I do not know what a Jew is, we only know what human beings are.
Pastor Andre Trocme, August 10 1942
Pastor Andre Trocme, August 10 1942
It's been such a full day I am not quite sure where to start. We left the hotel in Tel Aviv to spend the whole day in Jerusalem. The traffic there has to be seen. The morning started with a briefing by one of President Peres's advisers. We talked about the history of Jerusalem and its very confusing geography. For those who haven't been here, it's almost impossible to explain without being on the ground. We were taken to a vantage point high up on a hillside overlooking the Mount of Olives and the old city. From there you can also see the security fence and the West Bank.
We then took a tour of the Old City with an absolutely superb tour. It was great walking through the Suq - row upon row of shops. The variety was astonishing. They don't do political correctness in Jerusalem. I nearly bought a supply of T Shirts with VISIT ISRAEL BEFORE ISRAEL VISITS YOU for some of the anti Jewish commenters who have infested this site of late. There were also T shirts of Yasser Arafat.
To stand where history was made - rather like when we went to the Sea of Galilee on Monday - was an absolute privilege. To trace the path to the crucifiction and see the spot where Jesus died was incredible. We then visited the holy wall just under the Mount of Olives. I have to say it was bizarre to hear the Muslim call to prayer while looking at the Mount of Olives, but people should realise that Jerusalem is a city which welcomes people of all religions. I suppose I had thought of it as primarily a Jewish place, but it is far from that, with peoples of all backgrounds and religions finding it a place of religious significance.
After that we headed of to Yad Vashem, the new Holocaust museum and memorial. It was only opened in 2005 and is a very impressive building. I have to say though, having been to a couple of concentration camps, I found it less emotional than I was expecting. On visits to Buchenwald and Dachau I found it incredibly harrowing, but here - perhaps because of the crowds - I didn't. Even typing that, I feel slightly guilty.
We then finished the day at the Knesset, where we were due to meet the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, who is Druse, but he couldn't make it. Instead, we had an hour with a fascinating memebr of the Knesset, Binyamin Elon. He is the leader of the National Union party, which holds nine of the 120 seats in the Knesset and was Minister of Tourism under Ariel Sharon. His party is certainly right wing, but he holds some very unconventional views on the future of the West Bank. He is firmly against a two state solution and favours a confederation on the West Bank, with Jordan and Israel holding joint sovereignty of the area. He argues that there has never been such a thing as a Palestinian nation and that up until recently, the inhabitants of the West Bank have always been called Arabs.
We didn't get back to Tel Aviv until 8.30pm. I tried to find a bar showing the West Ham v Man U game but failed lamentably. Just as well considering the result.
Before I came here, several people told me that Israeli food was awful. They could not be more wrong. The breakfast in the Carlton Hotel has to be seen to be believed (the Carlton is highly recommended - one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in), and every single meal has been memorable. And for all the right reasons! Today in Jerusalem I had the best smoked salmon and cream cheese onion bagel I have ever had.
I'm very much looking forward to tomorrow, when we will be spending the day in Ramallah and Bethlehem. We're seeing Mahmoud Abbas's Chief of Staff, a representative of the UN and the British Consul to the Palestinian Authority during the course of the morning, as well as visiting a refugee camp.