Israel Trip January 2010

Israel's Interesting Topography
Israel's eastern border is generally the Jordan River system, which includes The Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. This whole area is called the Rift Valley, and most of it is below sea level. It's name comes from the fact that it is the rift between the African continent and Asia, and they are slowly pulling apart. Perhaps, because of that separation, that area is the lowest on earth. If the rift would pull apart enough to let the Red Sea in, all the area around the Sea Of Galilee (-685 ft), the Jordan River valley (- 700 to -1100 ft, Jericho (-1000), and the Dead Sea area (-1400 ft) would be at the bottom of the ocean. Nazareth and Cana are on mountains at 1100 ft. When Jesus left Jericho and walked the 20 miles up to Jerusalem, He had to climb an exhausting 3700 ft. The poor fellow that the Good Samaritan helped was half way up.

Jerusalem is centered around 2700 ft Mount Moriah where Solomon built the first temple. The City of David had been built on a ridge that slopes sharply down to the south of the mountain. The Mount of Olives is another more level ridge that extends east and south from the mountain. There is a deep canyon between it and the City of David. The Old City (of Jerusalem) is on a flat basin just west of Mount Moriah. About 60 years before Christ, Herod decided to make a name for himself, and built a much larger temple on the mountain. To start with, he capped the mountain with a 30 acre completely flat area with vertical walls on the sides dropping down to the mountain sides. Our guide described it as a huge, upside down, shoebox dropped over the mountain. The top and sides are all rock. It is now called the Temple Mount. The new temple was built in the center of it. In 66 AD the Romans invaded Jerusalem and destroyed that temple, but not the Temple Mount. In the late 6th century the Muslims built the Dome of the Rock right were the temple had been. The Temple Mount and Dome stand today in all their glory. The west wall of the Temple Mount is now the Jewish Wailing Wall because it was the closest wall to where the Holy of Holys had been.

Bethlehem is about 10 miles south of Jerusalem on another ridge.
Below is our wonderful Tour Group

Jan 15
Up at 5pm (Jet Lag you know). Shower and off to walk the beach of the Mediterranean (by Head Lamp at first), nice sunrise. Breakfast at 7:00, great layout. Then up the coast to Caesarea, where we visited the ruins of Herod's Villa on the Sea. That is where they, Peter and later Paul, were taken to answer to Herod.

Later we drove to the top of Mount Carmel for a most great view of that area. Later to the ruins at Megiddo where Revelations says the Battle of Armageddon will take place. Also Saul had his armies and where many Old Testament battles were fought.

Next on to Zippori, where we visited a well preserved temple where Jesus and his father very likely worshiped.

Finally to Nazareth which then had only 20-30 families, but now is 120,000+. We visited the church where Mary was supposed to have been visited by the Angel to announce her Baby. Then on to Tiberius for two nights.

Jan 16
Up at 6am to see a wonderful sunrise over The Sea of Galilee.

After breakfast, we drive north along The Sea. Then on north into the Golan Heights and on to the ancient city of Dan in the northern tip of Israel.

Part of the way we are driving along the Lebanese border. There is a fence with signs saying Danger Mines, and our guide assures us there was a mine field following along the highway; we won't get out just here.

We go on to Caesarea Philippi were Peter told Jesus that He was the "Messiah the son of the Living God" and the disciples are given the Keys of the Kingdom. This interesting canyon area is right at the base of 7000 ft Mt Hermon. There is a deep descending cave there that is alleged, by some, to be the entrance to hell.

Next we drove back to the Sea of Galilee for a boat ride on the Sea. The temperature is now about 80 degrees at this, the lowest fresh water lake in the world (620 ft below sea level). With calm winds, our heavy 40 ft, open, wooden boat moves out almost silently. The only time it gets noisy is when I bring out my GPS and show the captain his speed. He has never had a speedometer aboard and has to try it out for speed.
Straight in from us, is Capernaum and the beautiful green hillsides where Jesus so often preached to the crowds.

To the east is high flat ridge who's top is in Jordan. There are also mountains to the west, but to the south is the rich Jordan River valley. So much water is being pumped out of the Sea of Galilee that the Jordan River no longer flows out. Back at our hotel I watch Israeli singers/dancers perform part of the Fiddler On The Roof.

Jan 17
After breakfast we are off south to follow the Jordan River.

We stop at Gideon's Springs where God had Gideon whittle down his army by seeing how they drank water.

Next we visited Beit Shean, one of the best preserved of the Decapolis Roman cities. Here we saw the typical Roman Baths, Library, Amphitheatre, The Shopping Square, and even the Red Light District.

Then on to Jericho and finally up the 3700 foot climb into Jerusalem. It is a little cooler up here, but still warm and sunny. After lunch we walk down from the Mount of Olives on the trail Christ took on His triumphant entry into the city.

We visit several beautiful cathedrals, which commemorate various parts of Christ's life. Tonight we are staying at the 21 floor Crown Plaza Hotel who's top is the every highest point in Jerusalem. Our view is something else. We did worry a bit during a thunderstorm tonight.

Jan 18
Thunder and lightening all night. One huge strike may have hit the hotel. Up at 6am to heavy rain. Breakfast and off to see the Temple Mount. That is the place where the Jewish Temple once stood, but now contains the Dome of the Rock, a very famous Muslim Mosque.

Next we visited The Bethesda where Jesus healed the fellow who had waited 38 years to get into the pool when the waters shook. Then we walked the Via Delorosa; the route Christ took carrying the cross. There are 14 Stations-Of-The-Cross that depict what happened along the way. Most of it is now a dark enclosed street lined with hundreds of shops. The rainy day reinforced the solemn atmosphere of the passion. Finally, we visit the most holy and sacred Chruch of the Holy Sepulcher. In it is Golgatha, the place where Jesus was suppose to have died. Also the very tomb where Jesus was buried. This rock had been carved from it's original location to be brought to this sacred church.

After lunch we drove down to Bethlehem, again passing into the West Bank. This is a very heavy terrorist area and we were always guarded by military carrying submachine guns. Also by then the rains are just pouring down. To make matters worse, guess what, Jan 18 is the Armenian Christmas day, and the Armenians hold the Church of the Nativity. So we had to walk many blocks of closed streets to get there and then could not see the place Jesus was born. But we did get to see the Church of the Nativity on Christmas day!

Back at the hotel we hear that we have had several inches of rain, which is sort of a record, and the roads down by the Dead Sea are closed by flash flooding. Hopefully it is better by tomorrow when we are suppose to go there.

Jan 19

Up at 6 for Breakfast at 7. Then on the bus. Though the sun had come out, the roads are reportedly bad. But our guide, Yoni, makes one final call and finds they worked all night, and the roads are passable! We are off to the Dead Sea. First stop is Qumran, the home of the Essenes. The Essenes were the writers and preservers of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We see the ruins of their village, many artifacts and caves up on the hill.
Next it is on down the half washed out highway to Masada. This Fortress-On-A-Pinnacle, was Herod's Villa/Hideout for many years. This paranoid king had it stocked with three years of food for his 600 strong staff. He never did have to use it, but in 66 AD, when the Romans attacked Jerusalem, 900 Jews retreated there and set up housekeeping, eating Herod's food. Eventually the Romans found them and set up a siege. After a year or more the Romans built a 1000 ft high ramp to the top of the pinnacle. The night before they were to enter the camp, all the Jews killed themselves. We took a cable car to the top and the views of the Dead Sea were spectacular.
Last stop was a swim in the Sea. The waves were really kicking up and so it was hard to float on your back, but we found you can float upright. The water only comes up to your armpits. Then most folks were given a mud bath. The water was cool, but the sun made it fairly nice.

Jan 20
Rain again today, but no complaining after yesterday's great weather. We are off to the West (Wailing) Wall to offer some prayers.

Next, we inspect the rest of the West Wall by tunnels under the Muslim Quarter. We gentiles are appreciative that the Jews allow us into these very sacred areas.
Then, we are off to visit the City Of David, just south & below the Temple Mount. Here we walk through tunnels that were aqueducts. These lead outside of the city to the water source. A city under siege had better have a water source that the enemy can't tamper with.

Finally, we go to the Israel Museum where we see some of the Dead Sea scrolls as well as copies of most of the other scrolls or books that now make up the Old Testament. Finally we study a very intricate scale model of Jerusalem as it was in the days of Jesus. This is a fitting summation to all the areas we had visited there. That brought it all together. The left picture shows the east wall of the Temple Mount. The city of David was to the left of the picture. Old Town with its red roofs in the back. The right (or bottom) picture shows the City of David in the foreground and the south wall of the Temple Mount.

This is a very expensive country. We only pay for lunches, but they are $10-20. Cars are double the cost in the states. Gas is $7 a gallon. Our room shows $272 per night and it is not in that good shape. A meal at McDonald's is over $15.