NAME THAT COUNTRY

This is one of some 800 Bell Caves in the Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park in the central part of our mystery. The caves were chalk mines dug in the 7th-11th centuries, during the country’s Islamic period. Miners would first dig a shaft and then cut blocks out of the soft chalk walls and haul it up through the shaft with ropes. Chalk was used in construction.

 

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

 

Continue reading

A Travel Agent’s Trip to Israel with Ya’lla Tours, Part 3

Another installment of a travel diary by Kelly Hyatt, who traveled to Israel in February of 2018 with a group of American travel agents. Thank you Kelly!

Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

We had now made it to the most holy city in the entire world, Jerusalem. The first day we visited Bethlehem, just 6 miles to the south. We visited the oldest church in the holy land, the Church of the Nativity. Based on the local tradition that Jesus was born in a cave at the edge of the village, the church was built over the site of the cave. We saw the Shepherd’s Fields, where Boaz met Ruth.

the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

Then, after a yummy Arabic lunch in Bethlehem, we returned to Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives, where we had our first view of the Old City walls and the Dome of the Rock. We proceeded to walk down the Palm Sunday road to the Church of Gethsemane, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the site of the agony of Jesus.
The old city called but that day was ended and we returned to the hotel for dinner and reflection.

The next day, it was raining and we first visited the Church of Peter Galicantus also called Caiaphas Palace, which held a cistern where Jesus was held before being taken to Pilate for his trial. Then we proceeded to the City of David where you can see the excavations revealing the earliest days of Jerusalem.

We entered into the amazing Hezekiah’s Tunnel and learned how the water from the only spring in Jerusalem was protected and got into the city. Here we joined Israeli school children who were on their own field trip, learning about their own history.

Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

At the Zion Gate, you can still see bullet holes from the six days war. We walked the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to see the place where some traditions hold to be where Jesus was crucified and buried. It was Ash Wednesday and the place was full of people from every religion.

the Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

the Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

We then went thru the Muslim Quarter and out of the city walls to the Garden Tomb, near the place of the skull (Golgotha), another place where some traditions hold to be the place of crucifixion and burial.

the Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem

the Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem

scale model of Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Jerusalem

scale model of Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The next day we went to the Israel Museum to see the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea scrolls are kept, and a full scale-model of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. The model really put in perspective the way it was, compared to the way it is now. And we were each able to reconcile our own belief and faith in which of the two places of crucifixion and burial we felt was right from our hearts Thene visited Mt Zion and saw King David’s Tomb and the Last Supper Room

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Jerusalem

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Jerusalem

Next was a very special moment that I wish every person in the world could experience. We visited Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum. Before we went into the grounds we visited a place called the Valley of the Communities. Here Ya’lla Tours had arranged for a Jewish cantor to come and pray the Lord’s Prayer and sing a Hebrew song. The song of the Holocaust was perhaps the most moving thing I have ever heard in my life. Then having the opportunity to visit the museum, brought it all to a reality that I had never experienced and likely will never again.

the Western Wall, Jerusalem

the Western Wall, Jerusalem

Later that day, several of us went back to the old city on our own and we made time to go to the Western Wall and pray. We all put our paper prayers into the cracks of the wall and then went shopping!!!!

Masada

Masada

On the last day of our tour we went back out of Jerusalem and down to the Dead Sea. We drove to the massive fortress of Masada. A place that defies reality. The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth and the mountain fortress of Masada towers over the area and even though it rises to a height of about 450 meters it is only 58 meters above sea level. This is a magical place. Herod the Great built a massive fortress there and in 72AD, the 10th Roman legion, during a monumental siege, used an astounding ramp to conquer the fortress and end the revolt of the Jewish Zealots. The attack ramp, the Roman camps and fortifications that encircle the mesa have survived to this day.

From here we stopped at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and then on to the beach for a float in the Dead Sea!!!!

As we made our way back to Jerusalem, we saw Bedouin sheep herders moving their sheep in for the night and the sun was setting in a most beautiful way. We all felt that we were blessed beyond measure to have been on such a tour with such a fun group of people and the best guides you could ever wish for.

I want to thank my tour guide Zvika for making me want to be a better Christian and to Jane V and Ronen of Ya’lla tours for putting together such a great trip and for teaching me so much about the destination of Israel. The one place on earth that every person should visit at least once in their life.

A Travel Agent’s Trip to Israel with Ya’lla Tours, Part 2

Following is the second installment of a travel diary by Kelly Hyatt, who traveled to Israel in February of 2018 with a group of American travel agents. Thank you Kelly!

Read part 1 here.

ISRAEL 2018 – WITH YA’LLA TOURS, BY KELLY HYATT

Let me say a little bit about my host Ya’lla Tours USA. What an amazing group of people both on the US side and inside Israel. Participants of the familiarization tour were met at the Tel Aviv Airport by Ya’lla Tours representatives and transferred to the hotel. The people who work for this company in-country are some of the most knowledgeable, kind, interesting, compassionate and funny people I have met on my travels. Our tour guide and driver were really top notch. This being a travel agent FAM we were also inspecting other hotel properties and the best way to do that is to have dinner! Ya’lla arraigned some amazing dinners and always comped the wine and drinks, which was an added surprise and appreciated by all. All of the hoteliers were gracious and the properties were quite stunning. Each time we stopped at an archaeological spot or church or anything else, all our entries and transfers were seamless and we never ever had to wait, so very VIP!! And there were 14 of us, can you imagine if it was just a small group, I can say with certainty even a larger group will experience a totally seamless trip with this company.

Now back to my experience. I won’t tell you all the amazing and wonderful things I saw and did because YOU need to GO there yourself and you can always look at the Ya’lla Facebook page as we were all posting photos from the bus Wi-Fi (free) every day.

the Jezreel Valley from Mt. Carmel

the Jezreel Valley from Mt. Carmel

I am not what I would call an “overly” religious person, but I have studied the Bible and have a pretty good grasp of the Gospels and some Old Testament scriptures. This being a Christian tour, I was excited to see those places I had learned about. It was an extreme honor for me to volunteer to read the first scripture at one of our first church stops on Mt. Carmel at the Carmelite Monastery of El Muhraqa. This is a tiny church on top of a very high mountain overlooking an amazing valley. This is the place where God caused Elijah to defeat the priests of Baal. The scripture I read took on a very special and renewed meaning to me that day.

loaves and fishes mosaic at Tabgha

loaves and fishes mosaic at Tabgha

Certainly, how could one not be moved when you visit the town of Jesus, Capernaum, and visit the church at Tabgha, with its Byzantine era mosaic showing two fish and a basket filled with loaves depicting the Miracle of the Multiplication? And then to take a boat-ride on the Sea of Galilee, it was so quiet and serene and you could almost feel the presence of the ancients on the calm waters.

Our group did not have a pastor with us so when we visited Mt Tabor to visit the Church of the Transfiguration, we were treated to a special mass being done by a group that arrived before us. I have never been to a mass and they were singing in Latin and the small church was filled with joy and amazing light and love. It was so spiritual for all of us.

Nazareth Village

Nazareth Village

After this we went to the Mount of the Beatitudes the site of the Sermon on the Mount, and then on to Nazareth and Cana. We visited a place called Nazareth Village, a recreation of how life was during the time of Jesus. We were impressed by volunteers from all over the world, young people and old people working in Israel to help keep alive the Bible and the Gospels.

Yardenit baptism site on the Jordan River

Yardenit baptism site on the Jordan River

Our final stop this day was much-anticipated, a place called Yardenit on the Jordan River. We were given the opportunity to rededicate our faith with a renewal of baptism, but since we did not have a pastor or priest, Ya’lla provided a wonderful stand in, a young Messianic Jew, who was so filled with the love of the Lord that his excitement took over the whole group and 7 of us took the dip!!! It was truly a special time for me as even though it is symbolic, it was my own moment with my Savior before I entered into the city where HE died for my sins.

Megiddo tunnel

Megiddo tunnel

The following day we visited one of the most amazing archaeological sites in the world, Megiddo, the Hill of Battles, where 20 civilizations, built one upon another have been uncovered, this is the place of King Solomon’s stables, and is also the place called Armageddon. Here we learned how very smart the ancient Israelites were in how they figured out how to move water from springs outside the city and up into their mountain fortresses. We got to go down in to VERY impressive tunnels.

A Travel Agent’s Trip to Israel with Ya’lla Tours, Part 1

Following is the first installment of a travel diary by Kelly Hyatt, who traveled to Israel in February of 2018 with a group of American travel agents. Thank you Kelly!

ISRAEL 2018 – WITH YA’LLA TOURS, BY KELLY HYATT

 

This year is the 70th anniversary of the modern “state of Israel” a place that has existed my entire life, I was born in 1960, and forever in time biblically.

ISRAEL – THE #1 “bucket list” destination for me. As a travel agent I had been fortunate to have already visited other “bucket list” destinations such as Egypt, Greece, Corinth, Patmos and Ephesus. These have all tied in with my quest to walk where the ancient walked, especially where the biblical people walked.

Israel is a place that is like no other on earth, NONE.

This past February I was fortunate, thanks be to God (and Ya’lla Tours), to be able to fulfill a lifelong dream, a dream many other people also share. I finally was able to put my feet on the same ground that JESUS walked upon, and not just HIM but also the many thousands of other people throughout the centuries. What an extraordinary feeling.

I arrived in Tel Aviv on 6 February. It was the beginning of the most incredible journey of my life, one that I have not had enough of, a journey I must do again and again.
For, you see, this was an amazing travel agent educational Christian fam tour with Ya’lla Tours. Ya’lla packed so many things into a short 10-day time period. Even though we saw the most incredibly inspiring and amazing places, we did not see even a fraction of the places and things that are in the land of Israel. And as time constraints were a factor, we most certainly did not get to spend the time that I, as well as my traveling companions, and surely you, when you go, will inevitably long for once your feet are there. You find it difficult to leave the place where you are standing at that moment, as your desire to just stay still and take it all in will overwhelm you and you will know at that moment you will have to go back.

Upon arrival, I took a taxi to my hotel, Herods Tel Aviv, the windows of the lobby facing directly to the beach. I got settled into my room and simply could not believe that I was there, HERE , in the Holy land; I had no idea what I had expected. It was a beautiful night in a beautiful city. I ordered room service, tried to figure out my WIFI and went to bed.

The next morning, I awoke to a beautiful sunrise. From my balcony I could see that the beach seemed to stretch down for miles. At 6 am there were many people riding cycles, people on paddle boards and people swimming in wet suites. This is the Mediterranean Sea! Did you hear that? The Mediterranean Sea!!! All I could think about was how in the heck did all those people from the Bible and ancient times have the guts to go out in that sea and go to places like Greece and Egypt and beyond and here, now, I was watching OLD men in wet suites (I had binoculars) swimming in the sea in February! I was amazed at the resilience of the people who lived here, and at that moment I had no idea the significance of the beaches I was admiring.

Tel Aviv beachside promenade

Tel Aviv beachside promenade

After breakfast at the hotel, I took off walking down the really tremendous beach boardwalk, complete with many places to dine beach-side, and little places to sit and rest. There were workout gyms around, and many beach chairs (not set up as I was out very early) and even life guard stands. It was obvious that there was ongoing construction on both the beach side and the hotels and buildings on the other side of the road.

As I walked down I admired the art on the beach and started to notice that the beaches were where many thousands of Jewish people returned to their homeland after the holocaust in ships that became stranded or blocked at those beaches. It was quite moving and very beautifully molded into the, I think, 8 miles long beach that ends in the old city of Jaffa, or Yafo.

I walked along for a long while and then went back to my room and slept, dreaming of all the places that I had heard about in the Bible and would start seeing tomorrow. Jaffa, Caesarea, Mt Carmel, Acre, the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, the ruins of the Canaanite city of DAN, Mt of Beatitudes and Nazareth just to name a few! The river Jordan, the ancient place called Megiddo, AKA Armageddon!!! And of course, Bethlehem! Jerusalem! Hello did you hear me JERUSALEM!! The Dead Sea and Masada!!!! MASADA, are you kidding me!!!! I did not even know there was a movie!!! And so so much more…

Check in next week for Part 2 of Kelly’s Israel adventure.

NAME THAT CITY

These city walls, built by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century, are only the latest fortifications to protect our mystery city. The city and its walls were destroyed in 587BCE during the Babylonian siege and much of the population was deported to Babylon. When the Persians took control of the region some 50 years later, the exiled citizens were allowed to return and the walls were rebuilt. The walls were extended in the 2nd century BCE by the Hasmonean dynasty and by Herod the Great and his son Agrippa in the following century or so. The city and its walls were destroyed again in 70CE, this time by the Romans, who occupied the city and renamed it Aelia Capitolina. The Roman walls built over the following four centuries were destroyed in an earthquake in the 11th century. The walls went up and down again several times more, with invasions and occupations by the Islamic Fatimid and Ayyubid dynasties and Christian crusaders. The existing walls have stood, more or less as they are today, for 400 years.

Can you name that city? 
See below for answers.

 

Continue reading

Ariel Sharon Park, Tel Aviv

Built on and around a 60 meter high mountain of trash known as Mt. Hiriya, Ariel Sharon Park in Tel Aviv, Israel is a unique project of environmental rehabilitation, community education and engagement, and recreational greenspace.

The park uses cutting-edge technology to clean up land, air and water polluted by decades of accumulated garbage. At the base of Mt. Hiriya, three recycling plants respectively convert construction materials into gravel, dry organic materials into mulch, & sewage waste into energy. Through anaerobic digestion, microorganisms break down organic materials. The process creates methane and carbon dioxide, more than enough biogas to power the recycling plants. This renewable energy source is also carbon neutral. ArrowBio recycling technology harnesses the natural forces of gravity, flowing water and wind to sort all kinds of solid waste materials. 80% of materials that pass through these plants are recycled.

The public park is opening in stages and is set to be fully open in 2020. At around 2000 acres, it will be more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park. As of early 2018, visitors can enjoy walking and cycling trails, thriving wetland areas, long views of Tel Aviv and the surrounding area and guided tours.

 

 

Foto Friday – Holy Fire

In Orthodox Christian tradition, on the day before Easter, a flame emanates from the tomb of Jesus in the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem. Crowds of worshippers gather to partake of the miraculous fire.

photo by Dafna Tal, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

photo by Dafna Tal, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

photo by Noam Chen, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

photo by Noam Chen, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism