Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Visiting Nathan in Israel

     In the past, when my husband and children traveled to Israel, I've opted out because I was afraid.  Traveling to the Middle East seemed irresponsible, given the obligations I felt I have here at home, (family, work, pets, etc.).  Over time, things have changed.  Although it was difficult leaving my elderly mother for nearly two weeks, having bad cancer allows me to shed some hesitations about traveling for two reasons:  I'm healthy enough now to go to far away places and really...what do I have to lose? 


     Our son, Nathan, has been in Israel since last September teaching English to underprivileged children, grades 2-6.  He has been living in a small city, north of Nazareth, called Migdal HaEmek where he works with both Jewish and Arab students. He's created opportunities for himself to see most parts of the country and was a great guide for us.  

     We started in Tel Aviv/Jaffa (aka Yafo).  Jaffa is the oldest part of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa area and is a Mediterranean port city dating back to ancient times.  It remains a busy port, while Tel Aviv looks like any other large, modern city I've been in. It's a hub of commerce and is largely secular.


      
     Traveling north of Tel Aviv, we drove toward Haifa in our rental car.  (Israeli drivers are crazy.  Nathan did all the driving while I relaxed in the back seat.) Near Haifa is Akko, (aka Acre). Old Akko dates back to Old Testament times with just about everyone (Canaanites, Ottomans, Crusaders, Romans, Byzantines, etc.) having had a presence.  

     



          This is the entrance of the El-Jazzar Mosque, inside the walls of Old Akko.  It was built in 1782-ish.  











    We stopped at Caesarea, a 4th century, B.C., town that was important to Greeks, Romans and many other groups passing through. There's ongoing archeological digging and the finds tell us that Caesarea was a bustling diverse metropolis in it's day with homes, businesses, bath houses, amphitheater, aqueducts and a network of streets.



 



     These are believed to be storage vaults or warehouses in Caesarea.  









   
     This mosaic is on the floor of the bath house.  It's very intricate.                                                                                      
   




     These arched ceilings were in a sentry building at Caesarea.    


     While in and around Nazareth we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation...both of them.  Roman Catholics erected a church at the site they believe the angel, Gabriel, came to Mary and told her that she would be the mother of Jesus.  Greek Orthodox tradition believes Gabriel came to Mary while she was drawing water from a local spring and erected their Church of the Annunciation at another location, near the spring. 


     Next to seeing Nathan, Jerusalem was the highlight of the trip.  It's a city rich with history, diversity, and conflict, even among groups within the same religion.  I always thought Tel Aviv was Israel's capitol city, but (embarrassingly) learned that Jerusalem is. We hired a guide, Itay, for the day.  He was born and raised in Jerusalem, and served as an artilleryman in the Israeli army for his national service obligation.  He was a great guide - knowledgeable about historical and contemporary socio/religious/political issues.
   
     This is the Western Wall.  It's a section of a retaining wall of the Second Jewish Temple built by Herod the Great, dating back to 500 BC.  It's a holy sight within the walls of Old Jerusalem, where Jews come to pray. 
     The gold domed building is Dome of the Rock, an Islamic Shrine in Old Jerusalem.   



   


      This is the unassuming entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  It houses 3 important Christian sites:  The place where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified,  the Stone of Anointing, and Jesus' empty tomb.  There are 6 Christian groups that control the church, the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, Egyptian Copts, Syriacs and Ethopians.  
    




     Inside the low entrance is the site where it is believed that Jesus' crucifix was secured into the ground.  The line was too long, so we didn't go in, but I'm told there are also rocks believed to have held the crucifix in place.











     This is the Stone of Anointing, believed to be the place where Jesus' body was placed when he was taken down from the cross.  It is said that his body was prepared for burial here.












     Inside here is Jesus' tomb.  Again, the line was a mile long, so we didn't go inside. 













     Above the structure that houses Jesus' tomb is a domed ceiling with an opening, symbolic of his rising to the heavens.  Notice the sunlight streaming in the window on the left. 


     Many of the walls and ceilings inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are decorated with mosaic designs.  Each piece of mosaic tile was about 1 cm x 1 cm.  The artistry and craftsmanship were noteworthy.










     The Romans were everywhere, as evidenced by the Roman columns and arched entrance that were excavated in Jerusalem. The current "street level" is the top of the retaining wall in the back.  These columns were buried 2-street levels below.









     The domed structure is the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Old Jerusalem.  It is the third holiest site for the Sunni Muslims.











     From Jerusalem we headed to the southern part of Israel, making stops at the Dead Sea, Masada, and an oasis called En Gedi, now a national park.  Much of the southern portion of Israel is a desert called the Negev.  There weren't the expected rolling sand dunes in the areas we traveled to, but rather dry, rocky, tan-colored mountains and hills clearly created by erosion.  I was relieved to be in a car with plenty of gas, food and water as we drove through the Negev.  There's no shade.  None...and few landmarks, so getting lost in the desert would be a given if not driving on a paved highway. While speeding along we saw a few random camels loping along the desert hills.  I wasn't able to get my camera out quickly enough, so didn't get any pictures. 

     The Dead Sea has two parts, the Northern and Southern.  The sea, (actually a very salty lake...think the Great Salt Lake in Utah), is the lowest elevation in the World.  It's fed by the Jordan River from the north, but because so much water is taken out of the Jordan River for drinking, irrigation, etc., the Southern portion of the Sea is very shallow - like you can walk through it over to the country of Jordon.  





   These are ruins of homes on top of Masada - which was Herod the Great's winter retreat.











     Seeing the sudden greenery of an oasis was remarkable.  En Gedi is lush with greenery and has three water falls.




     Spring flowers were in bloom there.








     Visiting far away places, like Israel, opens my mind and my heart.  Beyond feeling tolerant of people so different from me, I make note of the differences and get an appetite to learn more...to understand betterI find myself focusing on the things we have in common.  

     When Wynn and I went to Italy, I noticed how beautiful and fashionable the women are.  While in Spain, I noticed how beautiful the men are...think Ronaldo.  In Israel it's the children that caught my attention.  Perhaps being born in the "promised land" makes them remarkably beautiful.  My favorite thing to do is people watch...

Hasidic Jewish kids playing at the City of David in Jerusalem

A group of kids dancing and raising money to fund a summer camp for underprivileged kids.

Arab women walking in the market in Akko.

A Hasidic Jewish family, dressed up for the last day of Passover.

A traditionally dressed Hasidic couple at the ATM...old meets new. 

An American girl had her bat mitzvah atop Masada.


While I was taking a picture of this door to a home of an Ethiopian Christian on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre...
 
...this man walked out.  I asked if I could take his picture and he nodded in agreement, but didn't open his eyes.  I think he's beautiful. 

2 comments:

Lisa said...

I'm so glad you got to go. Isn't it so fascinating there?

Even though we are Jewish, one of Eric's favorite highlights was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. So much history intertwined there. One thing we learned on our last visit was that that Stone of Anointing is not original/real (it was placed there in 1810, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_Holy_Sepulchre). Yet, people visit it and place objects on it to absorb the juju (or whatever, I'm not sure exactly what they are doing - but there were people weeping there, placing bibles and articles of clothing on it, when I was there last year). Religion is a weird thing...

Luna O. said...

Lisa,
It's funny you bring this up about the Stone of Anointing. Although we were told that this the stone where Jesus' body was prepared for burial, for some reason, it did not seem like it looked 2000+ years old. Thanks for enlightening me.

Luna