Friday, 4 May 2012

Turkish Coffee and Skiing in Israel

Another day has come and gone here in Israel, and although it's only 8:45pm, I'm in bed and ready to sleep (Father if you're reading this, I'm as surprised as you are at this early bedtime!). I can't recall a time in my life when I have been more exhausted than I am right now. Physically and mentally this trip is playing quite a toll on me, and I'm loving every minute of it.

We started out this morning with breakfast here at the hotel outside of Tiberias, and then boarded the bus. I realized that it was indeed May the 4th, and holy did the older folks LOVE "May the Fourth Be With You" joke - I presume it was their first time hearing this joke, so I got the gratification of hearing them all laugh. We travelled north through the Decapolis, which literally translates to Ten Cities, after the New Testament. We learned that the Sea of Galilee in fact is not a sea, but a lake. The reason behind it being called the sea is that when the scripture was being translated, there is a Hebrew word that means simply "large body of water" (Yam), and as the Greek's were translating it, the only large bodies of water they knew were Seas. Interesting!

Our first stop today was at Korazim, the only synagog found with both the original as well as traditional pieces, such as the Seat of Moses. This was nice to see because it was authentic - this is an actual archaeological dig that is still in progress. We left Korazim and drove through the Hulah Valley, past both an ancient Canninite City and past the Golan Plateau (a place we would be visiting later in the day). We drove past Mr. Hermon, which is the highest point in all of Israel. Halfway through the Hulah Valley we crossed the Jordan River - meaning we officially crossed from the African continent over to the Asian continent. 

One thing that I learned today that was quite interesting is that there are many different types of sacrifices, one of which being called "holocaust", meaning burning of the entire animal. There are two tribes remaining in Israel, the Levy/Cohens and the Judas. 

To interject, it is now actually Saturday May 5th that I'm writing this. The internet at the hotel was down last night, so I was unable to actually post this. It's 5:30am now and the internet seems to be working just fine now.

To continue with yesterdays travels .. We made our want to Tel Dan, the most northern part of Israel. We explored the archaeological site of the ancient city of Dan, where we saw some miraculous archeological aspects, such as the gates to the ancient city. From there, we could see two very very VERY interesting things. One was an Israeli military camp, high up on the mountain, looking over the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel.  The Dan Springs is one of the three sources that run their course and then eventually feed into one another and become the Jordan River. 

We then travelled to the city of Casearea Phillipi, another very Roman city. We ate lunch at a Lebanis restaurant which was very good - not only was the food great, but we met some more friends, including a woman named Marianne who will also be continuing into Egypt with us. We enjoyed some Turkish coffee here. Actually let me rephrase that, OTHERs enjoyed some Turkish coffee here. I'm quite new to the coffee drinking experience, and this was simply too much for me. I had a sip, to be fair and to say that I at least try everything, but it was one of the strongest coffees I've ever experienced. After lunch we made our way up a small path, past the Hermon River Springs (a second feed into the Jordan River). I enjoyed this part because we looked at one of the pagan gods, Pan. I don't LIKE pagan gods, but I find it quite interesting, especially with the Roman influence. Pan is half man, half goat, and it said to guard the gates to hell. Much like I mentioned in yesterdays post, I don't know much about this, so wikipedia is your friend, my friends. 

We left Casearea Phillip to drive to the Golan Heights, which is the cease fire line between Israel and Syria. This is not what we would expect as a border, such as what we see in Canada between us and the United States. This is because Syria does not recognize Israel as a state, so it does not have a border. We drove past the most magnificent Crusaders Castle, which was built in the 13th century. I would love to retune to visit it one day. It was taken by a very militant Muslim group which we engaged in political murder. This is really interesting because they smoked lots of Hashish (Hash), and the opposition could not pronounce this, so it became "Assassin", where we get that word from. 

We arrive at the Golan Heights, and had an opportunity to take photos on both an Israel as well as a Soviet tank. I loved this. I am a bit war obsessed (in the sense of learning about it, not so much enjoying it) so it was nice to have this opportunity. There was a beautiful monument with a poem written dedicated to the Israel solider who had fallen. From here, we left for Bethsaida, the supposed location of the biblical story of the feeding of 5000. It was so very hot. We're well into the 30s here in Israel and it is simply too much for my Canadian body to handle. I miss the snow. 

As much as I need to wrap this up and start my day, that last sentence reminded me of something very interesting that I would love to share. There is a sky resort here in Israel, up on the Golan Heights. That is only open for two weeks a year, and it's so expensive to visit that a trip to Colorado is less expensive! Interesting, eh? 

Well, it's now 6:30am, on Saturday May 5th, and it's time to begin the day. I must pack my bags as we are in a new hotel tonight, which apparently will be absolutely amazing as it's on the Dead Sea. Lots of my people will be getting souvenirs from here, as you females are easy to shop for, this is a spa I am going to. Hoping for safe travels as usual and hoping that family and friends (and strangers that have stumbled upon my blog) are safe wherever they are also.

The Ancient City of Tel Dan, the most northern tip of the country of Israel

The Grotto of the Pagan God Pan - Hermon River Springs

The ancient arches of a synagog in Korazim

Just hanging out on an Israel Tank

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