Touring Israel

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This is the second day of Hanukah, a Jewish celebration that goes on for eight days.

Today we began a two-day tour of northern Israel and the Golan Heights. We went from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to join our tour group, which consisted of seven tourists and our guide Menachem.

Menachem and the other five tourists were all Jews. Four were from USA, and one was from Chile. The woman from Chile was the mother of one of the women from USA. The mix of people and faiths made for dynamic conversation.

I will give a brief report now, hoping to give more details later, since there is so much that could be told and shown in photos.

Th tour was not what we expected. We thought it would include some stops at the Sea of Galilee and the scenes from Jesus’ life, but instead it was a lot of history of modern Israel and her wars and bunkers and border disputes. You can imagine how enthralling this was to Jolene! But there were many nice aspects to the tour.

We traveled northeast from Tel Aviv and were near Nazareth but it was not on our itinerary so we just nodded to it and kept going.

Went to Bet She’an, the ruins of a large Roman city, and the tel (hill) where extensive excavations have revealed at least 20 layers of civilazation, including the time of King David and Solomon.

Here is a view of the Roman ruins, from the top of the tel.

Just south of the Sea of Galilee we crossed the Jordan River to the east side of the river and then drove a hairpin-turn road high up the mountain to the plateau that is the Golan Heights. This was Baashan in the OT stories.

Went to the Peace Vista outlook, looking down on the Sea of Galilee and all the surrounding mountains. Heavy haze, so exceedingly poor conditions for taking photographs. Menachem narrated the Six-Day War that took place in June 1967.

We visited Katzrin, the Talmudic capital of the Golan, walking through what remains of the synagogue of Katzrin.

Went to a high peak called Mt. Bental. Cold and windy in the late afternoon. Saw the bunkers used in the wars. Looking north, we saw faintly Mt. Hermon. srael owns 20 percent of it, and Lebanon and Syria each own 40 percent.

Drove south to the Hula Valley, located north of the Sea of Galilee. It used to be the Hula Swamp, but the Israelis drained it to provide more farm land.

Arrived at Kibbutz Senir, so named for being near the Senir River.
We stayed in clean, neat apartments, with a kitchenette-living room, a bedroom of course, and a jacuzzi in the bath room. Ah! Relaxation.

Thursday, December 22

Breakfast at a guest dining room at the kibbutz. All you can eat of breads, several cheeses, tuna, olives, olive oil, omelets, juice and tea.

A tour of the grounds by “Buffy,” who loves kibbutz life. Like most kibbutzim, this one was originally communal – no personal property.
But the “equal work by all” did not work out, and some other aspects were not satisfactory, so this kibbutz, like almost all the others, is now “privatized.” Each person works for pay and pays rent for his apartment and his own car if he wishes to have a car. Much better arrangement, Buffy says.

This is a small kibbutz, with 500 people. It was built after the Six-Day War, on land that was formerly held by Lebanon.

Next, to the Banias Nature Reserve, where three of us walked a long, tree-filled canyon upstream to the Banias Waterfalls.

The falls are not that tall – maybe 60 feet – but impressive nonetheless, when the nearby mountains are so stony and dry.

Then we hiked another hour – great for cardiovascular health – to the impressive ruins of the temple of Pan, and a clear, ice-cold spring that is one of three headwaters of the Jordan River.

The above general area was Caesarea Philippi in Jesus’ day, and it was at Caesarea Philippi that Peter made his great confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. See Matthew 1.

Driving through mountains again, we saw at a distance Ka’alet Nimrod, a castle fortress built by Muslims as a defense against the Crusaders.

Next, on to Birkat Ram, a natural lake in an extinct volcano. This was the closest we got to Mt. Hermon, shown below.

One more stop, at the city of Safed (pronounced Sfat – don’t ask me why), which is described as the world capital of Jewish spirituality and culture. Several old synagogues, and many shops with all kinds of artistic creations.

In the distance we saw Mt. Meron, the second highest mountain in Israel, Mt. Hermon, of course, being the highest.

And so, back to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Today we celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary by bouncing around the country with six other people crowded in a van and returning to Jerusalem too late to walk to a nice restaurant. So our anniversary dinner was olives, crackers, peanut butter a cookie and tea in our apartment, which, by the way, is very nice. Very noisy, too, as we are on Hebron Road, the main road going south to Bethlehem, Hebron and everywhere.

One of the joys of being here is that we are seven times zones away from the usual hectic Christmas rush.

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