Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

The Mount of Olives looks out on Jerusalem’s Old City from the east. In purely geographical terms, it shelters Jerusalem from the Judean Desert and catches and directs precious water toward the city. It was once covered in olive trees, but not so much any more.

For 3,000 years the Mount of Olives has been Judaism’s most sacred burial ground. Some 150,000 Jews are buried there, including biblical prophets and revered rabbis. The Kabbalistic Zohar text tells that when the Messiah comes, the Mount of Olives will be his first stop and on that day, the righteous will rise from the dead.

Looking out at Jerusalem's Old City from the Mount of Olives, with the ancient Jewish cemetery in the foreground.

Looking out at Jerusalem’s Old City from the Mount of Olives, with the ancient Jewish cemetery in the foreground.

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Foto Friday – Israel

Some images from our friend Larry Bell and his July 2017 group to Israel ~

archaeological dig score!

archaeological dig score!

Bedouin lunch in the Negev desert

Bedouin lunch in the Negev desert

mural of the Cardo, the main thoroughfare of Roman Jerusalem

mural of the Cardo, the main thoroughfare of Roman Jerusalem

at the Harod Spring, where Gideon's army of 300 was selected to fight the Midianites (Judges 7:1-8)

at the Harod Spring, where Gideon’s army of 300 was selected to fight the Midianites (Judges 7:1-8)

in the Pilgrims' Tunnel in Jerusalem

in the Pilgrims’ Tunnel in Jerusalem

The Jesus Boat

one of replicas of the ancient

one of replicas of the ancient “Jesus Boat” carrying a Ya’lla group on the Sea of Galilee

One of the most popular experiences included in our Christian tours of Israel is the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee is actually a large freshwater lake, 13 miles long and 8 miles across, better known in Israel as Kinneret, Gennesaret or Lake Tiberias. The lake feeds the Dead Sea, via the Jordan River, and, at roughly 700 feet below sea level, it’s the 2nd lowest lake on the planet, after the Dead Sea. It’s located in the Galilee region in northern Israel.

During a period of severe drought in 1986, the lake receded significantly, revealing the remains of an ancient boat buried in the sediment. The boat was excavated and dated to the 1st century, the time of Jesus. The boat is now housed in a small museum at Kibbutz Ginosar on the western shore of the lake. Close replicas of the boat take passengers on the lake past Christian sites, such as Tabgha (site of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes) and Capernaum (the headquarters of Jesus’ ministry), and stop to visit the remains of the ancient boat.

remains of a 1st-century Galilean fishing boat known as the Jesus Boat or the Ginosar Boat

remains of a 1st-century Galilean fishing boat known as the Jesus Boat or the Ginosar Boat

For Christians, the lake and its surroundings are significant as the area where much of Jesus’ ministry and many of his miracles took place. Four of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew and the brothers James and John.

One day, after hours of pulling up empty nets, the four fishermen had just pulled into shore. (Andrew was already a disciple of Jesus, the first, but he hadn’t yet convinced the others.) Jesus approached and asked Peter to take him out on the lake a little way so that he could better address the crowd that had gathered to hear his teaching. Later, after the crowd had dispersed, Jesus asked Peter to move into deep water and cast out his nets. Peter thought this would be a waste of time, based on his experience earlier in the day, but out of respect, he did as Jesus asked. When the nets were pulled in, they were so heavy with fish the boat couldn’t hold them all. James and John came to help and their boat was also filled to the brim with fish. Jesus gained three more disciples that day.

Later in his ministry, Jesus had spent a long day preaching to a large crowd near the lake and needed to rest. While he and his disciples sailed to a quiet spot on the opposite shore, Jesus took a nap. When they reached the middle of the lake, a nasty squall rose up, bad enough to terrify the experienced fishermen on board. Jesus slept peacefully through the waves crashing on the deck and the pitching and rolling of the boat, until the disciples woke him, certain they were about to die. He told the storm to simmer down, which it promptly did, expressed his disappointment in his disciples’ lack of faith, and resumed his nap.

the Sea of Galilee

the Sea of Galilee

I could go on and on about Jesus and the Sea of Galilee, but I’ll save some stories for future posts.

The city of Tiberias on the western shore of the lake makes a good hub for visiting the area. For privately escorted Christian tours that include a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and a visit to the ancient boat at Ginosar look here and here.

 

NAME THAT COUNTRY

The Ramon Makhtesh in the southern desert of our mystery country is also known as the Ramon Crater and the Grand Canyon of _____. A makhtesh is a geological formation characterized by a deep impression and steep walls created by erosion, rather than by the impact of a celestial body or a volcanic eruption like true craters.
This type of crater is found only in the Negev Desert in and the Sinai Peninsula.
The Ramon Makhtesh is the largest one, at 25 miles long and 5 miles across at its widest point and over 1600 feet deep. The Ramon Nature Reserve is the country’s largest national park.

 

 

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

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Masada

Masada, Israel, photo by Itamar Grinberg, Israel Ministry of Tourism

Masada, Israel, photo by Itamar Grinberg, Israel Ministry of Tourism

The first I ever heard of Masada was from a very effective Israel tourism TV campaign way back in the early 1990s. Before then, I hadn’t thought much about traveling to Israel, if at all. The ad sparked in me an interest in the ancient land of Israel that continues to this day. It may have been the very gleam that became my work at Ya’lla Tours, including this blog.

Now that I have credited an Israel tourism ad with setting me on my life path, I must tell you I don’t remember much about it. There was a boy on top of Masada, wind in his hair, casting a poetic gaze out over the Judean desert. A dramatic voiceover spoke of heritage and heroism. Mostly I remember being stirred right down to my core. That’s good advertising!

Masada, Israel

Masada, Israel

Herod the Great, the Roman-Jewish ruler of Judea 37-4 BCE, was very fearful of assassination, so he built 8 isolated, desert fortresses in which to take refuge if needed. Masada is one. Around 30 BCE, he had a fabulous palace, complete with storage facilities to outlast a long siege, built atop this 1300-foot plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. It’s the perfect defensive spot. You can see for miles in every direction and the walls of the rock are steep. There’s no sneaking up on this place.

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During the last Jewish rebellion against Rome (which ended in 70 CE with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple), a group of Roman-resisters escaped to Masada and held out there for several years. In early 70, the Romans laid siege to Masada. After spending a few months building a massive ramp, they overtook the fortress. According to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, they found almost 1,000 inhabitants, men, women and children, dead by their own hands, and buildings ablaze. Excavations have only found the remains of 28 men, so Josephus may have exaggerated for effect. Whether 1,000 or 28, the story and Masada came to symbolize Jewish defiance and resilience in the face of suppression, as well as the loss of the Jewish homeland.

remains of Roman siege camp at the base of Masada and the attack ramp used to take the fortress

remains of Roman siege camp at the base of Masada and the attack ramp used to take the fortress

Masada is an easy drive from Jerusalem, less than an hour. If you’re in good shape, you can climb up in about 45 minutes on the snake path, a good trail with lots of switchbacks, or zip up and down in a cable car. The extensive excavations and restorations include two palaces, a synagogue, a bathhouse, storehouses, and cisterns. From the top, look down on the Roman siege camp, the Dead Sea and out over the beautiful desolation of the Judean Desert.

Click to see tours that include Masada.

Thousands fed at Tabgha with 5 loaves & 2 Fishes

This mosaic floor from a 3rd-century church at Tabgha was incorporated into the newer Church of the Multiplication, which stands on the site.

This mosaic floor from a 3rd-century church at Tabgha was incorporated into the newer Church of the Multiplication, which stands on the site.

Tabgha is the site on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee traditionally believed to be where Jesus miraculously multiplied two fish and five loaves of bread to feed 5,000 men plus uncounted women and children.

After a long day of walking from village to village and teaching, Jesus and his disciples were tired and hungry. They went to a secluded place to rest, but were met by a huge crowd of people who came from all around to hear from this man, whose reputation as an enlightened teacher preceded him. There beside the sea, with the breeze in the palms and the waves lapping the shore, a multitude of faces looked to Jesus with hushed anticipation.

Jesus knew that many of the people were missing their dinner to be there, so he told the disciples to feed them. “With what?” they asked. “We have exactly 2 fish and five loaves of bread, barely enough to feed ourselves.” He told them not to worry and sent them out to organize the crowd into smaller groups. Then he prayed over the food. When the disciples returned, Jesus began handing them bread and fish to distribute to the people. The food kept coming until everyone was fed. There were even leftovers, enough to fill 12 baskets.

Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha

Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha

Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, the loaves and fishes mosaic is immediately in front of the alter

Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha

Later than night, after the people had all gone home, Jesus went off by himself to pray. Just before dawn, when he saw the disciples out on the lake, struggling to row against the wind, he walked out to them. They thought he was a ghost and were pretty alarmed. Jesus assured them he was not a ghost but Peter wanted proof. Ghost or not, it had to be a shocking thing to see. So, Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat and join him, standing on the water. Peter got out of the boat and took a few steps, no problem, but when he took his eyes of Jesus, he began to sink. Jesus grabbed him and hauled him safely into the boat.

Tabgha is usually included in Christian itineraries of Israel. The city of Tiberias makes a good hub for touring the Galilee region. For itineraries that include visits to Tabgha click here and here.

Read about the “Jesus Boat” discovered in the Sea of Galilee here.