Archive for the 'Israel' Category

14
Nov
11

Israel : Christianity’s Holiest Site & More



It was my third day in Israel and a day to explore more of the Old City of Jerusalem and Mount Zion.  On previous days I had my initial tour of the Old City during my arrival and birthday, followed by a trip to the Dead Sea and Masada the next day.

MOUNT ZION

Mount Zion Hotel, where I was staying, is only a few minutes walk to Mount Zion. Probably, the hotel had been named as such because of its proximity and full view of Mount Zion.

I had to walk from my hotel down along Hebron Road until its intersection with Hativat Yerushalayim, turning left on it and keeping right.  Then I had to climb up the hill through a winding road. Mount Zion is located on the south-west side of the old city, outside the present walls.  According to Christian tradition, Mount Zion was the site of the palace of high priest Caiaphas, and the location of the house where Jesus held the last supper. It was also the place where His mother Mary is buried. Therefore, the area has been prime site for Christian churches, institute and cemeteries.  According to Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions, this is also the site of the tomb of King David.

My first stop in Mount Zion was the Coenaculum (Upper Room) where Jesus sat with His disciples to celebrate the Passover Seder (Last Supper).  The building identified as the Coenaculum or the Cenacle is a small, two-storey structure within a larger complex of buildings on the summit of Mount Zion.

The upper storey was built by the Franciscans in the 14th century to commemorate the Last Supper.

It is also identified as the “upper room” in which the Holy Spirit descended upon the Disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2:2-3). The sculpted mihrab, the Muslim prayer niche, was added in 1523, when the Franciscans were evicted from the building and the room converted into a mosque.

The ground-floor room beneath the Coenaculum contains a cenotaph that since the 12th century has been known as the “tomb of King David” – even though the recorded burial place of the king was in the “City of David” on the Ophel Ridge (1 Kings 2:10).

I entered the ground-floor room…..

…and got a glimpse of the tomb site.

Just outside the tomb, a star of David caught my eye…..

…and King David’s statue as well.

Just nearby outside the Zion Gate is the Dormition Abbey, a massive structure that resembles a mighty fortress. This Benedictine Basilica was built on the site where Virgin Mary have fallen asleep for the last time.

 It is topped by a high, domed belltower, a conical dome and corner towers.

Out of regard for the nearby Muslim sacred place of Nabi Da’ud (David), which now occupies the building in the Upper Room I previously visited and where traditionally the Last Supper took place, the bell tower is set far enough away that its shadow does not touch Nebi Da’ud, and is therefore not directly accessible from the church.

The present church is a circular building with several niches containing altars.

The basilica’s highlights are the mosaics.

Shown here are some of the altars…

…and more altars.

Two spiral staircases lead to the organ-loft and the gallery, from where two of the church’s four towers are accessible and to the lower crypt, the site ascribed to the dormition of the Virgin Mary.

The lower-level crypt is the traditional site of Mary’s home and death. It is the memorial for the spot where Mary (mother of Jesus) fell into sleep before her burial and assumption into heaven. A circular pillared hall with ambulatories, it centers on the Chapel of the Dormition…..

…with a carved-stone figure of Mary in repose (dormitio). Above, a mosaic in the dome depicts Christ receiving her soul.

From the Dormition Abbey, I took a fews steps and walked inside Zion Gate to enter once again the walled Old City of Jerusalem.

As I was trying my way to the Christian Quarter I accidentally passed by the Jewish Quarter once more and caught a glimpse of the Hurva Synagogue. Built, destroyed and rebuilt a number of times, this historic synagogue was in its final completion of its approved restoration to its 19th century style when I visited it. [It was formally completed in March 2010.]

I walked around some more around the Jewish Quarter and I came across the Four Sephardi Synagogues. They form a complex which comprises four adjoining synagogues which were built at different periods to accommodate the religious needs of the Sephardic community, each congregation practising a different rite.

First stop was the Yochanan ben Zakai Synagogue, also known as Kahal Kadosh Gadol, that stands on the spot of the beit midrash of the tanna Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai who established the Tsanhedrin in Yavneh after the destruction of the Second Temple.  The current building was constructed at the beginning of the 17th century.


Well, an Arab guy offered his services as a tour guide for a small fee and he also acted as my photographer.


The Emtsai Synagogue or Middle Synagogue, also known as the Kahal Tzion Synagogue, forms the central chamber of the complex. It was originally a courtyard which probably used as the women’s section of the Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakai synagogue. During Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) it could be converted into a sukkah for the worshippers. With the growth of the community, it was decided during the middle of the 18th century to roof the yard. It was turned into what is today known as the Middle Synagogue, due to its location in the “middle” of the other three synagogues.


Another synagogue was established in the 16th century and named after Elijah the Prophet. This synagogue is the oldest of the four. The Eliyahu Ha’navi Synagogue mainly served as a beth midrash for Torah study. It was only used for prayer on festivals.


It was a short but informative tour of the synagogues.

CHRISTIAN QUARTER (THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE)


After my quick Jewish Quarter revisit, I finally went directly to the Christian Quarter.  Seen here is the silver-gray dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, considered as Christianity’s holiest site.

This is the main entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


As I faced the opposite side from the entrance and atrium of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the imposing tower of the Mosque of Omar rose above the delirious crowd packing the alley.

I have extracted a map from www.sacred-destinations.com of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for a better perspective of the tour I made around the compound.  The church is home to Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Anglicans and Protestant Christians have no permanent presence in the church.

At the church entrance, a mosaic of Jesus being taken from the cross, being prepared for burial and being entombed adorns the wall facing the entrance.

Just beneath the painting, is the Stone of the Anointing or Stone of Unction, believed to be the spot where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea.

The lamps that hang over the stone were contributed by Armenians, Copts, Greeks and Latins.

Christians belonging to certain sects venerate the stone.

Here is a closer look at the wall mosaic.

Further inside to the west of the Stone of Unction is the focal point of the Holy Sepulcher Church.

Underneath the large dome is the Tomb of Christ itself, enshrined in a large, boxy shrine. The shrine, referred to as the edicule, is supported by scaffolding on the outside making it unattractive.

The dome is decorated with a 12-pointed star whose rays symbolize the outreach of the 12 apostles. The diameter of the dome is about 20.5 meters; the height is 34 meters.

A large crowd was patiently queueing up to see the inside of the edicule….

..and the rest were standing in awe.

Just across the Tomb of Christ is the Catholicon, or Greek Orthodox cathedral….

……with the thrones of the Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Antioch.

Above it is the “Pantokrator” mosaic.  It depicts Christ as the “Almighty”, “All-Powerful”, “Omnipotent”.

Going back to the entrance, a stairway on the right leads to Calvary (or Golgotha), the place where Jesus was crucified.


The first chapel is the Catholic (Franciscan) Chapel of the Nailing of the Cross, which is Station 11 on the Via Dolorosa. Shown here is the 12th-century mosaic of Jesus being nailed to the cross on the vault and a Medici altar from Florence.


Adjacent to the Catholic chapel is the Greek Orthodox Calvary, which contains the actual Rock of Calvary (Station 12) around which the church was built. This is the Altar of Crucifixion.


Here, according to tradition, Jesus was crucified.


Down from Calvary (Golgotha), the Stone of Anointing could be seen with the crowds venerating it.


The wall mosaic in the entrance can also be seen.

Back again to ground level, another part of the Roman Catholic section is shown here.


At the east end of the north aisle is the the chapel of the Prison of Christ (Greek Orthodox Chapel), which according to 12th-century tradition housed Jesus and the two thieves before the Crucifixion.

Inside the Prison of Christ.


I then took a stairway that descends to the large Chapel of St. Helena, which is owned by the Armenians and known to them as the Chapel of St. Gregory. On the stairway walls are many small crosses carved by medieval pilgrims. The chapel has three aisles and two apses: the north apse is dedicated to the penitent thief; the south apse to St. Helena, mother of Constantine. A seat in the southeast corner of the chapel is said to have been occupied by Helena as she searched for the True Cross, a story first mentioned around 351.

From that corner, I descended 13 more steps into the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross.

The left side is owned by the Catholics, whose altar features an eerie, life-sized statue of St. Helena holding a cross.

The Greeks have the right side of the chapel.   Shown here are Korean tourists and that ended my tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the holiest place in Christianity.


As I was walking to exit through one of the gates, I passed by the entrance to the Mosque of Omar….


…passing and stopping by shops where I bought some souvenirs, one of them was a medium-sized menorah.


I exited via the Jaffa Gate and from the open space I enjoyed the views of the walled city…..


….that includes the view of the tower of David.

I proceeded to the nearby, modern Mamilla Mall.


Home to some of the nicest and poshest restaurants in Mamilla, the mall features an outdoor promenade and a two-level indoor sections of fashion chain stores and boutiques.

I stopped at a reasonably-priced Italian bistro to have my late lunch of alfredo fettucine. After a little shopping, I went back to the hotel.

The view from my room was a stunning, golden scenery of the Kidron Valley brought about by the afternoon sun.  It was another memorable day….walking where Jesus walked in the Golden City.

My final day in Jerusalem consisted of the quick tour to the Mount of Olives before I traveled north to Tiberias.

12
Nov
11

Israel : Old City of Jerusalem, Western Wall


“Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels that you may tell of them to the next generation.” Ps 48:12-13

I was just being aware of that verse from Psalms 48 and so I traveled to Israel to spend my 37th birthday in Jerusalem. This travel documentary is the first of two parts of my 3.5-day stay in Jerusalem as part of my 8-day Israel sojourn that also brought me to the Dead Sea & Masada, Tiberias (Sea of Galilee), Nazareth, Cana, Tabqa, Capernaum, Mount Tabor and finally, Tel Aviv.

On the eve of my birthday, I had to board a Turkish Airlines flight from Singapore where I was based then with a transit in Istanbul in Turkey before finally heading to Tel Aviv. I would have wanted to fly El Al, Israel’s flag carrier, but it does not fly directly to Singapore; the nearest El Al’s destinations are Bangkok and Hong Kong. I would not want to change airlines so the best option for me was Turkish Airlines, Europe’s best airline. Well, the best Middle Eastern airlines such as Emirates and Qatar Airways (read: Arab airlines) do not fly to Israel.

At Singapore’s Changi Airport Terminal 1, I was sent off by my best two buddies, Justin and Geraldine.  We sipped inexpensive but very good coffee and chatted for a while, before I passed through the immigration gates on my way to celebrating my most memorable birthday ever.

[Photo courtesy of Turkish Airlines.] My first Turkish Airlines experience exceeded my expectations of a European airline but it somehow ranked lower compared with my own experiences with Asia’s best airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Korean Air, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways. Well, I got the usual personal TV and I was seated next to an unassuming and charming Spanish lady who was traveling from Sydney to Madrid. The trip was smooth and peaceful except that there was just this beautiful airline stewardess who was such a clumsy lady and always acted rudely to the Spanish lady next to me especially during meal times.

And so I turned 37 years old 37,000 feet up in the air. After 13 hours the plane landed at Istanbul, I passed through the exceedingly crowded and chaotic transit area and after 1 hour, I took the 2-hour flight to Tel Aviv.

It was a bright Saturday morning when we arrived at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport and I was truly excited for my first visit to the Holy Land.

Israel welcomes Philippine passport holders without visas. It is indeed a great privilege to us Filipinos and it is Israel’s a way of eternally expressing gratitude to one of the countries that welcomed the Jews during difficult times when they needed nations to adopt them especially during World War II.

Although I was fully aware not to have my passport stamped with the entry to Israel to prevent eventual scrutinized or even banned entry in Muslim countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, I was overwhelmed and I totally forgot to tell the immigration official to have the stamp on a separate piece of paper. So my old passport had that 13-09-2009 (my birthday) Ben Gurion airport immigration stamp. After passing through immigration, I was randomly selected and was questioned by a nice Israeli immigration lady regarding my trip. After 10 minutes, she was finally convinced I was just a plain sojourner and was not an Israeli security threat.

After getting past the immigration area, I was immediately in the main lobby of what was considered at that time Middle East’s most modern airport. Ben Gurion International Airport was spacious and modern.

Just right outside after exiting the airport is the Menorat Hashalom and nearby were the waiting 10-seater sheruts (shared taxi van) bound for different parts of Israel. I decided to take the sherut for 50 shekels in going to Jerusalem as the train would require me to take some transfers. The sherut was actually the best economical and most convenient option to reach Jerusalem from the airport.

In a little less than an hour, the sherut dropped me in front of my hotel, Mount Zion Hotel, located at Hebron Road.

After checking in, I was inside my room and was mesmerized by the view of the Kidron Valley, the valley mentioned in the Bible in John 18.  The hotel is actually less than 10 minutes walk to the Old City of Jerusalem.  So after booking my Dead Sea and Masada tour for the following day at the hotel reception….

…I was out walking to the Old City.

I read from brochures of the free tour being offered by some guides so I went to the Jaffa Gate to check on them.  Within a few minutes, I decided not to go with them as I wanted to explore the old city on my own with full control of the time and pace.

My first stop was the rooftop of the once elegant Petra Hotel built in 1870 that is now reduced to a status of a hostel. I paid 5 shekels to go up and it was more than worth it. Frommer’s travel guide was absolutely correct; it had a sweeping view of the Temple Mount.

As I was setting up my camera on a table for a timer-controlled self-portrait, there were two guys who also came up and one of them took my photo.

The left view from the top of Petra Hotel was the Christian Quarter with the silver gray dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the holiest site in Christianity.

I went down from the top of the Petra Hotel and walked to the Jewish Quarter where the Cardo is located. The Cardo is the reconstructed main street of Byzantine Jerusalem. It showed that colonnades run the length of the city from north to south. In general a cardo was a north-south oriented street in Roman cities.

Uncovered in 1970s, the Cardo is 6 meters or 20 feet below current street level.

A part of the Cardo has been rebuilt as a stretch of modern shops.

I was wondering if I could buy King Solomon’s wisdom here.

On my way to the Western wall, I stopped for cafe latte and salmon bagel.  I needed to recharge myself as I was doing the somewhat exhausting walking tour. In between sips and bites, I peeked inside my Frommer’s travel guide. I have been using Frommer’s travel guides for my trips since 1998 when I started traveling outside of Asia.

The self-tour continued on and as I passed three more blocks where I rested, I came upon the pedestal going down to the Western Wall.

I was thrilled seeing the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock.

The Dome of the Rock is a Muslim-controlled shrine on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

It was constructed on the same site where the Second Temple of Solomon was once standing before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  The Western Wall, located at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount,  is what remained of the Jewish temple. It is one of the holiest sites in Judaism outside of the Temple Mount itself.

As I approached the Western Wall grounds, it was filled with tourists and soldiers alike.  There was a special celebration attended by the young Jewish army.

They were some of the soldiers who were eager to have their photos taken.  They were nice, funny and entertaining. Immediately I proceeded to the Western Wall.

I needed a head covering upon entering the area. Tourists and locals pray at the Western Wall.

I actually wrote my friends’s prayers as well as my own on pieces of paper, prayed them one by one and slotted them in the wall openings.

After staying for some time in the Western Wall grounds, watching the special army celebration, I went to the southern side of the compound and took a photo that includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque shown at the right with its gray dome…..

….and another photo of the Mount of Olives with the Al Aqsa Mosque at its left.

Interestingly, as I was about to go and celebrate my birthday on my own, thinking of a place where to have dinner, I met two Filipinas on my way out of the Western Wall compound. They were working in Jerusalem as domestic helpers.  We chatted for a short while and they were actually nice.

We left the Old City of Jerusalem with a golden meronah as the last thing that caught my camera lens. One of the Filipinas had to go home and the other (Mirasol) offered to company me around knowing it was my birthday and my first time in Jerusalem.

She toured me around the city and helped me buy a local sim card.  We then proceeded to the famous Ben Yehuda Street which was just near their rented accommodation.  She brought me up to their place and I was able to meet a group of nice Filipinos all working in Israel.

Mirasol then accompanied me to a local restaurant and we celebrated my 37th birthday with a kebab dinner.

The salad and starters were already very filling.

The kebab was served last and it tasted good.  The place was nice.  It was a different way to celebrate my birthday. Jerusalem + birthday celebration + kebab+ a friend = an experience that is one for the books.

I was thankful to my God that I met Mirasol on that day. A God-given companion, she had stories to tell and one that struck me was that her family members each belonged to different religion or sect from Islam to Catholicsm to a certain sect/cult.  Next to that was her experience with her not-so-nice, disabled African Jewish female employer that she was taking care of. She had to lift her most of the time before the husband bought a “lifter”. She was trying hard to stay with them just because the husband (she told me he was nice) implored her to do so.  After dinner we walked a little more around the city.  Then I bade her goodbye and I took a cab back to my hotel.

When I returned, Mount Zion Hotel exuded a classic aura at night with all the lightings.  It is not the most luxurious hotel in Jerusalem but its location is amazingly convenient and its stunning views are ones that even the King David Hotel, the city’s most prestigious, cannot match.

I had a queen size bed to myself….

…and the simple room amenities. I had to pay extra for the internet but it was just a minimal charge.

I liked the bathroom’s semi-classic interior.

With the views of the Kidron Valley and part of Mount Zion from my room, I could not have asked for a better room and hotel that was within my budget.  I spent the night with Facebook, wine and prayer and more prayer.  I thanked God for the opportunity to see and walk the land where His Son walked.

It was an unforgettable first day in Jerusalem, the Holy City, the Golden City, the Eternal City.  No other city means so much to so many people with 4,000 years of history in the footsteps of kings, emperors, prophets and the Son of God.

NEXT=> Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Christianity’s holiest site) and finally Gethsemane & Mount of Olives.


01
Nov
11

Israel : Dead Sea & Masada


I arrived in Jerusalem the day before and it was my 37th birthday, a well-planned birthday party for myself. One of the most important things I did upon arriving at my Jerusalem hotel was to book the whole day tour of Dead Sea and Masada for the following day. Through the Mount Zion Hotel front desk, I booked the US$92 tour organized by Bein Harim Tourism Services .

I was picked up at my hotel at 830am for the only group tour I have joined in my entire stay in Israel.  As the lone Asian in the tour group, I was easily recognized by the tour guide as coming from the Philippines. I was joined by other tourists from Poland, Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Romania and the U.S..

On our way to the Dead Sea, we passed by places like The Inn of the Good Samaritan…..

…Jericho, the oldest city in the world….


….the sprawling Judean Desert….


….and the habitation of Israel’s bedouin, a minority within the Arab minority, whose nomadic tradition is still prevalent.


After more than an hour of traveling we finally reached the sea level mark on our descent to the Dead Sea area.

Waiting for us was the man with his camel. The tour bus stopped and we all went down.

I was the first one to go up the camel.  With a camel-riding experience to boot 12 years earlier on the banks of the famous Red Sea in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I was a bit confident as everyone looked on.

With a stunning Judean Desert backdrop, the camel stood…..

…and the camel walked around the area and it was fun.  Others in the group took turns in riding the camel.

Then it was time to say goodbye to the man and his camel.  Well, I wonder if the man is already a millionaire, receiving generous gratuity when tourists on the way to the Dead Sea ride on his camel.

Three miles more to the Dead Sea……..

….passing one of the caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were found.  The Dead Sea scrolls are the oldest surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible.

Also magnificent was the view of the date palm trees. We first proceeded to Masada, which is also in the Dead Sea area.

We arrived at a building that serves as an entrance to Masada.  Shown here is a painting of Masada during the time of Herod the Great. Located on an almost inaccessible plateau high above the shores of the Dead Sea, Herod built this legendary palace fortress in about 10 B.C. In A.D. 73, more than 75 years after Herod’s death, it became the final stronghold of the first revolt against Rome. It is the scene of one of the most heroic and tragic incidents in Jewish history where the remaining Jews committed suicide on the eve of their conquest by Roman armies.  Even without the drama of Masada’s last stand, the site is one of haunting, audacious magnificence. The camps, fortifications and the assault ramp at its base constitute the most complete surviving ancient Roman siege in the world.

The plateau, 450 meters above the level of the Dead Sea, is approximately 650 meters long and 300 meters wide.

We went up to the plateau via a 2.5 min cable car ride…..

….sighting on some big horn goats plying around the area.

Finally we reached the top of the plateau where the views of the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert are utterly breathtaking!

We had to traverse the snake trail to go in and around the plateau.

It was a nerve-wracking but breathtaking stroll along the walkway.

At the top, the view of the Dead Sea expanse and Jordan beyond was amazing. Jordan, having a landmark peace treaty with Israel, is actually just across the Dead Sea.

As we toured around we inspected some of the structures that have been probably reconstructed.

One of them was the site of a Byzantine church….

…and the other was the Columbarium Tower.

Herod built an intricate system of aqueducts to drain every drop of rainwater from the nearby wadis into the Masada cisterns.

We had a short stop at the synagogue site to listen more amazing, heroic stories from our fantastic Israeli Jew tour guide who could speak 11 languages and has 2 PhDs in language and biblical studies.  He was a former Israel Ministry of Tourism employee. I would love to join one of his future tours when I would be in Israel again.

Standing on the sight of the world’s first synagogue, I was overwhelmed.

This was the view to the west of Masada, the sprawling deserts of Judea and Samaria.

We continued our journey around the top of the plateau under the scorching heat of the noon time sun.  Until it was time to go down to the Masada entrance building to have our lunch.

After lunch we traveled back to the north passing by the Dead Sea to our right (east)…..

…and the great plateau to our left (west).

We had a 45-min stop at the AHAVA factory.  The mineral content of the Dead Sea water, the very low content of pollens and other allergens in the atmosphere, the reduced ultraviolet component of solar radiation, and the higher atmospheric pressure at its great depth each have specific health effects. AHAVA, an Israeli cosmetic company, is one such company to take advantage of the great health effects of the Dead Sea waters and uses the Dead Sea minerals in their products.  Well, I have known the company for a number of years and I personally like the products. Yes, when you are in the AHAVA Dead Sea factory, buy as much as you can as they are 50-70% lower than the prices elsewhere, outside Israel.

We continued our journey northwards along the Dead Sea shores. At 400 meters below sea level this lake is the lowest point on earth; although called the Dead Sea as nothing can live in it, this is actually a sea of life because of the large concentration of minerals.  It is 1400 feet at its deepest and it is 67 kilometres (42 mi) long and 18 kilometres (11 mi) wide at its widest point.

We then stopped at one of the resorts along the Dead Sea and immediately went straight to the sea water.

I was a bit hesitant of the floating experience.

Yes I did float! The salt concentration of the Dead Sea fluctuates around 31.5% which is unusually high. Anyone can easily float in the Dead Sea because of natural buoyancy.  Also a very nice thing to know is one does not need sun protection while floating in the Dead Sea as the mist caused by the minerals blocks the sun’s rays before they damage your skin.  The tour guide told us so. It was also believed Egypt’s Cleopatra would often travel to the Dead Sea as part of her therapeutic regimens.

So we spent more time floating.  We had to be careful not to splash our eyes with the sea water as it could really be painful.  If your eyes accidentally catch some sea water, then you just need to rinse it thoroughly.

We’re the fantastic four!! Me (small one) from the Philippines, the couple Tjalvo (left) and Arina (right) from the land of the tallest people on earth, Netherlands and Louis (in blue trunks, next to Arina) from Canada.  After we spent 20 minutes dipping in the Dead Sea, we needed to have the mud wrap for another 20 minutes or so.

God provided the Dutch couple and the Canadian guy as my closest buddies during my Dead Sea tour.

My Dead Sea experience was fun, real fun! The trip benefits were actually worth more than what I had paid for. I would consider this as my all-time favorite therapeutic experience because of that amazing mud wrap!

It was time to head back to Jerusalem for the following day’s additional exploration of the Old City.

22
Oct
11

Israel : Sea of Galilee & Decks


I was on the fourth day of my grand Israel tour during my birthday week in 2009. After a hasty Mount of Olives tour with my Nikon DSLR battery dead and with only my iPhone available to take pictures and videos, I went back to Mount Zion Hotel in Jerusalem and packed my things. I needed to travel to the north.

The same taxi driver who toured me around Mount of Olives took me to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station where security was so tight. I bought a 45-shekel bus ticket and boarded the 1230PM Egged bus trip. I left Jerusalem teary-eyed while listening to Paul Wilbur’s Shalom Jerusalem, the same song I was listening to when I arrived in Jerusalem. I really could not prevent the tears from falling and it was good I had my sunglasses on. I arrived in Tiberias after an almost 2 hours scenic bus ride from Jerusalem around mid-afternoon without any clue on how to get to my hotel. Tiberias would be my base for my next two day visits to Mount Tabor, Nazareth, Cana, Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha and Capernaum. I took a taxi from Tiberias central bus station for 5 shekels.  An old, very pleasant Arab-Israeli driver with whom I spoke a bit of Arabic, took me to my hotel, a former Sheraton property now called Moriah Plaza Hotel.

As I arrived in the hotel I noticed the commanding view of the Sea of Galilee!   This was taken from my room’s balcony.

Most rooms have the view of the Sea of Galilee (also known as Kinneret).

My room was indeed very nice. Of course I had this bed all to myself as I was all alone!

This was the TV and study area.  Unfortunately, I had to pay extra for the internet.

Nevertheless, I liked the room.

The bathroom is the most important part of a hotel room that I usually check in detail.  For this one, I rated it as slightly above average.  Not shabby, not too grand.

After getting over my hotel room madness, I went out to the streets of Tiberias. I just walked around town until I finally headed to my destination of the day.

Decks.  A highly-rated restaurant in Tiberias.

I went up the restaurant that seemed like Noah’s ark.

I was actually early for dinner so the place was still empty but it gave me the chance to choose the best seat.

I chose one at a corner overlooking the sea.  This was an emotional moment for me, as I was waiting for my orders I read the chapters of Luke from the Bible that happened here more than 2,000 years ago. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, walked on the waters of this sea!


Initially I only had my Frommer’s Israel travel book and my iPhone from where I read the Bible that got me teary eyed.

Then came the wine.  I ordered an authentic Israeli wine from Carmel region.  Although not yet as popular as the French, American, Australian and South African wines, I have high hopes that Israeli wines will be available widely all over the world in a few years time.

And finally came my orders.

St. Peter’s fish that actually looked and tasted similar to tilapia.

..my favorite lamb chops….

…and chips with herbs.  Food was great…

and so was the view to my right…

and underneath with young Israelis dipping in the beach.

I could never have been happier that day. Delectable food, excellent location, nice price. Nice price? Hmmm it was actually a bit on the expensive side but I already knew about it before so I was not surprised.

As it grew darker, I just finished sipping the full-bodied wine that got me a bit tipsy but still…..

….I was able to walk back to my hotel where I rested early for the next day’s busy tour to other parts of northern Israel.  Shalom!




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