Sunday, February 9, 2014

Rosh Hanikra Grottos

Part of Rosh Hanikra is a beautiful system of caves, opening right on to the Mediterranean sea. The limestone is constantly eroding by the action of the waves.  
entrance to the caves...
 The caves are a habitat for bats.  We could hear them but could not see them, all through our tour through the caves
 lots of fun twists and turn, port holes, water rushing beneath our feet....
 The water is beautiful and clear.  It was fascinating to watch the little fish.

Rosh Hanikra

 Right on the Israel/Lebanon boarder is Rosh Hanikra.  There is a natural boarder between Israel and Lebanon of rugged, forbidding mountains.  This photo was taken from near the boarder and  is looking south towards Haifa.
And this photo is looking north.  Lebanon is on the other side of the out-jutting of rock.  The water is so beautiful and clear.
we took the cable car down to where for a very short while there was actually a railroad line connecting Israel with Lebanon.
Read the sign to see what happened to the rail line.  

 Inside the tunnel.  Look on the floor.  They left the rail road tracks in the floor.  The door in the back leads into a theater.  There is a beautiful balcony area behind us.  We were told that it was a very popular wedding location.

The black behind the screen below is the wall that separates Lebanon from Israel.  

Laish/ Tel Dan, history and judgement seat

 about 1/2 mile from the sacrificial worship center was the actual city of Dan.  It was remarkably well preserved in places, as you can see in this photo.
 Strong fortifications were built to try to protect the city from foreign invasion.
 don't forget.... click to enlarge so that you can read the sign.
 I found this to be fantastically interesting.  We read in the Old Testament how the Elders "sat in the gate", as for instance in Ruth, where the elders judged whether Boaz could receive Ruth for his wife.  This is a well preserved judgement dais, just outside the city gate of Dan where the king and elders sat in judgement and the people would come with matter that they could not resolve on their own.
 I find it interesting that this was obviously a very public setting, where anyone who happened to pass by could observe and even participate in the proceedings.  Ancient Israel was set up to be a very open society in matters of law, public judgement etc.
looking northward.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tel Dan - ancient Israel's northern most settlement

 Near the source of the Jordan River sits the ruins of the ancient city of Dan.  As you can read at left, it became an important religious center after the Northern Tribes split away from Judah, after the death of king Solomon.  The involvement of the Northern Tribes in pagan worship led to their eventual overthrow.
 The ancient worship center was large.  The foundations of building, altars and other structures are visible. A grand stair case led up to where a golden calf once stood and an altar where sacrifices were offered
 It is almost unbelievable how people can be corrupted so easily.  It leads us to ask, however, if we are any less vulnerable, especially when it is considered that it was a violent political division and Rehoboam's desire to create national unity that led to such abomination.
 Do you see the metal square in the back right? That is approximately where they thing the ancient altar stood.  It is about 6-7 feet tall and 12-15 feet square.  No doubt there were stairs that led up to it.  I do not think they have determined where the golden calf was placed.  The circular object was used for washing. 
 Some of well preserved walls that encircled Tel Dan.  Dan sits at the foot of Mt. Hermon.  Often you will hear the Jews define their boarders as being from "Dan to Bersheva"
This was in the center section of the town and marks the foundations of some of the government buildings.  It is a very beautiful part of Israel; green and lush.  Tributaries to the Jordan River gave water to the town. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Nimrod Fortress in the Golan Heights

 There are LOTS of mediaeval castles scattered around Israel.  This is a Muslim castle that belonged to the nephew of Saladin.  Begun about 1229, it was built to withstand a Christian onslaught against Damascus when the Muslims were anticipating trouble about the time of the 6th crusade.  It was in use only a little over 175 years, when the Muslims kicked the Crusaders out of Acco at the end of the 13th century.  It started out as a smallish castle and eventually encompassed the entire mountain top and is many acres in size.
 Hmmm... where's waldork?
How did they get those small stones to stay up in the upper arch, for almost a 1,000 years?  It is easy to see the structure in the doorway of the shaped stones and the keystone.  It is not so easy to see in the upper arch.
 This is standing at one end of the complex and looking towards the other end.  Probably a 1/2 mile walk!  By the way this complex is just south of Mt. Hermon.
 Another view looking back at where the last photo was shot.
 One of the big cisterns.  Water is always an issue in the Middle East.
This is over the main gate.  

The Hyraxes LOVE abandoned medieval castles

 Aren't they CUTE!?!?!
The Hyraxes are about the size of a cat.

 They look so snugly, but they are shy and scamper away if you try to approach them.
They apparently live in large communities... like prairie dogs.  Thankfully they seem to prefer rocky embankments and abandoned castles, instead of rolling prairies.   They are herbivores although I am not sure what they eat.
They seemed to be as interested in us, as we were of them.  The dictionary says that they are related to otters and are fully aquatic if found around rivers and lakes.  Instead of the long skinny bodies of otters however, Hyraxes are round and furry.  We saw lots of them from basically Bet She'an to Lebanon.  

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Mighty Jordan River

 The land of Israel is mainly of a limestone "karst" landscape.  Karst is very porous and full of holes and channels.  Nowhere is this more dramatically shown than at the headwaters of the Jordan River.   The day we visited northern Israel, it was very foggy and we did not get a good photo of Mt. Hermon.  We walked through a heavily wooded area to the headwaters.  The River Jordan is fed by snow melt from Mt. Hermon.  It comes bubbling up from the ground.  It comes oozing out from under tree roots, from between stones of ancient walls.  Soon, within 2-3 hundred feet the little trickles start converging.
 Maybe if you enlarge to photo you can see the small stream next to the stone walk way.  For a mile, tiny stream after tiny stream jaunt downhill and.....
 becomes a wildly dangerous rushing river.
 This is not a river you would want to put your toe in.  I did get close enough to taste the water (in a calmer place than here).  It was very sweet and cold.
Within 2-3 miles when it gets to Caesarea Philippi, it has widened out and calmed down.  It flows pretty regularly to the Sea of Galilee, but is then is largely diverted throughout Israel.  The portion of the "mighty Jordan River"heading south of the Sea of Galilee is just a tiny stream to the Dead Sea.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Palace of Herod Agrippa II

Near Caesarea Philippi  is the exotic palace of Herod Agrippa.  The renditions are helpful to visualize how it would have looked at the time of Christ.  An interesting feature of this palace... actually fairly common was having an aqueduct routed through the middle of the house.  No doubt bathroom and kitchen facilities were conveniently placed to take care of business.   In many towns with good water sources, bath houses were also placed over aqueducts.
 Here is a better view of the palace complex.  The little hole in the escarpment in the background is the temple complex of Augustus and the Roman god Pan of the previous post.
 And here we can see the remain of the palace.  The caves dug into the side of the hill on the right side of the photo were granaries and other storage facilities.  The palace was 2 and 3 stories high.

 Above: is the hall where you can see the aqueduct running under the floor of this hall.  They did not have flushing toilets at that time but constantly running water flowed under the seats.

To the right are the remnants of another arched hallway.
King Herod Agrippa was the one who was called to judge Paul in Caesarea, a Roman port city on the Mediterranean coast, not 30 miles from this palace.  After hearing Paul's impassioned defense, his visions, his testimony, king Agrippa replied "Almost, thou persuadest me to be a Christian".
Here was a man who stood, as it were, on top of the world, yet all he gained in glory, power and wealth lie in ruins for all the world to look upon.  It is impossible that true success lies in the accumulation of such transient treasures.  Paul, who gave up everything to follow Christ, even into death has had a far more enduring legacy than Herod Agrippa.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Caesarea Philippi

 This is a long shot looking towards the Temples dedicated to the Roman Emperor Augustus and to the Roman God Pan.  Mt Hermon would be on the left side of the photo.  We are perhaps 2 miles from the head waters of the Jordan River.   The Jordan River gets it's waters from snow melt from Mt. Hermon.  Snow melt dribbles down through numerous channels and bubbles up near Tel Dan.  By Caesarea Philipe it is a very large river. Caesarea Philippi was a very pagan city and also the home of Herod Agrippa.  It was the northern most city, recorded in scripture, visited by Jesus Christ.
 a short explanation about the temple of Augustus with a rendition of how the temple originally looked.
 a view opposite the temple to the remains of some of the city buildings.  The remains of Herod Agrippa's home is perhaps 2-3 blocks further west.
 The big hole was once the apse of the Temple of Augustus.  The small hole was a smaller temple to Pan.
In perspective.  You can see that they were quite large. multiple engravings are chiseled into the rock.  If you do not remember, Pan was half goat, half man and played a flute.
 Matthew 16:
 13 ¶When Jesus came into the coasts of C├Žsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some,aElias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say aye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the aChrist, thebSon of the cliving God.17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon aBar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not brevealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon thisarock I will build my bchurch; and the gates of chell shall notdprevail against it.
19 And I will agive unto thee the bkeys of the ckingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt dbind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.