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Israel Pilgrimage/educational tour

May 26, 2013

I produced for a school visit, led by me and some colleagues, of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Israelhumanist teenagers

 A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LAND

Israel is part of ‘The Fertile Crescent’ which was the cradle of Western Civilisation.  It is a land bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa.

PREHISTORIC PERIOD (before 3200 BCE)

The Stone Age.  Archaeologists have discovered evidence of humans living here 300,000 years ago in small farming villages.

BRONZE AGE (3200-1200 BCE)

People started to live in cities.  Empires grew up and fought each other.  The time of the pharaohs in Egypt.  Slaves escaped Egypt, led by Moses, travelled across Sinai desert and settled in Israel.  They believed that God had given them this land and they exterminated the Canaanites, who lived there,

IRON AGE (120-334 BCE)

Israel ruled over by kings.  A dispute over who should be the next king led to the country splitting in two. The Northern part, called Israel, was invaded by Assyria (North of present day Iraq) in 722 (written about in the bible – 2nd Book of Kings chapter 17).  The Southern part, called Judah, was invaded by Babylon (South of present day Iraq) in 586 and the leading people were taken away to live in Babylon. (2nd Book of Kings chapter 25).  Babylon became part of the Persian Empire (Persia=present day Iran) and the Jews were allowed to return to the country of their ancestors and to rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra chapter 1).

HELLENISTIC PERIOD (333-64 BCE)

The Greek, Alexander the Great invaded.  Greek culture was established in the region.  The Greek Ruler Antiochus 4th set up a statue of himself in the Jewish Temple and demanded that pigs be sacrificed there.  He also forbade circumcision and other Jewish customs. A revolution was led by Judas Maccabeus (‘the hammer’).

ROMAN PERIOD (64 BCE – 324 CE)

Israel became part of the Roman Empire.  The emperors put people like Herod and Pilate in charge.  Jesus lived in this period.  The Jews staged a rebellion in 66- 70 which the Romans squashed. The last outpost of the revolutionaries was a mountain-top fortress in Masada which had been built by Herod (who was obsessed that somebody might be after him and who built it as an escape hole.)  A second rebellion was led by Bar Kochba in 132-135. The Romans wiped out the Jews in Jerusalem and renamed it Aelia Capitolina and established Roman religion there.  (‘Aelia’ was Emperor Hadrian’s family name, ‘Capitolina’ was the Roman god Jupiter).  A few Jews remained in the Northern area round Galilee.

BYZANTINE PERIOD (324-640 CE)

When the Roman emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity, the empire adopted Christianity as the official religion.  Churches were built to replace Roman temples.  They were built on most of the places mentioned in the bible, notably the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (on the site of Jesus’s death and burial) and the Holy Nativity in Bethlehem (where he was born).  When the Roman Empire split in half, this land was ruled from Constantinople (formerly called Byzantium) the capital of the Eastern part of the empire.

EARLY ARAB PERIOD (640-1099 CE)

Invasion from Persia (present day Iran).  Jerusalem fell to Caliph Omar in 637.  Byzantium had become corrupt so many people welcomed the Muslim invaders as better rulers.  The Dome of the Rock was built in the Seventh Century on the site where Muhammad was believed to have been taken to heaven.  The nearby Al Aqsa Mosque was built in the Eighth Century.

CRUSADER PERIOD (1099-1260 CE)

Turks invaded and stopped Christians going on pilgrimage to the land.  Pope Urban needed a project to distract attention from challenges to his leadership so he set up the Crusades – armies who would fight to recover the holy sites from the Turks.  The Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem was set up in 1099 (33 years after William the Conqueror captured Britain) and Muslims were massacred.

MARMLUK PERIOD (1260 – 1517 CE)

The Marmluks were Turkish slaves who fought in the army and they had successfully beaten Genghis Khan. Khan’s empire had spread from China to Eastern Europe.  The marmlukes expelled the Crusaders.

OTTOMAN PERIOD (1517 – 1918 CE)

The land was part of the Turkish Empire.  Since 70 CE, Jews had lived in various countries and had been the victims of racism.  The Zionist movement arose. It believed the Jews would only be safe if they had their own country (i.e. could go back to the land from which the Romans expelled them and in which Arabs now lived.)  Small groups of Jews bought land in Israel (the first were in 1880) and set up communal farms called Kibbutzim (plural of ‘kibbutz’).

MANDATE PERIOD (1918 CE -)

Israel came under British rule during World War 1.  In 1917, Balfour (Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs) wrote to a leading Jew promising that the land could become a Jewish homeland.  This did not please the Arabs who lived there.  They had also been promised that the land would be theirs instead of the Turks.  American and Britain have tried not to take sides on this – America has many Jews so presidents want their votes; however, they need Arab oil).  The Jews set up the State of Israel in 1948 in a small part of the land.  They have fought the Arabs in 1956, 1967 and 1973 to capture larger areas of land.  This included the West Bank, where most people are Arabs.  The West Bank includes the River Jordan, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem.  Fighting continues between Jews and Arabs.  Many Palestinians refuse to pay taxes to the Israeli Government. They say that the Israelis stole their land.  The Israelis have taken TV sets, videos, fridges, even the tools of the trades by which Palestinians earn a living. They have auctioned these in lieu of tax payments.  In 1991, the USA resolved to get Jews and Arabs to sort out their disputes, along with other land disputes after the Gulf War.

EARLY VISITORS TO ISRAEL

Jerusalem is a place of pilgrimage for people of three major religions.  Jews visit the Western Wall (sometimes known as ‘the wailing wall’). It is the retaining wall of the Jewish temple.  The temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70CE.  Christians visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  It is believed to be the site of Jesus’s death and burial.  Muslims visit the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa mosque.  This is where Muhammad was transported to heaven in a vision.

In the Middle Ages, people were prepared to endure 6 weeks on leaking, smelly boats and to walk 3,000 miles in order to see ‘The Holy Land’.

A group sailed from Venice to Israel in 1480 CE (about the time of Christopher Columbus).  The captain had to defend them against pirates and to pay all the charges and tolls.  The passengers brought their own chickens and were allowed to use the ship’s fire to cook them.  In Israel, they were warned:

Don’t wander round alone.

Don’t step on graves – or you’ll be pelted with stones.

Don’t chip off pieces of stone or write your names on holy sites.

Don’t laugh loudly.

If you’re a man, don’t stare at women.

If you’re a woman, don’t go into any house.

Don’t leave your belongings lying around.

In the 1830s, scholars began to travel to Israel. They studied the sites where bible stories happened.  They went to Egypt too.  They had to learn Arabic and they deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics.

ISRAEL is a fascinating mixture of ancient and modern.  It is the land of the bible yet it is also a modern country where people live and work.

It is 2,000 miles from London.

The Israelis mainly settled here after tragedy – the survivors of the concentration camps and people from Russia, where they had been oppressed.  They had a strong will to survive and prosper.  Because they have know what it is like to be attacked, they have a strong army to defend themselves.  All young people aged 18 are called up into the army.  Men serve for 3 years, girls for 2. They then go on the reserve list – men until age 55, women 34.

KOSHER FOOD LAWS are kept in most places.  Meat is Ok unless if has cloven hooves – so no pork.  The animal has to be slaughtered humanely.  Fish must have scales and fins – no shellfish.  You can’t have dairy products with the same meal as meat, so no milk in coffee after eating beef. Coffee Mate is OK, though because that isn’t real milk.

In late October/early November it is the end of the summer. The average temperatures are 21-16 C/ 70-61 F

The official languages are Hebrew and Arabic but most people who deal with tourists speak English.

RESPECT FOR RELIGIOUS SITES: Shoes off in Muslim shrines.  Hats on for men in Jewish places and women should cover head and shoulders. Bare arms, short dresses or slacks are considered offensive.

Don’t photograph people without asking permission, even from a distance.  Ultra- violet tends to bring out purple – use an ultra-violet filter.

TAP WATER is drinkable but not very tasty.

WHOSE LAND?Palestine

Today’s Palestinians descended from oldest recorded inhabitants

intermarried with conquerors – Philistines (gave name to land)

Families could trace their cultivation of the land back 500 years but the actual ownership was often collective so disregarded.

Jews and Arabs had lived peaceably, Jews went to Arab festivals, Arabs acted as shabbos goys.  No need of irrigation back in C10 according to geographers.

West assumed it was backward territory not worth bothering about.  Inconsequential nomads – nobody there worth bothering about – then Victorian interest in bible lands, archaeology &c.

1901 Jewish National Fund buying land and stipulating only Jewish labour allowed.

1917 British forces captured Jerusalem.  Contradictory statements from GB about future of Ottoman territories.  Britain treated Palestinians as separate Muslim and Christian communities

Balfour Declaration of 1917 – Britain promised to set up a Jewish homeland but also to allow Palestinians the government of their choice.  Nothing should prejudice the rights of the indigenous people.

Britain favoured bi-national state with Jews no more than 1/3 of population.

1947 Britain no longer felt able to fulfil promise 30 years earlier to UN. Palestinians weakened after 1936-38 rebellion.

LOSS OF LAND

Terrorist squad Irgun led by Begin bombarded villages.  ‘We’re going to slaughter the wild beasts.’ Hundreds of thousands driven out at gunpoint.  Homes blown up by mines, people left were shot. Whole congregations slaughtered inside mosques and bodies flung outside.

1950 law of absentees took away 40% of land.

Arabs had to have certificates to prove ownership – Britain had never completed the process of issuing them.  Confiscated area not cultivated for 3 years.

4-fold population increase of Arabs since 1948 – have built 24,000 unlicensed buildings and had them bulldozed.  72% Arabs suffer overcrowding, i.e. 2+ persons per from cf. 22% of Jews.

In 6 day war of 1967, Israel took control of Sinai, West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Israeli state has seized 52% of total land area of West Bank and 40% of Gaza Strip and developed road network which bypasses Arab villages. (and is built on Arab land.

UN Resolution 242 urged Israel to withdraw from these occupied territories.  Israel’s occupation of West Bank and Gaza strip is circumscribed by international law but Israel not signatory to 4th Geneva Convention.  Uses security laws introduced by British Mandate – collective punishment, arbitrary deportation, indefinite preventative detention (without need to bring formal charges), demolition of homes on suspicion (prior to and regardless of outcome of conviction – forbidden by 4th Geneva Convention.

180 Jewish settlements built in occupied territories.  Yet 4th Geneva Convention: ‘The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territories it occupies.’

SERVICES

Palestinians don’t have freedom on land still left to them – building prohibitions apply to Arabs but not to Jews.

Arab holdings now 209% of crop areas but only get 2% water.  Don’t get capital input and subsidies which Jewish sector gets  43.3 Jewish land irrigated; 7.6% of Arab land.

Of 112 Arab villages, only 2 have central sewage systems whole all Jewish population centres over 5,000 people have.

Palestinian farmers unable to compete with Jewish farmers as no subsidies. Prohibition of planting new trees has left Palestinians with diminishing supplies of citrus fruit and produce exported from Israel subjected to Israeli standards.

‘There will be no development initiated by the Israeli government, and no permits will be given for expanding agriculture or industry, which may compete with the State of Israel.’ (US funds were only accepted by Israelis on these terms)

50,000 people living in unrecognised villages with no drinking water or electricity.  Not allowed to build new roads or houses.

Palestinian communities receive only 7 – 10% of government grants given to similar- sized Jewish communities.  Yet both groups pay taxes.

Infant mortality rate twice that of Jews – poor living conditions and fewer health services.

In Iraq war, Palestinians not issues with gas masks or sirens.

EDUCATION

Can’t go to Jewish universities – Arab Beth Zeit closed down for 3 months every two years.

JOBS

Arab villagers have few local employment opportunities but not free to live elsewhere.  Half Palestinian workforce commutes daily, getting up between 4.30 and 6am.

Except Druzes and some Bedouin, can’t participate as citizens in military service – this is essential for advancement in business, industry or administration in private and public sector.  Also lose entitlement to welfare as not in military service

76% of Jews would not accept an Arab boss.

Half those unemployed have to find work outside their professions – usually unskilled or remain unemployed.  If go abroad, have to return at least once every 3 years or forfeit right to live there (or relatives there.

3 million Palestinians are exiled.

4/5ths Palestinians work in lowest paid jobs in construction and service sectors.

HARASSMENT

Curfews – some villages have 20 hours curfew daily.

Roadblocks, patrols and gun – troops shoot at demonstrations, including children as method of dispersing crowd.  In 1982, 35 Palestinians shot dead like this.

House arrest possible for indefinite period.

Imprisonment for 6 months or more without charge

ORGANISATION

A specifically Arab party is forbidden – little other than recourse to violence possible.

When terrorist like Begin became Prime Minister, absurd to insist on negotiating with ‘moderate’ Israeli.  Palestinians have to deal with whoever the Israelis choose as their leader.

No right to vote.

The Palestinian problem is a ‘stain on humanity./.the Palestinians have legitimate aspirations which cannot be denied for ever.’ (Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits 1991)

PALESTINIAN CASE

descended from oldest recorded inhabitants – Philistines (gave name to land)

– families can trace their cultivation of the land back 500 years

Balfour Declaration of 1917 – Britain promised to set up a Jewish homeland but also to allow Palestinians the government of their choice.

don’t have freedom on land still left

– building prohibitions

-‘unlicensed buildings’ bulldozed.

72% Arabs suffer overcrowding, i.e. 2+ persons per room cf. 22% of Jews.

In 6 day war of 1967, Israel took control of Sinai, West Bank and Gaza Strip.  UN Resolution 242 urged Israel to withdraw from these occupied territories not obeyed.

Israelis developed road network which bypasses Arab villages. (and is built on Arab land).

Of 112 Arab villages, only 2 have central sewage systems

–  50,000 people living in unrecognised villages with no drinking water or electricity.

180 Jewish settlements built in occupied territories disobeys 4th Geneva Convention:

Arab holdings now 209% of crop areas but only get 2% water.

Don’t get capital input and subsidies which Jewish sector gets

Palestinian farmers unable to compete with Jewish farmers as no subsidies.

43.3 Jewish land irrigated; 7.6% of Arab land.

Palestinian communities receive only 7 – 10% of government grants given to similar-sized Jewish communities.  Yet both groups pay taxes.  No right to vote.

Infant mortality rate twice that of Jews – poor living conditions and fewer health services.

Can’t go to Jewish universities – Arab Beth Zeit closed down for 3 months every two years.

Some villages have 20 hours curfew daily. House arrest possible for indefinite period.  Imprisonment for 6 months or more without charge.  Roadblocks, patrols and guns.

Arab villagers have few local employment opportunities but not free to live elsewhere.  « workforce commutes daily, getting up between 4.30 and 6am.  « those unemployed have to find work outside their professions – usually unskilled or remain unemployed.  4/5ths Palestinians work in lowest paid jobs in construction and service sectors.  Can’t participate as citizens in military service – this is essential for advancement in business, industry or administration in private and public sector.  Also lose entitlement to welfare as not in military service.  76% of Jews would not accept an Arab boss.

MONDAY

BETHLEHEM

This was the home of King David’s family.  David is remembered as one of the best Jewish rulers.  Samuel anointed David king according to the First Book of Samuel chapter 16 verse 13.  It is also believed to be the place where Jesus was born.

SHEPHERD’S FIELDSshep

Some claim that the shepherds saw angels here who announced the birth of Jesus…’While shepherds watched their flocks by night….’

Another story connected with these fields is in the Book of Ruth chapter 2.  Ruth came to these fields to glean.  (Gleaning was a right held by poor people. They could pick corn left over by reapers.) The story of Ruth is a sort of love story. She is a widow who meets Boaz in this field.

CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY (birth)holy nat

The emperor Constantine built this church in 330CE.  A fragment of mosaic floor dates back to then.  The church has been restored several times.  It is one of the few churches which the Turks did not destroy.  The reason was that it has a mosaic of the wise men who visited Jesus.  The wise men are depicted as Persians.  The church is shared by Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox.  Squabbles between them was one of the causes of the Crimean War.

Don’t miss a trapdoor in the Nave (main hall of the church). It shows floor mosaics from the Byzantium period.  They are underneath the existing floor.

St. Jerome spent 30 years in a basement stone cell underneath this church.  He translated the bible into Latin.

Is it genuine?  Hadrian built a temple to Roman gods on this site in 135 CE – perhaps he was trying to stop Christians praying here.  Between 120 and 140 CE, Justin, a Christian martyr, wrote about ‘the manger with the cave at Bethlehem’ and a later Christian, Origen, spoke of ‘the manger, the stable and the cave’.  At the time of Jesus’s birth, many people lived in caves. They had a ramp for the humans to sleep on.  The animals were stabled below the ramp.

Midnight Mass at Christmas used to be crowded here. Since the intifada (see comments below about ‘Manger Square’), people don’t risk coming here then but the mass still goes on.

It is a custom for infertile women to pray here that they may be able to conceive a baby.

The wooden roof was built in 1842. The previous roof had all its lead melted down by Turks to make bullets.

The door into the cave is very low. This was to stop invaders riding through on horseback.  The cave is covered in marble.  In the Middle Ages, pilgrims bit off piece of rock to keep as souvenirs. The marble is to prevent erosion.  The silver spot marks the supposed site of Jesus’s birth.  Candles have burned here continuously for 1600 years.

MANGER SQUAREmanger sq

This is where the markets do their trading.  Since the intifada (‘uprising’=Arab Palestinians who don’t want the Jews running the country) has started terrorism (or ‘freedom fighting’, depending which side you look at it from) the market closes at midday.

There is a MILK GROTTO nearby.  The legend is that Mary breastfed Jesus while hiding in a cave from Herod’s soldiers.  Some milk dripped on to the floor and turned the stone white.  Women can buy bits of powdered rock to help them to produce milk.

RACHEL’S TOMBRT

Genesis chapter 35 verses 16-20 tell how Jacob (father of Joseph – remember the dreamcoat!) buried his wife Rachel here.

This is one of Judaism’s most sacred sites.  Women pray here that they may be able to have babies.

BETHANYLaz Tomb

Jesus had friends here.  Martha was a busy ‘housewife’ who rushed around serving and helping.  Mary relaxed and listened to Jesus. (This was unusual then.  Men were allowed to listen to rabbis (teachers) but not women.)  Their brother Lazarus died here.  John chapter 17 says that Jesus brought him back to life.

You can enter the Tomb of Lazarus down cold, damp, stone steps.  Eusebius’s history book mentions this place as far back as 265-340 CE.

BETHPHAGEMt Olives

The emperor Constantine thought that Jesus started his donkey ride into the city from here.  He had a church called ‘Eleona’  built here.  Matthew’s gospel suggests he came through here but Mark suggests he started in Bethany.

MOUNT OF OLIVES

This is across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem and gives an excellent view of the city.  According to Luke chapter 21 verse 37 Jesus stayed here, or at the nearby village of Bethany, during his last few nights.

DOMINUS FLEVIT (Church of Tear Drop)Dom flev

The shortest verse in the bible simply says, “Jesus wept.” (John chapter 11 verse 35)  Luke chapter 19 verses 41-44 explains how the city did not live in peace.  It’s like Northern Ireland today.  The crusaders built a church on this site.  It became ruins until the 20th Century.  Boxes of bones have been dug up. They contain common Jewish names like Mary, Martha, Matthew, Joseph and Jesus.  The Italian Barluzzi built this church in the 1950s.  The view over the altar is in the direction Jesus might have looked as he wept.

GARDEN OF GETHSAMENEGethsem

Gethsamene probably means ‘oil vat’.  This are has been called ‘Gethsamene’ continuously, since the time of Jesus.  The gospels tell how Jesus prayed here after the Last Supper.  Judas came and Jesus was arrested.  Nobody knows for certain where it was but this place is one candidate.  It is claimed that the olive trees here go back to the 1st Century.  So Jesus could have seen them.

All NtnsCHURCH OF ALL NATIONS

The first church was built in the 4th Century.  Persians destroyed it.  The crusaders built another in the 12th Century but it fell into disrepair.  This one was built in 1924.  Many countries raised money to pay for it, hence its name.  It has a strong atmosphere and silence is requested.

The mosaic shows Jesus weeping anxiously before he was arrested.  Byzantine floor mosaics can be seen through glass plates in the floor. These are from an earlier church on the site. The windows are not of glass but of alabaster.  A stone in the floor represents the site where Jesus prayer before his arrest.

From the front, you can see three tombs at the very bottom of the KIDRON VALLEY.  They were there at the time of Jesus. It is one of the few things we can be certain about.

MOUNT ZIONMt Zion

This hill gave the name ‘Zion’ as one of the alternatives of ‘Jerusalem’. Poems often call Jerusalem ‘the city of Zion’.

The city of Jerusalem has been built over 7 or 8 times.  Much of the city that Jesus knew is now about 20 feet below street level.

THE ROOM OF THE LAST SUPPER

Early tradition located the room of the Last Supper on Mount Zion.  It was also the place where the disciples hid after Jesus’s death and where they ‘received the cenacleHoly Spirit’ at Pentecost (Whitsun).  A major church was built here during the Byzantine period.  The complex includes KING DAVID’S TOMB.  After the Western Wall of the Temple, this is the holiest shrine for Jews.  It is decorated with many Jewish symbols.  It is unlikely to be the real site of David’s burial (which was probably on the south-eastern hill below the temple rather than here in the south west.)

ST. PETER IN GALLICANTUgallicantu

The foundations maybe the courtyard of the house of Caiaphas.  He was the high priest when Jesus was brought to him for trial.  Peter stood outside, according to Mark chapter 14 verses 66-72.  When he was asked if he was a follower of Jesus, Peter denied it.  When Jesus passed by, Peter wept at cock crow, i.e. morning (which is what the name of the church means).  Where prisoners were whipped, look for holes in the floor. Salt, water and vinegar were kept in them.  These cleaned the wounds before the prisoner carried his heavy cross.

ZION GATEZion gate

Notice the walls pitted with bullet holes from the modern wars which have raged around here.

JEWISH QUARTER

The area belonged to Jordanians until the Israelis reclaimed it in 1967.  The area has been much damaged in the fighting.  Since then, new shops and synagogues have been built.  There are synagogue schools (called yeshivas), art galleries and studios.

ANTONIA FORTRESS

This was Herod’s residence. He named it after an army commander, Mark Antony.  Soldiers could look down from here into the Jewish temple.  Jews believed they would make it unholy if they set foot on the sacred ground. This was a good place to keep on eye on things without rousing the anger of the local population.

THE JUDGEMENT HALL

The church of Ecce Homo (‘Behold the man’ – words spoken by Pilate to the crowd) has an arch over the altar. this arch was part of three built by Hadrian to celebrate the end of the second Jewish rebellion in 135.

Dowstairs is THE PAVEMENT.  John chapter 19 verse 13 mentions Gabbatha = the pavement.  You can see ridges in the floor to help chariot wheels grip when it was wet.  It used to be thought that this was where Pilate presented Jesus to the crowds, trying to let him go free.  However, we now know that it was put there 100 years after Jesus by Hadrian.

There is a convent here, run by the Sisters of Zion.  It is a good place to buy slides.

THE WAY OF THE CROSS

This is a path from the Judgement Hall to the tomb of Jesus in the church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Pilgrims stop fourteen times to pray and think about events in the crucifixion story.  These stopping places are known as the 14 Stations of the Cross.  (A station is where a train or bus stops.)  They recall his trial, his journey carrying the cross, falling down, being helped, meeting his mother &c. He had his hands tied behind the cross he was carrying. So when he fell, his face would smash into the stone steps.  The path goes through the market place.  It probably did then.  Franciscan friars lead pilgrims through the stations daily at 3 pm.

CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRESepulchre

You will not be allowed in if you have bare legs, shoulders or backs.

The emperor Constantine commissioned this church to be built in 326 CE.  At first, there were two churches: one on the site of Jesus’s crucifixion, the other on his tomb.  The two were joined together – hence its odd shape.  The church has been rebuilt in several places.  It has been the climax for Christian pilgrimages for 16« centuries.

How do we know the site is genuine?   Hardly any serious scholars doubt that this site is genuine.  There was a flourishing Christian community in Jerusalem from 33 CE (the time of Jesus’s death) until the time when a Roman temple was built on the site.  It is thought that the Romans wanted to stop Christians praying here.  They built a temple to their god Venus.  This would keep Christians away.  In fact, it served as a marker.  According to Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, Constantine’s builders demolished the temple and built the church.  Real or not, it is estimated that tens of millions of pilgrims have been here.

A legend states that Helena, Constantine’s mother, found part of Jesus’s cross. Eusebius mentions this in 396.

tombThe church needs rebuilding.  It is shared by Roman Catholics, Greek, Armenian, Coptic, Syrian and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians who can’t agree on who should pay for which bit to be rebuilt.

To get into the tomb, you have to queue.  It is so busy that it opens daily at 4 am until 6.30 pm and there is always a queue.  Inside, the tomb is covered with a marble slab.  In the past, pilgrims bit pieces of stone away for souvenirs and there would be nothing left at that rate.

This tomb was the centre of the world in maps in the Middle Ages.

G TombTHE GARDEN TOMB

Some Christians believe this was Jesus’s tomb because the site is outside the city walls.  The gospels say that Jesus was killed outside the walls; the Holy Sepulchre is inside the walls (but only after the walls were rebuilt to enlarge the city at a time later that Jesus).  The rock cliff looks like a skull.  The gospels state that Jesus was killed at a place called Golgotha (which means ‘place of a skull’).  However, pictures of the tomb in the 17th Century show that the rock looked different, so the ‘skull’ is new.  The skull-like features are probably the result of cisterns being excavated out of the rock and later breaking away.  Furthermore, there is no early tradition about this site.

General Gordon of Khartoum discovered this site and wrote to Queen Victoria about it in 1883.  She said she preferred to believe the Holy Sepulchre was genuine, because of the evidence ‘of our cousin Helena’ (i.e. the 4th Century Queen Mother.)

TUESDAY

THE DEAD SEAdead sea

The Jordan River empties into this lake.  It is the lowest spot in the world (1,240 feet below sea level).  It is 43 miles long and 9 miles wide.  It contains 25% salt.  It is the most salty water in the world.

The ingredients in the Dead Sea relax the muscles, clear the bronchial passages and is supposed to counteract skin allergies.  The water is supposed to be good for arthritis and rheumatism.

The low altitude contains 10% more oxygen than at sea level. and this is free from city pollution and it is supposed to have a bracing effect.  You need shoes because of the sharp pebbles.

Don’t swallow any water or get it in your eyes.

The sea is fed by the Jordan River and a few springs but there is no way out for the water; it simply evaporates.

masadaMASADA

This is an isolated rock with steep sides.  King Herod had a fortress built here.  Herod was terrified that his enemies would kill him.  He built this place in case he needed to get away and hide.  It had cisterns and storehouses. These would store enough food and drink for a long siege. The cisterns collected rain water.  The bathhouse had three pools – cold, hot and hotter.  Jewish revolutionaries fled here in 66 CE and stayed until 72 CE.  The Romans were determined to get them.  They sent 15,000 soldiers.  They took a whole year to build a huge ramp so that they could attack. The rebels did not want to be conquered by the Romans.  They burned all their possessions.  Then the men killed their wives and children.  They chose ten men to kill them. Then the ten men chose one to kill them. That one committed suicide afterwards.  960 died.  They left their food and water to show that they were not starved out but freely chose death rather than slavery.  Two women and five children escaped by hiding.  Josephus’s history book says that the Romans marvelled at the courage of the Jews.

Masada is a Greek version of the Hebrew name ‘Metsuda’ = stronghold.

The site was discovered in 1850 CE.  Jewish volunteers excavated it in the 1960s.  It has one of the harshest climates in the world.

You can take forty minutes to walk up the snake path or you can use the cable car with its spectacular views over the Dead Sea.

Israeli soldiers today take an oath, “Masada shall not fall again.”

MOUNTAINS OF MOABmoab

It is very isolated, cut off from the Dead Sea and the desert.  However, it is fertile land with adequate water supplies.  The Book of Ruth begins with Naomi’s family travelling here to find food because there was a famine.  The Prophet Isaiah pronounced a curse on the people who lived here. (Isaiah chapter 15)  He said they would weep and wail, the men would go bald and the cities would become wasteland.  The people of Moab were ancient enemies of the Israelites.  There had been several battles with them when the Israelites settled in the land after their trip from Egypt through the Sinai desert.

ein gediEIN GEDI

It means ‘the spring of the kid’.  King David escaped from King Saul here, according to the First Book of Samuel chapter 24 verse 1.

You can’t do crawl or breast stroke in the water because of the salt. You can’t keep your legs down.  It6s best to lie on your back. Don’t let get water in your eyes because it stings like mad.

You might see rushes or sea weeds which appear to be covered in snow.  They aren’t. It’s salt.

QUMRANQumran

When the Romans were in charge of Israel, they put their own people in leadership positions.  The Essenes were a group of people who did not accept the authority of the High Priest in Jerusalem.  Because he was appointed by the Romans, he was not a true believer.  So the Essenes moved out and formed an alternative Jewish community here.  They spent a lot of their time making copies of the bible and other books.  They heard that the Romans were coming to get them. They hid all their scrolls in various caves.  In 1947, a shepherd boy discovered a scroll by accident.  Various groups came to find the other scrolls. The story of the lengths to which they went to beat other groups is a thrilling ‘cloak and dagger’ story.  The scrolls are not in the Israel Museum.  They are important because they are the oldest copies of the Tanak (Old Testament).  They are 1,000 years older than any previous copies we know about.  They also contain information about the customs and beliefs of the First Century and give a lot of background to the life of Jesus.

There was a writing room, a meeting hall and a place for taking ritual baths.

JerichoJERICHO

The Dead Sea area is a wasteland.  Jericho has a spring so it is an oasis.  There were people living here in Stone Age times, in 7000 BCE.  That makes it the oldest city in the world.  The Book of Joshua chapters 1 – 6 suggests that it was a major fortified city.  It says that Jericho and his army attacked and the walls collapsed. This would have been between 1500 and 1200 BCE.  However, there is no evidence of a city here at that time (except for one fire-place).

Jericho is a fertile land for growing fruit and vegetables.  This is why several wars have been fought over this land.

The modern city is two miles away from the ruins.  It was built by Herod the Great just before the time of Jesus.  In Mark chapter 10 verses 46-52 Jesus healed a blind man called Bartimaeus here.

On Luke chapter 19 verses 1-10, a short tax-collector named Zacchaeus climbed a tree to get a good view of Jesus here.  There are lots of sycamore trees here so somebody probably claims to know the actual tree which he climbed!

WADI KELTWadi kelt

‘Wady’ is an Arabic word meaning ‘valley’.  It can mean anything from a small ravine to a major canyon.  This is a rugged, dry, thinly populated area.  It is the ideal hideout for outlaws and robbers.  In the 5th Century CE, Jerome called this area and its road ‘The Bloody Way’.  Robbers could easily wait to ambush people round corners.  Jesus told a story, the ‘Good Samaritan’.  A man was walking between Jerusalem and Jericho when bandits attacked him.  Two religious leaders passed by without helping.  It was a Samaritan who helped him and took him to an inn.  Samaritans were enemies to the Jews.  They lived in the midlands area called Samaria.  When foreigners had invaded, the Samaritans decided not to fight them but to co-operate.  Jews saw them as traitors because of this.

JUDEAN WILDERNESS

The young David and his soldiers hid here from King Saul.  Saul was jealous because David was more popular than he was.  He wanted to kill David.  Jewish rebels hid here in the two uprisings against the Romans in 70 and 135 CE.

George monasteryST. GEORGE’S MONASTERY

There used to be a hundred monasteries in this area. It was deserted so monks could live without distraction.  They gave water to pilgrims passing through. This monastery is Greek Orthodox.

Hermits lived in the valley here in the 4th Century.  A small church was built here for their Sunday worship.  The tomb of St. George is supposed to be here and there are also the skulls of martyred monks. The doors of the icon screen go back to the 12th Century. The oldest part is the 6th Century floor mosaics.

THE INN OF THE GOOD SAMARITANGd Sam

See the comments about WADI KELT.  Jesus was telling a STORY.  It could be based on something which really happened. However, it seems silly to point out the actual inn where the victim stayed.  Some people will believe anything!  It’s really a glorified stall selling post cards and fruit juice.

The ingredients in the Dead Sea relax the muscles, clear the bronchial passages and is supposed to counteract skin allergies.  The water is supposed to be good for arthritis and rheumatism.

The low altitude contains 10% more oxygen than at sea level. and this is free from city pollution and it is supposed to have a bracing effect.  You need shoes because of the sharp pebbles.

Don’t swallow any water or get it in your eyes.

The sea is fed by the Jordan River and a few springs but there is no way out for the water; it simply evaporates.

WEDNESDAY

golden gateTHE GOLDEN GATE

This is the gate Jesus went through when he cleared out the money-changers in the Temple.  Acts chapter 3 verse 10 calls it ‘The Beautiful Gate’.  Peter and John were going to the Temple when a lame beggar asked them for money.  The story says that they healed him.

In Crusader times, the gate was used twice a year.  On Palm Sunday, the procession went through to recall Jesus going into Jerusalem on a donkey as the people cried ‘Hosanna’ and waved palms. The other time was ‘Holy Cross Day’ which recalls a legend that Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine, found the cross on which Jesus was executed.

Suileman the Magnificent had the gate sealed up in 1542 for two reasons: it was too near to Muslim burial grounds; it was believed that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem by this gate so the Muslims would try to stop him.  Jews and Muslims are buried nearby.  They hope that when the Messiah (for Jews) or Day of Judgement (for Muslims) comes, they would be nearest so they would be the first to rise from the dead.  Jews who are members of the Cohen tribe are not allowed to enter cemeteries because it will make them ritually unclean.  The messiah is likely to be a Cohen, it is thought, so having a cemetery here will stop him coming through this gate.

dome of rockDOME OF THE ROCK.

Built on site of Jewish temple built by King Solomon.  The site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac (Muslims disagree – it was his other son, Ishmael at Mecca.)  Also where Muhammad had a vision of heaven.  This shrine was built by Muslims in the Seventh Century CE.  It is one of the earliest examples of Muslim architecture.  It is the third most important holy place for Muslims (the other two being Mecca and Medina).  They pray for the souls of people who have died.  You will have to leave handbags, shoes, cameras and stuff outside.

Inside, there are gorgeous tiles with Arabic calligraphy.  The dome weighs 35 tons.  In the rock, some people see a large footprint. this is meant to be Muhammad’s footprint.  There is also a receptacle containing fragments of Muhammad’s beard.

Don’t hold hands with anyone. You will be told off very loudly.

One recent theory is that Muslims built the Dome of the Rock to overshadow all the Christian churches.  Muslims were saying, in effect, “Our religion is better than yours.”

The actual rock was believed to be the centre of the world.

If you think this is big, the Jewish temple was twice this size.

El AqsaAL AQUSA MOSQUE

The largest, longest mosque you are likely to enter in your life.  The marble columns were donated by the Italian leader Mussolini.  In 1969, a mad Australian tried to set fire to the place.  King Abdullah was assassinated here in 1951.

There is a sundial in the centre of the archway which is accurate to within five minutes.

DON’T WALK in front of people who are praying.

W WallWESTERN WALL

This is all that is left of the great Jewish temple.  Jews come here on pilgrimage.  They pray facing the wall.  They write down prayers on slips of paper which they stuff into the cracks in the wall.  They rock to and fro as they lament the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. (This is why it is nicknamed ‘The Wailing Wall’.)  Boys often come here for their Bar Mitzvahs.

The area of sensitive politically.  That is why there is a heavy military presence.  Expect frequent bag checks.

Until 1967, the area in front of the wall was cluttered with buildings. After a way, Israeli troops cleared the area.

There is a tradition that dew on the wall at night is its own tears for the sins and troubles of Israel.

ANCIENT CITY OF DAVID

It was King David who established Jerusalem as the capital city.  The city has moved over the course of time.  This area is the original city.  It would have been a tiny village by today6s standards.

NEHEMIAH’S WALL

Nehemiah was one of the rulers after the Jews returned from their exile in Babylon.  He arranged repairs around here, opposite the tomb of David.  (Nehemiah chapter 3 verse 16)

GIHON

Gihon means ‘gushing’.  The spring acts like a siphon, pouring out a large quantity of water for 30 minutes before almost drying up for between four and ten hours.  Wear shorts and suitable footwear.

HEZEKIAH’S TUNNELHez tunnel

Hezekiah was king 715-685 BCE.  His reign is mentioned in the bible (2nd Book of Chronicles chapters 29-32).  Chapter 32, verse 30 says that he had this tunnel built to bring water from the SPRING OF GIHON outside the city into the Pool of Siloam inside the city.  This tunnel meant that the people of Jerusalem could survive while the Assyrian army had surrounded the city walls.  The tunnel is 1,749 feet long.

In 1880, an inscription was found. Written in Hebrew, it probably dates from the time of the king.  It tells how workmen dug from both sides.  As they got close to each other, they shouted out and aimed their picks at the sound of each other.  As they dug the last bit of rock, water gushed through.  Water still flows through.

Yad VYAD VASHEM

This place is dedicated to the memory of the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Nazi extermination camps.  There is a centre containing documents and various exhibitions.

THE AVENUE OF RIGHTEOUS GENTILES remembers the non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews.

THE REMEMBRANCE HALL has the names of the 21 largest concentration and death camps.

THE PILLAR OF HEROISM is 21 metres high and remembers the resistance fighters.

THE ART GALLERY is a poignant collection produced under the most unbearable conditions imaginable.

THE HALL OF NAMES has 3 million pages of testimony by victims.

THE VALEY OF THE DESTROYED COMMUNITIES recalls whole communities which have been wiped out.

THE GARDEN OF THE CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST remembers children who perished.

THE ISRAELI MUSEUMshrine of bk

 Contains the Shrine of the Book.  This has some of the Dead Sea Scrolls which were found in Qumran by a shepherd boy Muhammad Abh-Dib.

THE KNESSET

This is Israel’s parliament. It is an attractive, modern building.

ISRAELI MUSEUM

This is actually four museums rolled into one. It has everything from Tunisian wedding costumes to modern art.

Contains the Shrine of the Book.  This has some of the Dead Sea Scrolls which were found in Qumran by a shepherd boy Muhammad Abh-Dib.

THURSDAY

YARMUK RIVER

It is not mentioned in the bible.  It drains into the Jordan River.  The HOT SPRINGS are famous for their healing properties.  The HAMMAT GADER NATURE RESERVE also has old Roman stuff.

HAMAT GADER

There is a crocodile park and amusements, a modern pool with massage jets and black mud which is supposed to be good for the skin.

There is lots of barbed wire and sentry posts around because the sensitive border with Jordan is nearby.

THE SEA OF GALILEES of G

It’s called a sea.  Actually, it is a lake, 15 miles long, 8 miles wide.  It is 700 feet below sea level.  This means there are frequent storms.  The gospels contain stories of storms when Jesus rode across in a boat.

Fish from here contain lots of bones.

kibbutzKIBBUTZ EIN GEV

The Kibbutz movement started in 1909 by German and Czech settlers.  It has an amphitheatre, vineyards, bananas, date groves and fishing. Small groups bought land in what was then Palestine. They farmed it.  Profits were shared.  They were experiments in socialism.  Children were often raised by a few members rather than by their own parents.  Kibbutzim today tend to specialise in furniture making, farming, factory work &c.  Some of them are rated as 3 or 4 star hotels.  Weekly meetings are held to discuss community affairs and committees are elected.

This kibbutz was founded in 1937 by German and Czech settlers.  It has an amphitheatre, vineyards, bananas, date groves, fishing and has 400 members.  They have created a lush area out of what was desert.  There are palm trees.  A variety of birds flit about, including the Turkish nightingale (or bulbul).  They serve the produce of the settlement for meals. If you have fish, be careful of the bones.

FRIDAY

CapernaumCAPERNAUM

Many of Jesus’s disciples were fishermen round here, especially Simon, later called Peter.  Jesus preached in the synagogue here (Mark chapter 1 verse 21).  The ruins of the synagogue here go back to the 3rd Century CE.  So this is not the synagogue where Jesus preached.  However, it was a custom to build new synagogues on the site of old ones. So perhaps this is the same spot where Jesus preached. Look at the base of one of the walls and you will see a darker ridge – this would have been part of the synagogue as it was at the time of Jesus.  According to Matthew chapter 4 verse 13, Jesus lived in this town for a while.  A nun named Egeria visited this place in 381-384 CE.  She claimed that a church had been built over the site of Peter’s house.  Archaeologists have found the ruins of a Fourth Century church.  Below that is a second century house church and they have found crosses and fish hooks.  As Peter was the chief disciple, Jesus would have slept in this house several nights.

In Jesus’s time, this town was the fish market for several nearby villages.  It was the base for Jesus’s preaching in the North. It was on the border of two territories.  According to Matthew chapter 9 verse 9, he called Matthew to follow him, leaving his job as tax collector behind.

You can see the remains of ancient houses such as they would have been at the time of Jesus.  They are tiny.  There’s hardly enough floor space for a family to lie down to sleep on the floor.  Most of life was lived out of doors in this hot climate. The houses are built of dry-stone walls and connected by small courtyards.  They would have had roofs made of woven palm leaves.

TabgTABGHA

Tradition says Jesus fed 5,000 people here with 2 loaves and 5 fish.  There is no evidence for this site.  Indeed, Matthew chapter 14 verses 13-34 says that it was on the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

The altar in the church is made of rock. It is claimed to be the rock from which Jesus fed the crowd.  There are mosaics from the original 4th Century church.  They contain details of plants and birds of the region.

Another church is that of Peter’s Primacy.  There is a story in John chapter 212 verses 9-14 that Jesus helped Peter and his friends to catch a great shoal of fish. After a meal, Jesus took Peter to one side and told him to ‘Feed my sheep’, i.e. care for the other followers after Jesus had gone.

MOUNT OF THE BEATITUDES

Matthew chapters 5 – 7 contain the text of a sermon preached by Jesus on a mountain.  Nobody knows which mountain it was.  (Luke does not even mention a mountain.)  Tradition says it was this mountain.

CANACana

John chapter 2 tells how Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana.  Nobody knows for sure where Cana is. This town had the Arabic name Kefr Cana so some people think this is the place.

Several guides will show jugs to visitors.  There are hundreds of them, all claiming to be one of the six which Jesus used to contain the water turned into wine!

NazNAZARETH

Jesus was a boy here.  The spring has been here for centuries so it would be the place where his family got their water.  The Church of the Annunciation was begun in 1955. It replaces a 1730 CE church.  It recalls the story of the Angel Gabriel announcing (hence ‘annunciation’) that Mary would be pregnant.

There is a TRADITION THAT THE FAMILY OF Jesus cared for a church on this site for the first three centuries CE.

PLAIN OF ARMAGEDDON/MEGIDDOMegg

This was one of the most famous sites of the Bronze Age.  It is on the main road from Egypt and invaders had to pass through here to attack.  Lots of battles have been fought here.  The earliest we know about was in the 15th Century BCE.

The Second Book of Kings chapter 23 verses 28-30 recounts the death of the good King Josiah (in 610 BCE).  His defeat and death raised the question, ‘If God is good, why did this happen?’

Some people believe that the final battle between good and evil will take place here at the end of the world.  Revelation chapter 16 verse 16 talks of ‘Armageddon’ – har = Hill/mountain.

JEZREEL

Stone Age people came here 80,000 years ago to make their tools.

TaborMOUNT TABOR

Three gospels have a story that Jesus went up this mountain. His disciples had a vision.  Jesus was ‘transfigured’ – he went white and they heard voices and saw people round him.

This solitary hill is 1700 feet.  Some ancient tribes had a holy place here (Joshua chapter 19 verses 22 and 24).  It is also the place where a woman military commander, Deborah. waged war with the enemy army led by Sisera.  She crept into his tent late one night, grabbed a mallet and hammered a tent peg through his head. (Judges chapters 4 and 5)

There are only two ways up.  You can walk for 40 minutes or you can take a taxi. The taxi drivers like to show off by driving at high speeds around hairpin bends.  Any worries you had about terrorism will pale into insignificance compared with this journey.

The church has two altars, one higher than the other.  The lower one represents Jesus the man; the higher one represents Jesus as God.  When you’ve finished the visit, the taxi driver will be waiting to show off again!

MOUNT GILBOAH

You can see the Hill of Gilboah where King Saul committed suicide by falling on to his sword rather than being captured by the enemy Philistines.

NAIN

Luke chapter 7 verse 11 tells the story of a widow from here whose son died.  Jesus brought the boy back to life.

RIVER JORDANJordan

This is where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist.  People come here to be baptised today.  Pilgrims fill bottled with the water.  Back home, they pour it into the font for a christening.

SATURDAY

 GOLAN HEIGHTS

This has been the scene of conflict in the 1967 and 1973 wars.  The United Nations Peacekeeping Force operates a buffer zone, a no man’s land.

QuinetraQUINETRA

Empty houses housed the Syrian army before the six day war. It is deserted now. It was captured by Israelis in 1967, returned after a ceasefire agreement but has since remained a ghost town.  You can see the United Nations patrolled Syrian border.

It is supposed to be the place where Saul was on the way to Damascus to kill Christians.  He saw a blinding light and was converted to Christianity and became known as Paul.  Bering a fanatic, he was probably travelling towards the hot midday son, which would explain the blinding light.

DRUZE VILLAGESDruze

The Druze people belong to a sect based on secret teachings of Islam.  Most people have heard of ‘whirling dervishes’. The Druze are connected with these.

They get their name from al Daruzi, one of their leaders.  They are an offshoot of the Muslim religion.  They recognise Muhammad (pbuh) and other prophets but say that there is a secret, ‘inner’ meaning to their beliefs which is only known by a few of them.  They do not allow people to convert to their religion.

They make up 10% of the population of Israel.  Those who live in the Golan Heights don’t like to be considered Israeli.

They have a reputation for being extremely friendly.  The men often have very thick moustaches and wear a fez-style hat covered by a turban.

MOUNT HERMON

This snow-capped mountain is referred to in the Psalms.  It is Israel’s highest mountain (9,232 feet) and it stands in three countries: Lebanon, Syria and Israel. It is now a winter ski resort.  It was a centre of Ba’al worship in ancient Israel.

CAESAREA PHILIPPICaes P

The Arab name for this town is Banyas. It gets its name from the Greek god Pan.  Behind the car park is a red cliff face in which are several niches which would have held statues of Pan.  Herod the Great had three sons.  When he died, the area was split into three kingdoms, one for each son.  Herod Philip had his capital here.

Matthew chapter 16 verses 13-20 tell the story of Jesus asking his disciples what opinions people had about him.

DAN

Jeroboam the First made a golden calf for people to worship here (First Book of Kings chapter 12 verses 26-33).

It is the furthest northern place where ancient Israelites lived. Just as we talk of ‘John o’Groats to Landsend’, Israelites talked of ‘Dan to Beersheba’.

HULEH VALLEY

There are three rifts in the country.  This is the smallest (the other two are the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee).  Thus valley was marsh land but years of hard work draining the swamps have resulted in extremely fertile land.

Israelis see it as a fulfilment of a prophecy in Isaiah chapter 35 verse 1 that the desert would blossom like a rose.

AcreACRE

It is mentioned in Egyptian texts which go back to the Bronze Age.  It was a key stronghold for the crusaders.  It fell to the Marmluks.  The 30,000 inhabitants who couldn’t escape to ships were killed or enslaved.  Napoleon tried to invade in 1799 CE.  He lost.  It was defended by a Marmluk nicknamed al-Jazzar (the butcher).

Richard the Lionheart captured it from the Muslims in 1191.  There ware vast underground halls the size of cathedrals.  There is a 200 yard escape tunnel leading to the sea in case of attack.

Copper is one of the main industries today.

Its name comes from Aka = ‘cure’.  In a legend, Hercules found herbs here to heal his wounds.    There is a MUSEUM OF HEROES dedicated to Jewish resistance fighters during the British Mandate.  It was the headquarters for the Crusaders and is now 8 metres below ground level but was then ground level . It was the port for sailing back to Europe.

MOUNT CARMEL

MCarmelThe First Book of Kings chapter 18 tells the story that two rival religions existed.  Many people worshipped Ba’al.  He was the local god of fertility.  He had been worshipped before the Jews settled here.  The Jews brought their own religion with them from the desert. They tried to get rid of Ba’al worship.  Elijah had a contest with the Ba’al worshippers.  They both set up sacrifices on this mountain.  The winner was the one whose sacrifice would catch fire spontaneously. Elijah won.  (Legend?  Struck by lightening?)

 HAIFA

This major port was built in the early 20th Century.  Look out for a blue building with a golden dome. This is the headquarters of the Bahai religion. It’s a fairly new religion which is trying to combine al the main religions.  Bahais were tortured in Iran in the 1980s.

It is Israel’s second city and a key port.

CAESAREACP

This is on the coast of the Mediterranean.  Herod the Great built a harbour here.  He built this city in 22BCE. He intended it to be the most advanced city imaginable and he became increasingly tyrannical in pursuing its building.  People who disobeyed him were executed.  Hundreds of builders worked round the clock.  It had an advanced sewage system and street pattern.  He also build an aqueduct. This brought fresh water in from the springs in Mount Carmel.  In 6 CE it became the chief administrative centre for the Romans in Judea.  St. Paul was put in prison here before he was taken to Rome.  It was the centre of Christianity here.  Eusebius was a bishop here.  He wrote a history of the area.  It was the last city to fall to the Arabs in 640 CE.  It was a stronghold for the crusaders. You can still see their fortifications, built in 1251 – 1252 CE.

There is a stone inscription which mentions Pontius Pilate.  He was the governor who sentenced Jesus to death. This is the only mention of Pilate in stone.  It was found here but is in a Jerusalem museum now.

The amphitheatre of hippodrome of Herod the Great are still visible. The amphitheatre was below ground until 1961. It was excavated then. It is used for concerts now.

The first non-Jew to become a Christian was called Cornelius. He lived here. (Acts chapter 10)

In the Jewish revolt in 70 CE, thousands of Jews were executed in the amphitheatre.

A Byzantine street, from the 2nd or 3rd Century CE has been excavated.  It is behind the cafe and the car park.

Tel AvTEL AVIV

This place was known as JAFFA and JOPPA in biblical times.  It grew to a large city in order to accommodate the people settling here after 1948.  It is a bustling, modern city.

One story of the place is that of Peter.  A non-Jew from Caesarea wanted to become a Christian but Peter believed he would have to become Jewish first. Then he had a vision in his sleep which convinced him that you don’t need to become a Jew before you can become a Christian.

The place is also mentioned in the legend of Jonah.  According to Jonah chapter 1 verse 3, Jonah felt God had told him to preach in a city called Nineveh.  He didn’t want to so he came here to get a ship going in the opposite direction.

It is one of the world’s oldest cities and goes back to the 18th Century BCE.

By 1840, Jewish immigrants were settling here and it became the gateway for large- scale immigration.

After the 1948 war, most Arabs fled and left their homes and possessions behind.

There is an OTTOMAN CLOCK TOWER, A FLEA MARKET which sells antiques.  Avoid the Arab sweets; they are usually stale.  The Arab pizza is made by cracking two eggs over the top.  There are 24 types of bread on sale and 20 flavours of ice cream.

JAFFA/JOPPAJaffa

By 1840, Jewish immigrants were settling here and it became the gateway for large- scale immigration.

After the 1948 war, most Arabs fled and left their homes and possessions behind.

There is an OTTOMAN CLOCK TOWER, A FLEA MARKET which sells antiques.  Avoid the Arab sweets; they are usually stale.  The Arab pizza is made by cracking two eggs over the top.  There are 24 types of bread on sale and 20 flavours of ice cream.

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