A Travellerspoint blog

Journey through the Holy Land


semi-overcast 75 °F

Today was an optional/free day so we signed up for an excursion with lunch.

Our first stop was the 3D model of Jerusalem. The Second Temple Jerusalem Model recreates the city of 66 CE at the height of its glory; the eve of the great revolt of the Jews against the Romans. The city then stretched over some 450 acres. The model, measuring some 1,000 square meters, was created by Professor Avi-Yonah, a leading scholar specializing in ancient Jerusalem. Avi-Yona's reconstruction is based on descriptions from Jewish sources, particularly the Mishnah, and the writings of the contemporary historian Flavius Josephus. He also relied on archaeological finds from Jerusalem and from other Roman cities. At the heart of this impressive city stands the Temple Mount. Kings who built the city, notably the Hasmoneans and their successors, and King Herod and his descendants, were greatly influenced by the Greco-Roman culture. This is clearly reflected in the style of the buildings, and in the layout of the streets; in the holy precinct at the top of the hill; the public water facilities, and other dedicatory monumental buildings as well as in the sports and entertainment facilities. A closer look reveals the uniquely Jewish character of Jerusalem. First, there is only one sacred precinct - the Temple Mount - with a single temple, to one God. Second, the city has no sculptures, or reliefs depicting human figures and animals, in accordance with the second of the Ten Commandment: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. The magnificence of the city as it replicated in the model did not last for long. In 66 CE the Great Revolt against the Romans broke out, and in 70 CE, after five years of fighting, the city was destroyed and the Temple burnt down.


We then went to the most impressive Yad Vashem. One of Yad Vashem's tasks is to honor non-Jews who risked their lives, liberty, or positions to save Jews during the Holocaust. To this end, a special independent commission, headed by a retired Supreme Court justice, was established. The commission members, including historians, public figures, lawyers, and Holocaust survivors, examine and evaluate each case according to a well-defined set of criteria and regulations. The Righteous receive a certificate of honor and a medal, and their names are commemorated in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations] on the Mount of Remembrance, Yad Vashem. This is an ongoing project that will continue for as long as there are valid requests, substantiated by testimonies or documentation. Five hundred and fifty-five individuals were recognized during 2011, and as of 2021, more than 27,921 individuals have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Yad Vashem's declared policy is not to provide meaningful recognition, even in a possible new category, to Jews who rescued Jews, regardless of the number of people their activism saved. The stated reason is that Jews had an obligation to save fellow Jews and do not deserve recognition.


It was then lunch at the City View Resaurant.

After lunch we headed into the desert to visit the Museum of the Good Samaritans and the Museum of Mosaics. The Inn is named after the New Testament's Parable of the Good Samaritan, and houses a museum of ancient mosaics and other archaeological findings mostly dating from the 4th-7th centuries that were collected from churches and Jewish and Samaritan synagogues from the West Bank and from the ancient Gaza synagogue. Beginning in biblical times, Jewish pilgrims from the Galilee took the nearby Jerusalem-Jericho road to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. In later times, Christian pilgrims used the road to reach the baptismal site of Jesus on the Jordan River, near Jericho. The area of the Inn of the Good Samaritan was repeatedly fortified, and traveller-inns were built a little below the hilltop. This is reflected in the presence of two distinct, if related, archaeological sites in close proximity to each other, the other site being the ruins of a castle believed to have been built by King Herod although today they are separated by the modern Jerusalem–Jericho highway. Today, the Inn of the Good Samaritan is a mosaic museum.


Posted by rpickett 16:27 Archived in Israel Tagged jerusalem Comments (0)

Journey through the Holy Land

Old Jerusalem

sunny 75 °F

Today was all about retracing the Passion of the Christ.

Our first stop was the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations or Church of the Agony. According to the four Gospels of the New Testament, Jesus underwent the agony in the garden and was arrested before his crucifixion. The Church of All Nations, also known as the Church or Basilica of the Agony, is a Roman Catholic church located on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, next to the Garden of Gethsemane. It enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest.


We then braved the traffic to the Mount of Olives to get a spectacular view of the Old CIty.


It was then time to make the trek through old Jerusalem. Our first stop was the Western Wall. It is extensive, and, because it was Sabbat, we could not take pictures. It is a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the "Western Wall". The wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount, in a huge rectangular structure topped by a flat platform, thus creating more space for the Temple itself, its auxiliary buildings, and crowds of worshipers and visitors. In one of several varying Muslim traditions, it is the site where the Islamic Prophet Muhammad tied his winged steed, al-Buraq, on his Isra and Mi'raj to Jerusalem before ascending to paradise, and constitutes the western border of al-Haram al-Sharif ("the Noble Sanctuary"), or the Al-Aqsa compound. The Western Wall's holiness in Judaism is a result of its proximity to the Temple Mount. Because of the Temple Mount entry restrictions, the Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray, though the site of the Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in the Jewish faith, lies behind it.


It was then on to the It is a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the "Western Wall". The wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount, in a huge rectangular structure topped by a flat platform, thus creating more space for the Temple itself, its auxiliary buildings, and crowds of worshipers and visitors.

In one of several varying Muslim traditions, it is the site where the Islamic Prophet Muhammad tied his winged steed, al-Buraq, on his Isra and Mi'raj to Jerusalem before ascending to paradise, and constitutes the western border of al-Haram al-Sharif ("the Noble Sanctuary"), or the Al-Aqsa compound.

The Western Wall's holiness in Judaism is a result of its proximity to the Temple Mount. Because of the Temple Mount entry restrictions, the Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray, though the site of the Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in the Jewish faith, lies behind it.

We traversed the Stations of the cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre: The second holiest place on earth besides Bethlehem for Christians. According to traditions dating back to the 4th century, it contains the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus was crucified, at a place known as Calvary or Golgotha, and Jesus's empty tomb, where he is believed by Christians to have been buried and resurrected. Each time the church was rebuilt, some of the antiquities from the preceding structure were used in the newer renovation. The tomb itself is enclosed by a 19th-century shrine called the Aedicule. The Status Quo, an understanding between religious communities dating to 1757, applies to the site.
Within the church proper are the last four stations of the Cross of the Via Dolorosa, representing the final episodes of the Passion of Jesus. The church has been a major Christian pilgrimage destination since its creation in the 4th century, as the traditional site of the resurrection of Christ, thus its original Greek name, Church of the Anastasis ('Resurrection'). Control of the church itself is shared, a simultaneum, among several Christian denominations and secular entities in complicated arrangements essentially unchanged for over 160 years, and some for much longer. The main denominations sharing property over parts of the church are the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic, and to a lesser degree the Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopian Orthodox churches.


Our last two stops were the Room of the Last Supper and the Tomb of King David, but because it was Sabbat, we could not photograph David's Tomb. David's Tomb is a site that, according to an early-medieval (9th-century) tradition, is associated with the burial of the biblical King David.[Historians, archaeologists and Jewish religious authorities do not consider the site to be the actual resting place of King David. It occupies the ground floor of a former church, whose upper floor holds the Cenacle or "Upper Room" traditionally identified as the place of Jesus' Last Supper and the original meeting place of the early Christian community of Jerusalem.


Posted by rpickett 15:57 Archived in Israel Tagged old jerusalem Comments (0)

Journey through the Holy Land

Jerusalem and Bethlehem

semi-overcast 75 °F

Today we started the most spiritual portion of our Journey.

We started at the Garden Tomb.
The Garden Tomb is a rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem, which was unearthed in 1867 and is considered by some Protestants to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus. The tomb has been dated by Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay to the 8th–7th centuries BC. The re-use of old tombs was not an uncommon practice in ancient times, but this would seem to contradict the biblical text that speaks of a new, not reused, tomb made for himself by Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57–60, John 19:41). Also, the trough in front of the tomb and the nearby cistern, described by proponents of the Garden Tomb as part of the tomb's sealing system and as the surrounding garden's source of water, respectively, have both been archaeologically dated to the Crusader period (12th–13th centuries). The organisation maintaining the Garden Tomb refrains from claiming that this is the authentic tomb of Jesus, while pointing out the similarities with the site described in the Bible, and the fact that the Garden Tomb better preserves its ancient outlook than the more traditional, but architecturally altered and time-damaged tomb from the mostly crowded Church of the Holy Sepulchre; for all of these reasons, they suggest that the Garden Tomb is more evocative of the events described in the Gospels. The Garden Tomb is adjacent to a rocky escarpment which since the mid-nineteenth century has been proposed by some scholars to be Golgotha. It has since been known as Skull Hill or Gordon's Calvary.


We then went to the birth place of John the Baptist. The Church of Saint John the Baptist is a Catholic church in Ein Karem, Jerusalem, that belongs to the Franciscan order. It was built at the site where Saint John the Baptist is believed to have been born. In 1941–42 the Franciscans excavated the area west of the church and monastery. Here they discovered graves, rock-cut chambers, wine presses and small chapels with mosaic tiling. The southern rock-cut chamber contained ceramic datable to a period stretching from approximately the first century BC till 70 AD, an interval that includes the presumed lifetime of Zechariah, Elizabeth and John. The community living here has been dated by the archaeological findings back to the Roman, Byzantine and Early Muslim periods. Unfortunately the church was not active as it was undergoing restoration.


We then headed to the Church of the Visitation which is a Catholic church in Ein Karem, Jerusalem, and honors the visit paid by the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:39–56). This is the site where tradition says that Mary recited her song of praise, the Magnificat, one of the most ancient Marian hymns. From the Crusader conquest of the Holy Land onwards, three different locations in Ein Karem became connected with the life of St John the Baptist and turned into points of interest for pilgrims: a cave within the village, a site on a hill south of it, and the village's main water fountain. The events connected to the sites are the meeting between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, the home of Zachary and Elizabeth, the birth of John, and the hiding place of Elizabeth and John. The Crusaders erected two main churches in Ein Karem, the precursors of what are today the Church of St John the Baptist and the Church of the Visitation.


We then entered the Palestinian Territory on the West Bank and Bethlehem - currently 40% Christian. After lunch we entered the Church of the Nativity. The Church of the Nativity, or Basilica of the Nativity, is a basilica located in Bethlehem in the West Bank, Palestine. The grotto it contains holds a prominent religious significance to Christians of various denominations as the birthplace of Jesus. The grotto is the oldest site continuously used as a place of worship in Christianity, and the basilica is the oldest major church in the Holy Land. The church was originally commissioned by Constantine the Great a short time after his mother Helena's visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem in 325–326, on the site that was traditionally considered to be the birthplace of Jesus. That original basilica was likely built between 330 and 333, being already mentioned in 333, and was dedicated on 31 May 339. It was probably destroyed by fire during the Samaritan revolts of the sixth century, possibly in 529, and a new basilica was built a number of years later by Byzantine Emperor Justinian (r. 527–565), who added a porch or narthex, and replaced the octagonal sanctuary with a cruciform transept complete with three apses, but largely preserved the original character of the building, with an atrium and a basilica consisting of a nave with four side aisles.


The holiest place on earth for Christians:


Posted by rpickett 15:36 Archived in Israel Tagged and jerusalem bethlehem Comments (0)

Journey through the Holy Land

Magdala, Mount of the Beatitudes, Peter Primacy and Capernaum.

sunny 80 °F

We had a busy morning touring the important sites around the See of Galilee.
Our first stop was the first century synagogue of Magdala - home of Mary Magdaline. There is a beautiful church built in 2014 by Mexico, associated with the site.
Archaeological excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted in 2006 found that the settlement began during the Hellenistic period (between the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE) and ended during the late Roman period (3rd century CE). Later excavations in 2009–2013 brought perhaps the most important discovery in the site: an ancient synagogue, called the "Migdal Synagogue", dating from the Second Temple period. It is the oldest synagogue found in the Galilee, and one of the only synagogues from that period found in the entire country, as of the time of the excavation. They also found the Magdala stone, which has a seven-branched menorah symbol carved on it. It is the earliest menorah of that period to be discovered outside of Jerusalem. In 2021, another synagogue from the same period was discovered at Magdala. A collapse layer from the Second Temple period supported the narrative presented by Josephus regarding the Roman destruction of Magdala during the First Jewish–Roman War. Excavations show that after the destruction, during the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, the city moved slightly to the north.


The next stop was a visit to the church on the Mount of the Beatitudes.
This site, very near Tabgha and also known as Mount Eremos, has been commemorated for more than 1600 years. Other suggested locations for the Jesus' Sermon on the Mount have included the nearby Mount Arbel, or even the Horns of Hattin. A Byzantine church was erected lower down the slope from the current site in the 4th century, and it was used until the 7th century. Remains of a cistern and a monastery are still visible. The current Roman Catholic Franciscan chapel was built in 1937-38 following plans by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. Pope John Paul II celebrated a Mass at this site in March 2000. The Jesus Trail pilgrimage route connects the Mount to other sites traditionally associated with the life of Jesus.


Nest was the Church of Peter Primacy. The Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter is a Franciscan church located in Tabgha, Israel, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. It commemorates, and allegedly marks the spot, of Jesus' reinstatement of Peter as chief among the Apostles. The modern structure was built in 1933 and incorporates parts of an earlier 4th century church. At the base of its walls, opposite the main altar, foundations of the 4th century church are visible. In the 9th century, the church was referred to as the Place of the Coals. This name refers to the incident of Jesus' preparation of meal for the apostles, building a charcoal fire on which to cook the fish. Also first mentioned in the year 808 are the "Twelve Thrones", a series of heart shaped stones, which were placed along the shore to commemorate the Twelve Apostles. The church survived longer than any other in the area, finally being destroyed in 1263. The present Franciscan chapel was built on the site in 1933. The church contains a projection of limestone rock in front of the present altar which is venerated as a "Mensa Christi", Latin for table of Christ. According to tradition this is the spot where Jesus is said to have laid out a breakfast of bread and fish for the Apostles, and told Peter to "Feed my sheep" after the miraculous catch, the third time he appeared to them after his resurrection.


The final stop before entering Palestine on the way to Jerusalem and lunch near Jericho was Capernaum. It was a fishing village established during the time of the Hasmoneans, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It had a population of about 1500. Archaeological excavations have revealed two ancient synagogues built one over the other. A house turned into a church by the Byzantines is believed to have been the home of Saint Peter. The village was inhabited continuously from the second century BC to the 11th century AD, when it was abandoned sometime before the First Crusade.


Finally we arrived in Jerusalem where we will be for 5 nights exploring the area and the old city.


Posted by rpickett 15:29 Archived in Israel Tagged of see galilee Comments (0)

Journey through the Holy Land

Nazarerth, Cana and the See of Galilee

sunny 82 °F

We left the hotel again just before 8:00am and headed to Nazareth to visit the Church of the Annunciation.

It was established over what Catholic tradition holds to be the site of the house of the Virgin Mary, and where the angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced that she would conceive and bear the Son of God, Jesus – an event known as the Annunciation.[1] Christian tradition has held that a structure was commissioned by Emperor Constantine I, whose mother, Saint Helena, helped to found churches commemorating important events in Jesus Christ's life. The Church of the Annunciation was founded around the same time as the Church of the Nativity (the birthplace) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the tomb). Some version of it was known to have still been in existence around 570 AD. The old church was completely demolished in 1954 to allow for the construction of a new basilica. Pope Paul VI celebrated Mass in the new church during his trip to the Holy Land in 1964 The basilica was completed in 1969. Used by the Latin parish, it remains under the control of the Franciscans. It is the largest Christian Church building or sanctuary in the Middle East under the supervision of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.


We then went to Cana to visit the Wedding Church.
It is dedicated to the weddings of Christianity. Its name commemorates the event of the Wedding at Cana from the Gospel of John, thought by some Christians to have taken place on the site, during which Jesus performed his first miracle, by turning water into wine at the request or behest of Mother Mary. The Church is owned by the Custody of the Holy Land, part of the Franciscan order in the Catholic Church.[6] The current church was built circa 1881, and expanded from 1897-1905, following efforts by the Franciscans to acquire the site between 1641 and 1879, when acquisition was completed.[6] Twentieth-century archaeological excavations indicated that, before the current church building, the site housed a Jewish synagogue in the fourth and fifth centuries, and tombs under the rule of the Byzantine Empire in the fifth and sixth centuries.


We then went back to the See of Galilee to visit the Church of the Magnification.

We then took a boat ride on the See.

We ended the day at a Baptismal site on the Jordan River near where it runs out of the See of Galilee. The water in river where Jesus was baptized is very polluted and not fit to visit.


Posted by rpickett 15:38 Archived in Israel Tagged of see cana galilee nazareth Comments (0)

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