Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trip to Israel

We're back from our trip to Israel. This is the last of the big trips we'll be taking this summer (the previous ones have been to the Peloponnese, Egypt, and a Mediterranean cruise). I've enjoyed all the trips, but this is the one I have looked forward to the most.

Our guide Yossi was kind enough to provide us a summary of all the sights which I've included (with some editing) below. A typical day involved getting on the bus at 8:30 am and returning around 6:30 pm. It's amazing how much you can see when touring hard for 10 hours a day for 9 days!

We started our tour of the Holy Land in Jerusalem where, and as Yossi noted, all the ingredients were present for a "fire"; all that is needed is for someone to strike a match. We ended 9 days later in the capital Tel Aviv for a very short night where we caught a flight back to Greece at 7 am.

The boys did great (it's amazing what a sucker can do for morale wink). Braden spent a lot of time on my back, but he rarely complained and often fell asleep, even in 100 degree heat!

Day 1: Fly from Athens to Tel Aviv and bus to Jerusalem

Day 2: Jerusalem
  • The old city of Jerusalem: the Dung Gate, Temple Mount - El Aqsa facade, Mosque of Omar - Dome of the Rock, Via Dolorosa: St. Ann, Bethesda Pool, the Austrian Hospis - general view of the Old City
  • The Ethiopian village (on the roof of the Holy Sepulcher), the Ethiopian Chapels, Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Mount Golgotha, the Armenian Chapel, the Roman quarry, the Holy Sepulchre, tomb of Joseph of Aramithea
  • Garden Tomb
  • Mount of Olives: panoramic view of the Old City, the Jewish cemetery, Getsemane: Church of Agony and the Garden of The ancient Olives
  • The underground Church of Mary's Tomb
  • The Western Wall, the Western Wall tunnels, the Damascus Gate

Outside the Dome of the Rock

Day 3: Judean Lowland (shefela)
  • Beth Guvrin (house of the Nephilim): the Columbarium cave, the cisterns cave, the underground oil press, the Sidonian ornated tomb (Cerberus)
  • Elah Valley - David against Goliath, archeological site of Beth Shemesh (house of the sun)- the monumental building, view of the Sorek Valley
  • Birthday party at the underground crusader passage in the Sorek winery
  • Emmaus: meet Anton - the Jewish-Catholic monk, visit the Byzantine Church, the Mosaic room
  • Neve Shalom: walk along the Emmaus Road to the Dome of Silence (where we sang and got kicked out wink)

Yossi playing his flute in the caves of Beth Guvrin

Day 4: from Bethlehem to Wadi Qelt
  • Bethlehem: Shepherds' Fields, Basilica of Nativity, Grotto of Nativity
  • Israel Museum: scale model of Herodian Jerusalem, Shrine of the Book, the archeological department - the best exhibition of biblical archeology in the world
  • Shopping at the Old City Market
  • Last view of the Golden Dome from Mount Scopus and to toward the desert
  • Wilderness of Judea: afternoon walk along the cliffs of Wadi Qelt, view of monastery of St. George and the Jordan Valley

Next to the scale model of first century Jerusalem

Day 5: the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea
  • Nabi Musa: a desert walk in the Judan Wilderness high plain through the Bitumen quarries and the Muslim cemetery to the cloister of prophet Moses' tomb, visit the Aiubic Khan
  • Qumran, home of the Essenes, finding place of the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Bathing in the Dead Sea at Kalia Beach
  • Visit the Ahava factory in Mizpe Shalem
  • Swim in oasis of Ein Gedi: walk between the Acacia trees and Apples of Sodom to the upper pools of David's stream
  • Masada: the museum of the Ostraca (named clay pieces) and the reconstructed Roman camp
  • Mount Sodom: sunset hike down the eastern sloops of the mountain, birthday on the flower button, panoramic view of the southern basin of the Dead Sea, the salt shafts

Floating in the Dead Sea which is 1/3 salt

Day 6: the Jordan Valley to the Sea of Galilee
  • Oasis of Jericho: Tel-es Sultan, Jericho excavations, the oldest city in the world, view Mount Temptation and monastery of the Qarantal
  • Drive along the Jordan Valley to Harod Springs: story of the selection of the 300 warriors by Gideon and refreshing in the Roman pools of the spring
  • Beth Shean: the Roman theater, the public bath house, the cardo and the Dionysus capital
  • Drive across the Jezreel Valley to Beth Shearim, the underground necropolis: Cave of the Coffins, the candelabra relief, coffin of the lions, the ancient glass museum

The springs where God separated 300 men for Gideon to use to defeat the Midianites

Day 7: Golan Heights and Upper Galilee
  • Drive across upper Jordan river to the Valley of Bethsaida
  • Minefields of Golan Heights up to volcanic crater of Mount Bental: panoramic view of Mount Hermon and the Damascus Valley
  • Drive through Druze villages of Bukata and Masaade
  • Banias Nature Reserve: Hermon Springs, Cave of Pan, the Hellenistic cult center, walk along Banias River to Caesarea Philippi, palace of Salome, city of Agripas II
  • Drive through Hula Valley to Mount of Beatitudes: walk down the mountain on the Roman country road to the Byzantine area, Sermon on the Mount, view of Tabgha Valley
  • The hidden cascade and swimming in the Sea of Galilee
  • Evening walk on the Tiberias promenade to the sound & lights show

Standing by the Sea of Galilee

Day 8: Lower Galilee and the Sea of Galilee
  • Drive via Cana in Galilee to Nazareth: Sunday service at the Church of Christ of Nazareth, Church of Annunciation - Grotto of Annunciation, the Byzantine rotonda, upper basilica, the biblical village
  • North-western shores of the Sea of Galilee: St. Peter's fish on the shores of Capernaum
  • Gennesaret: Jesus boat museum, boat ride to Tabgha Valley
  • Capernaum: St. Peter's house, Jesus' Synagogue

Eating Peter's fish on shores of Capernaum

Day 9: Jezreel Valley, Mount Carmel and the Mediterranean Coast
  • Mount Precipice, Nazareth Village
  • Megiddo - the ancient city of King Solomon: the Solomonian gate, panoramic view of Valley of Armageddon, the Canaanite altar, the underground water system
  • Drive up Mt. Carmel to the Muhraka where Elijah the prophet fought the prophets of Ba'al
  • Caesarea Maritima: the Roman theater, the Herodian villa, the Herodian pool, the ancient port
  • Drive through Sharon Valley to Tel Aviv; evening tour in Old Jaffa: house of Simon the Tanner, Gate of Faith

Standing on Mt. Precipice where people of Nazareth may have tried to push Jesus to his death