This image is from Dormition Abbey, a Benedictine monastery at the edge of Old Jerusalem.
Tomorrow, Saturday, in the Catholic faith marks the celebration of the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady.
For those who are curious, this is one item of faith that is in our catechism that is left somewhat open ended. Doctrine has it that Mary was assumed into heaven. However it may have occurred near Ephesus in Turkey or it may have occurred in Jerusalem.
The Abbey itself is only about 100 years old and is built on the site of the ruins of a Byzantine Abbey (also dedicated to Mary). Under THAT is said to the ruins of the Cenacle – the room where the Last Supper was celebrated.
In Jerusalem there are a number of places that scholars and archeologists argue over about the exact positioning of certain events. Given that Old Jerusalem takes up only 1/3 of a square mile, one thing that can’t be denied is that there is no other place on earth that contains so much foundational history of Christianity, Judaism & Islam.
This wry metalwork of an angler sets the stage for the next segment of our time in Israel: we are entering Caparnaum on the northern arc of the Sea of Galilee.
The truest fisherman was one who angled for men. This is thought to be the site where Jesus called Peter and his brother Andrew to become His first disciples. Most every major pilgrim structure in Caparnaum is next to the Sea of Galilee. They are all in relatively easy walking distance to each other. This was Jesus’s Land of Milk and Honey too.
If not the heart of Canaan, we are in an area of Israel’s most productive lands. These are mangos.
Over the years not just the Dead Sea but also the Sea of Galilee has dropped. A number of countries tap the 223 mile long Jordan River as it runs from Mt. Hermon in the north to the Dead Sea. You can see where the level of the Sea once met the upper reaches of an old observation point at Caparnaum. The demand for irrigation schemes to water more land is great.
Jesus was no stranger to Caparnaum. There is ample proof that Jews had a long familiarity with this area. This is a carving of a synagogue. The stone sat atop a lintel of rock and marked the site of a 4th century BC, Jewish temple.
This bounteous land brings peoples together like no other place on earth.
Again, the Bedouin’s are roamers and dry land farmers and move from place to place driven by the needs of their animals and culture. It is a tough life but there is a simplicity about it that’s on par with the Amish.
A young sheep and goat herder. He approached us and we gave him the water he asked for then became insistent that we donate shekels too.
The breed is called Caucasian Shepherd dog. This one nearly blends in with its surroundings. They are generally a big animal – this guy is close to 150 lbs. Strong willed and, once trained, made for herding.
These Bedouin horsemen sure look like twins and the older gent appeared to be the father. Who knows. We didn’t get a chance to stop and inquire.
Not easily seen is the single furrow plow. Looks like he was using it as a weeder.
Not all is primitive. Their threshing here was mechanized.
This day a major destination was Beit She’an. Urged by friends to include this National Park as we made our way from Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilea, the draw of it is is as one of the few nearly complete tracings of a major city built by conquers from Rome and Constantinople. But what takes this to the next level in my mind is that Romans and Turks are only the relative icing to a place that has been inhabited before the Early Bronze Age.
Beit She’an once covered close to three square miles. This is its former civic center. Public and government building litter the landscape. In view is of the (sheltered) West Bath House, Palladius street and the edge of one of the theatres.
There was a great earthquake in 749 AD. Proof of its severity are the marble columns that all fell in one general direction.
Who left their mark here?
Indeed, many cultures have left their mark. Here is a sequential list of civilizations or periods that wikipedia documents for this ancient place: Late Neolithic, Bronze, Egyptian, Biblical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab caliphates, Crusader rule, Mamluk (forgot all about them), Ottoman and on into the modern era. The town proper now is out of view and behind the hill in the background of the first and second photographs.
Anyone care to guess its use? And which cultures used?
This is a wide shot of the amphitheater. It has been mostly restored and used for sound and light performances. We could have spent at least an entire day here but had to be content with the several hours we got. All the world is a stage and off to to the next we must go…
Can you picture yourself doing this? Nah, me neither especially at 98 degrees.
This sign is somewhat of an understated point of historical interest. In the early 1900s archeology was still a fledgling new science. Members of the Palestine Exploration Fund or P.E.F. as this British group is known as, marked the former heights of the Dead Sea. Explorations like these are the reason that museums around the world are full of Middle Eastern artifacts.
Ten am in the morning and hot house pretty. Wish I had more to show of the flowers we did see in Israel’s desert.
As the sea has fallen, so has portions of the land. The pockets of saltier soils leach out of its matrix as time and weather passes.
In places, miniature fjords are created as sluffing and slumping earth moves on.
Ahava is an Israeli based, globally marketed cosmetic company. Not one year after completing their showplace spa and marketing facility, sinking soils caught up with them. Today the location, and settlement that was around it, lies abandoned.
Tourists walk below on the Roman Route. This route up the west face of Masada is the one that over 15,000 Roman soldiers and Jewish prisoners built in 73-74 AD. Approximately 10 years prior, just after the destruction of the Second Temple, a group of Jewish rebels overran the then skeletally manned Roman garrison. At the time the massive Romans force retook Masada there were perhaps 900 defending the site including men, women and children.
This is one of the larger Roman forts of the five that were built to lay siege to Masada and retake it. The ultimate reason that the Roman’s were successful in building up the Roman Route and finally breach the mountaintop is not well known. Due to the superior nature of this natural citadel the Jews could constantly rain rock down to repel any direction of attack. Until the Romans replaced their own front line soldiers attempting to build the Roman Route with Jewish prison laborers. Those holding the mountaintop refused to kill those of their own faith, even though they knew it might mean their eventual defeat.
There is much that remains or has been restored at Masada. This is the entrance to a synagogue that Herod built. The black line at left marks the wall height when the site was “rediscovered” in 1838 by a pair of American archeologists
Still used after over 2,000 years, the interior has been fully restored and made for modern use.
In most places on the mountaintop restoration of the fort is much more primitive. Here are some original floor tiles found in a bathhouse (one of several Herod built)
Tristan’s Grackle (or, for Rick, Onychognathus tristramii) is one of the few remaining full time residents of Masada. At this site they are tame enough to take food right from your hand. Also tame are the tourists who are happy to pose with a musician who was up on top of the ancient mountain to play at a Bar Mitzvah.
Until seeing it, your mind relies on someone else’s stories or photographs. The isolated fortress of Masada is distinctive and, once experienced, its size and role difficult make it difficult to convey the big picture.
Herod made it and made it famous for its remarkable civil and mechanical engineering. The Jews briefly held it and made it famous in history.
This photo gives you an idea of what’s left of the north face of Masada. The two previous photos are all of the same area. Note the small rectangle in the first image that is in the background, center right and more that 1,300′ below. That rectangle is one of five old Roman forts built during the famous siege.
The preferred method of reaching the top would be to hike but we didn’t have the time and the temperature worked against us even in this early day in May. The cable car ride is still impactful as the sense of scale of Masada becomes pronounced as you ascend. That is the Dead Sea in the background.
Moving through these images you see the scale change once again. This is a model of Masada around AD 73-74. What appear to be roads running along the mountain’s western flank are really canals bringing water from streams and rivers further up into the mountains.