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Archive for May, 2008

The Judean Desert

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

First, the bad news. Several members of our group have come down with a nasty intestinal virus, including Mr C. At first we thought it was food poisoning, but it didn’t make sense because we had all eaten the same stuff. One member was so sick that they called in a doctor tonight and he verified that it is a virus running rampant in Jerusalem. We now have some meds for the sick ones. We are washing our hands at every opportunity and hoping for the best. We have not had any new break outs since the overnight siege. I am hoping to escape this as we are finally due to explore Jerusalem and I do not want to miss it. Mr C has not had anything much to eat since last night at dinner. He is sipping on soda and sleeping it off.

The rest of us went out to the Judean Desert today to see the amazing Masada, Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves and then a swim in the Dead Sea, which has so much salt that you can’t sink. As you walk into the water, you suddenly find yourself floating, standing up. I did not partake in this activity.

Unfortunately, my I-photo is feeling overworked and is acting badly so I lost several of my Masada photos. I don’t know what happened, but I just have outlines of squares and no photos. Here are the stairs we took to reach the lower level of the northern palace, which is built into the side of the mound. This is only part of the stairs and we had to climb back up.

I loved the fragments of frescoes on the walls.

At Qumran, we saw a wild Ibex and this gorgeous Flame tree (Acacia).

The Dead Sea is a striking turquoise color. It is so gorgeous against the golden desert landscape.

It is bedtime. I must get my rest and stay healthy!!

If You’ve Seen One Roman Ruin

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

…have you seen them all? Apparently not. There seems to be another ruin around every bend in the road here in Israel. Yesterday, it was the incredible Byzantine/Roman city of Bet She’an. The size of the ruins boggles the mind. Today, it was Herodion, the site of one of Herod the Great’s palaces on a hill south of Jerusalem. The first two photos are from yesterday.

This is a photo from today. We were able to go down under the ruins in the tunnels that one time were the cisterns for the water supply. Later, the Jewish zealots dug additional tunnels and lived there, hiding from the Roman army. I had to overcome my claustrophobia.

Yesterday, we stopped at the oasis of Jericho for a delicious lunch. There was a beautiful fruit/vegetable stand and a camel to entertain us.

These thirteen year old twins came out to greet us today at our first stop at Herodian. The boy had hearing aids in both ears. They spoke English quite well.

We went into the West Bank again today. Bethlehem is in Palestinian territory. It was a profoundly moving experience to see the wall that is being constructed. I don’t think any pictures can ever depict how depressing and oppressive it was to see this fence. I don’t want to offend my Jewish friends, but it was a very unpleasant experience crossing through the fence today. When we came back to the Israeli side, we were told to get off the bus and walk through a passport center. They did not really look at our passports. It was done to punish us for visiting the West Bank. At least that was our feeling about the whole episode.

When we arrived back at our hotel, we walked down to the Damascus gate and into the old part of Jerusalem which was bustling with shops and stands for every thing imaginable for sale. It was almost sensory overload.

As always, all the photos are on my Flickr site

Tomorrow, we are off to the Masada and Qumran and a swim in the Dead Sea, probably not for me!!

Addendum to Yesterday

Friday, May 16th, 2008

I am so brain fatigued by the time I get a chance to blog. I was falling asleep and remembered a couple of more things I wanted to post. One is a photo from the beautiful Othodox church that we visited in Nazareth. We asked permission to sing a Taize chant, and it was breathtakingly beautiful – wonderful acoustics.

Some things that have delighted my soul.

  • Listening to the Muslim call to prayer since we have arrived. It is hauntingly beautiful
  • Watching a Palestinian grandmother and grandchild smiling and waving at us from a balcony in Nazareth.
  • Catching a wave and a smile from an Israeli soldier on a bus that was stopped next to us at a traffic light.
  • Smelling Jasmine at the kibbutz after a dousing of rain during the night.

Thinking Creatively

Friday, May 16th, 2008

When Mr C and I first thought about coming on this trip to Israel, I had in mind that I would do a series of pieces based on the trip. I will have the opportunity to mount a show of this work at Trinity Cathedral in Portland. What is so interesting to me is that I had a vision of what the color palette would be before I arrived here. If you have looked at any of my photos from the trip, you can see that the color scheme is very neutral — gray, beige and golden tones.

I have been paying attention to words and metaphors as we visit various sites. For instance, pomegranates grow profusely in the Galilee area and are featured in antique carvings. Almost every where you travel in this amazing country, you are faced with the facts of past and present strife. I am thinking of representing this with red for the blood shed. Anyway, I am intentionally thinking about ways to present this experience in my fabric art.

Today, we drove from Galilee to Jerusalem through the West Bank, stopping for lunch in Jericho. We went through several check points as we went from Israeli control to Palestine control and so on. It was quite striking to see the difference in the Israeli controlled Galilee to the West Bank, which is Palestinian. The roads are less cared for, there is a lot of trash along the way, the homes are often made up of whatever can be tacked together and the farms do not have the polished look of the kibbutz farms. I will post some photos from today, later when I have some time.

I thought I would post some photos about our trip yesterday. You can see all of the photos on my Flickr site. Our first stop was the ruins of Sepphoris, famous for its splendid 3rd century mosaics. This particular face was very compelling:

We also visited Nazareth which is inhabited by Muslims and Christians — very few Jews live there. We had lunch near the well where Mary, the mother of Jesus, would have gotten her daily water supply, thus it is now named Mary’s fountain. We visited a recreated typical Nazarene home and farm. It is on a site that had been excavated and had some of the necessary parts of a family farm, such as a wine press made from a rocky area. Our guide was the lead archaeologist on the dig. There were the cutest kids dressed in costume hanging out for our entertainment.

I take many of my photos from the bus as we travel around the country. I love taking photos of doors, windows and interesting buildings.

Notice the high tops on this Palestinian girl.

I also love to photograph the architecture. Much of the housing is on hillsides and vertical. This is to save the flat land for agriculture

Tomorrow we are off to Bethlehem. When we arrived in Jerusalem this afternoon, we drove up to the Mt. of Olives to get an overview of Jerusalem — wow, what a sight.

Finding a Spiritual Place in Galilee

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

I have been out of touch because we lost WiFi at the kibbutz for a day. Yesterday, we visited two sites that were in out of the way places and off the beaten path. It was much more peaceful. Our guide was asked to give us some quiet time on the bus.

We drove up the Golan Heights to the ruins of a Jewish town named Gamla which is (I think) the Hebrew word for camel. If you look at the photo below, you see the shape of the geography that resembles a ridge on a camel’s back. We did not hike down to the town, we observed it from above. You really can’t see the ruins in this photo. The geography of this area was spectacular. The sea of Galilee is off in the distance.

The site is a nature preserve as well as an archeological site. I enjoyed the various wild flowers in bloom. This thistle plant abounds in Galilee.

We then drove to Korazim, the remains of a Jewish town mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud as renowned for the good wheat grown there. This is the sign which greets visitors.

I include this because rocks and stone are such a presence in this country, even modern homes are made of concrete. But the remains of past civilizations are revealed in the rocks and stones of their homes and crafts.

The remains of the synagogue in this town were especially beautiful. I took lots of photos which can be seen on my Flickr site.

Here is Mr C finding some quiet time in the ruins.

We literally had this place to ourselves by the end of our visit. Our resident priest, Mary Anne, set a table for a communion service. It was a lovely experience to share the bread and wine, from our kibbutz, and served on pottery purchased here in the Galilee.

Just a comment on my last post. I was probably very jet lagged and a little grumpy. I was taken aback by the commercialism, but I am having a wonderful time. But, let me tell you, there is not much free time. Tomorrow we are off to Jerusalem. So excited! I hope to have a chance after dinner to post some photos of our visit to Sepphoris (Zippori) and Nazareth, today.