Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Israel Pictures, Take 7

Day 7: Ein Gedi (the oasis in the Judean Desert where David found refreshment); Camel rides at sea level; Masada (the fortress built by Herod the Great, later utilized by the Jewish zealots to fend off the Romans for three years.  Masada pictures will have a separate post); The Dead Sea.


This post will contain only pictures from Masada and the Dead Sea.


Nine members of our group decided to hike up Masada rather than to ride the cable car - all six of the Hamiltons (I was planning to ride up, but I was determined not to be the only Hamilton who didn’t climb), Sam & Tim Wolkowicz, and Andrew Hemingway.  There is a serpentine path, aptly named the Snake Path which winds it’s way up to Masada.  Our guide, Shimon, has climbed Masada in 14 minutes with the army.  From our group, Ben finished first in about 20 minutes, and I came in dead last in about 35 minutes.


This is Ben, Meredith, and Evan beginning the ascent up to Masada via the Snake Path.



This is the view of the Dead Sea and Judean Valley from halfway up the Snake Path.



Looking down on the last part of the Snake Path from the top of Masada.



Ben and Andrea at the top of Masada.



This is a model of King Herod’s fortress on Masada.  His palace, private bathhouse, and terrace were on the side of the cliff.  The top of Masada housed the many granaries and store rooms and also served as a place to grow crops.  Because of the numerous water cisterns and the dozens of large storerooms, Masada was invincible to siege for a very long time.



The Israeli flag blowing in the wind on Masada.



The Judean Desert from the North side of Masada.



This view shows just a few of the large granaries and storerooms.



The Jewish zealots held Masada from the Roman legion after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.  When it was apparent that they could not win, they chose to kill their families and then themselves rather than be taken as slaves.   This is a plaque showing the ten lots that were drawn with the names of the men who would kill each other before the last one committed suicide.  They chose murder over suicide, thus leaving only one man to lose his life in the shame of suicide.



The large square in the center of the picture marks one of the camps used by the Romans as they laid siege to Masada.  The area marked off at the upper left-hand corner would have been the General’s camp.



Ben on top of Masada.



Just one of many large cisterns that provided water on Masada.  Inside is a pile of catapult stones that landed in the cistern, shot from the Roman camp below.



Our group on Masada.  Back row: John Neiner, Andrew Hemingway, Evan, Dad/Jim, Ben, Joe Walkowicz, Sam Walkowicz, Pastor Neiner, Pat Scott, Pastor Baumgartner.  Front row: Tim Wolkowicz, Meredith, Sissy/Mom, Sharon Scott, Rich Kirby.





The Dead Sea.  Our hotel in Jerusalem had a sister hotel at the Dead Sea.  We were allowed to use the spa there.  Several members of our group went swimming in the Dead Sea.  It was too cold outside for me, so Ben and I used the pool under the hotel.  It is Dead Sea water, so we were still able to float.  The salt and minerals allowed you to feel every scrape and cut and boo-boo on your body.


We were very tired at the end of the day, and many of us slept on the bus ride back to Jerusalem.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Israel Pictures, Take 6

Day 6: Rabbinical Tunnel tour underneath the Western Wall; Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum); Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea Scrolls Museum); Jerusalem model from the Second Temple Period.



We started off with a tour underground of the Rabbinical tunnel that has been excavated around the Western Wall.  In some places they have gone down to the original road of the Second Temple period.  Here are my feet and Ben’s feet on that road – Jesus probably walked on the same road!


We spent a good part of the day at the Holocaust Museum.  Pictures are not allowed.  They have a memorial to all of the children killed during the Holocaust.  With mirrors and candles it appears as if there are millions of candles flickering – one for each child that was lost.  There is also a plaque for each of the Righteous throughout the garden.  The Righteous are those who helped the Jews escape or hide from the enemy.  One story was of an older man who collected and protected children and orphans.  He was successful in hiding them, only to be discovered and executed just months before the end of the war.  There is also a room with the records of every Jew from the Holocaust – whether they lived or died.  Family members can submit information or search there to see if anyone else has information on their loved ones.


PICT0277 (1)

Outside of the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed, is an impressive model of Jerusalem from the Second Temple period.  It is built to scale, and I was struck by the size of the Temple Mount in comparison to everything else.  I never realized it was that large before.  This picture shows the Eastern side of the Temple Mount.



This is a close-up of the Holy of Holies and the court outside of it.


Day 7: Ein Gedi (the oasis in the Judaean Desert where David found refreshment); Camel rides at sea level; Masada (the fortress built by Herod the Great, later utilized by the Jewish zealots to fend off the Romans for three years.  Masada pictures will have a separate post); The Dead Sea.



Our bus pulled off near the sign that marked Sea Level (we were headed south to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth).  We were going to take some pictures.  There was a camel on the side of the road.  Meredith, my sister-in-law, went up to the camel.  All of the sudden this little Arab man appeared and started yelling “Spit, spit, spit.”  I guess he was warning Mere that the camel might spit! 


Shimon, our guide, had told us that you can get on the camel.  “They never charge you to get on.  They only charge when you want to get off!”  We paid our fifteen shekels for a photo-op ride on the camel.  The man would hiss at the camel, and it would fold its legs underneath himself and sit on a carpet.  After you mounted, the man would make another sound and the camel would stand up.  He guided the camel over to the “sea level” sign and said, “Picture please.”  Then he moved the camel to have the desert scenery in the background and said, “Picture with desert.”  And then your ride was over!



Ben and I rode the camel at the same time.  This is our “Picture with desert!”



Pastor Neiner, Ben’s pastor from Massachusetts was convinced to take a ride!



Here is the Hamilton family at Sea Level in Israel – Sissy/Mom and Ben in the back, Dad/Jim, Meredith, Evan, and Andrea in front.



This is Ben & Andrea at Sea Level.



This is the oasis at Ein Gedi where David found refreshment in the wilderness.  There is a spring/waterfall right in the middle of the desert.  There are numerous caves throughout the desert hills where David probably hid from King Saul.



As we were leaving Ein Gedi there was a “herd” of these little deer like animals.  I can’t remember what they were called, but perhaps they were the “hinds” that David speaks of in the Psalms.  Tim and Sam Walkowicz were feeding them.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Windows Live Writer

My Mom & Dad


I just discovered Windows Live Writer to make blogging easier!  My pictures are inserted in a flash, and they don’t mess up the spacing in my paragraphs anymore!  Plus I can do cool things…like turn this picture of my parents into a polaroid!  Pretty cool stuff…

Israel Pictures, Take 5

Day 5: Walked down the Mt. of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Cemetery overlooking the tombs of the prophets; Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem; Via Dolorosa; Upper Room and the tomb of King David; Wailing (Western) Wall;  Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Catholic); Pools of Bethesda; Shopping at Ben Yehuda street at the end of the Sabbath.



This is the view of the Jordan Valley from the top of Mt. Scopus.  The Mt. of Olives sort of has two peaks.  They used to be known collectively as the Mt. of Olives.  Now they are separate – the Mt. of Olives and Mt. Scopus.



This is the view of the Dome of Rock, which sits upon the Temple Mount, from Mt. Scopus.


PICT0229This is an Aloe Vera plant.  It was huge!  It had to be at least three feet tall.  I took this one for you, Mom.



This is the Eastern Gate.  The Muslims have walled it up, and put a graveyard on the other side.  They think that the graveyard will stop Jesus from returning through the Eastern Gate as prophesied because He would defile Himself with the graveyard.



This is an olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It is believed to be 2,000 years old.  It is hallow in the trunk, so it is impossible to determine it’s exact age.  (Actually, they store the gardening tools in the trunk of this tree).  It still produces olives!

Funny note.  Shimon, our guide, told us that we can’t know exactly how old this tree is.  As we passed by, I heard the guide from another group saying (in his Israeli accent), “This tree is believed to be 2,000 years old. I personally can tell you that it is exactly two thousand and twenty years old!”  I wonder how he knew that…



This is the cemetery where many of the prophets are believed to be buried.  Men who have served in the temple are also buried here.  It looks directly to the Temple Mount, and it is on the same level as the Temple Mount (there is a valley in between).  Shimon told us that to be buried here, overlooking the temple mount, you will pay at least $300,000! 

The cave with the pillars in front is the burial place of a family who served in the first temple (Solomon’s temple).  The square monument to its left with the pointed roof is the grave of the prophet Zechariah.  (It’s a monument to him at least.  We don’t know if his bones are actually there).  There was another monument, not in my picture, which is the grave of Absalom, King’s David’s son.


PICT0245 This is the Zion Gate.  We walked through it to begin our trek on the Via Dolorosa.  Can you see the bullet holes in the stone all around it?  They are from the 1967 war.



These are the ruins of the wall that surrounded the First Temple.  Most of the ruins and walls that we saw were from the Second Temple period.



These are the Pools of Bethesda where the animals for the sacrifices were washed and prepared before entering the temple.


At the end of the night ten of us took taxis to a shopping street call Ben Yehuda street.  We were told that it was very lively at the end of the Sabbath.  Many of the souvenir stores were open, but the others remained closed.  There was a lively group singing and dancing in one part.  We took a vote as to whether we should walk back, or pay for the taxis again.  Everyone voted to walk and save the money, except Andrew Hemingway and John Neiner.  It had rained off and on all day, but it wasn’t raining now, so why not walk to the hotel?  It wasn’t far.  Just as we began our journey, the heavens let loose.  We trudged all the way home in the pouring rain.  Andrew had the map, so he led the way.  I was impressed that he stopped three times to ask for directions and make sure we were headed the right direction.  When we arrived at our hotel, the concierge laughed at us because we had walked in the rain. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Works for Me: the Placemat Purse

I haven't published a Works for Me Wednesday post in quite some time. This blog carnival is now hosted at "We Are That Family".

Today I was feeling crafty so I finally put together my placemat purse. I have had the supplies on hand for a little while. And while I was at it, I decided to make it into a WFMW tip.

This is the placemat purse. My mom made one for me while I was in college. It has been used as a purse, a Bible bag, and a little bag for miscellaneous items, and many other things that I just can't remember right now.

You can make your own placemat purse very easily. Just purchase a placemat in your color of choice, some trim, and ribbon for the handles. Sew the handles and trim on first. Then stitch up the sides, right sides together. You can stitch across the corners to make it stand up better. I got this placemat on clearance for a buck. It took me a half hour to stitch.

It is just the right size for my pouchee purse organizer! (I actually found out about the pouchee from someone else's Works for Me Wednesday tip). Check out more WFMW tips at "We Are That Family".

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Israel Pictures, Take 4

Day 4: Friday, February 27, 2009 - Bet Alfa mosaic synagogue floor; Bet She'an (the city where Saul's armour was put on display after his death); Qumran (discovery place of the Dead Sea scrolls); Jerusalem - traditional blessing at the Western Wall; Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity).

The mosaic floor discovered in the old synagogue in Bet Alfa. Interestingly, the mosaic is of the zodiac, which would have qualified as making an image in the synagogue. The mosaic gives the story of the men of the synagogue hiring someone to do the mosaic for them, thus they were not guilty of making the image. Below the mosaic is the story of Abraham offering Isaac on Mt. Moriah.

These are some of the ruins of the Roman city of Bet She'an. The ancient city, where Saul's armour hung, is up on the hill (top right corner of green hill in picture - also see next picture). The village of Bet She'an had very high unemployment. Once the hippodrome was discovered, they decided to employ the townspeople by digging for the city. This is what they unearthed! Unfortunately, it started to downpour just as we entered the ruins. We saw the amphitheatre, the bathhouses, and the Cardo (main street) and then we made a mad dash for the bus!

The ancient city of Bet She'an

This is the cave at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Qumran is the settlement of the Essene sect that left Jerusalem in order to concentrate more fully on the Scriptures and living a pure life. We saw the ruins of many, many ritualistic baths used by the society. The Essenes hid the scrolls in the cave when discovery by the Romans was imminent.

This is a view of the Dead Sea (and the country of Jordan on the other side) from Qumran.

While at Qumran we received the news that it was pouring rain in Jerusalem. The rain was much needed - only the second rain of the winter.

When we arrived in Jerusalem the bus driver pulled up to the curb on a narrow street and we were told to unload for a quick trip. Then our guide, Shimon, asked us to wait. We waited. In the rain. Soon he returned and followed him - in the pouring rain - to a security booth and metal detectors. We had no idea where we were, or what was happening. We passed through security. The rain was driving in sheets, and the wind turned our umbrellas inside out. We were quickly soaked. I thought we were going to dash to the other side of the plaza where shelter was visible. But as we reached the middle of the plaza, we stopped and Shimon began pouring cups of grape juice! This was insane! We were the only group standing in the pouring rain in the middle of a plaza...to have grape juice? Apparently it is a tradition upon arriving in Jerusalem. The plaza led to the Western Wall. Shimon quickly said the traditional blessing, we downed our juice, and ran back to the bus. It was too late. We were drenched beyond repair. But, as Shimon said...now we will never forget it!!!

Bethlehem is governed by the PLO, so our bus driver and Shimon were unable to accompany us into the city. We went to a "neutral" area and a "Christian" bus picked us up to conduct our tour of Bethlehem. All of this transfer occurred in the rain. Our guide was Gabriella, and she was a master of at least seven languages (that I counted). She took us to the Church of the Nativity. Since the streets and plazas are made of stone, the water does not soak into the ground. We sloshed through many puddles and rivers on our way to the church. The church is not well maintained - well, at least the roof isn't. The were leaks in many places. It is a huge stone church, with high ceilings, and of course it isn't heated. We had to wait in line to view to the supposed place of the manger. Our feet were soaked, and it was very cold in the church.

The church is built over the caves that used to be the dwelling places of the area. They believe the inn of the Luke 2 passage was a cave, and that Mary went farther into the cave to find privacy for the birth of Christ. The altar and the area leading to the cave was very gaudy looking. We stooped down into a lower room, and here there was an altar which Helena (Constantine's mother) had decided was the place of the manger in which Jesus was laid. The place was marked with a 14 point star, to represent the fourteen generations from Abraham to David, from David to the captivity, and from the return from captivity to Jesus (Matt. 1).

Once we left the church we stopped at an olive wood workshop, and then the souvenir shop before rejoining our bus and guide. We cheered as we left the Palestinian area and were safe aboard our own bus.

The next stop was our Jerusalem hotel, hot showers, dry clothes, and a great dinner.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Israel Pictures, Take 3

Day 3: Mt. Tabor (the traditional site of the Transfiguration, although Mt. Hermon may be a better option); Cana and Nazareth; Ruins of the City of Megiddo overlooking the Valley of Armageddon; Baptismal site at the Jordan River.

This is the first restaurant I saw as we were walking through Cana. It made me laugh!

This is the entrance to the traditional site of Joseph of Nazareth's home and workshop. Constantine's mother, Helena, did us all the favor of marking all of the "holy sites" and placing a shrine or Catholic church on site. There are several caves that have been excavated underneath this church in Nazareth which used to be the dwelling places of the people of Nazareth. It is possible, and even likely, that Jesus may have played in or near these very caves as a child growing up in Nazareth.

This is Mount Tabor, visible from the City of Megiddo.

This is the Valley of Megiddo. In the New Testament it is called the Valley of Armageddon, and we know it as the place where the last battle will occur. As you may know, I have been reading through the Left Behind books by Tim LaHaye. I have been reading a fictional account of the last battle, and many of the names, places, and geography in the book did not make sense to me. I think that the city of Megiddo, overlooking the Armageddon Valley, was my favorite stop on this trip (if I have to choose a favorite) because it put everything into perspective that I have been reading. Reading the books has made me want to study more about the End Times also.

When you are on top of an ancient city overlooking a vast valley which has never been built up, standing on a major crossroads between Egypt and the rest of the world, it is easy to imagine the Saints following Jesus Christ into battle with the Antichrist. I am glad that in that day I will be on the winning side!

Several decisive battles have already been fought in this location, including the battle in which King Josiah was fatally wounded. Because of its strategic location, the ancient City of Megiddo has been conquered and rebuilt at least 25 times. At some places in the ruins, the different levels are visible.

Andrea and Ben overlooking the Megiddo Valley

These are some of the horse troughs from the stables of King Solomon at Megiddo. He had several stables to house hundreds of horses. Many of the troughs and horse-posts were intact when the city was excavated.

At the end of the day we stopped at the Jordan river at the location where Jesus may have been baptized by John. Visitors can "rent" a baptismal robe and be baptized in the Jordan river. A special treat on our trip was the salvation of two members of our group. A man in our group, Rich Kirby, has been praying for his friends Pat and Sharon Scott for many, many years. The night before, Rich was blessed to be able to lead Pat to Christ. As we were already stopping at the Jordan River, Rich was given the privilege of baptizing his friend in the Jordan River.

Outside of the entrance there was a passage from Mark telling the story of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. This passage was translated into many different languages. Here is Ben, my seminary student, between the Greek and Hebrew versions.