Near and present danger

We drove into the Golan Heights and made our way towards the Syrian border.  The Golan Heights are still littered with mine fields, left over from past skirmishes between Israel and Syria.  As we drove, we passed several Israeli tanks headed in the same direction we were going and saw many UN vehicles going in the opposite direction.  Kind of made me wonder if there was some news we hadn’t heard about and were getting ourselves into some unwanted trouble.  As it turns out, this is just another day in the Golan.

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Near the frontier with Syria, we climbed up a steep road of switchbacks to the top of a mountain called Mount Bental.  From here, we could look deep into Syria, past the UN observation posts and the imposing fences which separate the two countries.  The top of Mount Bental has a series of bunkers and trenches along with lookout posts that are currently not in use and can be explored at one’s leisure.  Walking through the maze of thick concrete rooms in near total darkness was a bit unnerving but well worth the spookiness.  We looked out the small openings of the observation bunkers and walked through the tunnels connecting rooms with metal bunk beds with  store rooms and entry points.

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From above the bunkers, you could see the Syrian city of Quenetra, only a few kilometres away.  While we didn’t see any signs of the turmoil currently taking place in that nation, it was chilling to think that more than 30,000 people have been killed in the civil war taking place in the country below us.

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A few days after we had visited this area, we heard that several mortar bombs had landed on Israeli soil, not far from where we had been.  It’s a different world here.

Rosh Pina

Near Rosh Pina, just north of the Sea of Galilee, is a large farm of vineyards and orchards which is owned and operated by friends of Yossi and Rina.  We stopped in and got a tour and taste of the delicacies grown here.  Learning about the intricate systems and methods used to grow and harvest these fruits was eye-opening for all of us.  We enjoyed the table grapes, wine grapes, plums, and pomegranates straight off the vine and trees. They were absolutely delicious!

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Going to a better place

We often hear the words, “He/She is going to a better place” when speaking about a loved one’s death.  It seems like I now know the location of that ‘place’.  It’s a car wash near the Golan Heights in Israel.  This doesn’t quite match the picture I had in my mind about where this might be.  Smile

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Seeing Galilee

From Megiddo, we passed through the crowded, bustling city of Nazareth on the way to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee.  After checking in to our hostel, we drove around the Sea.  Making one wrong turn resulted in us driving parallel to the tall, razor-wire fences separating Israel from Jordan.  A U-turn brought us back to Galilee.

The following day, we visited Jesus’ hometown of Capernaum, or rather, the ruins of the town along with the church and monastery which now dominate the site.  Interestingly, the church is ‘suspended’ above the much older ruins of an earlier church in the ruins of Capernaum.  The new building hovers above the ruins like a large clamshell supported by concrete pillars.

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What I did find to be inspirational here was the beauty and tranquility of the surroundings.  Nature is resplendent in its colour and grace in spite of the oppressive heat.

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As in the rest of the holy land, the Sea of Galilee has a host of churches, each representing a saint and/or an important Biblical event or location.  Many of these churches are beautiful places to visit.

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The many, many sites of religious significance throughout Israel, along with the seemingly obligatory souvenir stands  that crowd in on them, can by their sheer number, overload one’s sense of the significance of the events they represent.  Taken individually and with some pause and reflection, the magnitude of their message can become evident.  Humankind’s continual search for understanding, for meaning and for truth is deeply embedded in the sites and soil of this nation.

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A commemoration after 40 years

Neighbours of Yossi and Rina hosted a large gathering of people one evening during our stay in Rehovot. It turns out that this was a memorial gathering for a man who died 40 years ago. The family believed it was important to commemorate his life and for his children and grandchildren to know his story and to get to know their patriarch. Like I’ve heard from others in various countries, it’s important to know and understand the place and people you come from. The idea of taking time to remember and commemorate a forebearer in this way is honourable.

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

I’m so grateful for the place I come from and for the people who are my ancestors who continue to live and flourish through their descendants.

Pyramid Scheme

We’ve been trying to figure out how we can visit Egypt.  Our original plan was to travel overland from Eilat, Israel to Cairo, Egypt across the Sinai Peninsula.  Due to the current unrest in Egypt in general and in the Sinai specifically, it looks like we won’t make it to the land of the pyramids.  This is very disappointing, especially for our kids who haven’t been to Egypt before.

Everyone we have asked and every organization we have contacted have been very firm in their recommendations that we do not enter the Sinai.  Kidnappings have occurred in recent weeks along with the killing of Egyptian soldiers near the Taba border crossing.  A website I keep an eye on for these sorts of things is the Government of Canada’s Foreign Affairs travel advisory site.  It has continued to discourage travel to Egypt.

So, our plan is to spend a few more days in Israel and then more days in Jordan.  It’s very unfortunate that we won’t be in Egypt but we’re looking forward to more days in Jordan.  We hear a lot of great things about that country.

Israel

Hello from Israel!! I haven’t written for a long time I know, but here is now an update from me.
For the past couple of days we have been taking a road trip on our world trip. Haha it’s weird to think about. We all packed a small day pack, loaded up our car and drove off. That was 2 days ago. Since then our car has been getting ALOT of use and the GPS as well.
This morning we left the hostel that had been opened up just for us and drove to The Sea Grotto. Here is the steepest cable car in the world and the old railway that connected Europe and Egypt. Though it is now blocked because of the unrest between Israel and Lebanon.
The Grottos are caves under the rock mountain that were slowly carved out by the waves. I really liked them I can understand why people get so mesmeriszed by the sea. One cave was a hole in the rock that was called The Whales Maw and the sign mentioned Jonah from the Bible. It said that instead of a whale he could have been trapped inside of one of these. It does make sense, it’s dark, loud, full of water and could have spit him out. It’s a really cool ininterpretation.
We also went to an Arab town called Acco. We visited a Templers Tunnel. It was used to get from the palace to port safely in war times. I think the best thing about the town was looking in their “Grand Baazar”. Fruit stands, spice stands, dessert stands and fresh sea food stands all waiting for a buyer. There was nothing touristy and almost no tour groups. It was so foreign and a totally different world. We tried some really bitter pomegranate juice that I wish we could have at home and then left the little town behind.
Right now, as I am writing this on my mom ipod while we are driving through a city called Haifa. We are trying to find some gardens. Who knows if we will find them, (GPS can be a bit confusing) the plan after that is to drive to Nazareth to go to a reenactment of the Nazareth that Jesus knew.

The three of us are squished in the back of our car sharing our two iPods and Aaron is taking care of his Smurfs on my dads iPod. I’ve found having a portable little world of music, aka my iPod, amazing. It’s perfect for when Im sick if my family (wait did I actually say that? Hahaha) and for normalizing my brain. When your traveling your opinion, perspective, and the area around you is always changing, having some good old Owl City, Hedley, Fun. and Dragonette singing in to your ear can be such a relief. 🙂 

Megiddo: the final battle

Megiddo, also known as Armageddon, is a broad valley in Israel’s interior, which, according to the Bible, is to be the place of the final battle of the world.  It was peaceful while we were there.

We visited the ruins of an ancient fortress, called Megiddo, which overlooks the valley.  This used to be a major trading route so the fortress was built to control trade to protect travellers.

Click on the pictures below to enlarge them.

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To add a bit of levity to the world-ending surroundings, I took these pictures.

DSCN5338 (Medium)  “It feels like I have a hoarse throat.”

 DSCN5340 (Medium)The kids in a tribute to The Hunger Games.

DSCN5322 (Medium)   Looks like Megiddo’s battle has begun.

DSCN5354 (Medium)   It’s so hot, even the arrows are drooping!

SmileSmileSmile

The Underworld

We visited a cave, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which was discovered at a quarry following a routine blasting with dynamite. The stalactites and stalagmites formed otherworldly shapes.  Although humid, the cool air underground was a welcome break from the constant heat of the sun.

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