DAY 3 – TUESDAY, APRIL 28
Today we spent almost a full day in Istanbul. It was a gorgeous day, with sun and temps in the low 70s. Following breakfast on the balcony of the hotel (with a great view), we departed at 8 a.m. Taking the light rail train for a few stops, we arrived at the area of the Byzantine Hippodrome. Today is it decorated with an Egyptian obelisk. We next entered the Blue Mosque. Built in 1617, the mosque is lined with 6 minarets on the outside and beautiful tile on the inside. It is still an active mosque for Muslims today. Located just a short walk away is the St. Sophia Church (also called the Hagia Sofia). The structure was built originally in the 4th century AD in the days of Constantine. It was called the First Great Church. Later in 530, Justinian rebuilt the church. Some pillars from the Temple of Artemas in Ephesus as well as red granite pillars from Egypt were used as part of the inner structure. In 1453, the church was converted into a mosque. While the large hanging signs depicting the names of Allah and Mohammad glaringly remind us of the false religion of Islam, one has to be impressed with how massive the overall building is. Marvelous Christian frescos from the 6th century are still well preserved.
From here we took the light rail train once again a few stops to the Grand Bazaar. Historically, this bazaar goes back 100s of years. We enjoyed lunch on our own as well as exploring a few of the 2,700 shops within the Bazaar. From here we walked through the Spice Market to the Bosporus Straight. We boarded our private boat and traveled north. With the “European” side of the city to our left (west) and the “Asian” side of the city to our right (east), it was a great way to see parts of this city of 13 million people.
Following the boat ride, we transferred back to the Istanbul Airport for our short flight to Tel Aviv, Israel. After going through Passport Control and securing our bags, we met our guide (Hezy will be our guide through Wednesday, after which Shlomo will be with us). After boarding the bus, we left the Ben Gurion Airport and drove north through Tel Aviv to our hotel in Netanya located on the shoreline of the Med Sea. We enjoyed a late dinner, with some enjoying a short optional walk to the downtown part of the city as well as to the beach.
We all are looking forward to our first full day here in Israel tomorrow.
DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29
We plan to see Caesarea, Mt. Carmel, Jezreel Valley, Megiddo, Sepporis, and the precipice of Nazareth.