Hannah and Je together

Monday, 25 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Fifty Fourth Day – Herodyum National Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Herodyum Tunnel

Herodyum Tunnel

There was a tunnel and water system.  It goes down quite a lot, and has huge cistern.

Royal Theatre

Royal Theatre

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

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

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.

Herodyum Model

Herodyum Model

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.

USAID

USAID

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

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

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

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.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Seventh Day – Masada and Dead Sea

Map of Westbank and Vicinity

Map of West bank and Vicinity

This is the part of the map hanging on the hotel wall.  The name of the map differs according to where you buy it, from Israeli or Palestinian shop.  It could be Map of Israel, or the map of the West bank and vicinity.

Gerald Halbert Park

Gerald Halbert Park

I also used the tour service from the same company.  Unlike yesterday, we gathered at Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv because the destination is through Jerusalem.  We gathered at Gerald Halbert Park where we can see the east side from Jerusalem.  The farthest line of mountains is the Mountains of Edom where the descendants of Esau lived in the Bible.

Ahava Factory

Ahava Factory

Today’s major destinations are Masada and Dead sea beach.  But before we get to the first destination, we stopped at Ahava factory and visitor centre where they produce skin care products from the muds and minerals of dead sea.  Unlike yesterday, it was quite huge group and we used big tour bus.  I had Amir, the Jewish guy as tour guide and a Muslim Palestinian as driver.  As far as I know, Amir is Arabic name meaning “Prince,” and I wonder if it is strange for a Jewish guy to have Arabic name.

Masada from afar

Masada from afar

Masada is one of the most famous place in Israel because of its tragic history.  After the Jerusalem was captured by the Rome, some people came into the Masada and resisted.  Masada, built by Herod, is cliff all around.  But they were hopeless, and killed themselves, and roman soldiers entered easily.  Masada is truly unbreakable place.  All other mountains in the area is cliff, but the tops are all connected but only Masada is separated and cliff all around.

Model of Masada

Model of Masada

This is the model of Masada, and you can see it is cliff all around.  The most amazing thing is that Herod built amazing town and even his palace on the Masada.  It is crazy difficult just climb there but they moved all the huge stones and jars three times bigger than me.

Masada Cablecar

Masada Cable car

There is a very nice cable cars in Masada from the visitor centre to the top of Masada.  Actually I asked Amir, my tour guide, if I can walk up the Masada.  He said they do not allow people to walk up after 9 in the morning because it is too hot.  He, then, checked the temperature and said “This is over 43 degree, and if you walk up that steep hill for more than forty minutes, you may die.” For Americans, 43 celsius is about 110 fahrenheit.

Snake path from above

Snake path from above

This is the walk path, named Snake path.  Even Josephus mentioned this path.  Believe me, this is the most levelled and widest part of the path.  When I got off the bus, the enormous heat from the ground chalked my breath and the sun rays were so strong that I even felt it was pricking my skin.  I am glad that I did not walk.

Original Wall painting in Masada

Original Wall painting in Masada

When we walk up there, all buildings have black lines.  Above the line is renovated by scholars, but below the black line is original and untouched at all.  The painting on the wall is genuine from the Herod’s era.  How amazing that the painting is so lively preserved!

Herod's Palace on the edge of Masada

Herod’s Palace on the edge of Masada

At the edge of the Masada, Herod built three level’s palace for himself.  This is the second level viewed from the top-level.  Herod, Herod, Herod.  McCormick group may remember that we heard his name every single day no matter where we go.  If not him, Jews and Israel would have had almost nothing because he built almost everything.

Ritual Bath of Masada

Ritual Bath of Masada

Amir the tour guide said that Herod was (or at least tried very hard) more Jewish than Jews, and more roman than Romans.  This is one of the more Jewish thing for him.  He built ritual bath and baptismal bath upon the high Masada.  And all the arts in Masada is just pattern.  There is not even single image of anything such as animal or human.

Hot Bath on Masada

Hot Bath on Masada

This is another proof that he was more roman than Romans.  He equipped Masada with cold and hot bath.  And this is the hot bath.  The bottom part is where they make fire and burn stuff which would heat up the floor, and the floor eventually heat up the water.  The smoke escapes through the channel, and out of the root side, so the people in the bath place would not small anything.

Small Cistern on Masada

Small Cistern on Masada

This is desert area, where there is almost no rain.  I mean, almost.  The guide said it rains two or three times a year, sometimes once in three years.  To survive in the place like Masada, they have to gather and store the rain water, even a drop.  This is a cistern upon Masada, and it is small one.

Model for Rain water collecting system of Masada

Model for Rain water collecting system of Masada

Herod built another system, way bigger system to collect the rain water from all neighbouring areas, using the gravity, he stored the water under Masada.  Because of the great water system, the Jews protesting had enough water while Roman soldiers had trouble because of no water – they got the water from Ein Gedi which is very far from here.  Well, I have to say that it is very un-roman.

Synagogue on Masada

Synagogue on Masada

To be more Jewish, Herod also built a synagogue upon Masada.  This is the synagogue, and it also has scribe’s room.  I saw another scribe was working here, as in Qazrin, writing and selling blessings to the tourists.

Dovecot on Masada

Dovecot on Masada

What did they eat?  They found lots of dates pits (they even planted the pits and it became the actual date tree – revived in 2,000 years)  They also had a dovecot where they kept and grew doves, which is Kosher meat with right amount of portion.  Cow or bull is very hard to raise in Masada, and even bringing them up would have been impossible.  The cow provides too much meat, but the dove has right amount of meat to be a meal for couple of people.  This is the dovecot on Masada.  How can’t I say Herod the great!

View from Masada Restaurant

View from Masada Restaurant

This is the view from the Masada restaurant through the window.  Oh how beautiful the dead sea is!

Reading on the Dead Sea

Reading on the Dead Sea

Then we went to the Dead Sea Mineral Beach.  It is my second time to be in the dead sea.  It is always fun to be there and play reading which I cannot actually read (it was Arabic paper).

Dead Sea skincare

Dead Sea skin care

This time, I covered myself with the dead sea mud.  Even now, late at night, my skin is very soft and smooth, and I love my skin so much!!

Hot Mineral Spa of Dead Sea

Hot Mineral Spa of Dead Sea

They also have “free” hot spa with the dead sea water.  As you may know, dead sea water is ten times saltier than the sea water.  If you taste it, you will not taste saltiness, but the extreme bitterness.  You can taste a little bit, but you should not drink it.  The guide said if you drink a cup, you will die.

Rocket trail on the sky

Rocket trail on the sky

Then we came back to Jerusalem and I got off at David Citadel Hotel.  It was beautiful day.  Look at the picture above.  How beautiful it is!  I cross the road and I looked up the sky at Mamilla Street and King Solomon Street, which is the entrance to the Mamilla mall, and which is five minutes walk from my hotel.  There was a rocket flying and coming down, but it was shot down in the sky.  My crappy camera was not fast enough to take the photo of it, but it just got the trace of it.  Does it look like a cloud or aircraft trace?  It is actually the rocket trace from Hamas that reached Jerusalem!  I circled the rocket trace with black pencil so that it can be easily spotted.

The CNN news says that the number of casualties of Palestinians and Israelis are 81:0.  This is just one of the many big news here.  The news talks more about US immigration, US-Germany spy, and massive shooting in Texas.

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