A Travellerspoint blog

Israel

The Way of the Cross

Pool of Bethesda, Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Garden Tomb

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Today we went to the traditional places for the trial, death, and burial/resurrection of Jesus. I say the traditional places because none of these are known for certain and some are now known to be incorrect.

We started with the Pool of Bethesda and the Church of Saint Anne which was built to commemorate the site. Our guide told us that the account of Jesus healing the blind man at the Pool of Bethesda was reflective of Jewish syncretistic practices throughout history in that they would incorporate pagan beliefs of other peoples into their belief system and rename the practice. In this case, it was a god of healing from the Greek worship of Asclepius (same god from which we get the medical symbol in our culture, the 2 entwined snakes on a pole). They believed that their god of healing would “stir up the waters” and the first one into the water when they were disturbed would be healed. According to our Jewish guide, the Jews of Jesus day had absorbed this practice into their belief system, renaming the motive force “an angel of the Lord” instead of a pagan god. There is a great deal of volcanic activity in Israel and it is possible that some sort of subterranean gases were periodically introduced into the pool that gave it some sort of healing qualities, but this is conjecture.
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The Church of St. Anne, itself, was built by the Crusaders in 1030 AD. It has the most wonderful acoustics. After we looked at the ruins of the pool, and had a teaching about the paralytic, all 215 of us went into the sanctuary and sat. One of the Moody staffers led us in 2 acapella hymns: It Is Well With My Soul, and Amazing Grace. It was awe-some, in the original meaning of the word. Those who knew the harmonies sang them and the rest sang the melody. It was like being part of a massive human organ whose song filled and resonated throughout the church.
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Next we went to the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows, which contains what the Catholics call the Stations of the Cross. The Catholic Church says that there are 14 locations at which significant events took place between Jesus sentencing and His crucifixion, but only 8 are specifically mentioned in the Bible. We began at the door of the Antonio Fortress and ended up at the Church of the Holy Sepulcre.
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Our guide stated that this particular path was used after Emperor Constantine, that prior to then, the path started at Herod’s palace. Why did they begin there? He said that according to Josephus, Pontius Pilate had been staying with Herod that week. If Josephus was correct, it makes sense for Jesus to have started from there.

The following is deduced from conversations I’ve had, but I haven’t researched it; Ramadan ended on Monday and was followed up by a 3 day feast where everyone (Muslim) stays home and businesses are closed. The Via Dolorosa is in the Palestinian quarter of Jerusalem.
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So when we were following the Via Dolorosa, instead of having 40 of us struggle through the crowds of shoppers at all the little business stalls along the way, almost every business was closed, so the shoppers were not there. Our guide was happily surprised at how easy it was to follow our path and how quickly we were able to finish. Of course, we had the added benefit of no shop keepers trying to drag (physically drag, upon occasion) passers-by into their shops, and we didn’t lose members of our tour group to intriguing merchandise, either. There were some groups of pilgrims from other groups that were actually taking turns carrying a cross on the route.

You may ask, how did the Catholic Church know where to erect shrines and churches here in the Holy Land? In the 326 AD, when Emperor Constantine declared the Roman Empire to be Christian, his mother, Helena, came to Israel and started asking people here, “Where did such-and-such happen?” They told her the Feeding of the 5000 was here, so they erected a church. Peter’s house was here, so they erected a church. The Restoration of Peter (Feed my lambs….) was here, so they erected a church. The empty tomb of Christ was here, so they erected the Church of the Holy Sepulcre.

Our next itinerary stop was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is a Crusader era building, lots of stone and arches. Inside was a red marble tomb/shrine erected over the place where the Jesus’ borrowed tomb had been. This is one of the 2 most likely locations of Jesus’ burial. The building and the responsibility for its upkeep is divided between 6 highly incompatible sects, the Coptic, Ethiopian, Greek Orthodox, Syriac, Roman Catholic and Armenian. Our guide referred to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the “church of the holy fistfights” because the different sects have regularly gotten into brawls over perceived offenses as minor as sweeping a step that is not their responsibility that week. Nevertheless, the interior of the church was beautiful and was filled with visitors from all over the world with no signs of disharmony.
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After another lunch break at Aroma,
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we went to the Garden Tomb. Here we learned that “garden” most likely referred to a garden for raising food, not for flowers and relaxation. There is a large rock (bigger than a house), that is shaped like a skull, though the “bridge of the nose” broke off about 5 years ago. The Garden Tomb is owned and maintained by volunteers and does not claim to be “the garden” but a possible location that is geographically consistent, being a short way outside the first century walls of Jerusalem. The first of the following pictures is of the garden tomb, the second picture is of the skull-shaped rock, and the 3rd is of a 1880 photo of the skull-shaped rock.
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After we visited the Garden Tomb, 3 bus-groups of us sat and took communion together in the garden. It was a wonderful way to end our tour of the Holy Land.

We had a farewell supper tonight, and all the guides, bus drivers, Moody staff, and Morningstar Tours staff were there, too. We said goodbye to the friends we’d made and exchanged contact information, then went to our room for an early bedtime. We need to get up at 3:45 am (Jerusalem time) for our 4:45 ride to Ben Gurion Airport for our trip home.

Posted by dasafish 05:21 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Miracles above and below

Elah Valley, the Bell Caves, and The City of David with Hezekiah’s tunnel

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Today we started with a bus ride to the Elah Valley, where David confronted Goliath. Along the way our guide pointed out a collection of burned out and shot up vehicles left as a memorial along the side of the highway. The highway we were on was one of the main routes from the agricultural regions to Jerusalem and some of the Arab villages along the highway routinely attacked Jewish convoys of supplies heading to Jerusalem. Under British control, before 1948, Arabs were allowed to have weapons but it was forbidden for Jews. During the 1967 war, the hostile Arab villages were bulldozed but those that had not been hostile were left alone and today are large, prosperous, and living at peace with the Jews.

Socah, the hill on which the Philistines gathered is here. In the next photo, on the other side of the valley, is Azekah where the Israelites were encamped.Socah.jpgAzekah.jpg

A small brook ran on the Israelite side of the valley from which David (and Sandy) collected 5 smooth stones. The brook is dry this time of year, but we were assured that it flowed in less dry times.16362ee0-87b9-11e9-9c26-cfc7a8559fa6.jpg

After the Elah valley, we drove to the “Bell” caves, named thus because of their bell shape. These caves are near the village of Bet Guvrin which was home to the prophet Micah. The surface of the ground is hard rock called Nari, but it is only a few feet thick and underneath it are large deposits of chalk. The people would dig a small hole through the Nari and then hollow out the land underneath to form bell shaped caves. It provided a cool and near perfect acoustically resonant chamber. We were going to sing there, but it was too crowded with other people so we settled for taking pictures of people in the small puddle of light coming through the shaft/hole in the ceiling.160d9840-87b9-11e9-bb70-f1a95a930e26.jpg1f932fb0-87b9-11e9-bb70-f1a95a930e26.jpg15fb21b0-87b9-11e9-9c26-cfc7a8559fa6.jpg1fac35f0-87b9-11e9-9c26-cfc7a8559fa6.jpg

From the Elah valley we traveled up to Jerusalem. Jerusalem sits high on a finger (a “ridge” running down from the top of the mountain with a ravine on either side), so if you go to Jerusalem, you are going to travel up. Once we arrived in Jerusalem, we walked through the area that had been the ancient city of David. There is little left of the 1st Century city since Jerusalem has been conquered, destroyed and rebuilt by the Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, and Muslims on multiple occasions. Something that has survived is Hezekiah’s tunnel. In addition to building a defensive wall, Hezekiah realized that when Jerusalem was besieged by the Assyrians, they would need a source of water. His problem – the sources of water were outside of his wall. His solution, dig a tunnel from the springs outside the wall to a low spot in the old City of David, now more commonly known as the Pool of Siloam. Hezekiah ordered his engineers to begin digging (through solid rock) from both ends at the same time. No one knows how they did it; for all practical purposes, it was a miracle of God that the 2 ends found each other and was finished before the Assyrians showed up.

70a29200-87ba-11e9-9c26-cfc7a8559fa6.jpgWe started our journey to Hezekiah’s tunnel up at the top of the City of David (a bit below the Temple Mount complex). Our first task was to walk down more than 400 stair steps (interspersed with slopes). On the way down, we saw a piece of the original wall that protected the springs before Hezekiah built his tunnel. Once at the bottom, we had two choices, Hezekiah’s tunnel, which has the water from Gihon Spring flowing through it, or the “Caananite tunnel,” which is dry. We were prepared for the wet tunnel. We put on our water-capable shoes (no flip flops – they float off your feet), I held our flashlight and Dan our GoPro, and we stepped into the water. We had been warned the water would be cold and would start out thigh high, drop to ankle-to-midcalf high, then rise to mid thigh again at the end. The water was cold, but given how hot we’d been outside, it felt good! The tunnel is one person wide. There were a couple times when both my shoulders brushed both walls, and even I had to duck several times and bend over twice. But sometimes the ceiling of the tunnel was 20 feet up, though it never did get significantly wider. The tunnel was 533 meters (1750 feet) long and probably took 15-20 minutes for us to traverse. Just before the end of the tunnel where the water flows into the Pool of Siloam, we saw the sign Hezekiah put up commemorating the building of the tunnel.

I was so glad we had chosen to go through Hezekiah's tunnel. I was in there with friends from our tour; we were calling out to each other, “Here’s a hole,” “Here’s a step,” or “Duck,” as we went through. Because there were other people with their lights in the tunnel, it wasn’t oppressive or uncomfortable. Once I got out of the tunnel, my long pants were dry in 30 minutes. That’s how dry the air is here. True, they are “travel” pants and supposed to dry quickly, but 30 minutes is fast!

After Hezekiah’s tunnel and a devotion by a Moody staffer, we took the bus back to our room and a good night.

Posted by dasafish 10:51 Archived in Israel Comments (1)

Jerusalem History

and some things about the present

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Regarding the weather we’ve been experiencing – we’ve been told it is unusually hot. Our first day, the one in Netanya when we were here a day early, was the only “normal” day we’ve had since we got here. The next day, when we drove to the Sea of Galilee, started the heat wave we are still experiencing. They say that late May-early June here is usually in the low 80’s in the Sea of Galilee area; we were experiencing low to mid 90’s. And the Dead Sea and Jerusalem are under the same heat wave. Our poor tour guides are really having to work to rearrange the tour schedules to keep us inside or in shade as much as possible during the afternoon sun. But it is a dry heat here in Jerusalem. Wetting the sleeves of my “sun shirt” from elbow to wrist provides nice cooling, until they dry (about 5-10 minutes).

You cannot visit ancient Israel without being confronted with the problems of modern Israel so here is a brief summary. When the UN established the nation of Israel in 1947, it gave a portion of the land formerly controlled by England to Israel and most of it to the surrounding Arab nations. Jerusalem was declared as an “International” city that was to be open to all people of the world regardless of religious or national origin. Within hours of the establishment of Israel, Israel was attacked by armies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan (then called Transjordan), Iraq, and Lebanon with the stated intent of removing all Jews from the land of Palestine. Palestine (Palestina) is the name given to the traditional land of Israel by the conquering Romans after the Rebellion of 70 AD as an insult to the Jews still living in the land, naming after their constant enemies, the Philistines. Hence, anyone living in the land, regardless of their ethnic origin was considered a Palestinian. Although Israel managed to survive as a nation, they lost all access to Jerusalem and much of the land allocated to them on the west bank of the Jordan river. We saw many bullet marks in the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem from their unsuccessful defense of their homes. In the 1967 war, Israel recaptured all of Jerusalem and the land originally allocated to them on the west bank (plus more on the east bank) and this is now what the world press refers to as the “occupied west bank” territory.

Today’s Jerusalem is a modern cosmopolitan city with excellent road and light rail infrastructure, high rise buildings, shopping malls and horrendous traffic. There is new high-rise construction and highway almost everywhere you look (often delayed by archaeological finds). In the residential areas, the Jewish quarter is the newest and most modern in the downtown area due to the Sherman-esque approach the Jordanian army took when they drove the Jews out of Jerusalem, dynamiting and bulldozing all of the Jewish owned homes. When the Jews came back 19 years later, they had mostly empty lots to build on.

The Western Wall
Today we went to one of the most revered places in Judaism, the Western Wall. This is often referred to as the “Wailing Wall” which was a derisive term invented by the enemies of Israel. The Western Wall is also wrongly referred to as the remaining wall of the temple (Herod’s Temple) but it is actually a portion of the retaining wall built by Herod to support the great plaza on the temple mount, upon which sat the temple. It is, however, the closest existing structure to where the temple stood and is thus greatly revered. People come from all over the world to slip small pieces of paper with prayers written on them into cracks in the wall. The wall is segregated between men and women. The women have a smaller portion and the men also have an extensive, shaded library in which to read religious texts and pray.
The following photos show the men’s side of the Western Wall, men praying while wearing Phylacteries, and a scale model of ancient Jerusalem showing the location of the Western wall in the context of the overall temple mount. The Western Wall is shown by the small red arrow just to the left of the twin round towers in the background. The temple plaza is on top of the large rectangular structure behind the towers and the temple itself is the tall building on the left, on top of the plaza.
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Herod’s temple is another testament to his evil genius – the structure supporting the plaza encloses what had once been Mount Moriah, the traditional site where Abraham bound Issac. Mt Moriah is now buried underneath the temple mount to form a huge plaza to accommodate the many worshipers on the Jewish holy days. It took 10,000 men ten years to build the temple plaza with some of the precisely cut stones weighing over 50 tons. One Roman historian wrote that “unless you have seen Herod’s temple in Jerusalem, you have not seen beauty.” The temple itself towered 150 feet above the plaza (compared to 114 for the Dome of the Rock) and was trimmed in gold. After the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD, the stones of the temple were cast off the plaza and all that remains of Herod’s great architectural work is the pile of stones in this photo. 7ff3b770-86fc-11e9-9ee2-b9aaded86522.jpg After the destruction of the temple, an influential Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakhai, proposed that since there could no longer be animal sacrifices in the temple, they should be replaced with Prayer, Repentance, and Good deeds but on his deathbed was wrought with fear that his works may not have been sufficient to receive God’s favor. At the corner of the temple courtyard shown here, an inscription was found indicating that this was the place from which the Shofar (ram's horn) was played on Holy Days.

We then gathered for a teaching on the southern steps which led in Biblical times to the temple courtyard. It is likely that Jesus would have climbed these steps when going up to the temple and probable that Peter preached on these steps on the day of Pentecost. Our guide pointed out that Herod had built dozens of ritual cleansing basins (baptismals to Gentiles) around the approaches to the temple making the baptism of 3000 in one day very possible. Herod, who tried to kill Jesus as a baby, made it possible for the Gospel to be readily spread throughout his empire.84f16f70-8741-11e9-830c-13de9253c1fd.jpg

We were unable to go to Bethlehem, which is now a suburb of Jerusalem, because it is now Arab controlled and unsafe for non-Muslims to enter. Sort of like walking alone in Central Park at 2am, not suicidal, but not very smart. We were given a lesson on the history of Bethlehem in Biblical times. Access by non-Muslims to the Temple Mount is forbidden. A select group of Jews was allowed a short visit on Reunification Day (yesterday) and there were riots. We heard the stun grenades going off while we were on the Mount of Olives as the police extracted the Jews from the temple courtyard.

We stopped briefly at a shop that specialized in olive wood carvings and antiquities. They fed us pizza for lunch and our bus did a brisk business with them. Our guide pointed out the differences between the Shekel and Roman coins. The shekel had the image of a palm tree on it which was for the Jews, a symbol of freedom, no images of people were allowed lest it be considered a graven image. The Roman coin had a picture of a woman chained to a Palm Tree with a sword pointed at her, a reminder to the Jews that they were conquered. He then went on to explain that when Jesus entered Jerusalem and the people were waving Palm branches (symbols of freedom) and shouting Hosanna (Hebrew for redeem us or save us), the Romans thought little of it, understanding neither the symbols or the language.

Hezekiah’s broad wall
When Solomon was king and he built the temple, he built a wall around the temple mount for its protection. When Hezekiah came along some 200+ years later, the walls were still in the same place – around the original City of David and the Temple Mount. The Assyrians conquered the Northern 10 tribes in the land then called Judah and many refugees came and settled outside the walls of Jerusalem. Hezekiah anticipated that the Assyrians would soon turn their armies on Israel and ordered a wall built around both his people and the refugees from Judah and strengthened the walls at the gates of the city. This is a picture of the remains of Hezekiah's "Broad Wall" 85091620-8741-11e9-9acc-f5f2bee6b7a5.jpg

The old city of Jerusalem is a hodge podge of buildings that were built during the millennia starting in the 1st century BC. The Romans were some of the best and most enthusiastic builders so many of the more ancient remains are from their time. When Herod built his temple, he also rebuilt much of "downtown" and put in a proper Roman "Carda" or main downtown artery with colonnades for covered sidewalks. This is what remains of a part of the Carda. a4f4a030-8741-11e9-9acc-f5f2bee6b7a5.jpg. The old city is now divided into 4 quarters (though not evenly divided); the Arab Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Jewish Quarter. We were advised that it is safe to wander (in daylight) anywhere in the old city and that there were many shops in the Jewish and Arab quarters with interesting souvenirs but that under no circumstances should we use a credit or debit card with any of the Arab merchants as they have a long history of "reusing" the card number and it is difficult if not impossible to get the charges reversed.

We ended the day with a visit to a few portions of the Israel Museum where we saw a very detailed scale model of 1st Century Jerusalem and then walked through the Shrine of the Book where the Qum Ram scrolls are kept and copies displayed. The Temple Mount and associated buildings were truly magnificent. In the picture below you can see some of the detail.

This is a view of a model of the entire city looking to the North. The City of David, the original capital established by King David, is the tongue shaped walled enclosure between the temple mount and the bottom of the picture. The poor neighborhoods are in the bottom left, and Herod’s palace directly behind (west) the temple mount.51513d70-86fc-11e9-9ee2-b9aaded86522.jpg The temple complex consisted of the Outer Court, entered through the Golden Doors (Gate Beautiful). From the Outer Court, priests were allowed to enter through the next set of bronze doors that led to the Inner Court. The actual temple was only entered by specified priests and the Holy of Holies contained inside the Temple was only entered with fear and trembling by the High Priest on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement).Temple.jpg

Posted by dasafish 21:40 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Up to Jerusalem

The Holy City of the 3 Major Monotheistic Religions

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Today we checked out of our Dead Sea hotel. It has been hot here! It got up to 42C (108F) at the Dead Sea yesterday, and it’s been pretty warm in our hotel room, too. When we checked in on Friday evening, our room was 31C (that’s 88F). By the time we went to bed, it had finally fallen to 27C ( 81F). Much warmer sleeping temp than we prefer, but better than a fellow tour traveler whose A/C had tripped a circuit breaker and she slept in a 31C room all the first night. By the time we left, our room was finally down to 25.5C (it kept vacillating between 25 and 26C, or 78F), but we weren’t the only ones with rooms warmer than we prefer. The hotel in general was quite nice (though I’m beginning to suspect their maintenance schedule could be improved), but I don’t think I’ll go back to the Dead Sea again. There is nothing to do there except sit in your hotel room or in the lobby/bar, be outside in the sun (LOTS of sun and heat), or shop at the 2 tiny malls that don’t offer much. For those of you who know Dan and me, we are not people who spend lots of time in the sun for the fun of it. Our Columbia SPF shirts (we call them our sun shirts) have been getting a daily workout.

I believe I mentioned earlier that the Dead Sea is shrinking. As we were leaving the Dead Sea area, our guide pointed out a mark on the rock face along the road that ran alongside the dead sea. The road today is about 300m from the shore. The mark was about 10’ above the road and was labeled PEF for Palestine Exploration Fund and indicated the level of the Dead Sea when it was surveyed in 1917 (i.e., the sea has dropped a couple hundred feet in the past 100 years). Here is a view of the Dead Sea from our balcony.
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Our first stop on the way to Jerusalem was the Wadi Qilt, an example of the Judean wilderness (as in the temptation of Jesus). It was pointed out to us that the slight ridges around the (almost) barren hills are not mini-terraces, but the paths worn by the Bedouins’ sheep over the years as they walk around the hills, eating what vegetation they can find. The sheep prefer to keep at the same elevation rather than going up and down the hills; it makes the hills look kind of like corduroy. There were a few patches of green, but not many. The second shot is a panorama, thus the distortion from side to side.
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Our first stop in Jerusalem was on the Mount of Olives. This is a hill that overlooks (it’s taller than) Jerusalem. We got some good pictures of the Dome of the Rock from here. We had a bus-group devotion, and while we listened, we saw group after group of school children going past us. A good percentage of the children carried the Israeli flag, sometimes several flags in one group. Turns out today was Jerusalem day, celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 and coming under Israeli control. Lots of kids were going to be everywhere!
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We then drove to the Gethsemene Garden (part of the Church of All Nations). They had some pretty flowers
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and many olive trees, ranging from a little more than saplings to hollow trunks with shoots coming out from them, and everything in between. But they said none were more than 1000 years old. After this, we drove to an ordinary olive grove on the Mount for a few worship songs and a full-group devotion, though to find shade enough for all 200+ for us, we sat beneath a big pistachio tree.

Our bus then took us to the Mamilla Mall, where we all enjoyed lunch at another Aroma Cafe. And then for an important stop, though a difficult one – Yad VaShem. Yad VaShem is the Jerusalem Holocaust Memorial. The name means “a memorial and a name” and is taken from the book of Isaiah. Part of the purpose of the Memorial is to list the name of every Jew who died in the Holocaust. They currently have the names of 5 million of the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. It was a very sobering visit. No one can take pictures in Yad VaShem, so we have no pictures to share with you, but we could take pictures in their Garden of Righteousness. In this Garden, the Israeli people celebrate many of those who saved Jewish lives by planting a tree in that person’s name. Among the many trees were one for Oskar Schindler and another for the Ten Boom family. (The first is Schindler’s, the second is Corrie Ten Boom’s.)
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We were told an interesting story about the Ten Boom tree; the original tree died when Corrie Ten Boom died, so they planted a new one. That's why the tree is so young.

We are finally done for the day and we head off to our newest and last hotel on our tour.

Posted by dasafish 14:00 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Masada – An Engineering Marvel

And En Gedi – a Hiding Place

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Today we started as usual with our 6-7-8 routine (6am wakeup call, 7am breakfast, 8am departure) and headed out to the mountain fortress of Masada. There is a long winding trail that leads to the top, but in the interest of time (and the expected 110 degree heat) we took a cable car to the top. This is a view from the cable car. The dark rectangles far below are the remains of Roman siege camps that were built around the entire perimeter of the mountain to prevent anyone from escaping.
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Masada was built by Herod the Great (builder) around 31 BC as an unassailable fortress that could hold out against the Parthians for up to 3 years. Herod built a beautiful palace that hung off the north edge of the cliff, complete with bath house and sauna, balconies, and adjacent warehouses to store several years worth of food. He then built a second “public” palace at the other end of the mesa, including a throne room. Although it was high up on a mountain in a remote part of the country, Herod insisted that everything be beautiful. Because the limestone was quarried at the top of the mountain it was not possible to get the perfectly square blocks used in his other projects so the rock walls were all covered with thick plaster to form a veneer that looked like large blocks of beveled stone, both inside and out. The inside walls of the palace and garrison commander's house had frescoes that made them look rich and luxuriant. Large warehouses stored several years of food, gardens provided fresh produce, and the dovecote provided fresh meat. Water was a problem so Herod had huge cisterns (40,000 cubic meters or 10,500,000 gallons) dug at the bottom of the cliffs with channels leading from nearby mountain ravines to catch the occasional flash floods from the winter rains. A well was dug down to the cisterns so that once they were filled, they had sufficient water for several years. Here is a picture showing a model of Masada with the water channels and cistern tunnels and one showing the interior arrangement of the palace.
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For those with a topographical interest, I looked at the contour interval lines of the map they had of Masada. Although the mesa on which Masada sits is 450 meters above the valley floor, the top of the fortress is only 58 meters above sea level, and as you look below the top, the numbers almost immediately go negative.

Herod never needed to use his mountain fortress, but in 73 AD, a small band of Jewish rebels (rebelling against Rome) captured it in a surprise attack when it was manned by only a small Roman garrison. The Roman army laid siege to Masada and its last rebel holdouts (960 people). Until very recently, archaeologists and historians believed that the siege lasted almost a year, but they have now determined that the Roman army, using Jewish slaves, built a 375’ high siege ramp up the side of the mountain and breached the walls in just 2 months. There were no survivors.

After riding the cable car back down the hill, we went to the wilderness of En Gedi. This is an area in the desert mountains just to the west of the Dead Sea. Several streams run through deep ravines so that there is vegetation and wildlife in a place that at a glance looks like desolate desert. It was in this area that David hid when King Saul was seeking to kill him. We only walked to the lower waterfall. They say there is an “upper” waterfall if you walk further into the ravine, but it’s quite a hike. The heat was intense and I was disappointed and glad at the same time that we weren’t going there, too .
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Today was a short day, with free time scheduled for the afternoon. We got off the bus near the hotel at a little souvenir “shopping mall” that also boasted a McDonalds and an Aroma cafe. The others who’ve been here before can’t stop singing the praises of the Aroma coffee; we can’t comment on that, since we don’t drink coffee. But I can say they make excellent sandwiches with wonderfully fresh bread made there in the store. We walked the rest of the way back to the hotel, took showers, and then took a nap.

Tomorrow we leave the Dead Sea area and go up to Jerusalem!

Posted by dasafish 11:22 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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