I am just going to say that I left my heart in Galilee. I am a very country sort of girl. I don’t like cities. I learned that the hard way when I was living in Houston Texas. Jerusalem was an amazing place but too crowded and big. Educational Opportunities, the group I was with, has a tour of Jesus in the Galilee that I really want to do some day!
Jan 15 7:18 Am
I should have journaled last night but I was not feeling great after supper. I think my stomach is adjusting to the scheduling. This jetlag thing is crazy.
The last thing we saw last night was an optional tour of a diamond factory. They don’t mine the diamonds here in Israel but they do cut and polish them here. The majority of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished here in Israel. The video they showed us I found very fascinating. The tour itself only lasted about 15 minutes. Then they cornered us in the showroom. They did not pressure me to bad. Maybe it was because I looked like a 12-year-old but some of the others they twisted and wheeled and dealed. Ben and Kelsie were looking at engagement rings but the prices were just crazy. Some of the rings there cost as much or more than my little SUV! Mr. Bobby bought an overpriced black diamond cross. I just laughed at him and told him he had more money than he knew what to do with.
This morning we are loading the bus and heading to Jerusalem. That sounds so odd. I really feel like I am on a pilgrimage saying that.
We will be stopping at the tourist baptismal site at the Jordan river this morning. Some people are going to be immersed. I think they are crazy it is just too cold to get into that water! Wouldn’t it be easier and less wet to just sprinkle and pour? I do plan on putting my feet in the water. I have done that at every other body of water we have been to so far.
We will also be stopping at Bethlehem. I did not realize that Bethlehem is Palestinian. Our guide, Hannah, cannot go with us there because she is a Jew. We will have a Palestinian guide and possibly have to change busses. From what is being said we are having to go through a checkpoint and show our passports. This could be an interesting day.
The bus is loaded with passengers and luggage. I can feel us starting to move time to go!
We are about to leave the tourist baptismal site. To me, it is very commercialized. It is just another way for the Israelis to get money from the tourists. I do applaud the Israelis for their ingenuity. It just seemed over hyped and artificial. I did put my feet in the water just to say I touched the Jordan river. I was not terribly impressed with the whole thing.
They had a little snack bar and Mr. Bobby got some espresso and bought me some too. I am feeling the effects and I only drank half. It was very strong espresso. I did enjoy what I drank. While there I bought some post cards to send to some of my friends back home.
We just visited the Tel and Roman city of Bet’Shan.
The Tel was 25 layers of cities build one on top of the ruins of the other. On the top level of the Tel was the wall that they hung Saul and his sons. It was not what you would imagine. Because of the height of the location, it could have been seen from miles around. It must have been a tremendous feat to get the bodies down off the wall. The sides are very steep. Also on top of the Tel the Romans had later built their Temple.
It was totally breathtaking. I can just imagine what it was like in its glory days. We walked through the bath area then down their main road. They had done some reconstruction, standing up the fallen pillars. As I was standing there I could imagine what it was like in its glory days. Chariots going up and down the main street. Women going in and out of the shops. Men haggling with the sellers. It must have been amazing in its glory days. Things must and will come to an end.
The Roman people were a proud and wicked people. They thought that their empire would last forever. They did not need God. They had hundreds of gods. They had their strength and knowledge. This particular town was in its glory until about 760 AD. In January of that year, an earthquake hit and devastated the city. It was never rebuilt. Standing on the street next to the standing a fallen pillars I could imagine the chose and pandemonium that occurred when the quake hit. Women screaming in terror. Men running for their families. People seeing their friends and loved ones crushed under tons of stone. There was actually one fallen column that they found the bones of a crushed arm and coins at one end. Someone had been running and carrying their wealth trying to get out but losing their arm and wealth. Maybe they barely escaped with their life.
We are now in the area that is considered the West Bank. It is kind of an odd feeling to be driving in an area that has had so much violence. Right now out my window, I can see the electrified border fence and the Israeli patrol road.
This area is a mostly Muslim population. The main industry is farming with raising livestock coming in second. Years ago before Israel took over the people were almost exclusively bedouins. Wandering in the wilderness caring for their flocks. When Israel took over they brought with them the technology to be able to farm this area.
The hills to my right are barren. It just looks like a heap of mud. I am not sure how the sheep find enough to eat on them. It looks very dry and desolate. Down here in the valley they have irrigation. There are crops and palms. I can only imagine what it would have been like as a pilgrim walking to Jerusalem. Hot and dry carrying the food you needed with you because there was nothing.
In front of me, there are beautiful barren mountains. The contrast I can see is amazing. They are not like any mountains I have seen in the states. For one thing, they look much smaller. Another thing is that they are completely barren. There is no visible life on them. The last and most impressive thing to me is they way they are formed. It looks like they have roots.
Now we are traveling with the desert mountains on the right and a lush rich valley on the left. It is totally amazing. It is black and white. A very big stark contrast.
We just passed that area where it is tradition to say that John baptized. I could not see the Jordan but just look at the desert area. I don’t think that there is enough water in it to immerse. The area is just above the Dead Sea. Very far from where the tourists get baptized.
We just entered Jerusalem. I cannot express the emotion I felt. We came out of a tunnel and on the right saw the ancient city of Jerusalem. It was amazing. They had the song “Jerusalem” playing as we saw it. I actually started tearing up. Just thinking about everything that happened here.
I can only begin to imagine the feeling of the pilgrims past that journeyed on foot. They came through the desert. It was a hard long journey. I was a climb up than to come to the top and finally, at last, see the gates. The place they had hoped and longed for finally in reach and in sight. The relief of the safety. The feeling that you finally arrived. The lifting of your spirit. Falling on their knees and offering a prayer of thanks to God that you are finally at Jerusalem.
Well, we just got done shopping at the Nissan shop in Bethlehem. We at lunch at their restaurant too. I meet dad Nissan and he offered one of his sons to marry. It was quite funny. Then the guy ringing me up was super sweet. He took 5 of my bill and gave me a little Olive Wood Jerusalem Cross pendant. I will be honest that I did want one but I did not buy it. So now I have one.
The Jerusalem cross became a sign of pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the era of the Crusades. The knights would get it tattooed on them as a sign that they had been here. There is a big cross in the middle which symbolizes Christ. The four around it can have many different meanings. The four corners of the world. The four gospels. I think there are a few others that I am forgetting.
Coming out of the shop I had my first experience with the street vendors. These did not really get in my personal bubble but I hear that they can be bad about it. I just kept looking down and at the bus and did not make eye contact with them. I made it through.
Next stop the church of the Nativity.
We just finished touring the Church of the Nativity. The church is the oldest standing church. The Persians when they came through did not destroy it because of the Mosaic of the Wisemen. They saw the Wisemen and knew from their garb that one was Persian so they did not touch the church.
The sanctuary of the oldest part was in need of some care. They had three different groups that claimed it. The Catholics had a part in the main sanctuary but later on build a beautiful sanctuary to the left of it.
I got to go down to where church tradition says the birth took place. Really my feelings on the place was a lot of hoopla for nothing. I did touch the star where tradition says Mary birthed Jesus. No warm fuzzies for me. I can say I did that now.
What really was the coolest feeling was singing Christmas songs at both the cave and also the Catholic chapel. Looking around at the bustling city it is hard to get the feeling of what the song, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” is all about. Everything is built up here in Bethlehem. It is not the small little village it used to be.
On the walk from the church to the bus, there were all sorts of street vendors peddling their wares. They all want you to buy for just a dollar. Kind of funny. There are a few ladies with the group that gets sucked in every time. So far for me, I have not bought anything. I may try wheeling and dealing before I leave just to see if I can do it.
The next time I come here it would be neat to come on a missions trip instead of a tour. I would be able to get a totally different perspective on Israel. I would get to view the people and everyday life. I think that would be an amazing experience and help me better understand the Bible by understanding the people.
So I think this hotel, The Olive Tree is a lot nicer than the last one. Not that The Royal Palace was bad. I liked the view from the other one better. In fact, I think I liked Galilee better. I guess it was because it was more countryfied.
The food here tonight was fantastic. The internet here is a little bit faster. I went ahead and paid 45 for 4 nights. The way I justified it was that it is the way I stay in touch with my family. I am not really spending much on souvenirs. We actually I bought about $100 worth of souvenirs for friends. I did buy me a little olive wood Nativity in Bethlehem. I also splurged and got me a sterling silver ring with Proverbs 31:10 inscribed in Hebrew on it. So about 160 so far. All duty-free. I think I have most people on my list.
One last thing before I shut this puppy down for the night. I did laundry today in the bathtub here in the hotel. It was not hard washing but it was hard wringing. Hopefully, they will be dry by tomorrow night. If not I will use the blow dryer. This is an adventure of a lifetime!
I think I understand the emotion that this city evokes. Yes, we are driving through the newer more modern part of the city but still, you can feel something. Maybe it’s an excitement of Pilgrims past.