Sunday, October 26, 2014


 Masada... one of the most visited sites in Israel.  It is where all Jewish troops are taken, told the stories of the 960 Sicarii Jewish rebels who committed suicide rather than submit to the Romans.  They are reminded of the Holocaust and given a stirring reminder.... "Never again!".

Here is a model showing the entire mountain top. Masada was built by Herod the Great.  He was a paranoid man.   He built a number of hide-a-ways.  They were luxurious affairs, capable of sustaining life for long periods of time, if need be. 
 This view is looking towards the Dead Sea, but the main thing to notice is the little square in the lower right hand of the photo.  It is at the bottom of the mountain in the valley,  It is the perimeter remains of a Roman company... where they would have camped,  at the time of the Roman siege, nearly 2,000 years ago!  There were portions of several such camps surrounding the mountain.... mute evidence of the human tragedy that once took place here. 
 This is the ramp that was built by the Romans to breach Masada.  It is 375 feet tall!  All of it was hand quarried and hand carried in baskets.  The people of Masada tried to kill the builders of the ramp until the Romans substituted Jewish slaves to do the actual work on the ramp.  The people of Masada decided not to kill their Jewish brethren to save their own lives. 
 The Romans built a huge siege tower, with a battering ram, which they laboriously drug up the ramp with pulleys and started the attack.  They finally succeeded in breaching the wall on April 15, 73 or 74 A.D..  15,000 Roman and Jewish troops flooded through the breach... only to find the Jews had set all the buildings on fire... except the food buildings, and then committed suicide. Only 2 women and 5 children were found alive.  It is possible that they wanted the Romans to know how long they could have survived in Masada. 
Today, Masada has become a pilgrimage of sorts... Jewish soldiers, school groups, family groups; many wending their way up the siege ramp in an effort to increase their resolve never to be victims of the worlds rage again. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The "Mighty" Jordan River

 This was a spot, where I could imagine John standing in the water, crowds of people on the banks and Christ entering the water. 
 Another view of the Jordan River
 The one place where they let people go down and touch the water.  I can't believe that I don't have a photo of the Israeli station not 100 feet across the river, where they monitor the tourists and make sure no one crosses illegally. 
The inside of the Church of John the Baptist. 

The Jordanian Baptism Site

 There are 2 proposed sites for the baptism of Jesus Christ; one at the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee and the other just north of the Dead Sea.  The scriptures give a number of clues.  The two sites are about about 60+ miles apart.  Matt 2 and Mark 1 tell us that John was teaching and baptizing near Judea and Jerusalem and John 1:28 says that John was baptizing in Bethabara beyond (or on the other side of) Jordan.   The Christian Jordanians are quick to point out that they are part of the Holy Land and they accept that Jesus was baptized at the site near the Dead Sea and in modern day Jordan. 
 Excavations performed in the last 20 years have uncovered a medieval structure built about 4-500 a.d.  It is interesting to note that this church is now a block or two away from the Jordan River.  It is also important to note that much of the water that originally feed the Jordan River has been diverted by modern Israel for agricultural purposes, and the "mighty Jordan River" is now so narrow, that you could throw a stone across it in many places.

This mosaic shows how the river was once close enough that early builders were able to divert enough water to create a baptism site for the pilgrims of the Middle Ages.   
 Excavation at this archeological site was not begun until the treaty was signed between Israel and Jordan in 1994, although I suspect that Jordanian Christians knew about it long before excavations were begun.
 The roof near the top covers the remains of the medieval chapel.  The stairs led to a baptism site that was generally accepted as the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.  
To the left are the remains of part of the channel where the river was diverted by early Christians to create this baptism site.  The roof near the bottom of the stairs was some sort of pavilion, and maybe a place to change wet clothes.  

Elijah's Hill

 Here we are in the Jordan Valley, only a mile or so from the northern tip of the Dead Sea.  According to 2 Kings 2:7-14, Elijah took his cloak, "wrapt" it together, and smote the waters of Jordan, stopped it's flow, and they 2 went over. 
Here we are looking north and east towards the mountains of Jordan and below towards the mountains of Jerusalem.  The tiny round dome is close to the Jordanian baptism site.  Beyond it is Jericho.  It was from this area that a chariot of fire, seen only by Elisha, took Elijah by a whirlwind into heaven. 

 No name, I assume it is probably being built to mark the spot where Elijah was taken into heaven.

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.