Reflections

Click: Jump To Second Half Starting 27 February


Of course you can't go to the Holy Land without witnessing conflict and its cost. It seems that Jerusalem, the city of peace, has never had a moment of peace. Seeing the dividing wall, and the contrast of life on the two sides, is sad. Hearing the stories of people on both sides, their deeply-rooted feelings and historic grievances is heart-breaking. And then people eating, drinking, laughing, praying, dancing -- living rich full lives in the shadow of all this. For us, who come from countries that are so much younger, but where there are also histories of conflict, there may be some lessons. We should do everything we can to reconcile with one another so generations ahead don't need to have uncertainly and fear chewing at the edges of their lives. Are we not told to "love your neighbour as yourself"?
But the places we saw! Petra, carved out of rock -- bleak and beautiful at the same time. A secret city of tombs. Jerusalem and Galilee, city and country. The agricultural areas. Cairo and Giza -- dusty and crowded, but with awe-inspiring ancient treasures. The beauty of the Nile and overwhelming temples at Edfu, Karnak and Luxor. But most of all, feeling the old familiar stories come alive as we walked where Moses and Jesus and all the others walked, saw what they saw, breathed the air they breathed.
I want to express our gratitude to the EO reps in all three countries who made sure everything went smoothly at airports and hotels; to the drivers and security people who carried us safely through all these adventures; to our guides Kusai, Ibrahim and Mostafa who made it come alive; to the 28 people who slowed their pace so we could keep up and experience all this; and to Pastor David and Nanci Branson who shepherded us all. It was all just wonderful. Thank you!

Technical Info [ by Larry ]

Jump To Second Half of Blog Starting 27 February

Some folks have asked about downloading pictures from here - just click on the small photos to enlarge them - then Right-Click, Save to save to your computer.  You can do this for a whole day using the 3dot menu upper right on a Day-Album and they all will download as a .zip file. Similarly you can click the pics you want and then go to the 3dot menu to download.

For the Valley of the Kings, I added a couple of photos from Google Images

The order of days has been reversed so that the blog goes from the first day to last day rather than last day to first day.  Note that the first long page goes just to 26 February; click the small link called "older posts" to get to later days of the trip.  Alternative there is a Link on the top of this and the top of Janice's Reflections to jump directly to the second half. Of course any day can be individually displayed using the menu of days at the right side.

If you have some very favourite photos please send them to JaniceHatt@gmail.com and I will added them to the day collection.

Generally at the end of each day posting there is a link to an album of the other photos of the day.  Click the link and all the photos will be displayed after a brief download delay.

If you forget the internet address for Janice's Blog, Google finds it quite readily if you search on "Janice Hatt blog".  That will give her Profile with the Jordan-Holyland-Egypt one in the list.  Best bookmark it then for simpler access.

There is of course a wealth of information on the internet that gives more info about our stops on the trip.  Wikipedia.org is a good ref for any site but I found these below very valuable:

SeeTheHolyland.net  - it has a long list down the right side with references to most all our stops in Israel and Jordan

ancient-egypt-online.com - a well-organized site on Egypt

Monday 18 February - Enroute


    Clare Shore was kind enough to run a shuttle for several of us to BPI.  First, Bill and Teresa, then she came back for us, and finally Pastor David and Nanci.  Good they were not last since I managed to leave my day-pack in the car.  David and Nanci brought it with them and all was well, but it was a shaky start to the journey.
    Larry and Nanci were able to board early since both are using canes, so we got settled in for the trip to J.F.K. New York.  We were disappointed to learn that we had to get our bags there and re-check them and that we had to pay for our check bags on this leg of the flight. All apparently because our lay-over would be more than 5 hours.  Also that means plenty of time to deal with it. 
    At JFK it took a while to retrieve our luggage and make our way from Terminal 5 to Terminal 1 by train, the we found that we couldn't check in for our Frankfort flight for another couple of hours.  We took turns guarding the pile of luggage and going to eat. Mike and Jan Schooley caught up with us just as we were checking in again. Eventually we transferred to the departure lounge for another few hours of waiting.
  While we were waiting, we were delighted to discover that about 20 members of the National Ballet Theatre of Odessa were waiting for the same flight. These beautiful young people were full of energy and excitement as they finished their 3-month North American tour and started home. At one point several of the young men took over a large open space and entertained us with a lively dance number. Isn't cultural exchange wonderful?   Link to Video of JFK Spontaneous Dance

Tuesday 19 February - Enroute to the Dead Sea


    The overnight flight wasn't too bad and most of us got some sleep. Frankfort Airport was another whole stay.  Although Nanci had had a wheel hair in New York, there wasn't one for her here, andwhen we asked to be transported on one of the motorcarts, the driver rudely shoo'd us away exclaiming that she'd loose her job if she gave rides to anyone who hadn't reserved.  She said we could reserve it now and wait 45 minutes.
    So we walked, very slowly, from concourse Z to concourse B - part of it by train. Nanci, Larry, and I were the only people in sight through several vast corridors.  Nanci wondered if the Rapture had occurred and we'd been left behind. Somewhere along the way, the lady who'd refused to give us a ride, whizzed by with her empty cart and we saw several others sitting idle.  Not at all like previous experience in this airport.
    Finally we arrived at Security, where David had been pacing and looking for us (he had Nanci's passport and boarding pass).  But we still had about 20 minutes before pre-boarding.
Once we were sent down the Jetway (as the first of the fully-booked hoard) we found the door into the aircraft closed aqnd locked.  Another gentleman knocked on the fuselage and the cabin crew were most surprised to see us when they opened the cabin door.  So we waited another few minutes, then boaarded.
    Lufthansa at least seats couples together and their groups in near proximity, and that's nice. Also pretty good food - smoked salmon and potato salad and horseradish, chicken with orange sauce and  rice, Camembert chocolate-walnut brownie and wine.
    With a 4-hour flght to Amman we landed at 7:30 local time and an EO rep met us and walked us through the formalities.  The bus ride to the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea Resort was about an hour, so he gave us some insights into Jordan and pointed out the lights of Jerusalem and Jericho.  The hotel is beautiful and they had held dinner for us, kept the dining room open for us until 10:30.  It was delicious.  We're exhausted but needed to get organized so it won't be many hours sleep before the 5am wake up call for our day in Petra.

Wednesday 20 February - Petra Jordan


   We're thinking of our family back home today as they gather to remember and celebrate the life of Janice's aunt, Della Patterson, a very funny feisty beloved woman. RIP Aunt Della.
   Really slept well and had no trouble waking up at 5am. Walking over to the main building for breakfast we realized we could see the Dead Sea. We hope to have a chance to get into it before we leave.
   On the 4-hour drive to Petra we saw the agricultural land of the Jordan Valley give way to grazing (herds of sheep and goats), then to semi-arid and desert areas with mining and processing of phosphates as well as uranium.
Power lines cross the area, bringing electricity from Egypt. We saw solar panels in fields and on houses, as well as a couple of wind farms in the hill areas. Most dwellings have stone or concrete block walls enclosing them. Neither landscapes nor dwellings have a lot of colour.
   This is near where the Israelites spent 38 years in the desert before spending 2 years in Jordan to reach Mt Nebo. Sadly, as in so many parts of the world, roadsides and even fields are heavily littered with plastic trash. As we climbed closer to Petra there were small patches of snow in the fields, remnants of a heavy fall just a few days ago. From our lunch stop we had a wonderful view over the entrance to Petra and in the other direction to hills in another colour, made of harder material than the softer red sandstone of Petra.
   Larry and I chose the "carriage" option for the trip through the siq to the Treasury. It's a long, rough walk and we wanted to try and go farther into the site. We were then able to walk into the area we hadn't seen when we were snowed out of there before. It is an awe-inspiring place.
Great beauty. Amazing workmanship. The siq -- the long canyon entrance -- is a surprise at every turn, and so narrow that I was afraid we'd mow down unsuspecting pedestrians as we bounced behind the trotting horse! We missed Kusai's explanations and also the group photo at the Treasury, but the trade-off was worth it, as was the long, cold wait for our return carriage.

   We were ready to depart about 90 minutes before its scheduled return, but had to abide by that time. Pastor David was about to walk out, saw me shivering and gave me his jacket. Blessings on Pastor David! He gave me the coat off his own back!







While we were waiting for our carriage some of our group returned on their camel transport.  We were last out, so when we arrived everyone headed back to the bus. Meanwhile, we had chatted with several interesting people who were also waiting for carriages. The 4-hour trip back to the hotel involved quite a bit of dozing on the bus, and was broken only by a 15-minute pit stop.
   We were given another tasty late dinner and will be retiring early because it'll be another 5am wake-up call as we prepare to leave for Israel in the morning. No Dead Sea floating this time.



 Link to Other Photos of the Day at Petra

Thursday 21 February -- Dead Sea to Jerusalem


Another very early start as we set out under cloudy skies to Mount Nebo. It's a long, steep climb and we were very glad to be doing it by bus.
It makes you really respect Moses for doing it on foot at the age of 120. Twice! The view was slightly obscured by haze but we could see Jerusalem and Jericho.










Pastor David read the story of Moses' visit from Deuteronomy 34.












Inside the church, we saw mosaics dating from the 4th to the 8th century AD. There has been a church on that site for that length of time, but it has been changed and rebuilt a few times, so it's a wonder the mosaics are in such good shape.









A mosaic workshop, established by Queen Noor to provide employment to people with physical limitations, was an interesting stop, with many beautiful creations. A few people bought pieces.










In Madaba, we walked uphill through the old town to St. George's Orthodox Church, where a Byzantine mosaic map forms part of the floor. It had been unknown for many years  but was uncovered in 1980.
   Our border crossing to Israel was a bit tedious, but non-eventful. We have a new bus, driver and guide. We started in right away with a late lunch in the chaotic cafeteria at Qumran, followed by a quick look at the  Essene waterworks 

    
and the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. It was cold, very windy and a little rainy, so we weren't tempted to linger.
On to a viewpoint from which we could see the Mount of Temptation.









A large monastery clings to the side of the mountain, with a small church that was built around what is said to be the rock on which Jesus sat during the first two temptations. There are also hermit cells a bit lower down the mountain.









Our final stop of the day was Jericho, the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world. We didn't go inside the ancient archeological site, but could see the remains of the old cities and walls, and
the Elisha fountain. We sampled Jericho dates -- very moist and sweet, but one was more than enough for me.
We were in the Palestinian Authority area, so had to go through a checkpoint to get to Jerusalem. We weren't stopped, so we were soon at the Olive Tree Hotel. We were warmly greeted by our EO host staff and soon in our comfortable room. Dinner was nice, with lots of choice for most people (not so much for me; it's a garlic-heavy menu) and some good conversation.

More Photos from the Day - Dead Sea to Jerusalem

Friday 22 February -- Jerusalem & Bethlehem


 After a delicious buffet breakfast, we boarded the bus and road to Herodion, the hill fortress. Because it was not high enough to afford a view of Jerusalem, the height of the mountain was doubled at Herod's command. We climbed up the outside steps to the open top area, where Ibrahim explained the structure and the history of Herod and his complicated, dysfunctional family. Then we made our way downward through cisterns and tunnels.













At the Shepherds' Fields we gathered in a cave and remembered the story of the shepherds and their encounter with the angels. In the small church we found beautiful paintings representing the story of the shepherds and Ibrahim read us the New Testament account. We sang Angels We Have Heard on High -- with the benefit of amazing acoustics. It was a glorious way to celebrate hearing this story in the place where it happened.











We spent some time at the Christian gift shop in Bethlehem, visiting the wood-carving workshop below, first. This cooperative provides a source of income for struggling Christian families in the Palestinian area. Lots of lovely carvings and beautiful jewellery, all locally sourced.
A few of us stayed on the bus while the rest went to a restaurant for lunch, then we moved on to the Church of the Nativity. The bus parking is quite a distance downhill from the church and it was quite crowded.

We made our way to the church and joined the line-up to visit the cave where Jesus was born. The church still has a lot of scaffolding, but the restoration work has progressed a great deal in the four years since we were last here. There are wonderful mosaics high on the walls that are breath-taking in their beauty. The line wasn't too long, but it was prayer time, so we had to wait just over an hour before climbing down the 14 steps into the cave. Because so many were waiting, we had to move as quickly as possible, so had only moments to see the star marking the birthplace and the area where the manger stood. Then we took a very quick look at the Church of St. Catherine before struggling downhill to the bus. Of course, we had to pass another checkpoint, but we were waved through, so no delay.











Ein Karem, the home of John the Baptist, was our last stop of the day. When we got there, about 15 minutes before the posted closing time, there was a crowd at the locked door. After a few phone calls and a walk through another path, we were finally allowed in. Just as we got to the steps down to the important area of the church, another guide came through, shoving us out of the way and his group followed to the bottom of the steps, blocking us. I never got down there, though most of our group persisted until they had seen what was down there. Wasn't such a spiritual experience for me.
Then back to the hotel and a bit of rest and refresh before dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

More Photos of the Day at Jerusalem and Bethlehem

Saturday 23 February -- Jerusalem on Foot


A long day of walking in Jerusalem. Because it is the Sabbath, breakfast at the hotel was very basic, compared to the wide choice we had yesterday.
  We drove first to the St. Peter in Gallicantu Church, on the traditional site of the House of Caiaphas.











An amazing bas-relief door depicts Jesus predicting Peter's denials of him.












Under the church we visited the prison where Jesus was likely held overnight before his Crucifixion and heard the horrifying descriptions of the punishment the Romans used in this place.










The Last Supper Upper Room, our next stop, is not the real room, since all of Jerusalem has been destroyed twice since then, but is in the area where the Last Supper took place, an Essene part of the city.
We walked down through the Lion Gate to the Cardo, and through the very quiet streets of the Jewish Quarter to the Western Wall. At the Tomb of David, along the way, women and men had to enter different areas. Photography was forbidden there and at the Western Wall (and all Jewish sites) because it was Shabat.


[these are telephotos from a way back]
At the Western Wall, most of us had prayers on tiny slips of paper to place in the wall. We had time to watch the comings and goings in the area and the devotions taking place in both the men's and women's sections of the wall. The sun had come out, and most of us shed our jackets.






















 We followed the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of the Crucifixion, burial and Resurrection of Jesus. It's a massive, dark, crowded place, but Ibrahim found an area with benches where we sat and heard the story of those days read from the Bible, and prayed. [people laying hands on the stone where they  prepared Jesus' body for burial]





















Making our way into the Muslim Quarter, we enjoyed lunch at an indoor restaurant. We welcomed that, because the temperature was dropping and jackets were back on.
Walking through the bright, noisy, busy market area of the Muslim Quarter was an adventure in itself -- we kept losing track of each other amid the wonders of it all -- spices in vast, artful arrays, candy of every colour and flavour, every kind of clothing, shoes, toys, hanging whole lambs and other fresh meats, jewellery, and then at the very end, some kind of kids' carnival.






 A short walk on city streets, and we emerged into the Garden Tomb complex -- a complete contrast to the market. It is beautiful, peaceful and holy. Some theorize that it might be the actual site of the Crucifixion, burial and Resurrection, and that theory was explained to us while we toured the site. That visit ended with a very moving communion service.







The bus picked us up (finally!) and moved us to the entrance to one of the Muslim cemeteries, through which we walked to the St. Stephen's Gate and to










 St. Anne's Church and the Bethesda Pools (dry ruins now of course). We heard the story of the healing of the crippled man, and then went into the church to sing and enjoy the wonderful acoustics. When we faltered over the second verse of Amazing Grace, the priest started it from the back of the sanctuary and then led us into the third verse. After having been scolded by priests a couple times today, this was a breath of fresh air!
From there it was back to the hotel, but for several people (not us) that was just a short break before going out for dinner with local families.

Link for All the Photos of the Walking Day of Jerusalem

Sunday 24 February -- Jerusalem to Tiberius


The view over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives is spectacular and
we had a group photo taken there before we began the Palm Sunday walk. That is the steep path down the hill to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of the Nations.










Along the way we stopped at the teardrop church (Dominus Flevit Church) where Jesus paused on Palm Sunday and wept for the destruction of Jerusalem that would occur about 40 years later.
 In Gethsemane we could see an olive tree about 300 years old whose roots could date back to the time of Jesus.
Through the Dung Gate to the Teaching Steps, where we heard the story of Jesus teaching in the Temple and some of the parables, and prayed. The archaeological work in this area is interesting and as a result of it, we can see some of the hundreds of ritual baths that were used by pilgrims before entering the temple.
As we left Jerusalem, Ibrahim pointed out that we were passing through the Hundred Gate area where the Ultra-Orthodox Jews live.

We decided to go to Megiddo today and have lunch there. We drove out the #1 highway toward Tel Aviv, through green terraced areas with lots of cypress and pine trees, some almond groves and other agricultural areas, increasingly common as we neared the coast. AND NO TRASH ANYWHERE! Part of the route is bordered by the separation wall.
We lunched at Tel Megiddo, then climbed to the top for the view out over the Jezreel Valley, which according to the book of Revelation, will be the site of the final battle between good and evil -- Armaggedon. We could also see Nazareth on a hill in the distance, with Cana beyond -- our next two destinations. From the top of Tel Meggido, we climbed down through the water system they used during seiges. It was a little steep and confined, and some of the stairs had open treads that were hard for using a cane and also caused a bit of vertigo but we all made it without incident. At the end we climbed up and out of it outside the city walls to where the bus was waiting.
Mount Precipice, outside Nazareth, commemorates Jesus' rejection by his home town, when the crowd threatened to throw him from a cliff.















In Cana we went first to the church, where 6 couples renewed their marriage vows, then on to a wine store, where we sampled and bought local wines.
Finally in Tiberius we checked into the Leonardo Club Hotel in time for dinner.








More Photos from the Jerusalem to Tiberius Experience

Monday 25 February -- Galilee


   Driving out of Tiberius we heard the story of the city over its 2000-or-so-year history. We could see the city walls near our hotel.
  Coming into Caesarea-by-the-Sea we saw fish ponds and some of us saw an aqueduct bringing fresh water from the Mount Carmel range.

We had a really good tour of the site -- the amphitheater, the hippodrome, the palace where a fresh-water pool was surrounded by the salt water sea and the large aqueduct at the beach.
   We drove up into Mt. Carmel to a Druze restaurant for lunch. This range of hills is very green and has lots of rain, which is why it's the main water source for the region. This lunch was pretty much like most of the others -- a choice of chicken or falafel on pita, with salad. Those of us with food restrictions have found that we're better off acquiring the makings for our own lunches, then perhaps buying coffee at the restaurant. They don't seem to mind letting us sit with the others while we eat and it saves all the stress of trying to negotiate a meal.











The site of Magdala was discovered by chance, during construction, and consists of a small synagogue, a couple of villas with their own ritual baths, and small homes. The baths have frogs living in them and the water still moves through them.








There is a beautiful, recently-constructed church on the site with a main sanctuary and 4 chapels. The altar in the main sanctuary is in the form of a boat. The pillars in the central area are inscribed with the names of women from the Bible, with one left blank for each of us dedicate to our own mother.
   Leaving Magdala, we drove through rich agricultural land where mangoes, bananas and other crops are abundant, some under netting to hold in the moisture. Bananas are in plastic bags to prevent bruising in the high winds that come off the Mediterranean every afternoon.




Outside the Church of the Beatitudes we gathered and read that passage and had a brief devotion. Inside the church we felt the peace of this beautiful place. In the garden there is a mosaic depiction of the route from the earthly Jerusalem to the heavenly Jerusalem by way of the beatitudes.


















Yardenit is the baptism site near where the Jordan flows out of the Sea of Galilee. Although it is not the traditional site of Jesus' baptism, it has been well-developed for pilgrims who want to be baptized or to reaffirm their baptismal promises, either by full immersion or by  "sprinkling". Five of our group chose immersion and the rest, sprinkling. It was an emotional moment, especially when the group next to us began singing Amazing Grace and we joined in. We eventually exited through the gift shop, and of course there was a bit of shopping.












Back in Tiberius we rested for awhile, then met for dinner before returning to our rooms to pack. Tomorrow we have a few more stops in Israel, then will cross back into Jordan. There we will say good-bye to 14 members of this great group before the rest of us continue to Egypt.

 Link to River Jordan Baptisms Video  (Youtube)

 Link to River Jordan Baptism Video - (Google Photos )

Link to Other Photos of the Day

Tuesday 26 February -- Tiberius to Amman


We got all packed up for the next transition and were on the bus by 8:20. It was a 5-minute drive to the wharf where we boarded a small boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. They raised the U.S. and Canadian flags and then we sang both national anthems -- thank you American friends for lending your voices to O Canada! I handed out the words so they could, and they rose to the occasion! It was such a nice moment.
Pastor David led a devotion and the sound system played lovely spiritual music for the whole crossing. On the far side, we walked through a modern complex where we had a coffee break before getting back on the bus.









We visited the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, then walked past the actual site of the Sermon on the Mount (lower on the mountain than where we visited yesterday), to the Church of the Primacy of Peter.









I walked down to the edge of the water -- much lower than on our previous visits -- and we stepped inside to touch the rock where Jesus prepared breakfast for the disciples and told Peter he was the rock on which the church would be built.







Capurnaum has the ruins of a synagogue where Jesus taught. In fact there was a newer, white stone synagogue built on top the the black stone one from his time.
There are also the remains of an octagonal Christian church and Peter's house. There is a beautiful modern church built over them. It's in a really pretty, peaceful area of the country. That was our last visit of the tour, except the lunch stop at (I think) Kinneret in Tiberius. We then set out for Jordan.
The border crossing was quite straightforward but involved several steps and took awhile. We had to leave behind Ibrahim, our driver and our bus and board the same bus with the same driver we'd had before in Jordan, with a new guide and tourist police escort. It's a long, steep climb to Amman, on roads that cling to the sides of the mountains, but the scenery and the sunset were spectacular.
In Amman we checked into the Crowne Plaza Hotel and met in the dining room for by far the best meal yet on this trip. It didn't hurt that we had the lovely quiet room to ourselves, but the staff were friendly and helpful, the food delicious and plentiful. Perfect for our last dinner as a group.
Meanwhile, my suitcase got severely damaged on one corner. Thank goodness Marcia carries duct tape when she travels and that seems to have provided at least a temporary solution.

More Photos of the Day