Thursday, March 22, 2012


Hi, Friends!

There will be a slight intermission in my Israel posts...
...because I'm going HERE with my friend, ERIN this weekend!

I'll be back to tell you about the rest of our trip next week!
I still have to tell you all about Jerusalem!
...and Bethlehem!
I can't wait! These two days were FANTASTIC!

I have amazing pictures and stories to tell!

(but, who wouldn't after going into a Palestinian Territory?)

Monday, March 19, 2012

DEAD SEA and En Gedi~Day 7

Shabbat began at sundown the day we were in Galilee, so the next day we went to En Gedi and the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is about a two hour drive from Tel Aviv, and it was really neat because the windy road going down to the sea showed our elevation changes as we traveled down...
down... the lowest place...

...on Earth.

Welcome to the Dead Sea.
A Sea so salty and full of minerals that NOTHING but some algae live in it.
The Sea is said to be so good for your skin, that a company called AHAVA prides itself in its natural Dead Sea skincare products! I bought some while we were at the factory and LOVE them! If you have an ULTA nearby, they also have AHAVA products.
I am a BIG fan now!

Right across the street from the Dead Sea is a national park, so before we took the plunge, we went for a little hike through En Gedi. It was gorgeous. It was an oasis in the desert complete with waterfalls, TONS of those strange rodent things called Hyrax, and these goat-like animals that we were promised to see tons of but failed to see a single one! To Stewart and Elizabeth's defense, I DID see posts on their blog with TONS of the goat things-the Ibex, confirming that THIS was the place where David hid from Saul "So Saul took 3,000 chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats. 1 Sam 24: 2".

This was a really interesting place! The water was aquamarine blue! The views were amazing! The Israeli kids (and some Israeli adults) had stripped down to their skivvies and were swimming!

"And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi. 1 Sam 23: 29".
THIS is where David could have taken Saul's life, but chose to only cut off the corner of his robe!
You can read 1 Samuel Chapter 24 for the whole (intense) story!
...but it happened HERE!!!

The views of David's "stronghold" were amazing! The Dead Sea is below, and beyond that is Jordan!

After our hiking adventure, we changed into our suits so we could experience the Dead Sea!!!
I don't know what I was expecting, but this was NOT...what I was expecting!!!

The water was SO crystal clear! You could see the oils and minerals on the top of the water if you looked closely!

You couldn't sink in this Sea of you tried!

Because of the high levels of salt in the sea, it just pushes up against your body. It's as if the sea is trying to throw you out! It's hard to get your balance!

Woops! it!

There! Finally!


I'm FLOATING here, folks!

It was so fun to float in the sea, but the colors were intense and amazing, so beautiful!

AHAVA...TAKE ME AWAY! (wink, wink...)

Two friendly reminders about the Dead Sea:
1) Do NOT splash Dead Sea in your eyeball or you will DIE. (You will not actually die, but you will WISH you were dead as you flush your eye out with bottled water while you scream and your spouse proceeds to pretend she doesn't know who "that crazy American" is)
2) If you swallow Dead Sea water, per the signs and posted placards, you must immediately see a lifeguard. (We didn't try THAT one. What? You think we're STUPID?!)

After our time at the Dead Sea, we decided to let the minerals seep into our skin (ie. We didn't rinse off). Later, we had a layer of dried-on salt and an oily residue that we rubbed into our skin. It was amazing! I would travel down there as often as possible if I lived there, but thankfully, I can buy bottled Dead Sea Salt, toss it in my bathtub, close my eyes and pretend I'm floating in Southeast Israel, courtesy of AHAVA!

(Kelly does not receive any compensation from AHAVA or its partner corporations)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sea of Galilee~Kursy~Day 6

Welcome to Kursy.
...aka. Gergessa...
...aka. Land of the Gadarenes.
...aka....joke, joke!

See that rock cliff looking area up there on the mountainside?
That is where a temple once was.
There were also ancient tombs up on that mountainside.
...and speaking of tombs...

"When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 'What do you want with us, Son of God?' they shouted. 'Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?' Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, 'If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.' He said to them, 'Go!' So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Matt 8: 28-32"

THIS is where that happened.

I know that in the story it says that the pigs "rushed down the steep bank." The picture below doesn't exactly look steep, but it was a decent hike to get up to the point at which we were standing. In fact, you can imagine that pigs could have gained some serious momentum traveling down to the sea from there!

The tile work in the temple below was amazing!

This was a pretty impressive find! The national park was sort of off the beaten path compared to the rest of the places we stopped, which were right on the sea. But THIS park was manned by a guy who was packin' heat! Yes. By that, I mean that he had a gun.
You heard me.
The attendant who charged us to get into this park had a gun shoved in the back of his pants.
That being said, let's shoot on over to Kibbutz En Gev!
Okay, cheesy, I know...I couldn't help myself.

Granted, we were only in Israel for ten days, which is probably not enough time to fully understand the concept of a Kibbutz, but I will now try to explain to you what a Kibbutz is through my limited understanding. Brace yourselves.

Kibbutzes are small communities that are self sustaining. The people of these communities all work for the common good. Most of them are farming communities, so you'll see tons of date palms and other crops all over the place in Israel. The people of these "towns" all make the same wages and live by the same standards. Yes, it sounds relatively Socialistic. Maybe it is, but they are pretty phenomenal to see in action! Kibbutz En Gev is a well sustained Kibbutz because of their famous "FISH RESTAURANT." The founder of the restaurant actually worked as a banana farmer. He would keep his kitchen hot and his fish ready, and when he'd see a tourist boat heading for the Kibbutz, he'd drop all things banana related, run down to the shore and sell the tourists fresh "St. Peter's fish"! Kibbutz En Gev became very well known for this man's fantastic fish (You'll see why below)!

Below is a video of the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. You'll have to hit pause on my music box before you hit play.

Example of an "old school" fishing boat.

Fish Restaurant-yeah...this Kibbutz isn't all!

Oh, dear me...this Falafel was to DIE for!

Ladies and Gentlemen...

St. Peter's Fish.

YARDENIT: Baptism on the Jordan

If you're going to Israel to be baptized in the Jordan, this is where you will likely go these days, and although it may not be where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, it's pretty neat to think about Jesus being baptized in this same river!

Give yourself a pat on the back!
You made it around the Sea of Galilee!
But don't get too cocky now! What you just did in four days, we did in ONE!
It was a whirlwind, and a VERY long day, but it was amazing!

I'm going to take you to the DEAD SEA!!!

Sea of Galilee~Capernaum~Day 6

Welcome to Capernaum, a gorgeous, BUSTLING port town in Biblical times. I feel I should tell you that we did NOT visit these towns in the order they were mentioned in the Bible. Even so, Capernaum was mentioned over and over in the Gospels! This was the town in Galilee that Jesus claimed as His own (Matt 9: 1, Mark 4: 13)! This was Simon Peter's hometown! This is a town where miracle upon miracle happened! There is NO WAY I could even hint toward all of them!

THIS is where Jesus began the preaching aspect of His ministry (Mark 1: 21-28)!
THIS is where he healed the paralytic (Mark 2: 1-17)!
THIS is ALSO the town that was harshly reprimanded for not repenting (Matt 11: 23,24).

Ladies and gentlemen, I need to take a short interlude to present to you, the HIREX. I didn't know whether to be afraid, or oogle over this thing, so I chose to be afraid. Later in our trip, we happened upon dozens of these things climbing trees with monkey-like agility, dangling from the smallest of small limbs at the tip top of trees. I STILL do not know what family of beings this furry rodent looking cutie pie belongs to, but here he is:

Below is the Temple in Capernaum:

"They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 'What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God!' 'Be quiet!' said Jesus sternly. 'Come out of him!' The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were so amazed that they asked each other, 'What is this? A new teaching-and with authority! He even gives orders to the evil spirits and they obey him.' Mark 1: 21-28"

THIS is where that happened!

This is another entrance to the Temple.

"As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went up to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. Mark 1: 29-31"

THIS is where that happened!

There is now a church built over the top of the ruins of Peter's house, but true to Israeli form, they have preserved the integrity of the Biblical artifacts.

Here are more ruins of Capernaum. This is right next door to Peter's house.

Here is a wine press.

An olive press~evidence that this town had it goin' on!

This must have been a simply fantastic town! The details of the ruins are ornate and beautiful! No wonder there was a huge draw to Capernaum! Just like Caesarea, God set His ministry up where all the action would have been happening! Word travels quickly when your headquarters is a busy trade route or town!

I could go on and on about Capernaum, but you'll just have to read it for yourself!

Next (and hopefully final) stop in Galilee:
Kursy (ie. Gergessa or Land of the Gadarenes)
"Fish Restaurant" (yes, that IS the name of the restaurant)
Yardenit~the modern day baptism on the Jordan spot

Sea of Galilee~Mount of Beatitudes~Day 6

It's so easy to fall in love with Galilee! From "the mount," you can see the entire Sea and every town that Jesus would have traveled through around it.

This place is where Jesus delivered His "Sermon on the Mount." From this famed sermon:

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you... Matt 5: 44"
"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matt 6: 27"
"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matt 7: 2"
"For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matt 7: 8"
"But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, only a few find it. Matt 7:14"
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matt 7: 21"

He taught us how to pray HERE!

"Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one."
Matthew 6: 9-13

Behind Dallas is a convent on the Mount of Beatitudes.
It was closed for worship when we were up there.

We know from Matthew and Luke that Jesus got up when He had finished delivering His message to the thousands on the mountain and walked to Capernaum. Capernaum is probably a half to three quarter mile stroll down this path from the Mount. People walk it regularly, and while I'm not convinced that this is the EXACT path that Jesus took, it could very well be!

"When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. Matt 7: 28, 29"

While we were already up on the mountain, we stopped at Korazin, which is just up from where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. It's just another two minute drive, and if you don't make a wrong into a gated community and get stuck there until someone else enters or exits, you can be there in no time...not that WE did that, but surely SOMEONE has done that before!
Okay, so we did that.

Korazin is now a national park, and since we didn't have 14 shekels since we'd used most of our change to pay to use the restrooms all day, we were running low on funds. My point? I totally took this picture from the parking lot with my 55x250 lens.

Driving away from the ruins, we realized that they are a lot cooler than you can see from the parking lot and you would probably have some AMAZING views of Galilee from inside, so I'd say it would be worth your 7 shekels a piece if you don't drink too much on your day in Galilee...just keepin' it real, folks!

Korazin's relevance? Jesus reprimands this town fiercely. This is what He has to say to Korazin when they did not repent upon seeing and experiencing His miracles firsthand:

"Woe to you, Korazin! ...if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre an Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. Matt 11: 20-22"


Next stop, a quick 7 minute drive back down the mountain to:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sea of Galilee~Mensa Christi~Day Six

Welcome back to Galilee! I'll never get over the views...not ever!

My friends, THIS was my favorite place to be on our entire trip to Israel!

On THIS beach, a resurrected Jesus called out to His disciples who had been out fishing ALL NIGHT,
"'Friends, haven't you any fish?' 'No,' they answered. He said, 'Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.' When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish." John 21: 5,6

After this interaction, John realized it was Jesus, Peter JUMPED INTO THE WATER to get to Jesus as quickly as humanly possible, leaving the other disciples to haul all these fish in.

The church that was built here is called Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter, or Mensa Christi for short.

There was one monk sitting inside reading his Bible when I stole a quiet moment inside. While we were still there, a church group sang a few hymns.

Mensa Christi, literally translated "Christ's Table," is believed to be the place where Jesus cooked His friends fish and bread over a fire by the time they made it back to shore. Did you catch that? When His friends had been out fishing all night long and caught NOTHING, Jesus had already cooked them a fish breakfast, and it was ready for them when they docked!

"When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, 'Bring some of the fish you have just caught.' Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, 'Come and have breakfast.' John 21: 9-12"

These stones could have been part of a fishing wharf!

You can exactly imagine Jesus standing there cupping his hands to amplify His voice and calling out, "Friends! Haven't you caught anything?!"

This makes you actually picture what happened. They fished ALL NIGHT and caught NOTHING. Then, a man on the shore gives these professional fishermen a tip. Haha! They gave it one more try. What did they have to lose, after all? Then they hauled in this HUGE CATCH! John realized that it was the Lord, and Peter jumped ship and swam (or waded) the 100 yards (Jn 21: 8) to shore, leaving his buddies to do the dirty work! WHY? You can click HERE if you'd like to know the background as to why Peter would have jumped ship in the first place!

After "the guys" ate breakfast together, Jesus "recommissioned" Peter. Remember, Peter had denied Jesus THREE TIMES shortly before Jesus went to the cross, so there was a bit of mending to be done to their relationship. Jesus went for it. He reinstated Peter right there in front of all of the disciples that were there at breakfast. You can read more about this story in John Chapter 21.

Nostalgic doesn't begin to scratch the surface of this place. Listening to the Sea lap gently on the black, pebbly shoreline, hearing your steps crunch through the miniature stones and shells on the beach, being where the RISEN SON OF GOD was with His disciples...
undeniably awesome...

Next stop in Galilee, a quick, windy road up the hill to:
The Mount of Beatitudes