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June 21, 2014

Jerusalem Ramparts Walk, and Flora/Fauna Count (Day 6/6)

13 June, Friday: Jerusalem Ramparts and flew home midday

Israel 20140613-504 Israel 20140613-511 Israel 20140613-477 Israel 20140613-514Walked on walls/ramparts of Jerusalem, from Jaffa Gate to past Zion Gate and back again.

Had a 2nd Jerusalem Bagel with Hyssop.

Drove in taxi down, down, down from Jerusalem high country towards sea level at Tel Aviv.

Plants seen during our whole trip:

- mango, banana, avocado, fig, olive, papaya, carob, pomegranate, date palm trees (50% of Medjool dates in world from Israel).

- bougainvillea

- oleander

- jacaranda

- eucalyptus

- tamarisk

- Ceylon trees (red flower)

- amaryllis farm

- "salt plant" - can lick leaves to get salt

- caper plant, purple flower

- Christ-thorn tree

- Sodom apple plant - poisonous

- Acacia tree


Animals seen:

- mongoose scurrying across the road

- Bedouin sheep and goat herds

- ibex (male and female)

- desert gazelle


Birds seen:

- Desert Bee-eater on a palm tree

- White-breasted Kingfisher

- Myna bird

- Tristam's Starling "a species of starling native to Israel, Jordan, northeastern Egypt, western Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman, nesting mainly on rocky cliff faces." (e.g. Masada!)

- Desert partridges

- Nun flycatcher


Some Things I didn't know before my visit to Israel:

- Arabic is an official language of Israel, along with Hebrew. School children are additionally required to learn English.

- Israel is 21% Muslim. Or it may actually just be 21% Arab, most of which are Muslim, but some of which are Christians, and some of which are Druze. (Israel is the only country in the world where a majority of citizens are Jewish.)

- There are about 20,000 Messianic Jews in Israel, and about 300,000 around the world.

- The center of the Bahai religion is also in Israel (Haifa).

-  Israel is one of the world's major exporters of military equipment, accounting for 10% of the world total in 2007.

June 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jerusalem and Bethlehem (Israel Day 5/6)

12 June, Thursday: Jerusalem and Bethlehem (mostly on foot; saw lots more than this but I didn't have time to write it all down as we were always on the move on foot)

Israel 20140612-318 Israel 20140612-372 Israel 20140612-378 Israel 20140612-407 Israel 20140612-421 Israel 20140612-450 Israel 20140612-469- Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock)

- Lion Gate

- Bethesda (pool down deep at St. Anne's church; traditional birthplace of Anne/Hannah, mother of Mary)

- Via Dolorosa (Roman soldiers etched games on the stone floors)

- Damascus Gate, Garden Tomb, Jerusalem bagels with dry green hyssop salt!

- Austrian café/hospice - had apple strudel

- 14 stations of the cross

- Muslim strike - shops all closed. Jewish ones open.

- Jewish Quarter Café for lunch.

- Cistern under Queen Helen Coptic Orthodox church - huge, wonderful echoes such that you can make chords with one person's voice, three notes. Also an Ethiopian church.

- Mt. Zion - King David's Tomb (not really) and Upper Room (not really)

- Wailing Wall - men's and women's prayer areas at the Western Wall; also archaeological area of Western Wall where men and women can go together. K went to Women's Section Tunnel to come out by men's section under arch, closer to former temple area...

- Saw entrance to Oskar Schindler's grave site, but didn't have time to stop

- Bethlehem in West Bank


June 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hezekiah's Tunnel, Dead Sea, Masada (Israel, Day 4/6)

11 June, Wednesday: Hezekiah's Tunnel, Dead Sea and Masada (8 out-of-the-car stops, including those three long interesting ones!)

 - Seen in passing: Armenian quarter; Zion Gate, Mt. of Olives, Kidron Valley (burial caves)

Israel 20140611-169

Israel 20140611-210 Israel 20140611-233 Israel 20140611-254

Hezekiah's Tunnel: totally dark, little LED torches, came out at Pool of Siloam

City of David - original walls below. Where Jebusites lived.

Mount of Olives:

• cemetery, view of city of Jerusalem

•camel ride on "Kojak"! with Camel driver Ali.

• Muslim moque at peak of Mt. of Olives - site of Ascension? Just parched dirt, not a single flower or tree or plant.

- East Jerusalem: Muslim neighborhood. Saw Bethany on a hill in the West Bank

Good Samaritan memorial spot, mosaic museum on the Road to Jericho (Yeriho). Beautiful bougainvillea!

Bedouin boy Mohammed guided us on a little hike (keffiyehs on head) along ridge by gorge with St. Gregorius/George monastery (4th century AD - maybe at cave where Elijah found refuge), goats below in desert on other side; chalk, lime, flint rock. Saw man riding donkey.

Entered Jericho and drove through - didn't stop at archeological site - apparently hardly anything to see. Saw a sycamore tree like the one Zaccheus climbed in this city (not old enough to be the one). Chewed on carob pod.

- Passed cable car to Mt. Temptation (where they think Jesus was tempted.

Caves of Qumran! (+ "Two Moons" i.e. one reflected in the Dead Sea). 11 different caves.

Dead Sea is 430m BELOW sea level. 34°C. Cooler than normal. Blessed! Huge sea. Small fish in the fresh water area where fed by springs. Mineral beach. Mud applied and dried, then floating in sea like corks! Fun! Lunch: tuna wrap & banana ice shake. Saw Arnon Gorge across the Dead Sea in Jordan.

- Passed En Gedi Kibbutz (Mt. Jesse above)


 - Desert Safari on way back; Wadi (= dry river bed; in Arabic = river) Arugot - went through in Range Rover - amazing! 36°C (signs to Wadi David but we didn't go there)

Crazy dusty, steep rock road

Darna Moroccan restaurant for dinner in Jerusalem; outside; cat by table! Dessert: "Toubkal Delight" (sweet pastilla [phyllo pastry] with soy milk, orange blossom water, cinnamon and almonds - also honey?)


June 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 20, 2014

Tiberias Region (Israel, Day 3/6)

10 June, Tuesday: Tiberias Region, then ending in Jerusalem (11 out-of-the-car stops!)

Israel 20140610-74- Tiberias & Sea of Galilee / Lake Tiberias / Lake Kinnereth

- Tabgha - Franciscan (Catholic) Church of the Primacy of St. Peter on the Lake. We put our feet in the water. 2000-year-old dock, and church memorializing the spot where Christ told Peter about building His church.

- Capernaum - Peter's mother-in-law's house, where Jesus healed her from the fever and she served them. Village. Jesus' synagogue.

- Bethsaida - ruins from 300 - 586 BC (1st temple period). Only people around were active archaeologists working, and us. Completely ruined (cf Jesus' woe statements, Mt 11, Lk 10). Former Syrian military post. Near the Golan Heights. Saw Upper Jordan River Valley - green surrounded by dry tan land. Last rain had been May 8th (a month before). Oldest city gate from 1st temple period.

- Tabgha Benedictine Monastery (commemorates the Loaves & Fishes miracles). 

Israel 20140610-122- Mt. Beatitudes Franciscan monastery & next to it, we read the beatitudes and some more of Jesus' sermon on the Mount (which would have been around there).

- Ginosar/Gennesaret - Jesus Boat Museum (Pier, saw girls' student group with female bodyguard with gun, ex-military)

- Magdala/Migdal (where Mary Magdalene was from). Saw young camels and a donkey by side of road (near Bedouin village). Mexican Catholic church - new excavation, not even officially opened yet. Mikvot (ritual bathing pool). Boat altar with chapels with mosaics.

- Tiberias Jewish synagogue ruins (Hellenist influence, images of sun god in mosaic floor!), with hot springs water running down a gutter (warm). Turkish hamman ruins. 33° out.

Israel 20140610-129- Yardenit - lunch spot by Jordan River baptism spot just below Lake Tiberias. Ate big St. Peter's fish (tilapia), then fed some baby tilapia in the Jordan river with pita bread from lunch (with our feet in the Jordan). Lunch: hummus, pita, eggplant, kohlrabi, tahini, along with the tilapia.

- Former "Peace Island" at border with Kingdom of Jordan.  Drove on dirt road close to barbed wire fence, not allowed to get out or really supposed to take pictures. Signs for land mines.

- Passed Beth She'an (Roman ruins), Mount Gilboa (where King Saul died), Samaria; didn't stop.

- In West Bank for the first time ever! Lots of trash around. Jewish settlement in West Bank - two layers of barbed wire around it. Caves in the hills. Desert! "Judean desert" even though in territory of Benjamin.

- Jericho - red signs saying no Israelis allowed.

- Saw across the valley, Mt. Nebo (dark top of mountain) - where Moses died and was buried by God. Ammann, Jordan, in the distance on a hill (capital).

- Qasr el-Yahud - possibly the site where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist (and crossing of the Jordan by Joshua & Israel). Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Romanian and Ethiopian churches - golden domes. Military zone - mine fields on right and left. Country of Jordan just on the other side of the water. K dipped toes of right foot in the water, but guide said filled with pesticides & dirty. Crossed border system to river, which is actual border.

- Drove down patrol road - mines of other side of fence. Licked leaf of "salt plant". Flour-like dry soil.

Israel 20140610-156- 1,500 year old monastery - originally a hermit, solitary St. Gerasimos. "Beth Hoglah" - Joshua 15 (dividing of the land). House of the Partridge! Myrrh incense smell in gift shop - smelled good.

- Crossed out of West Bank into East Jerusalem at 5:15pm. Rain shadow desert. Dividing wall near populated areas - Jerusalem.

June 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mediterranean Coast of Israel (Day 2/6)

9 June, Monday: Mediterranean Coast of Israel (Jaffa to Akko), then ending in Tiberias (7 out-of-the-car stops, including long interesting ones at Caesarea and Akko)

- Our private tour guide would prep us on what to look at and take note of, where to take pictures, and then let us out of the car saying things like, "You have a mission. 2 1/2 minutes." Or "Take your time: 7 minutes." It was funny and very helpful in allowing us to see so many amazing things in such a short time. He was really organized, strategic, and no-nonsense, at the same time reminding us that "your wish is my command." Need a private tour guide in Israel? We have one to recommend.

Israel 20140609-12- Jaffa/Joppa/Yafo

• Statue of Jonah's big fish

• Statue of Napoleon

• Egyptian cartouche

• view of Tel Aviv

- Tel Aviv: Hall of Independence (where Declaration of Independence was signed in May 1948).

- Caesarea

Israel 20140609-44• Herod's amphitheatre, hippodrome, palace, aqueduct and freshwater swimming pool by the sea

• climbing sand dune to stand on the aqueduct

• Range Rover driving through the sand to come out at...

 - Village of the Blue Bridge

- Zikron Jakov (walked a block through craft shops, etc. Wine-making village)

- Haifa:

• Arab restaurant on the sea (eggplant tahini, hummus with olive oil, warm pita, rice & lentils ("Majadra"), chicken kebab, beef-lamb sausage)

• Bahai gardens

• Carmelite Monastery (pretty ceiling)

- Akko/Acre:

Israel 20140609-55• tunnels and halls underground

• mosque

• layers of excavations from different eras -- Crusader, Byzantine, Ottoman, etc.

• religious tension between Arabs and Jews (5 days of violence in 2009)

• Souq market with Kanafeh ("Knafeh") delicious orange-colored pastry with goat cheese, many kind of Baklava, Croquante (nuts), Bird's Nest

• Fresh orange juice squeezed on the street
Israel 20140609-60• Arabic Coffee with cardamom

• boys jumping off the tall walls into the sea and climbing up again

• Napoleon with Israeli flag - his first defeat was here in 1799.



June 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tel Aviv Sunset (Israel Trip: Day 1/6)

8 June 2014, Sunday night: Tel Aviv

Walk and dinner on the beach in Tel Aviv, with our bare feet in the sand. Perfect temperature.

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June 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 15, 2014

How my daily Bible readings came to life as we visited Israel this past week

Israel 20140612-422Preface: I am reading the whole Bible this year in an interesting different way: chronologically through the New Testament, with relevant Old Testament passages added each day. I made my first visit to the Middle East this past week (David's second trip to Israel - first was on business). This photo is at the Wailing Wall - a section of the Western Wall at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. I'm in the middle in the green shirt with the tan hat, making my way to pray at the wall.

There are not wonderful enough words to describe our trip to Israel and Palestine, and how it impacted my experience reading the Bible (passages that had been chosen and scheduled back in the summer and fall of 2013 before I even knew I would be making this trip). I will try to mention a few ways the Bible came more to life as I read it in the Holy Land.

We were able to identify with the Scripture as we saw Israeli oak trees (Gen 13:18), tamarisk trees (Gen 21:33), used shekels (still the currency of Israel, Gen 24:22), needed to wash our feet when getting back to our room each day (Gen 24:32), mounted and dismounted a camel (Gen 24:61, 64), dipped our feet in the Jordan river at the likely spot of Joshua's crossing (on the very day of the scheduled reading of Dt 27:2! God knew!), drove up the long, steep hill towards Jerusalem from the lower country (2 Ki 16:5 "up to Jerusalem"), saw a blind person on the road in the old city (Dt 27:18), heard about people accepting bribes (Dt 27:25), and walked on Jerusalem's city walls/battlements and through its various gates, touched the stones and saw the various foundations (Is 54:11-12).

"Our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 2:4) - we saw the contrast, the bondage of being stuck in sin and under the law, with no hope, because the Jews don't think the Messiah has come yet, and in the meantime they can't offer sacrifices anymore because there is no temple (the Temple Mount is under Muslim control). We also saw the bondage of man-made traditions and religion that has been added on to what God actually says in the Bible (excessive Sabbath laws like not being allowed to press an elevator button, and excessive food laws like not being allowed to have meat and dairy in the same meal or kitchen, separation of men and women, no enjoyment of sex allowed by ultra-orthodox Jews, only as a duty).

"No Jew nor Greek... male nor female... all one in Christ" (Gal 3:28) - we saw the separation of the 4 quarters in Jerusalem - Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian. We also saw the separation of men's and women's sections at the Wailing Wall and the memorial site of King David's tomb (unfairly disproportionate with much more room and nicer conditions for the men, while the women are crowded in a small space). These could all be one in Christ. There is still a huge division in Jerusalem, so visible. It made it very apparent why this verse is needed.

"Justice to the nations" (Isaiah 42:1) - this is so needed in the Middle East - so much evil has been done, and the divisions are so deep and long-lasting. Jews, Christians, and Muslims who all feel oppressed and have suffered so much...

"The coastlands" (Is 42:4) - we drove all up the coast of Israel along the Mediterranean, so this is now a beautiful picture in my mind.

"...nor My praise to graven images..." (Is 42:8) - we saw people kneeling down and kissing objects and lighting sacred candles to immediately extinguish them and bring them home to relatives in other countries, and basically worshipping buildings, spots on the ground, or icons (these were all in orthodox Christian churches)... Churches are full of images and pictures of people, but synagogues don't have any. Simpler seems better...

"the well-watered valley of the Jordan" (Gen 13:10) - yes, indeed - brown and tan dry desert ground all around, but contrasting lush greenery along the Jordan River, very clear.

"the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free" (Gal 4:25-26) - Jerusalem did seem in slavery a bit, to the conflict between nations/ cultures/ religions/ languages/ traditions, the divisions and hatred and enmity (even between different "Christian" factions), the uneasy peace specifically for the sake of tourist money flowing in. I do so look forward to the Jerusalem above, which will be united in Christ and free of hatred.

Gen 21:14-19 talked about the need for water in the wilderness for Hagar & Ishmael - it's life or death. We saw the very, very bone-dry Judean desert. Water is life.

The deeds of the flesh: enmities, strife, disputes, dissensions, factions --> not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21) - the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is a prime model of all of the above, just horrible - various "Christian" denominations are in charge of distinct portions of the church (where they say Christ was crucified & buried, but it actually doesn't make any sense (to me); it was more likely near the Garden Tomb site), and they can't agree together on anything, because none of them want to give up an inch of their space and a war would start if one of them swept a bit of the other sect's floor or someone moves a chair or ladder. Some of the monks have put each other in the hospital (Armenian, Greek, Ethiopian, Syriac, Coptic Orthodox, Franciscan Catholic).

"They will fight against [Jerusalem], take it and burn it down." (Jer 34:22) - there is a layer of the city, 6 metres under current street level in the Jewish Quarter at least, that excavations show was burned.

"Peace and mercy upon the Israel of God" Galatians 6:16) - it needs it so much. The Jews are still waiting for the Messiah's first coming, or have given up and decided not to believe in God after all... both because they did not recognize Jesus' first coming, the One who IS our peace...

The Bible is true!!! Visit Israel if/when you can... it's an amazing experience. We know a truly excellent private tour guide, if you can go that route. Expensive but oh so worth it.

June 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)