In the Rockies

In the Rockies
Butler Gulch

Friday, May 8, 2015

Jerusalem -- the beginning

Our Lufthansa flights over were wonderful--two seats shared with my roommate at the front of the upstairs cabin with a stewardess who seemed to think she was our personal server on the long flight from Houston to Frankfort, and we had a pleasant flight on to Tel Aviv.  On arrival we were to look for a man holding a sign that said "Creativity and Madness."  We searched and looked and didn't see him, nor did we see our friends who were on the same flight.  They finally came, but we hadn't found our driver to take us to Jerusalem!  We finally resorted to the emergency number we had been given and explained that with our flight late (about 30 minutes), we had missed him.  No, he had been there.  Whatever!  We joined our two fellow participants who had been waiting, lovely Atlanta ladies in long skirts who didn't seem particularly glad to see us.  (They would be two of my favorite people in the group!) 

On our arrival at the King David Hotel, our home for the first five days, I was amazed that we were there!  Our lovely room had a small deck, and the view of the old Y welcomed us.

The next morning, I entered the dining room for breakfast ahead of my friends, to find such an amazing array of food spread on several tables, that I wandered from one to another looking for something I considered eating at 8 am.  As I looked, I noticed that others from our group were hugging and exclaiming greetings to each other.  Obviously many or maybe most had been on other "conferences" with Creativity and Madness.  And as a woman I connected with at breakfast a couple of days later said, they didn't reach out to her or did they to me.  I found the eggs, fruit, yogurt, croissants and tried a couple of items I still can't name, found an empty table, and looked for a server with coffee.  By that time my friends arrived.

Our first day was spent in Jerusalem's "Old City" with LOTS of walking on uneven streets and dark tunnels.  We had arrived at the hotel about 5:30 pm, but others had arrived much later, and some weren't the most able for all the walking.

I spent the first part of the tour more in awe than with complete attention to all that our guide was saying and was glad I had read a lot before the trip.  We walked by the Armenian Quarter, which doesn't welcome tourists, and headed into the cobbled streets, walking past many shops, stopping when our guide described ancient points, looking down through layers of stone.  Our most memorable sight early was the Western Wall which we didn't get close to as we were headed for the underground part of the wall.  My roommate and I would later go back to the women's wall and pray with women who were reading from their prayer books, a moving experience.

Before entering the tunnel that traced the length of the wall, we split into two groups, and I was with a young man originally from California, who had become an Israeli citizen and was an excellent guide insight the tunnel.  At one spot, there were several women seated, with open prayer books praying softly.  I took no photos of the women praying at either place as it seemed to be intrusive, but of all the sights in the Old City, it is the commitment of those women to prayer that has stayed with me.  In the tunnel, our guide pointed to Herodian and older signs of civilization.

Our group went ahead of our regular guide's group, so waited on the street for them with folks questioning the young man about political issues.  He was so adamant that only Israelis should be in any of the land, no Palestinians anywhere, that I walked away and right into a Christian station of the cross.  The stations are all through the old city, many only a sign on a building hardly noticeable with throngs of people walking by.  When Dena came out, she talked about the one below--where Jesus falls with the cross the first time.

To the side, both the entrance to and the walkway between two Franciscan chapels traditionally thought to mark the area where Jesus was condemned to death.  I walked the portico alone so I could give its meaning thought, the only place of quiet I found around the stations.  Then I was joined by a woman from the group, a Lutheran who was a bit annoyed that Dena said only Catholics honored the stations of the cross. 

After this we disbursed for lunch at various cafes in the area, one group, including my friends, left for a Kosher restaurant farther away.  My roommate and I went into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, up the stairs to the chapel of the stripping of Jesus garments. That entire area was filled with people, the line to kiss or touch the stone that was supposedly cracked by the earthquake when Jesus died, stretching long.  I did stop and look at the statue of Christ on the cross over the ornate Greek altar that stands over the rock, but had a hard time envisioning the crosses of Calvary in all that glitz.  Obviously others felt differently.
The stone that represents the stone of unction, where Christ's body was prepared for burial is in the area where we first entered the church, realistic enough to touch and feel what it might have been like, and without a big crowd around. 
The dome of the   cathedral was lovely, and few were noticing.  We rushed back to find a quick salad lunch, helped by the owner of a sidewalk cafe who was jolly and helpful, knowing that we had yet another tunnel to walk through.  It was the City of David tunnel that slopes down over wet-slick stones to a point where one can view the spring of Gibon, given its name by King David when he conquered the city.  It is possible to go into the spring and wade, but we did not do this.  The tunnel isn't the one King David used but was hewn in a later area, but another route to the spring has been discovered so the story remains.  This tunnel was often poorly lit and even those of us who were sure-footed touched the stone to be sure we were going down the stairs and passed along warnings of puddles and uneven stairs.  Interesting yes, but there were shouts of joy and clapping (as soon as we could free both hands safely) as we saw daylight ahead.
We had the area below pointed out to us a couple of times--an Arab community across from the old city, with a sign for a food bank, built above a cemetery, where it shouldn't have been--and the Israeli government had left it alone, providing services as in the entire city.
A very few of us stayed on the bus when others embarked at the hotel for a shortened version of the promised panoramic tour of the city.  We were taken to a great city overlook where merchants and owners of a camel and a donkey pushed their wares.  My roommate and I posed by the overlook's fence.  The foreground of the photos below show a Jewish cemetery.  Back at the hotel, we showered and dressed for the conference's opening dinner.

The next day's driver tour that took Simone and me to the Mt. of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane and other Christian and interesting sites will have to wait for the next blog! 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Hotel Mizpe Hayamim -- my favorite of the lovely places we stayed

Those of you who know me well will understand.  This in-the-country inn, organic farm and garden and beautiful grounds (and spa) was a place where I could have stayed for much longer than our three nights, with minimal time to enjoy the place.

We arrived after a late start from Jerusalem and stops at two Kibbutz and a too brief stop at Zippori National Park.  Kibbutz number one was a religious socialist-style kibbutz, one of few of this original type left in Israel.  Their specialty was bees.  They raise and sell a kind of bee that is purchased to pollinate gardens and farms and also raise bugs that can be used as pest control in organic gardens.  Our excellent guide was a woman who had grown up in the Unites States, one of several we me who had immigrated and become citizens of Israel.

Our second Kibbutz houses at-risk children and youth and developmentally disabled adults.  We had lunch in their gift shop, where many purchased items made there.  I have an art or writing tablet made of a special paper.

On to Zippori National Park, encompassing the ruins of a Talmudic city.  The first ruins found there date to the 2nd century BC (Hasmoneans), followed by Byzantine, Arab, and Crusader ruins.  The city of Sepphoris was under construction in Jesus time, and it is speculated that Joseph may have worked as a builder there. The focus of our tour was the well-preserved zodiac featuring Greek deities on the synagogue floor.  We were to possibly climb to see the Byzantine face called the "Mona Lisa of the Galilee," the most famous site there, but once again those few who didn't walk easily down the path to the synagogue and others who were ready for the hotel kept us from that effort.  Here are a couple of the Greek deities.

View from the porch outside the synagogue.

Here the "crown of thorns" bush was pointed out and Peter made certain that I saw it.

Denied a decent walk the entire day, upon arrival at the hotel I pulled my bags to our room and ran for the back door for a walk along the paths and to the garden.  During our three evenings there, I saw only one couple (from Houston) and a single doctor from Canada on the paths.

There were the early garden that supplied fresh greens for breakfast and dinner, and the goat whose milk we drank, cottage cheese and yogurt we ate, and even had ice cream made from goat's milk!

           The peacocks, one here, were merely for decoration.  There were chickens, missing from my photos.

The flowers were everywhere, including my loved hollyhocks!

The hotel had several buildings, and the one below was above the one where I stayed.  I also enjoyed a lovely gift massage in their spa.  I hoped to get to the hot tub, but it closed too early as I walked first.

The path on the right was front our back door to the hotel dining area.  In this hotel breakfast (an amazing meal in Israel!) and dinner were included in our tour so we had a chance to get acquainted with more participants.  And here I attended two presentations, the only ones I heard as we usually went somewhere not on the tour during the time allotted for talks.

Now for the food--more beautiful and bountiful than the photos!!!  These were taken at our last breakfast.

Our last evening in the Galilee, I walked along the highway to the top of the hill for a stretching walk and took these photos from there.  The village was mostly likely Arab as is that area.

                    In the distance, the Sea of Galilee (really a large lake) and the hills beyond are in Jordan.

This is my last post for a few days as I need to let my computer, on safe mode as that's the only way I get internet, rest, which it won't do in this mode--and me too!

Around the Sea of Galilee and the Coast -- Israel 2

Good Morning!

Although I will post images and write about experiences that have nothing to do with Jesus, there will be one more in this series.

Our plans to hire a driver to take us to sights around the Sea of Galilee weren't needed.  Our guide, realizing that out of the 42 on our tour, about a dozen were Christian and another 4 or 5 were interested, scheduled an early two-hour tour from our spa hotel, about ten miles away--wonderful with a smaller group.  She also scheduled a long morning at Caesarea's Roman ruins--so fascinating!

At the Sea of Galilee, pictured above, I walked away from the group and imagined Jesus and the disciples walking there.  It was one of the most real experiences of connecting that I had.  While the churches were interesting, it is more likely that Jesus preached.outside in this area.

We first went to the Church of the Multiplication, built on remains of earlier shrines, reputed to be on the sight where Jesus multiplied the two fishes and five loaves of bread to feed 4 or 5,000, depending on your Gospel choice.  The floor filled with  fifth century mosaics, has the loaves and fishes before the altar. The photo here is the best one I have, taken in one of the front aisles.

The Church of the Primacy, a short walk from the Multiplication church is a modest chapel incorporating 4th century ruins, commemorates the reinstatement of Peter after his denial of Jesus with Jesus saying "feed my sheep" as recorded in John 21. This led to the Catholic church's believe that Peter was to found the church.  A large rock in the church is supposed to be where Jesus cooked breakfast by the Sea of Galilee that morning.  


This photo was taken from the shore of the Sea of Galilee as this
was the place where we walked to the shore to dip in our hands (or feet as some laughingly did).

Our next stop was Capernaum National Park where Jesus
established his base for three years and recruited some of his disciples.  It's also a place of interest for Jews as synagogue ruins dominate the site.  An ultra-modern church, which looks somewhat like a flying ship, has been built over the ruins of a house (Peter's) where Jesus was believed to have lived.
Again, there are wonderful views of the sea.  Below the glass wheel in front of the photo, one can look down and see ruins believed to be that house.

And the synagogue ruins--

At the end of the day, after lunching at a Druze kibbutz and a wine tasting at the Golan Heights Winery, we returned (and drove through Nazareth twice but on the wrong side for the Christian sights), we returned to the area of Jesus' ministry and drove up the Mount of the Beatitudes, the only Christian place actually on our tour schedule.  And it is beautiful!!!  Everything there is pristine with wonderful views of the sea and area surrounding it.  A jarring fact--the domed Catholic Church run by Franciscan sisters was commissioned by Benito Mussolini when he was dictator of Italy!              

All of the beatitudes are on stones such as this one, which seemed the most appropriate in this difficult part of the world.

I'm including the fascinating ruins at Caesarea, about an hour's drive from Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean Sea, in this post or I would be tempted to bore you with an entire post of this amazing site.  We were lucky that it didn't fit in the day where an attempt was made to get two days of stops in so those who wanted to spend time shopping or relaxing in Tel Aviv could.  Consequently, only twelve of us met at 8:30 by our bus to travel to Caesarea, a favorite place for Deena, our guide, who was a fount of knowledge about this port built by Herod.  It was also a Byzantine capital, later a Crusader stronghold and is one of Israel's major archaeological sites.  Excavation there continues today.  Notice the different construction of the layers. There had been a Phoenician settlement on the shoreline as early as 586 BC during the Persia rule.  
For Christians, Caesarea is most identified with Paul and other apostles' ministry.  The Centurion who was the first recorded Gentile to convert to follow Jesus' teachings was said to have done that here.  Paul was also recorded as being imprisoned by Herod in Caesarea.  Others believe that Peter and Paul named their faith Christianity here although I don't know that source.  
                      Our guide, Deena, in front of an amphitheatre where chariots raced and animals fought.

Other photos below:

The next photo is an amusing one.  Herod had an idea of toilets so people were to sit with one hip of each stone and use the area between as a toilet.  One of our folks wanted to climb up and try it out, but Deena said no way.

This sign was fascinating, and one photo is representative.  
It was hard to get close enough to any of these as they were in an area where traffic wasn't allowed.

Finally, the beachfront Roman Aqueduct closed our visit.  Workers cut a channel about 4 miles long through solid rock before water was piped from a spring about 8 miles away in the foothills of Mt. Carmel into the aqueduct.

While it would have been easy to spend a day here, we spent three hours, more than at any archaeological site that we visited, included Petra. Those who went on this trip were very interested and able to walk around in the areas that had steps or rocky paths.  At other spots we were hampered by several who had a difficult time getting around.  While small in number, one was the conference director's wife!