A Journal, with Pictures

Archive for April, 2022

Israel 2022 Tel Aviv

by on Apr.05, 2022, under Happenings

Our trip to Israel start­ed over a year before dur­ing lunch with Mar­i­lyn Faulkn­er, when she asked where are you guys going next. The answer was “the Holy Land” and she said “I would love to do that” so we start­ed plan­ning. Tony Huff­man orga­nized our trip, our fifth fab­u­lous expe­ri­ence planned by his orga­ni­za­tion. After a delay due to Covid in 2021, we arrived in Tel Aviv on Mon­day, March 14, 2022. Our tour­ing start­ed the next day after meet­ing our guide for the trip Jere­my Avon, who turned out to be a gem. The first day was spent in Tel Aviv explor­ing the rel­a­tive­ly new city on foot, while we got over the jet lag. In the morn­ing we walked through inter­est­ing neigh­bor­hoods, an old­er mar­ket area with unique shops, sam­pled some street food, got a view of the city, and learned about the short his­to­ry of the city and the country.

Tel Aviv was found­ed in 1909 as the Jew­ish sub­urb of the main­ly Arab city of Jaf­fa. It gets its name “Spring Hill” from a nov­el by the orig­i­na­tor of the idea of a Jew­ish State, Theodor Her­zl. The dec­la­ra­tion of inde­pen­dence was signed in a build­ing owned by Her­zl in 1948. In the after­noon Lib­bi Cohen joins us to show us street art, local cui­sine, and archi­tec­ture with an off-the-beat­en-path tour.  We see the work of the street artists who have achieved fame and for­tune, such as the band-aid man, see repur­posed build­ings sup­port­ing a thriv­ing young peo­ple scene and a build­ing boom that is in progress. We also sam­pled pas­tries baked by the city’s best bak­er, which were heavenly.

After a great first day, we look for­ward to expe­ri­enc­ing the rest of Israel.

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Caesarea, Haifa, Acre and the Lebanon Border

by on Apr.05, 2022, under Happenings

Moth­er Nature forced a change in the itin­er­ary with snow on our route to Galilee. Instead, we drove north up the coast and then turned inland to Galilee. Our first stop was at Cae­sarea, which is the ruin of a city built by Herod the Great, dur­ing the 22 to 9 BCE peri­od. The ruins include a well-pre­served amphithe­ater, race track (char­i­ot rac­ing), baths, mar­ket, and admin­is­tra­tive build­ings sur­round­ed by a wall and moat. Herod built a palace for Ceasar and him­self and includ­ed a har­bor. A sig­nif­i­cant aque­duct brought water to the com­mu­ni­ty. Inscrip­tions on a tablet in the ruin con­firm the exis­tence of Pon­tius Pilate Roman Gov­er­nor of Bib­li­cal fame.

Our next stop on our jour­ney north was the city of Haifa, which is Israel’s third-largest city and a major port. One of the major tourist sites is the Baha’i World Cen­tre. The immac­u­late­ly main­tained grounds include ter­raced gar­dens on the slopes of Mount Carmel, the bur­ial place of the founder of the reli­gion as well as admin­is­tra­tion build­ings. Also in Haifa is the ancient walled city of Acre, also known as Akka and Akko, which was built as the head­quar­ters of the Knights Tem­pler. This group of cru­saders was monas­tic sol­diers whose mis­sion was to pro­tect the Holy Land and the vis­it­ing Chris­t­ian pil­grims. The city had under­ground pas­sage­ways that per­mit­ted the inhab­i­tants to safe­ly trans­fer and hide their treasure.

We then drove to the north­ern tip of Isre­al at the Lebanese bor­der. The cur­rent bor­der was estab­lished by the UN fol­low­ing Israel’s incur­sion to elim­i­nate PLO bases being used to attack their coun­try. The line is marked by fences and out­posts. We vis­it­ed the place where an Israeli unit was attacked by a sui­cide bomber result­ing in a major loss of life. There were a series of Hezbol­lah attacks and counter-attacks in this area but there have been no recent inci­dents. We observed Lebanese sol­diers and an Israeli patrol boat.  The bor­der point is acces­si­ble by cable car.

The next stop was the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights.

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The Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights

by on Apr.05, 2022, under Happenings

Our hotel bal­cony over­looked the Sea of Galilee (actu­al­ly a lake) and beyond to the Golan Heights. The lake is approx­i­mate­ly 13 miles long and 8 miles wide and is the sec­ond-low­est lake on earth, 686 feet below sea lev­el. It is fed by the Jor­dan Riv­er from the south as well as under­ground springs. The area around the Sea of Galilee is where, accord­ing to the bible, Jesus did much of his min­is­ter­ing. Strate­gi­cal­ly, it is obvi­ous that when Israel was divid­ed the Lebanese and Syr­i­ans held the mil­i­tary advan­tage of the high ground. After numer­ous attacks, Israel decid­ed to take the Golan heights to elim­i­nate the strate­gi­cal­ly unten­able sit­u­a­tion. Our first vis­it was to an Israeli self-pro­pelled artillery unit in the Golan Heights near the scene of the major bat­tle. We first vis­it­ed a memo­r­i­al to Israelis who lost their lives and view tank defens­es and bunkers. At the army base, a 23-year-old tank unit com­man­der explains the unit’s mis­sion and its con­stant preparation.

On our way to vis­it a Kub­itz, we stop at what’s left of the Syr­i­an Army head­quar­ters destroyed dur­ing the war.

We then vis­it and have lunch at a Kubutz. Our host explains the con­cept and work­ings of these small social­ist units, that are scat­tered around Israel. Ear­ly in the his­to­ry of the new nation, there were more of these set­tle­ments pri­mai­ly in the agri­cul­ture seg­ment. Today less than 3% lives and work in these set­tle­ments. They engage in a vari­ety of enter­pris­es includ­ing tourism, man­u­fac­tur­ing as well as agri­cul­ture. As 0ur guide said, it’s not for every­one, but very interesting.

We then take a step back in his­to­ry to vis­it the ancient ruin of a syn­a­gogue and spring used in dying cloth. This site has been par­tial­ly recon­struct­ed using com­put­er pro­grams that deter­mined the place­ment of each stone. Umm el-Kanatir is one of the world’s old­est syn­a­gogues, and Jere­my explained that the basic lay­out is a design that con­tin­ues today. We end­ed the day with a stop at where the Jor­dan Riv­er enters the lake.  Our view is north where we will tour tomorrow.

We start our last day at the Sea of Galilee with a vis­it to the Mount of Beat­i­tudes and Tabgha. The Church of the Beat­i­tudes is built on a hill, near the site of a Byzan­tine ruin thought to be where Jesus deliv­ered the Ser­mon on the Mount. It is anoth­er Anto­nio Baruzzi design and is shaped as an octa­gon to sig­ni­fy the Eight Beat­i­tudes from the Bible. It is thought that it was in a near­by cave that Jesus first spoke the Beat­i­tudes. The Tabgha is the Church of the Loaves and Fish com­mem­o­rat­ing the bib­li­cal mir­a­cle that is thought to have occurred at this location.

Next, we explored a mod­ern-day art colony, and view some con­tem­po­rary art. Jere­my took us to a cur­rent-day syn­a­gogue and explains the nature of the reli­gious practices.

Our final stop in Galilee was at the Syn­a­gogue of Caper­naum, a very sig­nif­i­cant reli­gious loca­tion. The syn­a­gogue is adja­cent to an ancient vil­lage thought to be the site of Jesus heal­ing the crip­pled man. Saint Peter­s’s house is thought to be in the vil­lage. The syn­a­gogue and vil­lage are men­tioned repeat­ed­ly in the bible and arti­facts tie to the nar­ra­tive. A saucer-shaped church is built over the vil­lage cen­tered on Saint Peter­s’s home. We then are picked up by our heli­copter pilot “Speedy” who flies us back to the coast and south past Tel Aviv, with great views of Caper­naum as we leave, Cae­sarea, and past Tel Aviv to a vil­lage near Jerusalem.





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Jerusalem and Bethlehem

by on Apr.05, 2022, under Happenings

Because it’s the Sab­bat, (Sab­bath) we rearranged our sched­ule and vis­it­ed the Nation­al Art and His­to­ry Muse­um and got a taste of both. We sam­pled Israeli art, which reflects its tumul­tuous his­to­ry. We viewed arti­facts from that his­to­ry, includ­ing syn­a­gogues from around the world and sig­nif­i­cant ruins mark­ing peri­ods includ­ing the Bib­li­cal peri­od. We then had a very inter­est­ing lunch with Khaled Abu Toameh, a Pales­tin­ian jour­nal­ist who gave us his per­spec­tive on Jewish/Palestinian rela­tions. We then met our Pales­tin­ian guide Kamal, who takes us into the West Bank Ter­ri­to­ry to the Church of the Nativ­i­ty, the birth­place of Jesus.

Our sec­ond day in Jerusalem, Israel’s cap­i­tal city, began with a panoram­ic view from the Mount of Olives. Where we saw the City of David and the walled city of Jerusalem. We vis­it­ed two Catholic Church­es on the Mount of Olives both archi­tect­ed by Anto­nio Bar­luzzi. The first, Domi­nus Fleuit Church, is shaped like a tear to com­mem­o­rate Jesus shed­ding tears with his dis­ci­ples before his arrest. The sec­ond is the Basil­i­ca of the Agony where a rock marks the spot of shed tears. In the adjoin­ing olive gar­den are trees that date over 2000 years that could have been there at the time of Christ.

We then drove to the street that sep­a­rates the City of David which is below the ancient walled city of Jerusalem. We explored a por­tion of Davids City that is under exca­va­tion with dis­cov­er­ies con­nect­ed to bib­li­cal events, then crossed the street to the entrance of the old city of Jerusalem. We vis­it­ed the West­ern Wall where  Ortho­dox Jews pray. We then walked the Via Dolorosa, (Latin Sor­row­ful Way). We start at the Church of the Con­dem­na­tion and Impo­si­tion, the Church of the Fla­gel­la­tion described in the Bible as where Jesus was tried, put on the cross, and flogged by the Romans. We then pro­ceed under the Ecce Homo arch men­tioned in the Bible and up the wind­ing street by the sta­tions of the cross (14 in all). Each sta­tion is marked on the wall with a met­al mark­er with the numer­al and a cast­ing depict­ing the sta­tion such as each of the three falls. The last five sta­tions are in the Church of the Holy Sepul­chre where Jesus was cru­ci­fied, entombed, and accord­ing to the bible was res­ur­rect­ed. We then vis­it­ed the site that is said to be where the Last Sup­per took place. This is a long walk back into bib­li­cal his­to­ry and it’s a long day of walk­ing, Joyce’s step meter reg­is­tered over 12,ooo steps, most­ly uphill.

Yad Vashem Holo­caust Cen­ter is Israel’s loca­tion for research­ing, doc­u­ment­ing, and telling the incred­i­ble facts relat­ing to the mur­der of 6.000.000 Jews dur­ing WWII. David Olesker is our guide for this expe­ri­ence. He takes us through the pre-war anti­semitism that exist­ed in Europe, the Nazi obses­sion with “racial puri­ty” and their dis­pos­ses­sion, con­cen­tra­tion, and sys­tem­at­ic mur­der by the Ger­mans and their col­lab­o­ra­tors. The muse­um uses indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences to illus­trate man’s inhu­man­i­ty to man on an unprece­dent­ed scale. Housed in the large cir­cu­lar mul­ti­sto­ry room are row upon row of books con­tain­ing the infor­ma­tion about those who were put to death. There are also pic­tures of some of the vic­tims, In the gar­den out­side the muse­um are trees plant­ed to hon­or those who helped to mit­i­gate the mas­sacre, includ­ing one made famous by the movie Schindlers list. No pho­tog­ra­phy was per­mit­ted in the museum.

The mar­ket area of Jerusalem is a great pho­to op and to make it more inter­est­ing we are guid­ed by Deda along with Jere­my to sam­ple eth­nic foods from both Israel and sur­round­ing countries.

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The Dead Sea and Arava Desert

by on Apr.05, 2022, under Happenings

Our last leg of our trip took us out of Jerusalem into desert coun­try. We saw Bedouin camps by the high­way and as we head­ed south the ter­rain gets more rugged. We arrived at the Jor­dan Riv­er at the spot, where accord­ing to the Bible, John the Bap­tist bap­tized Jesus. We had vis­it­ed the same place from the Jor­dan­ian side a few years before (See Jor­dan trip). A dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, same nar­ra­tive, and Mar­i­lyn the Bap­tist got to self bap­tize. The land mine warn­ing was a reminder of more recent his­to­ry at this spot.

Our next stop on the Dead Sea is an ancient set­tle­ment of a break­away Jew­ish sect that cre­at­ed the Dead Sea scrolls. The scrolls were dis­cov­ered in near­by caves.  The peo­ple of the sect took rit­u­al baths and built an elab­o­rate cis­tern and water sys­tem in their vil­lage. We then trav­eled a short dis­tance to anoth­er set­tle­ment with the ruins of an ear­ly syn­a­gogue with a well-pre­served mosa­ic floor. Near­by we stopped at the low­est point on earth 1411 feet below sea level.

Our next stop was Masa­da ( Hebrew for fortress), which is an ancient for­ti­fi­ca­tion sit­u­at­ed on top of an iso­lat­ed rock plateau over­look­ing the dead sea. Herod the Great built the palace for him­self between 31 and 37 BCE.  One account of the end of Masa­da describes a siege by the Romans of the last Jew­ish hold­outs (Sicarii rebels) between 73 and 74 CE at the end of the first Jew­ish-Roman war. The siege end­ed when the Romans built an earth­en ramp and a siege tow­er, which was set on fire by the defend­ers. Accord­ing to one account, 960 men and women com­mit­ted sui­cide in the face of the 15,000 Romans and slaves. Masa­da is well pre­served with an elab­o­rate cis­tern and water dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tem and baths as well as the palace. The rem­nants of the Roman encamp­ment and earth­en siege ramp are still visible.

We arrived at Six Sens­es Resort and Spa and say good­bye to our great guide, Jere­my. The next day we explored the resort and get some much-need­ed R&R. The Six Sens­es resorts are 21 out-of-the-ordi­nary five-star resorts locat­ed all over the world. Six Sens­es Israel is locat­ed near the vil­lage of Shae­harut in the Ara­va desert an hour’s dri­ve from the Red Sea port city of Eilat.

Our final day of tour­ing includ­ed a dri­ve to Eilat where we met Gil, our last guide, who took us first to Arrona Spring men­tioned in the bible as a stop­ping point on the trek from Egypt. We then went on to Tim­na Park locat­ed approx­i­mate­ly 20 miles north of Eilat. The park val­ley includes unique geo­log­i­cal for­ma­tions and the site of the old­est known cop­per mines dat­ing to the 5 or 6th mil­len­ni­um BCE. The mines and ear­ly foundries were prob­a­bly worked by the Edomites the bib­li­cal foes of the Israelites. The sand­stone cliffs in the Tim­na Val­ley fea­ture a for­ma­tion called King Solomon’s pil­lars and the site of ancient wor­ship to var­i­ous “Gods” du jour.

Our last image was of an Ibex, a wild goat indi­genes to this region, and is some­what sym­bol­ic of the amaz­ing inhab­i­tants of Israel, strong, unique, and able to sur­vive in a very chal­leng­ing land. We trav­eled back to the Six Sens­es then the next morn­ing to Tel Aviv to board our flight to the Unit­ed States. We expe­ri­enced an incred­i­ble adven­ture that exposed us to the ancient, Bib­li­cal, and recent his­to­ry of the unique place called Israel.





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