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Journey through the Holy Land

Masada and the Dead Sea

sunny 90 °F

We left Jerusalem this morning for our sojourn to the Masada and the Dead Sea. The on the way to Masada we passed the cliffs where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. There were many caves - are there more?

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We then arrived at Masada where we took a tram from well below sea level to 33 meters above sea level. Herod the Great built two palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Josephus, the siege of Masada by Roman troops from 73 to 74 CE, at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War, ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Sicarii rebels who were hiding there. However, the archaeological evidence relevant to a mass suicide event is ambiguous at best and rejected entirely by some scholars. In 73 CE, the Roman governor of Iudaea, Lucius Flavius Silva, headed the Roman legion X Fretensis and laid siege to Masada. Another source gives the year of the siege of Masada as 73 or 74 CE. The Roman legion surrounded Masada, building a circumvallation wall and then a siege ramp against the western face of the plateau. The ramp was complete in the spring of 73, after probably two to three months of siege, allowing the Romans to finally breach the wall of the fortress with a battering ram on April 16. The Romans employed the X Legion and a number of auxiliary units and Jewish prisoners of war, totaling some 15,000 (of whom an estimated 8,000 to 9,000 were fighting men), in crushing Jewish resistance at Masada. A giant siege tower with a battering ram was constructed and moved laboriously up the completed ramp. According to Josephus, when Roman troops entered the fortress, they discovered that its defenders had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed mass suicide or killed each other, 960 men, women, and children in total. Josephus wrote of two stirring speeches that the Sicari leader had made to convince his men to kill themselves. Only two women and five children were found alive. Masada was last occupied during the Byzantine period, when a small church was established at the site. The church was part of a monastic settlement identified with the monastery of Marda known from hagiographical literature.

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After lunch, we headed to an abandoned military base for a swim in the Dead Sea - a most remarkable experience. The lake's surface is 430.5 metres (1,412 ft) below sea level, making its shores the lowest land-based elevation on Earth. It is 304 m (997 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With a salinity of 342 g/kg, or 34.2% (in 2011), it is one of the world's saltiest bodies of water – 9.6 times as salty as the ocean – and has a density of 1.24 kg/litre, which makes swimming similar to floating. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which plants and animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea has attracted visitors from around the Mediterranean Basin for thousands of years. It was one of the world's first health resorts (for Herod the Great), and it has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from asphalt for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilisers. Today, tourists visit the sea on its Israeli, Jordanian and West Bank coastlines. The Palestinian tourism industry has been met with setbacks in developing along the West Bank coast. The Dead Sea is receding at a swift rate; its surface area today is 605 km2 (234 sq mi), having been 1,050 km2 (410 sq mi) in 1930.

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Posted by rpickett 15:45 Archived in Israel Tagged sea and the dead masada 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The holiest place on earth for Christians:

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

Royal Clipper

St. Vincent and Bequia

sunny 80 °F

The stop this morning was at Kingstown, St. Vincent mostly for the shore excursion to the Botanical Garden. The town itself is not much to write home about, but walking around you can get a sense of how life in the town is. The modern capital was founded by French settlers shortly after 1722, although Saint Vincent had 196 years of British rule before its independence. The botanical garden, conceived in 1765, is one of the oldest in the Western hemisphere. William Bligh, made famous from the Mutiny on the Bounty, brought seed of the breadfruit tree here for planting, c. 1793.

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During lunch we made the short sail to the wonderful little island of Bequia. My brother had been here a number of times, and the highlight was heading to Mac's Pizza and Kitchen for some local beer and a shrimp and garlic pizza.

Bequia is the second-largest island in the Grenadines at 7 square miles (18 km2). It is part of the country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and is approximately 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from the nation's capital, Kingstown, on the main island, Saint Vincent. Bequia means "island of the clouds" in the ancient Arawak. The island's name was also 'Becouya' as part of the Grenadines.

Bequia has a history of whaling which may have brought in by the Yankee whalers in the 19th century. Its people are only allowed to catch up to four humpback whales per year using traditional hunting methods, however these methods are regularly abused using harpoon guns and speedboats to surround the whales. The limit is rarely met, with no catch some years.

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After dinner we hoisted sails and set off for Dominica.

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Posted by rpickett 14:50 Archived in St Vincent/The Grenadines Tagged and bequia kingstown Comments (0)

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Rock on...

sunny 78 °F

Today's excursion was to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, established in 1983 and located in Cleveland, Ohio, United States, is dedicated to recording the history of some of the best-known and most influential musicians, bands, producers, and others that have in some major way influenced the music industry, particularly in the area of rock and roll.[1] Originally, there were four categories of induction: performers, non-performers, early influences, and lifetime achievement. In 2000, "sidemen" was introduced as a category.

The only category that has seen new inductees every single year is the performers category. Artists become eligible for induction in that category 25 years after the release of their first record.[2] In order to be inducted, an artist must be nominated by a committee that selects a number of candidates, the highest being 16 for the 2020 class. Ballots are then sent to more than 1,000 "rock experts" who evaluate the candidates and vote on who should be inducted. The performers that receive the highest number of votes are inducted.

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Posted by rpickett 07:16 Archived in USA Tagged and of rock roll hall fame Comments (0)

Christmas Markets along the Danube

Passau and Vishofen

rain 39 °F

We started the day in the beautiful village of Passau in the heart of Bavaria. Passau was an ancient Roman colony of ancient Noricum called Batavis, Latin for "for the Batavi." During the second half of the 5th century, St. Severinus established a monastery here. The site was subject to repeated raids by the Alemanni. In 739, an English monk called Boniface founded the diocese of Passau, which for many years was the largest diocese of the German Kingdom/Holy Roman Empire, covering territory in southern Bavaria and most of what is now Upper and Lower Austria. From the 10th century the bishops of Passau also exercised secular authority as Prince-Bishops in the immediate area around Passau. In the Treaty of Passau (1552), Archduke Ferdinand I, representing Emperor Charles V, secured the agreement of the Protestant princes to submit the religious question to a diet. This led to the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. During the Renaissance and early modern period, Passau was one of the most prolific centres of sword and bladed weapon manufacture in Germany (after Solingen). Passau smiths stamped their blades with the Passau wolf, usually a rather simplified rendering of the wolf on the city's coat-of-arms.

The village is perfect for a quiet walk through its streets and to visit the Cathedral and Christmas market.

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During our on board Bavarian lunch, we cast off the lines and headed for our final stop Vishofen. As a final send-off, nature gifted us a wonderful rainbow just as the sun set.

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We arrived at Vilshofen an der Donau about 5:00pm. Upon docking we jumped on four buses and headed off to the Schweiklberg Abbey where we were treated to a "Decemberfest", hosted by the Vishofen Beer Queen. There was great beer, pretzels and entertainment. We returned to the ship, walking through the center of town and its Christmas market. A great way to end our adventure. Tomorrow we leave at 6:00am for the 2 hour bus ride to the Munich Airport and the flights home.

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Posted by rpickett 14:00 Archived in Ghana Tagged and passau vishofen Comments (7)

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