Saturday, 5 May 2012

I Support the IDF

Shalom my friends! Today is Shabbat, or Sabbath so I figured I’d start with some Hebrew, especially considering where I am. Today was a very hot day, and it isn’t even over. I’m currently writing on the bus as we head for the Dead Sea, but the trip is just about two hours so I thought I’d get some writing done now, and I’ll finish once we arrive at tonight’s hotel.

This morning had us just outside of Tiberias, at the hotel we had stayed at for two nights. I saw the biggest cockroach probably on the planet. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but boy was it big! The bird that was attacking it couldn’t even fly away with it, so it gave up and flew away to search for other food. That was how my day started. I showed the cockroach to Mickey, and he said that the cockroach has been here in Israel since the days of the Old Testament. He has been doing these tours for sixteen years now so he always has the right thing to say, I think.

We checked out of the hotel and travelled through the city of Tiberias, which is the capital city of Galilee on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. From here we got on a boat, and took a ride across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. The boat ride was so nice and smooth, and halfway through I did a traditional Hava Nigila dance with a very very good looking Israeli man. It was here on the boat that my Grandparents bought me a very nice necklace, which is a stone from the Sea of Galilee with a small charm on it. I had the option of a cross, a boat or a star of David charm, and I chose the Star of David charm. I’m sure when I wear it people will assume I’m Jewish, but that is fine. The Jewish people have such a tumultuous history and uncertain future and I see nothing wrong with being associated with this. In fact, I’m currently wearing a bracelet that says “I Support the IDF” (IDF meaning Israeli Defence Force). We got off the boat in Capernaum, where the bus was waiting for us.

From here we took a very short visit to Mt. Beatitudes, which is a traditional location on the trip, as it is said that the sermon on the mount was delivered by Jesus here. Scripture says that he spoke on a mount – but everywhere you look there are hills and mountains. This is where the Catholic Church says it happened, so they built a Church and maintain the grounds. It is very Italian looking here.

We left Mr. Beatitudes and travelled a short distance to a place called the Yiga Allon Center, a museum. Here we saw a boat that due to the style of construction, is dated back to at least the Byzantine period. It was here that we had lunch, and I had the most delicious schwarma. It’s going to be hard to eat these foods when I return to Canada because there is no comparison in quality. Here we visited the gift shop and a nice young man was demonstrating the kosher shofars for me, and he explained what makes them kosher, which was so neat. A Shofar is pretty much a horn made out of the horn of a goat, ram or antelope. It has to be kosher because it is apparently the voice of God. This means that they can’t take it from a live animal, as this is torture, and they can’t take it from a dead animal, as this makes it dirty. So, they must wait until the animal sheds the horn or loses it in a battle with another animal. They make the loudest sound and I was considering purchasing one just to wake my family when I am home, or to bother my future roomies when I move into my house in London (sorry gals, but wouldn’t that be silly?).

We left from the Yiga Allon Center and made our way to the Jordan River Baptism site, where many people from our group were to be baptized. It was SO hot at this point during the day, you couldn’t even sit on the rocks because it was smoking hot. Here I volunteered to take photos of two of the couples on the trip, Jacob and Cynthia (the younger, tall couple from Texas) and Grant and Denise (the Pastor and his wife who gave me a hairtie on the very first day from Seattle) while they were baptized. It was in the gift shop here at the Jordan River that my Grandparents bought not only an Israeli Defence Force t-shirt for me, but also five more shirts for the little Campbell children back home.

We left this place and drove to Bet She’an, which has been one of my favourite places so far in Israel. It was huge and beautiful – very typical of Roman architecture, as it has many of the typical features, such as columns, the hippodromes, and coliseum features. I certainly wow’d the older folks on the trip by climbing (past the no climbing sign, keep in mind) up to the top of the columns, where my grandfather captured some great photographs, as I look like a tiny dot against this stunning blue sky. We explored the bath houses, a very important part of Roman culture, and then and even looking back now, I feel so blessed to be able to experience and learn about this firsthand. So many people never make it out of the classroom or photographs, and here I am running and climbing on these things. I should mention, Bet She’an is the largest archaeological site in all of Israel, and it is absolutely stunning. Amazing preservation and discovery of this ancient place.

We left Bet She’an after just over an hour of the sun beating down on us and  are on the road to the Dead Sea now, so I’ll add some about the Dead Sea once we arrive, and post this later tonight. Time to catch some zzz’s on the road and recharge after a busy day.

Finally - settled into the hotel, and with internet for 60 shekels. We're here at the Dead Sea, which was one of the most amazing sites to drive up to. The smell was terrible! So much sulphur! It was interesting that you could see where the different levels of the Dead Sea were at various points in time. This hotel we're at is quite nice - but it's a resort, as compared to the other places we have staying. It's 10pm now and we have to be awake early to swim in the Dead Sea, so time for me to sleep. Shalom my friends, and hopefully all is well in your life as well.

View of Tiberias from a boat on the Sea of Galilee

Bet She'an

The Dead Sea

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