I was supposed to have a class Arabic class, but the teacher got another parking ticket and went to the court to get some discount, and the class was cancelled. So I decided to go to Herodyum (or Herodion) National Park. When I asked my host family, they told me to get a taxi, but I wanted to walk there if that is a walkable distance.
Google Maps Sucks
When I looked for the route on Google Maps, it showed me 6 hours and 16 minutes. But it goes around so much, so I abandoned the Google Maps and trusted on my guts. Actually Google Maps on Palestine is almost useless, not even giving clear satellite images and the roads are wrong many times.
Herodyum from afar
I did not have a compass nor a map. But I had a watch, and the sun. I already knew that the Herodyum is almost direct south but little bit eastward. And if I know the time, then I can tell the four directions (east, west, north, and south). And when I walked almost half way, I began to see the Herodyum.
Sheep and Goats
It is now pretty much normal to see the sheep and goats. Can you tell the sheep from the goats? It is easy to tell because they look different, but hard to explain. One easiest thing is the tail. Goats’ tails are lifted up while the sheep’s tails are fell down.
Olive trees are everywhere
I walked totalling hour and half on one way. And I saw so many olive trees. I even felt like that it must be a law to plant olive trees wherever possible. There are also many wild cats and dogs. And on the way, a huge wild dog barked at me from afar. Usually wild dogs here avoid people, but it barked at me, so I picked up several stones in case, and walked slowly. Thankfully it just went its way and nothing happened.
Herodyum from closer spot than before
And I went closer and closer to the Herodyum. As I wrote above, it took an hour and half, not six hours and sixteen minutes. My guts are much better than Google Maps. Well, frankly speaking, I cannot say it is my guts because I was trained for this when I was in the army. I can tell the direction at night as well with the moon. It is little more complicated but not that difficult. With the sun, you need to know the time, and the location of the sun. With the moon, you need to know the time and the location of the sun too. How do I know the location of the sun at night? With the location and the phase of the moon, you can tell the location of the sun. Actually the time is not necessary because if you know the location of the sun, you also know the time.
Top Palace Model
This the model of the top palace. There are two palaces in Herodyum – top and lower. But the lower palace was not ready for the visitors, so I could not enter, but I saw it from above.
Top Palace Ruin
This is the top palace remains. That round ruin is original watch tower (even before Jehovah’s witness). Herodyum was an integrated entertainment place, having almost everything here.
There was a tunnel and water system. It goes down quite a lot, and has huge cistern.
The other side of the mountain, there was a royal theatre. It was not a huge size like in Caesarea. But it was not for the people but for Herod’s personal and private use. So it does not have to be big in size.
Herod’s Tomb Model
And there is also his tomb. Herod was buried here, of course his tomb was already destroyed and forgotten, but it was found around 2007 (if I remember right). This is the model of his tomb.
Israeli Army base seen from above
This is clearly Palestine territory, but the Herodyum is Israeli National Park, and Israel government manages. There are also Israel settlements, and to protect them, they installed army base.
This is the whole model of Herodyum. Herodyum is one of the highest point in this area, so you can see and control the whole region.
When I was walking back (I walked another hour and half), I saw a few USAID signs. It is good to see those signs because it means America is doing some good things.
Kids on barefoot
The Palestinians kids were playing barefoot. I was worried if they were OK. This is not a tourist area, and no foreigner comes here, and they looked like that they saw non-Palestinian for the first time.
Steeper than it looks
I took this picture from on a hill to the other hill. It may not look that steep in the picture, but it is crazy steep, and I had to walk up and down, up and down, and again for three hours today. People always live on the mountain (hill) tops. It is of course for the protection from the enemies (from the ancient times). But the mountain tops are less hot than the valleys. And there are always winds on mountain tops, so if you sweat, it cools you down quite a lot because it is dry here and the wind is constant.
When I walked almost half way, a car stopped and offered me ride. I said no because I wanted to walk and see the village and people. He asked me where I go, so I told him that my house is near the YMCA in Beit Sahour. He said to me that he would give me a ride with so cheap price because he is not a taxi driver and taxis are expensive. I did not even ask the price but just said “Thank you but I am OK to walk.” He then told me, “Just 100 shekels.” I know the taxi price. From the spot I was to my home is about 15 shekels. What the freak is he? I am really on the Palestinians’ side on the matter of Israel-Palestine conflict and civilian victims, but honestly, Palestinians try their best to rip off the strangers. The other day I bought a bottle of water for a shekel and half. I spoke Arabic, but another guy speaking English bought the same for three shekels. I can say that was cute, but trying to get 100 shekels from me with 15 shekels’ driving is not cute at all. So I told the driver for the last time, “Shukran Ktir, bass Ana BID-DI aruf.” This means, “Thank you very much, but I WANT TO walk.” Then he left.
Thorns in our hearts
If you go to any field where no one ploughs and works on, the field is full of thorns. And I just thought that if we do not plough their hearts with God’s teaching and love, our hearts will be full of thorns – hatred and anger towards others. Even though this is the Holy Land, the root of three religions, the believers do not plough their hearts with God’s true teaching and their hearts are full of thorns, and that is expressed by the violent conflicts between the Jews and Muslims.