Hannah and Je together

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.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Israel Trip Seventeenth and Last Day: Flight Back

We couldn’t even stay one night at the very good hotel because we got up at 12:30am, ate 1am and left there 1:30am for Ben Gurion airport at Tel Aviv.

Beginning of annoying and paranoid Israeli security

Beginning of annoying and paranoid Israeli security

When we were entering to the airport area, we passed the initial security. The guy on the picture has a machine gun. It was just the beginning of very annoying Israeli security. They are paranoid because they know what they’ve been doing.

Not like other airport security, we had to go through the security with our check-in baggage. They scanned everything, and many of us, including me, had to go through another manual check by opening the baggage. They found four mud packs from my bag, and asked me:

“WHY DO YOU HAVE MUD PACKS?” – “Because I bought them.”

“WHERE DID YOU BUY THEM?” – “Qumran gift shop.”

“WHY DID YOU BUY THEM?” – “For my wife.”

“WHY DO YOU GO TO AMERICA?” – “Because I live there!”

What stupid questions, and why do they care? Because I did not have US passport, I was checked my green card three times. Once they took my green card and went somewhere and came back in ten minutes.

The security opened a bag of a girl in our group and checked all the books and literatures and read to see what was written.

Many people go to Israel once and no more. I see why. Basically the Israel government is saying to all the tourists, “Don’t you dare come back again!”

Airport Synagogue

Airport Synagogue

There is a synagogue in the airport. I thought it is interesting. Are the religious Jews supposed to be in the airport on Sabbath? Why do they need a synagogue in the airport? Secular Jews don’t care, and religious Jews don’t come to the airport on Sabbath day.

BAYER

BAYER

This is of course Germany that we can see huge BAYER sign. Frankfurt airport is so huge, ridiculously huge. We rode an airport bus, and walked thousand miles after that. I do not mind walking a lot, but I do mind the timing. I walked fast and I reached the gate first in our group, and already people were boarding into the plane! Even a flight attendant in the first plane advised us that we may make it to the connecting air plane but we need to move fast.

Smoking Zone

Smoking Zone

This looks quite interesting to me. There are many smoking zones in Frankfurt airport, I could not take photos because there were always many people inside the box.

Lufthansa

Lufthansa

If I remember right, Frankfurt is the home airport of Lufthansa. I don’t like long flight, but I am quite satisfied with Lufthansa.

Not like on the way to Israel in Frankfurt, there was no security check this time on the way to Chicago. In Chicago, there were three different immigration gates: one for US Citizen, one for Green card holders, and the other was for everyone else.

After long flight, I landed on Chicago O’Hare airport. While the plane was landing, at the right moment that the landing gear began to touch the runway pavement, my wife Hannah called me that she is waiting at the airport terminal 5. She was not supposed to come and pick me up, but she skipped her work.

I’ve always driven to Chicago, never landed on Chicago. Chicago. This is what home feels like. During this trip, I saw many things, I felt many things, I learned many things, and I realised many things. But the biggest thing is this: I realised that I truly love my wife, Hannah.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Israel Trip Fourth Day: Ein Gedi, Qumran, Dead Sea, and Jericho

Today was the very first day that we went to the east side of the hill country, and we saw the wilderness.

Wilderness of Judah

Wilderness of Judah

East of the hill country is dry with just 4 inches of rain whole year. It is because of Foehn wind. When we came close to the dead sea, the wilderness ended and flatbed was spread out in front of us.

Flatbed near the Dead Sea

Flatbed near the Dead Sea

Finally we met the famous dead sea.

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

We ran along the Dead Sea shore, and there are so many dates plantations.

Dates Plantation along the Dead Sea

Dates Plantation along the Dead Sea

The Bible says about the honey a lot, and the thing is there are no bees and consequently there are no honey. And the guide said Bible mentioned possibly about the dates honey. In this area, people make honey out of fruits, and among them, dates honey is the most common thing.

Date Tree

Date Tree

I thought it is palm tree such as Coconut, but the local guide said it is date tree. And when I went to Jericho today, I tasted a date, and it was so sweet. I think that was the sweetest date I’ve ever eaten. I have no idea why, but all the fruits here in Israel has far much better taste.

Thorn Tree

Thorn Tree

We arrived at Ein Gedi, and the very first thing welcomed us was this tree. It is Jujube tree, kind of thorn tree. Many people believe the thorn crown of Jesus was made out of this species of tree (not this tree). The t horns are not only sharp but also very long.

Lower Fall

Lower Fall

On the Ein Gedi hiking route, I saw three falls, and this is the first one just after the entrance, named lower fall. See how the Ein Gedi is dried and deserted.

Dead Tree next to the fall

Dead Tree next to the fall

The tree is just next to the fall and is dead. When King Saul pursued after David to kill, David fled and hid himself in this Ein Gedi and most probably he saw the same or similar thing that I saw today. He probably projected himself to those trees. His psalm sings, “like a tree planted by the water.” I now think it is not just beautiful poetic expression, but the reality and to him it was the matter of life and death. He had to choose to be one of the two trees, and the situation was hopeless. He must have thought that the only chance to be the green tree is to stick to God.

Watching the Dead Sea from Ein Gedi

Watching the Dead Sea from Ein Gedi

If you see the picture above, it is green only along the water. Everywhere else is dry and dead.

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Fall of David

This was our destination – the Fall of David. After here, we headed back.

With Paula Hiebert

With Paula Hiebert

Paula is my Biblical Hebrew professor at McCormick Theological Seminary and wife of Ted Hiebert. She also is a wonderful OT scholar, studied at Harvard University for her doctoral degree.

Caves of Ein Gedi

Caves of Ein Gedi

There are many caves in Ein Gedi, and maybe David hid himself in one of those caves. After Ein Gedi, we headed to Qumran where the famous Dead Sea Scroll was found.

Replica Jars of Qumran

Replica Jars of Qumran

These are the replica of the jars which contained the scrolls about two thousand years.

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Community Rule Scroll

Qumran was actually a community of even 1,000 religious men. Whoever can join but there was three years probation. The life there was very strict, and the scroll above was the Community Rule scroll.

Scriber's Desk

Scriber’s Desk

The member’s daily life is full of religious works, including copying the scripture. This is the scriber’s desk.

Ritual Bath Site

Ritual Bath Site

One of the religious thing was ritual bath. Ritual bath itself was not unique to this community but Essenes emphasised very much, and they had several ritual bath sites when they didn’t have enough water even to drink. Above photo is the actual archaeological site of their ritual bath.

Qumran Cave No. 4

Qumran Cave No. 4

This is Qumran cave No. 4 and is most important cave. It may not be impossible, but highly unlikely that there would be another scrolls to be found, because they searched the entire vicinity thoroughly. At Qumran site, there was a huge group of Korean tourists, and I heard the leader said, “I said SIT DOWN.” Some local people said that they see more Koreans than Jews in Israel, and I also saw a Korean signs in Jericho. We had lunch at Qumran.

Dead Sea Kalia Beach

Dead Sea Kalia Beach

After lunch, we went to Kalia Beach of the Dead Sea. Paula and Ted used to live in Israel for a year and she today told me that she can easily recognise that the water level of the dead sea lowered a lot. Our guide said that the dead sea is dying. It is so sad that everywhere I go, they say the nature is dying. When I went to see the glacier on Rocky Mountains in Canada, the guide said that the glacier is dying. I am afraid in one or two generation, if the guide would just say to the people that ‘it used to be dead sea,’ or ‘it used to be glacier here.’

Sticky Mud!

Sticky Mud!

The mud was so sticky and it tried to take my shoes off all the time. I tasted the water expecting the saltness but I tasted extremely bitterness. And several seconds after, I began to taste the saltness. And I thought about the Elisha’s miracle in Jericho. People appealed to him that the spring water was too bitter. I guess that was because the spring was connected to the dead sea. And Elisha put salt into it. The water is bitter because of too much salt, and he added even more salt. It is crazy and non-sense. His treatment doesn’t really make any sense. But it worked. Likewise, I think, God’s way and Christian’s way is crazy and non-sense to other people’s eyes. But if God helps us, we can do miracles.

Floating!

Floating!

I actually wanted to take a photo holding a news paper or something, but I could not find any. There was a lady who refused to go in because she cannot swim. So I told her the body floats automatically. It feels like someone pushed me up from inside the water.

Dead sea is about 430 metres below sea level, and it is very warm. So we enjoyed semi-summer weather today. The Dead Sea contains high percentage of salt and diverse minerals, they sell the mud for lady’s skin. And I feel my skin got softer and better after the bathing.

Zacchaeus climbed this tree

Zacchaeus climbed this tree

We went to Jericho, our final destination for today. It is believed that Jesus called Zacchaeus down from this tree. I hope everyone can meet Jesus and be called by Him.

Peacock in Jericho

Peacock in Jericho

We went to a very important archaeological site, and there were so many peacocks. They reminded me my honeymoon at Hawaii.

Camel in Jericho

Camel in Jericho

And I saw a camel. Unlike the public image of Israel, I haven’t seen any camel until today. I don’t think even that camel is not for transportation but for fun ride.

Mount Quarantania

Mount Quarantania

The mountain on the back is the Mount Quarantania which means forty, and is also called Temptation Mountain. It is believed that Jesus fasted for forty days and nights and tempted at this mountain.

5000 BC

5000 BC

This is 5,000 BC, so it is about 7,000 years old.

Layers of time

Layers of time

This is the layers of time. Black layers mean the fire destruction.

10,000 BC Tower

10,000 BC Tower

This is the tower built around 10,000 BC and consequently it is 12,000 years old. And this is one of the earliest building of the human history. Actually Jericho is THE OLDEST CITY in the world.

Fortress of 1,900 BC

Fortress of 1,900 BC

This is the fortress and walls behind for fortification built around 1,900 BC. The buildings in ancient Jericho was built with mud bricks and you can see them in the photo. So far the archaeologists failed to find the Jericho wall that Joshua destroyed. Some scholars say that Israel did not really come and destroyed, but the city automatically emptied by themselves even before Israelites came. Some scholars believe that we just did not find the right one yet.

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