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.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Sixth Day – Golan Heights

For the first time in this trip, I used tour service.  Until now, I just walked around by myself in Jerusalem, but today, I went to Golan Heights Day Trip.

Jerusalem trip this time was a little bit different because I did not use any modern transportation except to the Museums.  Through the last January McCormick trip, I realised that the Old City Jerusalem is very small, along with other friends in the travel group.  But this time, I am surprised that Old City Jerusalem is way smaller than that I realised before.  Last time, we walked in part here and there, but we used bus to travel between the sites, for example, we were on the bus from Gethsemane to the City of David.  So the parts of walking experience, which is Jerusalem geographical knowledge, were not connected each other but scattered in my brain.  But this time, I walked any and everywhere.  I now have complete Jerusalem knowledge in my brain.  I walked and circled Jerusalem a few time on the wall, along the wall.  I walked inside the Old City, I walked outside the Old City.  Circling the Old City took less than four hours including stopping and resting and everything, but if the people in the past (or even I now) hurried and ran in an emergency, circling Old City Jerusalem, I bet, would take less than two hours.

And the city which David built, and it not included current Old City Jerusalem, is very small and possibly one tenth or one eighth of Jerusalem size.  Now I realised that when we think and talk about the city in the old day, we should not think about modern-day cities such as Seoul or Chicago.  In the ancient days, even a modern block or two could make a city.

I am sorry to say that but it was possible because I was alone.  I am not talking about my wife but any one.  If I had any company, even a strong guy, I could have not walk this much.  I used to walk two hours everyday for six years to and from school for Middle and High school.  I think during this trip I walked the most except the military marching training.  Until now, I walked from 7am until 6pm except for lunch.

Baptismal Site

Baptismal Site

So I went to Golan Height by Bein Harim Tourism Services.  They picked me up at David Citadel Hotel which is around 8 minutes walking.  They were supposed to pick me up at 5:50 but they came 20 minutes later, which is typical here.

Then the bus went to Tel Aviv where the people from everywhere were reorganised by their trip destination.

My group was small of six, or seven including the guide/driver.  The guide is Jewish guy, but the strange thing is all other tourists are Jewish except me.  Some are Jews from America (New Jersey), some are Jews from Iran (but good English-speaking), and some are from other part of the world.

And I realised that most Israelis does not like President Obama.  The guide who claimed himself as centre right told me that he was almost fighting with “his” tour group from Chicago.  But this kind of composition gave me the opportunity to listen to whole new perspective.  The Palestinians tend to think about the relationship between Jews and them, but the Jews (right-wing or centre right Jews) think more about the neighbouring countries, Palestinian problem is not the big thing to them.

Fish in the Baptismal site

Fish in the Baptismal site

Our first destination was the Baptismal site on Jordan river, right south of the Sea of Galilee.  Speaking of Galilee, the Lake Superior is a lake in modern term, but the Sea of Galilee is a sea in ancient term which we can guess about their term of city.  The tradition says that John the Baptist baptised Jesus here, but many scholars do not agree now.  But it is true that somewhere on Jordan river.  It is very beautiful place, and there are lots of small fish.  When I put my feet, they came and kissed and tickled me.  Actually they tried to eat me, but it is just that I am too big and they are too small.

Three countries in one sight

Three countries in one sight

Then we went to some place on the way to the Golan Heights where we can see three countries of Israel, Jordan, and Syria.  On this picture above, we are standing on Israel land, the other side of the valley is Jordan, and the mountain area in the far back is Syria.  Golan Heights are right above the Galilee, and Syrians used to fire rockets to Israeli Galilee from the Golan Heights using the escalated heights when they had this land.  According to the guide, Israel government suggested the peace agreement offering the Golan Heights, but Syria refused.

Scribe in Qazrin

Scribe in Qazrin

Then we went to Qazrin, the Talmudic village which is after the Biblical periods.  Israeli archaeological scholars found and excavated this village after they annexed Golan Heights.  This is the scribe’s room attached to the synagogue.  He is real scribe whose main job is copying the Torah and side job is writing the blessings for the tourists.  But it looks like his main and side job switched.  It was fun watching him writing some Hebrew words.

Olive Oil Lab

Olive Oil Lab

This is the lab of Olea Olive Oil Factory.  They grow their own olive trees, use only their own olives to make their products.  They showed us a short film about them, and I liked the demonstrations.  Their olive oils are so tasty, but I did not buy.  They also make many different skincare products from the residue of olive, and I bought two for my wife.

View from Golan Heights

View from Golan Heights

Then we went a few more places to see the scenery.  This is the place adjacent to Syria.  But the road up there was so steep, and I was worried if the van full of bags and people can climb up that steep hill.  And the bad feelings always come true.  The engine stopped when the guide tried to shift from the second gear to the first (yes, the van is standard shift).  The guide tried to start the van like ten times, but failed because it was too steep.  There was almost no traffic which was good for us, not blocking any traffic.  But almost all cars stopped and ask if we are OK.  Even a car before us came back to see if we are OK.  The Jewish guide became so happy and said, “This is typical Israelis.  We care each other, we love each other.”  Finally the guide reversed the van and went to a less steep runway in the corner, and the van began to move in the first gear.  We stayed in the first gear until we climbed all the way.

It was nice because the Golan Heights was not covered in the last McCormick trip.

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