ossi in a newMercedes van. Davis and his group were prepared to spend the day learning all aboutJerusalem, and Ossi was full of educational information for both those who don’t know much about Israel and those who may already think they know quite a bit.

Ossi and his Mercedes van
Ossi and his Mercedes van

 Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, the biggest city in Israel with almost 700,000 inhabitants.  500,000 in the new city, 200,000 in what we call the east part of the city,” Ossisaid. He talked about the Six Day War and the local Palestinians that became full right citizens after the war ended. Palestinians may be elected to the local government, they get welfare and unemployment benefits, and they study in Israeli universities. Ossi also explained that similar to Mount Olive in Jerusalem, limestone is the stone typical to Jerusalemmountains. During the Turkish time from 1517 until 1917, also known as the Ottoman period, the rulers tried to limit the number of Jewish inhabitants in Jerusalem. In an attempt to do so, they passed a law stating that if one wanted to live in Jerusalem they must cover their house with limestone. The rule was created because the leaders were sure that the Jews couldn’t cut the limestone, but they figured out how to and covered their houses in it.  This law was followed by the British and Israelis as well and “this is how Jerusalem became so unique, you know, covered almost 99% of the houses with the white limestone,” clarifiedOssi.

Jerusalem's white limestone
Jerusalem's white limestone

Though the law started in the 17th century as a way to filter the Jews out, the Jewish people learned how to cut the limestone and now it’s a law just to keep the custom going. According to Ossi, the limestone he showed Davis’ group was quite soft limestone, but there are different kinds of limestone and it is able to survive for a very long time.

Beautiful city of Jerusalem
Beautiful city of Jerusalem

Driving through the Palestinian area, the group sees Palestinians coming to rent welfare apartments from the Israeli government. The Palestinians are completely covered, and Ossiexplained that this custom started when the Intifada began. Before, he says that Palestinians looked like they were Israelis; you couldn’t distinguish between the two and now you can. Ossithen showed the group the Hyatt Hotel, a 5 star hotel covered mostly in limestone. This is where Israeli Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze'evi was assassinated 4 and a half years earlier. He was shot as he was coming back from breakfast, right by his room by a Palestinian who worked for the hotel for 12 years. To hear Ossi tell this story, click here: (Coming soon!)

The Hyatt Hotel
The Hyatt Hotel

Next stop on the tour is a beautiful cemetery, where soldiers from outside Israel that fought in World War I are buried. This cemetery holds soldiers from Australia, New Zealand,Canada and Britain. Ossi pointed out some memorial stones with the Star of David on them meaning that the soldiers were Jewish. It is written ‘so far but so close,’ which Ossi explained as meaning so far from his family in New Zealand but so close to his homeland, Israel. To hear Ossi describe this cemetery, click here: (Coming soon!)

The cemetery
The cemetery

With Ossi, the group then sees the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus, which is connected to Hebrew U’s medicine faculty. He explains that the university and hospital were surrounded by the Jordanians for 19 years, from the Liberation War in 1948 until the Six Day War in 1967. Ossi expressed that the cafeteria is well guarded by security men, and tells the tragic story of why it is so necessary. Palestinians have the right to study there as well, and 4 years ago a female suicide bomber came in. She killed 22 students, 10 of whom were Palestinian. When they found the one who sent her, they asked how they could help her kill their brothers, and their response was that they weren’t helping her kill, they were helping them become Shahids, which means martyrs. Palestinians believe that committing suicide gets them to paradise and 72 virgin ladies, and understandably Ossi has trouble understanding this. To hear Ossi tell this story, click here: (Coming soon!)

Jerusalem, Israel's capital
Jerusalem, Israel's capital

Ossi informed the group where the Russian church was where Jesus is believed to have ascended to heaven. He was crucified on Friday, and on Sunday when St. Mary came she was told he had disappeared. The New Testament says that Jesus spent 40 days on Mount Olive and then ascended to heaven from that church. There is a rock with a mark of his footprints from where he was sent up, but Ossi points out that in Christianity, there is a different version to the story than there is in Judaism. “Take it or leave it, you shouldn’t argue if it’s the right place or not,” Ossi believes, because there is another place which is said to be the spot where Jesus ascended according to the Greek Orthodox and the Catholic.

View of Jerusalem
View of Jerusalem

Ossi pointed out that Davis’ group could see the Jordanian Desert and the Dead Sea down on the right. The Jordanian mountains were also visible and the Jordan River was at the foot, coming from the Sea of Galilee along the Jordan valley and going to the Dead Sea.Ossi showed them how the black roads were divided into two parts with a security wall. He said that on the way to Tel Aviv, they would pass the West Bank so they will be able to see the security wall surrounding the Palestinian cities and villages. On the Arab side, there is no vegetation and on the Israeli side, it is all green, Ossi marvels. He shares that he lives on aKibbutz, a common village, and there is a great advantage to life in a Kibbutz because the leaders had to study a very sophisticated Israeli agriculture system. The car is now passing the Middle East Dessert and Ossi goes on to describe the watering system in Israel. He says that they take water from the Sea of Galilee, which is fresh water irrigated by a very sophisticated and computerized dripping system. He laughs at the fact that even though theSea of Galilee is just a lake, Israel is so small that there is no space to write it out on the map, so it is written on the sea. 



Leaving Mount Scopus, Ossi takes the group to Mount Olive, where they can see theAugusta-Victoria monastery which is a hospital as well. It was built by Wilhelm II, theGerman Kaiser at the end of the 19th century. This Lutheran monastery served mainly the Palestinians and it is named after the Kaiser’s wife Augusta Victoria. “99% percent of the population there on Mount Olive they’re actually Palestinian,” Ossi reveals.

Augusta-Victoria monastery/hospital
Augusta-Victoria monastery/hospital

And then the group was taken somewhere they would probably not have ever known existed had they been with any other tour guide – Ossi’s panoramic view. Instead of only going where all the other tour guides take tourists, Davis was lucky enough to have Ossi take him to a unique location overlooking Israel. It really was the best panoramic view, he recalls. It was breathtaking. Davis could see the Wall, the Old City, the Four Quarters, and everything looked so populated. The view made him say ‘wow’ out loud.

Davis' group at Ossi's panoramic view
Davis' group at Ossi's panoramic view

Ossi's panoramic view
Ossi's panoramic view

Looking into the beautiful distance, Ossi showed the group that up on the hill in the New Citythey can see the biggest cemetery in the world with more than 200,000 graves. Thiscemetery is so special because Christians believe that the Messiah will come from Galileeto the Chevron caves to Mount Olive to walk through Mercy Gate, which is blocked now. This is why most Jewish people want to be reborn again and thus buried here. Jews come from the United States to be buried in this cemetery.

Close up of the cemetery
Close up of the cemetery

Ossi points out that down in front are the archaeological digs. He highlights the city of King David, who conquered the city from the Canaanites. It was made it 3,000 years ago, andKing David wanted to thank g-d so he built the Golden Dome, which is right in front of Davisand his group. This dome is the same place where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son on Mount Moriah, and when he wanted to build the Temple g-d told him he could not build it because his hands were filled with blood. Ossi continues the story by saying that g-d did tellDavid that his son, Solomon would build the Temple when he was king. King Solomonenlarged the city from the Dome up to the Temple Mount and built the Temple and surrounded the Old City with walls. This was the 2950 years ago, said Ossi. It was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, in 586 and the Jewish people were exiled to Babylon. They spent almost 50 years in Babylon and until the King of Persia, Cyrus, allowed them to return and build the second Temple which was finished in 520 BC. Harold the Great enlarged the city and Temple as well, but it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and Jewish people were forbidden to come to Jerusalem, Ossi explained.

The Golden Dome
The Golden Dome

Ossi then told the group that in front of them, they could see the Christian Quarter. The black dome on the right is called ‘our Lord is weeping’, because beneath this dome is where Jesuswas born, lived, and crucified as a Jew, Ossi said. Jews used to come three times a year to celebrate holidays by the Temple, and this is why Jesus was coming with the 12 Apostles toJerusalem; they were celebrating Passover. He came the whole way along the Jordan River, came up here and then he watched the sea, Ossi described. Jesus was crucified when he was 33 years old, which means 37 years before the city was destroyed by the Romans.Ossi detailed how Jesus came here and watched one of the most beautiful cities in the world.Jesus then started weeping because he could see in his vision what was going to happen; the city was going to be completely destroyed and not one stone would be left.  This is why it is in the shape of a tear, concludes Ossi, and it was built by Antonio Bellucci, a very famousItalian architect.



To the left Ossi shows the group the Russian church built by Alexander II, King of Russiain 1888, named after his mother Alexandrova. Ossi said that they call it the St. Mary Magdalen Church, and this is where he will later take the group to see the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was betrayed by Judas to the Roman hands.

Front of coin
Front of coin

Ossi then pulled out a Jewish coin to show the group that it can’t have any images on it, only geometric designs. He told a story about the coin, called the widow. There was a woman who brought this coin, which is a low value, to donate to the Temple, and usually people donated a half shekel and this is much less so when she donated it, everybody laughed at her. However, the priest came and said you shouldn’t laugh, this is old money that the woman has so it’s actually much more than what everyone else donated to the Temple.

Back of coin
Back of coin

After Davis’ group looked at the coin, Ossi had them look over to where a fortress used to be. This fortress was where Jesus was judged the second time, and from there he was sent to be crucified. They call it the ‘ suffering way’, Ossi said, with two domes at the end of the path. As Davis and his group stood in front of the domes, Ossi told them that one was where Jesuswas crucified and one was where he was buried. The Christians believe that Jesus was crucified on top of Adam’s tomb, but the Muslims seem to have a different take on the events.

The Golden Dome
The Golden Dome

The Muslims didn’t come to Jerusalem first as they didn’t consider it a holy place for themselves. Ossi describes that instead, they settled about 10 miles from Jerusalem and in the 8th century, they developed a legend mentioned in the Koran saying that beforeMuhammad passed away, he arrived on a mule, a half horse, half donkey from Mecca. They say if this is the beginning, where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his child, so it should be the end as well. Thus, they called Jerusalem ‘ the holy place’ and they built the black dome, Ossi said as he pointed it out in front of the group. In the Koran it says thatMuhammad then walked to the Golden Dome and there he was lifted up to heaven byNoah, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus Christ.  They all welcomed him to heaven and showed his footprint on the rock there. This is why today the Muslims call the Golden Dome the Dome of the Rock because the rock is where his footprint was built by a Turk in the 16th century. This same Turk built the walls surrounding the Old City.

Part 5 - Jesus’ Journey in Via Dolorosa

  4/8/2008


Lawrence Davis, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Splash Magazines Worldwide, has just come from seeing a special panoramic view of Jerusalem. He was taken to a unique location overlooking Israel’s capital city by his tour guide Ossi from Rent-a-Guide Tours. So far, Ossihas been very informative and Davis is excited and thrilled to get to the next part of the tour:Via Dolorosa, the street in Jerusalem where Jesus walked to his crucifixion.


Via Dolorosa
Via Dolorosa

Ossi shows the group the Bethlehem Center and speaks about the city’s history. He explains that Bethlehem is very close to Jerusalem, so Jews and non-Jews used to both live there. However, after the Intifada, Bethlehem because very extreme and started shooting at the Jews. This prompted Israel to disconnect from them. Those from Bethlehem are able to come into Israel with special permission and they come with souvenirs to sell. Though they come into Israel, an Israeli can’t go into Bethlehem. Israelis will bring tourists to the border and then a local from Bethlehem will pick up the tourist, take him or her around and then bring the tourist back to the border.

The group then sees The Lion’s Gate. It is called that because both sides of the gate are decorated by two lions, so there are four lions in total. This gate was decorated in the 13th century, Ossi explains, and according to Christianity, entering this gate marks the beginning ofJesus’ walk to crucifixion. 

Ossi shows Davis and his group the Garden of Gethsemane which is overlooked by theChurch of All Nations. This church is where Jesus prayed during his last night and Ossi tells the group that it is called that because many nations came together to support it. “It’s a very interesting church, very nice,” he says.

Church of All Nations
Church of All Nations

The Golden Gate, according to Jewish tradition, is the gate in Jerusalem where theMessiah is supposed to come through explains Ossi. It was sealed by Sultan Suleiman I to prevent the Messiah from coming. As well, a Muslim cemetery was built right across the road to prevent the Messiah from coming since a Cohen (one with high status in Judaism due to descending from Aaron) can’t walk through a cemetery. The term Messiah is from the Hebrew name Mashiach Ben David, the son of King David. The root of the word Messiah in Hebrew means eternal, and Ossi puts it well when he says “this is the meaning of Messiah, the eternal, eternity.”



Garden of Gethsemane
Garden of Gethsemane

Walking through the Garden of Gethsemane, the group sees the oldest olive trees in the world. Davis enjoys the nice olives on the branches and learns that they are harvested in October. When Pope Saint Paul VI came to visit, he planted an olive tree, Ossi shares with the group.

Olive trees
Olive trees

Olive trees



Ossi explains that the Church of All Nations, also called Church of the Agony, was built in 1924 and it is the 5th church built there. The group goes inside this Roman Catholic church and looks at the 12 beautiful domes. Davis notices that there is one dome with a skylight that seems more important looking. Ossi confirms that it is the portion donated by the Vatican. He then describes the paintings inside the church. The first is a portrait of Jesus and the Apostles coming to the church after the Last Supper. Jesus asked them to wait for him because he wanted to pray and when he found them sleeping he got mad. The second painting shows his agony, because he knew what was going to happen to him.

Church of All Nations,
Inside the church

Paintings inside church

Paintings inside church

Ossi points out that to the left is the place where Judas betrayed Jesus, leading to his arrest by the Romans. He then describes all the stations in Jesus’ journey in Via Dolorosa. The first station is where Jesus was judged and the second is where he was given the cross to carry. At the third station, he fell for the first time and he met his mother at the fourth. At the fifth station, Simon of Cyrene tried to help Jesus carry the cross and he was helped at the sixth station by Veronica, who gave him water. He fell for the second time at the seventh station and at the eighth station, he told women not to weep for him, rather to weep for themselves and their children. At the ninth station he fell for the third time. The last five stations are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and one can walk through them.

Via Dolorosa street sign
Via Dolorosa street sign

Davis’ group is able to see the public entrance to Temple Mount. Ossi shows them the blocked gates and then past the ruins, a stairway going up to Temple Mount. He says that the staircase is only part of the original one with the new stairs being a different size. To prevent running, the new stairs were built to make one walk in slowly since it is a very holy place. The group can also see the Wall, where they will be visiting later.

Ossi tells them that he also plans to take them to Mount Zion to see King David’s tomb, and then into the Old City to see where Jesus’ Last Supper occurred. The Jewish Quarter of the Old City is called the Cardo, which Ossi relates to the English word ‘cardiology’ because it is the heart of the city. He also plans on showing the group the Christian Quarter.

Old arches in the Jewish Quarter
Old arches in the Jewish Quarter

When they get to King David’s tomb, Ossi tells them that the floor is believed to be from the 2nd century AD. When the Muslims came to Jerusalem, the Ottoman Empire adopted the Jewish interpretation that this tomb is the tomb of King David. Since they accept King Davidas a very important person, they built a mosk up on the tomb to prevent the Jews from visiting,Ossi stated. It was first believed to be King David’s tomb in 1173, when it was noted by a Jewish writer. Benjamin from Tudela was a writer who travelled all over the world and wrote about how big each community was, what kind of facilities they had, and more. He mentioned in his book that this was the place believed to be King David’s tomb. King David’s tombhas a wooden Mezuzah outside of it, which prompts Ossi to describe how the religious came there and converted it into a synagogue. It is written in Hebrew ‘David, the King of Israel, is living forever.’

Entrance to King David's tomb
Entrance to King David's tomb

King David's tomb
King David's tomb

King David’s tomb is on top of Mount Zion, where Jesus and the Apostles came to celebrate Passover. After spending 7 days in Mount Olive and coming to Temple Mountevery day, Jesus finally sent two of the Apostles to look on Mount Zion for an available place for all of them to celebrate Passover. They were seated on the stage, and the wall that Ossishows Davis’ group did not used to be there so the area went back much farther. Ossi tells the tale of the Last Supper, the Passover Seder where Jesus told his Apostles to pick up their wine, representing his blood. He then told them to pick up their Matzah, unleavened bread, to represent his body, and said that one of them was going to deny him. Peter, who was sitting closest to him, said he would never deny him. They then left and went down into the Garden of Gethsemane where he was betrayed by Judas. This all occurred on a Thursday night. The following morning, Jesus was judged.

Hanging arches
Hanging arches

Ossi explains that the hanging arches the group can see were developed by Romans. As well, the Muslims converted it into a mosk because they believe they should convert any religious place into their belief. Ossi points out that on the right, they can see the first chapter of a Muslim prayer which reads ‘g-d is only one and Muhammad is the last profit of g-d.’ The area was controlled by the Turks for 400 years, until British General Allen conquered it at the end of WWI. During those years, Jews and Christians were both denied from visiting King David’s Tomb and the Last Supper location.

Ossi takes the group to see the Zion Gates, one of the gates built in the 16th century bySultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Davis’ group is amazed to see bullet holes in the gates from the Six Day War. Israeli soldiers came in through this gate and Lion’s Gate and captured the whole city on June 8, 1967. When they got Jerusalem back, Ossi said that some Israeli’s including military leader and politician Moshe Dayan “were crying like children” because it was so emotional for them to be able to touch the Wall again.

Bullet holes in Zion Gates
Bullet holes in Zion Gates

In the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Ossi talks about how the Quarter was completely destroyed by the Jordanians. Synagogues were replaced by mosks, and by Israeli law it doesn’t matter who a holy place belongs to, one is unable to destroy it. The Mosk in the Jewish Quarter replaced the Ramban Synagogue (Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman). 27 synagogues were destroyed, as were all the old buildings, so most houses in the New Quarter were rebuilt after the Six Day War. As a result, one can distinguish which homes are Jewish homes as the new houses are easy to spot. Prices for apartments in the Jewish Quarter are very, very high, Ossi reveals. After the Romans destroyed the city, one Roman Ceaser actually tried to rebuild the city out of the ruins. This led to the Bar Kokhba Rebellion against the Romans, because they wanted to convert the Old City into a pagan city, Ossi tells the group. During the rebuilding of the Old City, the Cardo was built. The Cardo is a beautiful avenue going from the Zion Gates approximately 1 mile to the Damascus Gate. Roofs shade the streets and there are many boutiques selling refreshments along the old roads.

Davis’ group is then pleased to have Ossi show them the oldest map in Jerusalem. It is from the 6th century and was found belonging to a church in east Jordan. On the map, Ossi points out the Cardo, the Zion Gates, Damascus Gates, the Golden Dome (which didn’t exist in the 6th century), and Jesus’ tomb. This map isn’t an original; however the original is in theJordanian National Museum. 

The oldest map of Jerusalem
The oldest map of Jerusalem

In the car, Davis, along with his Aunt and Uncle, pass Palestinians on the street. This provokes Ossi to explain that in the past only old Palestinian women used to cover themselves but now everybody, even students, keep covered. When talking about suicide bombers, Ossideclares that the main problem is their education.  “They found in elementary school how they teach mathematics, they say if you have 30 children, 10 of them Jewish, 5 of them Christian, you kill the Jewish, you kill the Christian, how many left? Even if they’re going to achieve some agreement now, it’s going to take another generation to feed out the poison they are putting in for so long,” Ossi commented.

Ossi shares that the group is really standing on the original floor of the Cardo. They have maintained the historical part on one side and build new houses on the other side, while they continue the archaeological excavation. The group walks through the Jewish market and sees the old streets filled with shops and huts selling clothing, jewelery, and more.

The Jewish market
The Jewish market

Afterwards, Ossi brings them to the Church of Holy Sepulchre to see Jesus’ last 5 stations.Davis’ group visits the tenth station, where Jesus’ clothes were taken off and given to the people, and then eleventh station where he was nailed to cross. At the twelfth station, Jesuswas crucified and at the thirteenth station, his body was prepared according to Jewish tradition. The last station is where he was buried.

The Church
The Church

The cross carried on Fridays
The cross carried on Fridays

Ossi shows the group the cross that is carried every Friday from the first station in Via Dolorosa to this church. It is a lot smaller than the real cross used for Jesus’ crucifixion. Ossialso points out a crack in the stone that was under Jesus when he was crucified. “See this crack? This was actually under Jesus Christ when he was crucified, and a drop of his blood cracked the stone,” Ossi marvelled. Ossi looks up and shows the group that it is written ‘Jesus, from Nazareth, King of the Jews’ in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. One can also see the hole where the cross was stood. Ossi explains that it was a cave and the stone of the cave was moved away and replaced by the pavilion and two rooms. In the first room there’s a stone from Nazareth, symbolizing the beginning of the Christianity, and the tomb is the end of Christianity so it symbolizes the beginning and the end.

Church of Holy Sepulchre
Church of Holy Sepulchre

Jesus was crucified at the top of the hill where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son. “The symbol of Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end,” Ossi said. “ Abraham was asked to sacrifice his child, Issac, then the angel there stopped him and said don’t touch the child, take the ram, so what’s the connection? This is the beginning of monotheism, this is the end.”

Ossi points to the cave where the original cross was found and tells Davis’ group that 40 years after Jesus was crucified, the New Testament was written and it was forbidden during the Roman Empire to accept Christianity. This made it hard for Constantine the Great to identify the holy places until one of the bishops told Constantine’s mother that he knew whereJesus’ cross was hidden. When they found the cross, it was cut and pieces were sent to churches all over the world.

Ossi tells the group that some say if Jesus was crucified the traditional way he couldn’t pass away because you need more than two hours to die that way. However, Saint Peter was crucified upside down and it took just a few minutes for him to die, so Ossi concludes thatJesus was probably crucified upside down.

The Church with homes as close as can be
The Church with homes as close as can be

Arriving at the Wall, Ossi explains that this wall is believed to be the Western Wall of the Temple but in fact, it is only the platform that the Temple was built upon. It is believed to be part of the Temple because the gypsies were only allowed to come to this part of the wall if they paid a high amount. They did pay to come once a year, and for this reason it is thought to be the Western Wall. The stones get bigger and more decorated because they were made by Harold the Great. Ossi shows the group that there’s a frame to decorate the stone and the top was built by the Turkish Empire in the 16th century, Suleiman the Magnificent.

The Wall
The Wall

Visitors to the Wall leave little notes in the many cracks in between the stones. The wishes are collected once a month and buried on Mount Olive in the hopes that they will come true.The Wall is separated into a women’s side and men’s side, and many people have weddings and Bar Mitzvahs there. The top, the Temple Mount, is the Muslim part. Muslims used to throw stones down on to the prayers so now it’s controlled by Israeli forces. Ossi also says that the Torah is brought out during the holidays, and it is always written on goat skin since it’s a kosher animal. It is never painted; rather, its 52 chapters are always written by hand. Every week another chapter is read throughout the year, and then it starts again when the next year begins.



Lawrence Davis at the Wall
Lawrence Davis at the Wall

Davis and his Uncle put T’fillin on and pray at the Wall. Davis touches the Wall and walkes backwards when he walks away from it, as one is supposed to do out of respect. Davis says this is a memory that will never leave him and he calls it the highlight of his trip to Israel.


From the Knesset to Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum

  12/8/2008

It was a magnificent day when our guide, Ossi Kaufman of Rent-a-Guide Tours, picked us up in a new Mercedes van just after breakfast.  We began our day with a tour of the Knessetand at 11:00 am we stopped to view a powerful sight - the Menorah given to Israel by theBritish Parliament, from the oldest Parliamentary Government to the youngest.


Ossi describes the Menorah
Ossi describes the Menorah

Closeup of the Menorah
Closeup of the Menorah

There are many symbols of the Jewish people on the Menorah. The carvings begin with Abraham taking Isaac to be sacrificed at the top of the mount. There is then Moses taking the tribes out of Egypt on the way to Jerusalem and Moses getting the Tablets at the mount. This is followed by Aaron raising his arm to g-d. As well, the Holocaust is shown, as is the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

Top of the Menorah
Top of the Menorah

The beautifully intricate Menorah
The beautifully intricate Menorah

This entrance to the Knesset is certainly one you notice.  It was twice as meaningful thanks to Ossi's commentaries on the historical meaning of each arm. He really gave us a better understanding and more insight into the symbolism in this grand gift from Britain. 

 Walking into the Knesset, you see the Parliament Floor, which has 120 chairs and desks laid out in the form of the Menorah; a very interesting seating arrangement.  Within theKnesset is the Chagall room where an entire wall is covered by his paintings. These paintings depict the history of the Jewish people.  Once again, Ossi was able to bring the historical pictures to life for us, adding much more interest and excitement. The stories Ossitold us were continually fascinating and were great to listen to throughout the day.  It was especially helpful to have Ossi nearby to answer questions about the Knesset because we were having trouble hearing our guide.

A painting inside the Supreme Court
A painting inside the Supreme Court

Our next stops were the Supreme Court, directly across the street, and then the modern art Museum.  We enjoyed the famous artists from the Renaissance period through the Impressionists as well as the work of Israeli artists. We became aware that this wonderful art graces the walls because of philanthropists who support both the Arts and Israel. The Museum has been updated and modernized and offers something to everyone.

Sol Davis outside the Supreme Court
Sol Davis outside the Supreme Court

Sol Davis outside the Supreme Court
Inside the Supreme Court

Some of the more emotional moments of our tour were to follow when we went to the Kotel, put on T’fillin and prayed at t he Wall.  We were very fortunate in our visit to the museum at the side of the Wall, which is relatively new and constantly expanding. Displays here refer to the history of man and the Jewish people from Adam and Eve to the present day. The Wall is part of the museum and there is reference to the Roman destruction of the Wall.

Lawrence Davis wrapping T'fillin and Sol Davis praying at the Kotel
Lawrence Davis wrapping T'fillin and Sol Davis praying at the Kotel

Next was the tour of the Wall at the bottom where they have been digging. Amazingly, one can actually see the bottom of the Wall of the first Temple. Walking along the bottom of thesecond temple Wall, there is a puzzle. It is one stone that is set in the Wall that weighs over 600 ton. No one can fathom how this stone was moved and properly placed in the Wall. You can walk along the entire Wall and see the digging that is still going on. At the end of the walk along the Wall there is an Arabic village.
 

Underneath the Wall
Underneath the Wall

Museum under the Wall
Museum under the Wall

We were impressed with our visit to the Old City where we saw both the Jewish and Arab areas. There was also the place where Jesus was carried to the cross, had his brow wiped and given water.  Interesting that in the Old City, both Arab and Jew lived and worked alongside each other.  Ossi kept our interest with his comments and stories as we tried to absorb the many historical sites in Jerusalem while driving through the city.  And so ended another day of touring.

The Old City
The Old City

Busy streets in the Old City
Busy streets in the Old City

But the next day, Friday, Ossi was there again to pick us up in his very comfortable van. There were more sights for us to observe in Jerusalem. The first stop was Yad Vashem. Walking through this new museum we fortunately connected with a tour.  And there is so much to learn from tour guides.

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum
Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum

While we were moved at Yad Vashem, our next stop, the Children's Museum, really got to us. It focuses on the 1,500,000 children that were killed during the Holocaust. This is a black room, with pen- lights going on and stating a name and age of the murdered child. It was very moving.  

Inside Yad Vashem
Inside Yad Vashem

Things lightened up after that when we returned to the Old City to see David's Tower and do some shopping after which, Ossi and Splash Magazines Editor-in-Chief/Publisher Lawrence Davis went off to explore the Tel Aviv nightlife while we remained in Jerusalem to experience Shabbat in this holy city.

We were thrilled with all of our experiences so far and were convinced that Rent-a-Guide Tours offers a wonderful, easy, and reasonable way to tour any or all of Israel, at your own pace in comfort with expert guides.  And we couldn't wait to move on to more adventures as the days progressed.

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