Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day Nine

Today we got our wake up call at 2:45 AM. This was because our flight was around 7:30 AM and there was a 45 minute bus ride back to the airport in Tel Aviv. We needed to get there in enough time before our flight. We got ready to go before we went to bed but we really just took a nap in our clothes. I wasn't feeling well so I slept most of the ride to the airport. I think most everyone else slept, too. Security at the airport was a little confusing and very different than at home, but we got through it just fine and to our gate on time.

Once we were situated at our gate, we got something to drink and I tried to catch up on more sleep. My Mom went shopping in the duty free store to spend our leftover Israeli shekels. She got dates from a kibbutz, a huge box of her favorite Toffifay and mini malt balls for me. Then the time came to board our plane. It took me a while to fall back to sleep because the engine noise kept waking me up. Breakfast came but I don't even remember what it was because I was still so tired and sick.

We landed in London and this time we had time to shop. I was feeling a little better so we went to buy chocolate. We got several Cadbury chocolates because that is our family's favorite. It tastes much better than the Cadbury we have. We had to go shopping before settling in at our gate because there was added security. They had to go through your carry on bag again and then they patted you down. Finally we got on the plane and we were headed for home. I slept all of that flight, too and don't remember what they brought for food. Once we got to New York, I didn't realize or remember how cold it was until I went outside. I felt like an icicle in the frozen tundra. I actually got a little sunburn on my face while we were in Israel so it was a big change. We had another couple of hours in the bus before arriving back to church, in the rain. The trip was good but I think my bed will be extra comfortable tonight.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day Eight

We began our day on the Mount of Olives. There is a Jewish cemetery on the side of the hill with an estimated 70,000 gravesites. I thought it was interesting that many Jewish people want to be buried here, even ones who don't live in Jerusalem. Those who are buried on the Mount of Olives have a prayer shawl on their back and are pointed with their feet toward where the temple was. There is a panoramic view of the Temple Mount and Old City walls from the Mount of Olives. We walked through the Garden of Gethsemene and the Church of All Nations.

We entered through the Lion's or St. Stephen's Gate to go to the Old City. The first site that we saw was the Pools of Bethesda, in the Muslim Quarter, where Jesus healed a lame man. They are alongside the Church of Saint Anne, built by Crusaders to commemorate the birth of Anne, the mother of Mary. We walked along the Via Dolorosa and through the Muslim Markets, right into the Jewish Quarter Markets. They looked very different. We walked a short distance further and saw the archeological dig of Hezekiah's wall. The ruins still stand over twenty feet thick and ten feet high. We walked to a traditional site for the House of Caiaphas, where Peter denied Jesus three times. Archeological evidence suggests that it was a high priest's house.

After a busy morning, we traveled back into the Judean desert for lunch at Genesis Land. We were greeted by Abraham's servant, dressed in costumes and then rode camels down to the tents where we ate. The food was awesome. Abraham talked to us while Sarah prepared the food that we were served. It was really windy but warm in the mountains and we could look across toward the Dead Sea.

We traveled back to Jerusalem and went to Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. Golgotha is part of Mount Moriah, where it is believed that Jesus was crucified. The Garden Tomb is where it is believed that He was placed after He died and from where He was resurrected. We went back to our hotel, had dinner and got our suitcases packed. Today was our last day in Israel.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day Seven

We arrived in Jerusalem last night. We will be spending the last days of our trip here. We were supposed to have more time in Jerusalem but our schedule was changed when our trip was postponed because of the snow and we spent more time on the Sea of Galilee instead. The drive over the mountains from the Dead Sea to the city was really pretty.

Today we went to the Temple Mount and to the Western Wall. We were able to walk around the Temple Mount area and we also saw the Dome of the Tablets where some believe the Ark of the Covenant sat. We walked past the closed Eastern Gate, the oldest of the current gates in the Old City. At the Western Wall, in spaces between the stones, are little pieces of paper that have prayers written on them. There are two sections at the Wall. On the left side is for men and a smaller section, on the right side, is for women. We had to go through security like at the airport to get in. We walked down to the City of David and saw where David's Palace may have been. We also sat on the steps of the southern wall and saw archeological sites along the walk.

From the Old City area, we traveled to Bethlehem. First we ate lunch at a falafel and shwarma shop. The falafel was good. We did some shopping at an olive wood store across the street. I got a few things to take home. There were a lot of people on the street trying to sell us things. We visited the Church of the Nativity. We went down into the other side of the cave where it is thought that Jesus was born. The Church was very crowded. There are three Christmas celebrations here. One for Catholic, one for Armenian and one for Greek Orthodox faiths. We drove back to our hotel and had a night tour of the city. We saw Israeli government buildings, a windmill that was built in the 1800's and had a short stop at the Jaffa gate. There is an outdoor mall there with stores like at home.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day Six

Today we started our journey to the Dead Sea. It is called the Salt Sea here and is in the desert surrounded by mountains. On the way we drove around the old city of Jericho and through an Israeli border checkpoint. We were going to start the day at Masada but there was a race that had the only road in completely blocked so we changed our plans and went to Ein Gedi first. We hoped that the road to Masada would be open by the time we finished there.

In Ein Gedi, we took a hike into the mountains. The weather was really warm. At the end of the hike we saw a beautiful waterfall. This area was where David hid from King Saul and David cornered Saul in a cave. We saw wild animals called rock hyrex. There were also wild goats called Ibex along the mountainside road. We have seen a lot of little lizards, too.

We were eventually able to get to Masada. It was a fortress built by King Herod the Great. The name also means fortress. It was last used by the sicarii as they tried to resist the Roman invasion. The area is high on a mountain, overlooking the land bridge on the Dead Sea. We had to take a cable car to the top. It is only 60 feet above sea level though. This is because the surrounding area is 1500 feet below sea level. It is called the lowest place on Earth.

After Masada, we visited Qumran, the area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in one of the caves. There isn't too much to see there but it is neat. We ate lunch there at a big cafeteria and shopping area for Dead Sea products. Then we went to the Sea to float in the water. It is so full of salt and minerals that you really do float. I was covered in the famous mud by the time I got out. You can only stay in for 15 minutes so that you don't get too dehydrated.

More Answers To Your Questions

Yes, I have seen conies. There were a lot of them in En Gedi.

My favorite thing so far has been the Dead Sea. They call it the Salt Sea here.

I hugged your Daddy for you. He was happy.

Miss Abbie, Shepherd, Syvia, Salem and Jesse,
I miss you all and can't wait to see you!

Miss Nina,
I LOVE falafel!

Miss Trish,
We'll share Chester if you share Ben.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day Five

Our day started at the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount. There is a beautiful garden full of palms, hibiscus and roses, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. There is a church on the mountain commemorating the traditional site. This is called a traditional site because it is not known exactly where the event took place. It is just an assumption of where it is.

The next place that we went to was Tel Dan. The town was built next to the River Dan which is a river that flows into the Jordan River. The tel was made of the boulders from around the area. Outside of the walls of Dan is an ancient gate that was discovered and found to be the oldest in the world. It was the gate to the ancient city of Laish, where Abraham came to rescue Lot.

The last two places that we visited were in the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights are a mountainous region that are desirable for several countries because of the strategic location. We went to Caesarea Phillipi, an ancient pagan city. There was a temple to the Greek god Pan built here and niches carved out of the rock for statues. It was also called Panias. The Mount Hermon spring runs right through the ruins. Caesarea Phillipi was one of the places where Jesus taught. We ate falafel and goat cheese pita lunch high in the Golan Heights in a Druze village, overlooking a crater lake and snow covered Mount Hermon. We also went to Mount Bental. It was a military post during the wars against Syria for control of the Golan Heights. You can see Lebanon, Syria and other parts of Israel from the top. There was a directional sign at the top of the mountain that showed that Washington, D.C. was 11,8000 km away. That is over 7,000 miles!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day Four

Today we visited Bet Shean. It was a Greco-Roman city built around a tel, first settled five to six thousand years ago and one of the cities of the Decapolis. The city contained everything any Roman city had, like a bath house, theater, ampitheater and a temple. The temple was built for the local town god. The temples were eventually replaced by churches. Teachings were held in the theater and the bath house was used for baptisms. This was so that Christianity could be slowly integrated into the pagan community.

We traveled to Capernaum, the town where Peter lived. This was the town where Jesus centered his ministry out of. Here He healed Peter's mother-in-law. We saw the ruins of the ancient synagogue. It was made of limestone and was built exactly on top of the one that Jesus would have taught in.

We took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and saw an authentic fishing boat from the time of Jesus. The boat ride was about an hour long. During the ride we saw many cities around the Sea, including Magdala. We could also see some traditional sites like the Mount of Beatitudes. At the very end of our day, a few of us, including my parents and I were baptized on the Jordan River.

Answers To Your Questions

Miss Trish,

It wasn't Josh that held us up in security. It was Mom and me. It wasn't any problem to bring my crocheting scissors and Mom's cross stitching scissors into England but they wouldn't let us out with them before measuring them and searching our entire carry on bags. Josh did find a little leech in the Sea of Galilee today though.

Miss Deana,

We eat a buffet breakfast and dinner at our hotel every day. For breakfast, I haven't seen any meat other than fish. We have had omelettes but they aren't quite like ours. We have had pancakes with chocolate sauce instead of syrup. There is always hummus, fruits, vegetable salads like cole slaw type things and regular salad and lots of cheeses. There isn't any butter or coffee creamer at dinner. I don't have any idea what some of the dinner foods are but for the most part I like them. We have had falafel for lunch and I think it's awesome.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day Three

Today we visited Caesarea Maritima (by the Sea). It was a Roman city and port built by Herod the Great and named after the ruler of Rome. We saw many parts of the old city, including the theater which is still used. There was also a hippodrome where chariot races were held. There is a nice view of the Mediterranean Sea from the hippodrome. The harbor area was made with a form of early concrete and the structures were built on the sand, so they eventually sunk and can only be seen while scuba diving.

The next place that we visited was Mount Carmel. It overlooks the Plains of Armageddon. At the top of the mountain there is painted circle that has arrows pointing to different places in Israel. There have been more battles in the Plains of Armageddon than on any other battlefield. This site has become a Catholic Monastery.

From Mount Carmel we traveled to Megiddo. Megiddo is something called a tel or a mound. There are many layers that make up the mound. Each of the layers are actually different cities that have been built one on top of the other. There are several of these mounds in Israel. They were started near water springs because there is not much water in the country. The last thing that we saw at Megiddo was a water canal that went deep underground. It was built by soldiers so they could gather water outside of their walls during war time.