The Ramon Crater comprises Israel’s largest national park, the Ramon Nature Reserve. The crater is not technically a crater but a makhtesh. Rather than being formed by the impact of a meteorite or volcanic explosion, like true craters, a makhtesh is formed by erosion. This type of crater is found only in the Negev Desert in southern Israel and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. The Ramon Makhtesh is the largest one, at 25 miles long and 5 miles across at its widest point and over 1600 feet deep. Continue reading
The so-called Burnt House is a museum on the remains of a house that was burned by the Romans in 70CE, when they sacked the entire city. The house was in a wealthy part of the city near the temple, which was also destroyed and, to this day, has not been rebuilt. The a retaining wall of the temple still stands and has been a place of pilgrimage for 2,000 years. Items found in the Burnt House indicate that it was the home of a priest.
Can you name that city?
See below for answers.
The Jezreel Valley in Israel, also known as the Plain of Megiddo or Valley of Megiddo, is a flat, fertile valley just south of the lower Galilee between the Carmel Mountains to the west and the Jordan Valley to the east.
In ancient times, many groups fought here for control of the valley, which was a major regional thoroughfare and a coveted piece of land. The Roman Via Maris, an important trade route connecting Mesopotamia (Iraq), Egypt and Asia Minor (Turkey), passed through the valley and crossed the Carmel Mountains to the Mediterranean sea at the Aruna Pass, also known as the Megiddo Pass, controlled by the city of Megiddo. Excavations have uncovered over 20 successive layers of settlement at and around Megiddo dating from the 8th millennium BCE to the 6th century BCE, with significant settlement beginning in the middle of the 5th millennium BCE.
The area is rich with biblical sites. In the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Saul battled the Philistines and died here with his sons (1 Samuel 28:1-31:10), Jezebel had Naboath killed and confiscated his Jezreel Valley vineyard for her husband King Ahab (1 Kings 21-28), at the Harod Spring in the valley, Gideon assembled an army to fight and defeat the Midianites (Judges 7:1-8).
In the Christian Bible/New Testament, Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley is the site of the final battle between good and evil. Armageddon = Har Megeddon = the mountain of Megiddo (Revelation 16).
Today, the Jezreel Valley is a major agricultural area.
Here are some shots from our friend Larry Bell and his most recent trip with Ya’lla Tours.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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!!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.