Spring Break 2011; Israel {part 1}


Ever since Travis entered Truett Seminary at Baylor, we have talked about going to Israel one day. Well, last fall we were presented with the opportunity to go to Israel with Truett for 10 whole days over Spring Break in 2011. It was a little financially straining but how many times are we going to presented with the opportunity to go to Israel?

Exactly.

So we began our journey on March 6th at the DFW airport. Our flight was going to take off late due to rainy weather in New York, no big deal except we had to make a connecting flight from JFK to Tel Aviv. We made the flight but our bags, our checked bags didn’t make it with us…don’t worry we got them the next evening we were there! The flight from JFK to Tel Aviv was 10 hours long, luckily it was night so I got to sleep for a good portion of the trip. When we arrived, we were given a free dock kit by El Al for the night with the stuff one would need for a night away. We eventually made it to our hotel in Tiberias that night on the Sea of Galilee. Dinner was really good and we remained impressed with the food there. A large variety and plenty to choose from.

We visited so many sites; if I shared all them with you this blog would look like the travel brochure we received. So, I’ll just hit the highlights, although there were several of those as well! {it was a great trip what can I say?!}

Our first morning in Israel we visited the Mount of Beatitudes. There a Catholic church was built and the site is maintained by Italian Franciscan Nuns. Although it was a bit rainy it was a beautiful morning, a time to reflect on Matthew Chapter 5. Our guide told us {quiet often} “you can read the Bible anywhere but here in Israel it comes to life”. He wasn’t lying. When we arrived we found a nice covered area where we read scripture and sang. It was a beautiful moment for us to be worshiping God in His promised land. {I also feel I ought to mention we were clearly the youngest tour group around. Everyone else was my grandparents age!} It cleared up enough for us to get our photo taken and look out over the Sea of Galilee. After this we visited several other historical and archeological sites; we even went across the sea of Galilee on a boat {modern} and {some people} ate fish from the sea!

Over the first 3 days we traveled around the Sea of Galilee and the North Centralish area of Israel. We visited Nazareth, Nazareth Village, Mount Carmel, Meggido, Sepphrios, and Bet She’an! On the 3rd day we stopped at the Jordan River, about half the group where re baptized. Travis and I baptized each other with the help of Dr. West, a pastor and Truett Alumni on this Israel pilgrimage with us!

The whole trip was memorable but one excursion that stands out in my mind from the 1st couple of days was running through Nazareth {not really running but keeping up with Dan our guide} in the rain. We even stopped and ate Nazareth Pizza, which was feta, mozzarella and basil pesto on peta bread! Another place I dearly enjoyed was Bet She’an, it was an amazing archeological excavation of Roman architecture and a historical architectural enthusiasts dream come true! Ever since my Architectural History course at Stephen F Austin State University, I have dreamed of going to see Roman Ruins. Although I always thought I would go to Rome or Italy to see them, not Israel. {I am pretty sure I was a totally annoying person here as I was talking about architecture and naming the designs and structural pieces to anyone around me!}

After our days spent around the Sea of Galilee, we headed south towards the Dead Sea, where we visited Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, then to Masada a giant fortress built by Harod as a place of refuge. There were 2 ways to get there 1) walk up the plateau 2) Cable Car; we took the cable car. {Although one day I would love to do the “Snake Trail” as it was called} I learned a lot about Harod the Great on this trip, I knew he was very influential on the time period but I have to say he was a great architect and engineer. Although he was a crazy loon that killed his wife and 2 sons.

After our visit to Masada, we had enough time to go enjoy the Dead Sea, by enjoy I mean float in a lake of water with about 20% salinity in 50-60 degree weather! Luckily, there was a sulfur spring at the beach that had the same salty water and you were able to float in there as well! Which I enjoyed much more because of the warmth. I brought 2 rocks back from the sea!

After our dip in the Dead Sea, we began our journey to Jerusalem. Before we made it there our guide surprised us with camel rides on the side of the road! It was $3 for each person so Travis and I rode together for a total of $6, although we maybe could have bartered with him for a discount! We had so much fun! Almost everyone in our group rode and you would have thought we were a bunch of kids at the petting zoo! One of the Camels, the white one, his name was Micah and was 8 years old! It was purely a money-making opportunity for these men. And we had a great time nonetheless. {I have more photos of us on the camels, taken by a friend, and I have some awesome facial expressions…}

When we neared Jerusalem, we began to sing hymns on the bus as we entered the city. And were eagerly looking for the Dome of the Rock which was built on the Temple Mount and is the highest point of the Old City. I was ready to be at our new hotel, it was a long day driving from Tiberias to Qumran then Masada all the way back to Jerusalem. Oh we stopped along the way to Qumran to look at Jericho from the road {it is occupied by Palestine by the way} Dan told us we could stand on these piles of dirt along the road to get a photo but not to go to far. Well a couple of people from our group got up on the big concrete thing and Dan told them that they were going to be easy targets for the snipers! Needless to say they quickly got down! We did get to see a shepherd, modern of course but riding a donkey and leading his sheep. It was pretty awesome how they really do follow him.

Look for the next and last installment of our trip to Israel about our time in Jerusalem and Bethlehem!

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