January 05, 2012

OAT Israel: Overview

I was privileged to visit the Holy Land during the Holy Days.  David Negev (2nd from right in front row) led our group to an amazing number of splendid places so important to Jews, Christians and Muslims:
Christianity: Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Mount of Olives, Via Dolorosa, Capernaum, Tabgha, Sea of Galilee, River Jordan, Akko, Ein Kerem
Islam: Dome of the Rock
Jews: Wailing Wall and Tunnels, Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls), Zippori National Park
Modern Israel: Tel Aviv, Ilana Goor in Jaffa, Israel Museum, Yad Vashem, Valley of Tears, Kibbutz Kfar Haruv, Kfar Hasidim

Some People of Israel: Bedouin, Druze, Baha'i, Armenian Palestinian, Holocaust Survivor, Kibbutzniks, Hassidic and Secular Jews
King Herod the Great: Masada, Herodium, Caesarea, Temple Mount
Natural Beauty: Dead Sea, Judean Desert, Gamla Nature Reserve, Rosh Hanikra, En Gedi National Park

January 04, 2012

OAT Israel: Qumran National Park

A Bedouin shepherd boy discovered a cave filled with jars in 1947.  Subsequently, Bedouins and archeologists found 14,000 fragments of the 2000 year-old Dead Sea Scrolls (some now displayed in the Israel Museum).  Some believe a Roman soldier deliberately tore scrolls in 68CE. Climate and animals caused further damage. By 2001, these fragments were pieced together into 530 different scrolls including the Hebrew Bible as well as other biblical and extra-biblical documents.

OAT Israel: En Gedi National Park

En Gedi is a 3500 acre nature reserve encompassing two wadis (David, Arugot) and four springs (David, Arugot, Shulamit, En Gedi).  Most of the time the area looks dry and harmless, but flash floods can be perilous. 
A pleasant ramble ended at Shulamit Spring.
The rock hyrax was cute but I was more fascinated with the ibex clambering onto the branches to feed on this bush without breaking the limbs and crashing to the ground.

January 03, 2012

OAT Israel: Masada

King Herod built two luxurious palace complexes on this fortified mesa 1300 feet above the Dead Sea.  Jewish Zealots captured Masada during the First Revolt in AD 66.  The Romans laid siege from eight square camps visible in the distance.  They finally figured out a way to breach this stronghold, only to discover that the almost 1000 Zealots (men, women, and children) had committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans.    
 We reached the top by cable car. 
 One of Roman base siege camps
Mosaic floors
Tristram's Starling drinking water
Columbarium with niches to hold funeral urns for non-Jewish members of Herod's court.
I hesitated to walk down to the lower terrace of the Northern Palace because I knew it would be a long climb back up ...
... but the colored frescos and views made it well worth the effort. 
 Sue and I made a spur of the moment decision to skip the cable car and hike back down on the Snake Path
 Some parts of the trail were better than others.

OAT Israel: Dead Sea and Judean Desert

We travelled a short distance from our hotel on the Dead Sea to the Judean Desert, where we embarked on a 4x4 driving adventure culminating in a picnic in Wadi Pratzim. This was a trip to enjoy the desert scenery.

January 02, 2012

OAT Israel: Bedouin Community

Our host described her way of life and how most Bedouins are no longer nomadic.  She founded an NGO (charity) to help Bedouin women.  One of the initiatives is an Embroidery Cooperative with items available for us to purchase.  Women get paid monthly for their embroidery but they must also attend some educational lectures to receive their pay - or it is delayed by one month.  

Another host demonstrated how she makes pita bread - her version is thinner and bigger than what we get at home - and complemented our tasty lunch.

January 01, 2012

OAT Israel: Ein Kerem

Ein Kerem is especially important to Christians with many holy places to visit.
Ein Kerem is where Elizabeth miraculously conceived and gave birth to John the Baptist.  Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth to share the news that she was pregnant with Jesus. 
We climbed steadily to the Church of Visitation designed by Antonio Barluzzi. 
Elizabeth hid her son in this grotto during the Massacre of the Innocents. 
Mary drank from this well.
The Franciscan Church of St John the Baptist celebrates his birth.

OAT Israel: Herodium (aka Herodion) National Park

Herod the Great built his fortress and palace 24-15 BCE atop a hill almost 2500 feet above sea level.  This aerial photo (courtesy of Wikipedia) depicts how difficult it was for his enemies (and us) to ascend to the top.  Cisterns, secret tunnels, and hidden apertures for sneak attacks abound.

 These cisterns stored rainwater.

Do these wooden supports look adequate?
Secret tunnels were used by Jewish rebels during the great revolt against Rome in 66 CE and Bar Kochba revolt in 132 CE.