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.

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.

The Dead Sea: Grab a Natural High at the Lowest Place on Earth

salty shores

the Dead Sea forms part of the border between Israel and Jordan

the Dead Sea forms part of the border between Israel and Jordan

The Dead Sea is almost 1400 feet below sea level, the lowest place on earth. There is no outlet for the water, which flows into the Dead Sea, technically a lake, from the Sea of Galilee (also technically a lake) via the Jordan River. Water leaves the Dead Sea only by evaporation, leaving minerals behind in high concentration. Because of the extremely low elevation, the barometric pressure is higher than anywhere else on earth, there’s a greater concentration of oxygen in the air, greater filtration of ultraviolet sun rays, and the air is practically free of pollen and other allergens.

The Dead Sea has been known for its healing properties for thousands of years, and even today, the unique climactic and mineral properties are used in therapies for conditions such as psoriasis, arthritis and cystic fibrosis. Continue reading

WOW Places – Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque, Pamukkale, Masada

PAMUKKALE, TURKEY

Pamukkale, Turkey

Pamukkale, Turkey

Pamukkale is located in southwestern Anatolia, a 4 to 5-hour drive inland from coastal attractions such as Ephesus, Bodrum, Marmaris and Antalya. The closest major attraction is Aphrodisias, roughly halfway between the coast and Pamukkale (less than 2 hours driving). Dramatic travertine terraces formed by hot spring deposits of calcium carbonate give Pamukkale its WOW-effect. The Romans built a thriving spa town here, Hieropolis. Spend a few hours wading in the pools and tramping through the Roman remains. Continue reading

NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 14

All the clues in this post refer to one Ya’lla Tours destination: Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Turkey, or United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai).

We’ll show you images of popular tourist sites in our mystery country, along with descriptions of those sites. Continue reading