Wednesday, February 8, 2017

2017 Next Journey Prep

Pardon me for some maintenance tests.

I'll be making my third trip to Israel in June of 2017.

Since I haven't posted anything on my blog in the six years since the last trip (April/May of 2011) I've got a lot of catching up to do. So, for a little while I'll be polishing my blogging skills as I prepare for the 28 days I'll be in Israel this June.

Thanks for your patience.
Larry Haverstock  February 8, 2017

Various tests and explorations follow.
Nothing you are likely to actually be interested in...

Testing background color

Teahup'o Du Ciel (most beautiful surf video I know)

May 10, 2011 standing on the south wall of Old Jerusalem, west of the Temple Mount, with grey dome of Al-Aqsa Mosque just above the stone to the left of my hat and the Mount of Olives in the background:

Insulted by shepherd's dogs in a field about six miles north and east of Nazareth after they'd rushed at me, loud and threatening, before then bursting into laughter and returning to the shepherd and his flock which were on the hillside to my right. You mangy mutts, I'm still quivering.

Approaching shepherd's flock moments before the dogs in the preceding video burst out of the brush:

Monday, May 30, 2011

3rd Journey, Day 6


I’ve been home for ten days now but still need to catch up on the blog.  So here’s my entry for the last day of the entire trip.  It will be my longest post, and the final one too.

The Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem was so comfortable and appealing that I found it hard to get rolling.  Got up at 6 am, but since check-out wasn’t required until 11 I ate breakfast in the dining room and then hung out (free and fast internet in all rooms) to work on the blog.  Finally, reluctantly, I packed and checked out but left all three of my bags locked in the Hostel’s secure baggage room.  Taking only my cameras I headed out to explore Jerusalem on foot.  Here’s what I looked like in the Hostel’s elevator mirror:

I happened to bump into one of the creators of "The Jesus Trail" (Maoz Inon) as I was leaving the Abraham Hostel.  I thanked him profusely for the wonderful thing he'd accomplished with the Trail and asked one of his compatriots to snap a shot of us at the entrance to the Hostel.

From 11 am to 1 pm I simply wandered around Jerusalem in a 270 degree loop through the area north and west of the old city.  Most of the time I was completely lost and completely happy.  The sun was shining, contributing to a very warm and inviting feel on the streets. 

Lest you think that Israel and Jerusalem are still living in millenniums gone by, I submit here a couple of photos depicting a bridge for the new light rail transportation system.  This bridge can be found all over the net on architectural websites and for good reason.  It is entirely supported by one single towering post from which cables then support the bridge itself and thusly the train which passes over it.  Gotta tell ya, I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent ruminating on the Biblical history of Israel in these last three weeks, but this astonishingly beautiful and futuristic bridge was also amazing.

With time on my hands since I didn’t need to start out for the airport until 8 pm, I just poked around in various stores looking to buy a gift for my wife.  Eventually I found a skirt to match a blouse I’d bought in the old city for Donna about a week earlier and decided my shopping was done.  I’d purchased dresses for the granddaughters too, so here’s some shots my son Mark took today (May 30th) of what Donna and the grandkids wound up with:

Asking directions from several different people over the course of the noon hour I finally made my way southerly on Shmuel Hanavi, Kheil Hahandasa, and then Hazahanim streets until I discovered the “New Gate” (built in 1887) through which I entered into the northwest corner of the Old City.  I then wormed my way down through the narrow streets of the city to the Jaffa gate and bought a ticket for the Northern Ramparts walk.

The old city of Jerusalem is encompassed by impressive stone walls built by “Suleiman the Magnificent” about 450 years ago.  His constructions were often set directly upon the foundation stones which Herod the Great had initially laid during the time of Christ, 1500 years before Suleiman.  These walls have seen much battle and bloodshed through the centuries but are currently a tourist attraction well worth the pittance charged ($5) and the time required to walk upon them (maybe 30 - 45 minutes for the southern ramparts and about 45 - 90 for the northern).  I’d walked the southern section back on May 10th, so I was eager to do the northern stretch.

I found this north side to be the more enjoyable and rewarding of the two.  Beginning at the Jaffa Gate you climb up the stairs to the top of the walls themselves where the following view of David Street just inside the Jaffa Gate immediately presents itself:

In this next shot I’ve walked maybe 150 feet north, climbed up onto the very top of the wall so I could look directly south, and captured a view of the Jaffa Gate (middle left doorway), the western wall of the city (stretching across the middle of the photo to the very center), and then the upper part of the Valley of Hinnom, a.k.a “Gehenna”, (the gentle depression falling away to the right).

The stone pavement of the rampart itself is quite rough, varying in height as much as two inches from stone to stone.  One must be careful with virtually each step to keep from tripping.  Most of the way there is an iron handrail on the right.  On your left, the stone wall is more than six feet tall, although the structure provides frequent “windows” about chest-high which allow terrific views of both the old and new city.  Some of these are complete window frames (as in the next photo) while others do not have a lintel on the top.  Quite a few times in the next hour I clambered up onto this “window sill” and leaned against its side walls or even stood upon the higher portions to snap photos.  The following shot looks straight out at Mt. Scopus. 

The wall runs pretty directly northwards for a short distance but then turns almost directly east (and a little northerly) for the great majority of the time.  This long walk along the northern and eastern walls provide numerous views of Mt. Scopus and Olivet for fully three quarters of the time you spend upon the ramparts.  Consequently, you are constantly overlooking the new city on your left (north) and both the “Christian Quarter” and “Muslim Quarter” on your right. 

Sometimes the jarring clash between the ancient and the modern is striking:

But the most awe inspiring and thought provoking section of the ramparts appears as you approach the Northeast corner and then turn south to look down the length of Jerusalem’s eastern wall.  Here the Temple Mount can be seen along with the “Golden” (or “Beautiful”) Gate, Mt. Scopus, The Mount of Olives, and the Kidron Valley. 

Of course, Jesus regularly passed back and forth between the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount by way of the Kidron Valley (“as was His custom” in Luke 22:39).  To do this He may have used either the monumental staircase on the south side of the Temple precincts or He may have used what was then called “The Beautiful Gate” on the east side.  Both are readily accessible from Olivet, although the Beautiful Gate would be the closest and easiest approach. 

Today, a Muslim gate which is closed and sealed so that none may pass stands on top of the original gate which is buried underground beneath it.  In 1969 a Bible student taking photographs of the Muslim’s Golden Gate was quite surprised when the ground caved in and dropped him eight feet into a mass grave directly in front of the gate Jesus used (or possibly an archway supporting a stairway leading to that gate).  Here is a photograph he took (including the bones) of the archway above the gate from Jesus’ time.

And then here's my shot of the eastern wall and the Muslim “Golden Gate”.  The taller structure on the wall just above the midline of the photo is today’s “Golden Gate” which sits directly on top of the gate from Jesus’ time.

The eastern wall ramparts are walkable all the way up to the north wall of the Temple Mount.  For security purposes no one is allowed to walk the ramparts where they actually border the Temple area.  So, the tour ends there by descending a flight of stairs adjacent to the “Lion’s Gate” which is also called “St. Stephen’s Gate” through which I exited the city walls right at 2 o’clock.

Then, turning north, I walked a short distance uphill until I found a path leading down into the Kidron valley right at the point where it begins at the foot of Mt. Scopus.  Turning south I walked down through the Kidron, all alone, as I had been throughout most of the last six days.  It was here in the upper half of the valley that I snapped the “teaser shot” from the posting on Thursday, May 19th, entitled “Idling Overheated Engines”.  The following two photos are from the Kidron valley, the second of which was taken from a vantage point perhaps 50 feet up on the Mt. of Olives (those are actually olive trees in the foreground) and looking across the Kidron at the Golden Gate and the Dome of the Rock.

Then, walking back down off the Mt. of Olives, I descended to the very bottom of the valley again and took this shot with Olivet on the left and the southeast corner of the Temple Mount on the right.  It’s easy to see from these photos of the Kidron that anyone in Jesus’ time could have walked down from the temple, through either the south or east gates and up onto the mount of Olives in 10 to 20 minutes, even factoring in the fact that the valley was probably 60 feet deeper in Bible times than it is today.  Truly awesome to drink in the Biblical significance of this valley while walking or standing in it.

But after an hour in the valley I walked up a long flight of stairs to the SE corner of the Temple walls and then up to the Dung Gate (at 3:30), past the Jaffa Gate and around to the Damascus Gate (at 4:30).  So, it took me just exactly 3 hours to walk the entire circumference of the old city beginning and ending at the Jaffa Gate. 

Then turning north I walked another mile or two and arrived at the Grand Court Hotel where the tour Group had originally stayed while in Jerusalem.  Here I just sat in the lobby for half an hour resting in the glories of air conditioning until 5:30 when I had sufficiently gathered my strength for the 30 minute walk back to the Abraham Hostel.

Taking my bags out of the check room I spent three hours working on photo and video files until the taxi (late) picked me up and we headed out for the Ben Gurion airport.  I’d been told that the taxi should get me to the airport by 9:30 but I arrived at 10:10 instead, spent fully two hours in the security checks, and only very BARELY made my flight.  Fortunately, the plane was late too, for had it been on time, I would have spent another 24 hours in Israel.

12 hours on the plane to JFK in New York.  Two more hours of security checks made me late for my connecting flight too.  With at least a tenth of a mile between me and the furthest gate (where my plane waited) they began announcing my name over the loudspeakers and warning that the plane was about to leave.  Ergo, was forced to run the entire distance.  Finally, two attendants could see me way on down the concourse frantically racing toward the gate so they waited and I boarded the plane exhausted, drenched in sweat, and panting.  In fact, I lost a total of eight pounds on the trip and felt like two of them melted off in just that one concourse at JFK.  It took five more hours on the plane and 30 minutes waiting for luggage before I was embraced by my wife in Seattle. 

Contemplating the last 25 days, I’m reminded of a movie that I’ve loved for 39 years and would probably put in my top ten list.  Right at the end of the film, Jeremiah Johnson (for whom the movie is named) meets Bear Claw Chris Lapp for the last time.  Jeremiah has been attacked about 40 times by as many Indians in the preceding years and is obviously weary.  Bear Claw considers his friend in silence for a while and then says, “You’ve come far, pilgrim.”  Jeremiah quietly responds, “Feels like far.”  After a bit Bear Claw asks, “Were it worth the trouble?” to which Jeremiah mumbles, “Huh?  What trouble?”

To be sure, these last three and a half weeks left me bruised, cramped, footsore, bone weary, and eight pounds lighter.  Yep, it feels like I’ve come far.  But the things I’ve seen and the thoughts that only this place can provoke were certainly worth more than “the trouble” they cost.  Wasn’t any trouble at all, in fact. 

So, I'll leave you with one last photo which I took at the foot of Jerusalem's great walls, one of the very last pictures I snapped in the country.  This modern stone monument had been carved with the words of Psalm 122, verses 2 and 3 in both Hebrew and English.  I am deeply grateful to my God, my family, the Kirkland Church of Christ, Ferrell Jenkins, and the folks with The Jesus Trail, who all graciously contributed to the fulfillment of David's prayer in that Psalm for me personally. 

Dear brethren, friends, and strangers, one and all, please read the entirety of that wonderful Psalm, Psalm 122, for it has become my prayer for each of you as well.
Go with God and God will be good.
Larry Haverstock
10010 Kenwanda Drive
Snohomish, WA, 98296
E-mail:  Larry@TruthOnDisc.Com

Saturday, May 21, 2011

3rd Journey, Day 5

Hi Everybody!  I’m safely at home now, but still catching up on the blog.

DAY 22  (May 18, 2011):  Third Journey, Day 5
Job’s Spring,  Cove of the Sower,  Jordan River

This would prove to be one of the top two or three most wonderful days of my entire journey.  After a very full night’s sleep, breakfast was devoured, and much strength was gained from both.  The wind had turned around completely.  It was now a gentle and refreshing breeze blowing to the east – great walking weather.  The air was still pretty full of dust, so distance photos weren’t much to look at, but the sights of this day didn’t require any clearer air.

Trying to stay as close to the Sea as possible, I left the actual “Jesus Trail” quite a bit today to explore the shoreline from other trails or by busting the brush on my own.  And so it was that quite unexpectedly I happened upon Job’s Spring (the first of the three “teaser places” I showed in the last blog entry).  To say the least, I was enraptured by the place and spent nearly an hour wading in its beautiful waters and taking photos such as these:

At one point I’d wandered away from the waterfall and was standing about knee deep at the place where the warm sulfuric water of the spring meets the Sea itself when suddenly, to my great surprise, up pops a man’s head with a face mask on, just beyond the reeds maybe 40 feet away.  He’s got a spear gun and a wire loop with three fish on it!  You might want to read the few paragraphs at the following link which explains more about the springs and just why he’d be fishing at this particular place. 

It was really hard to leave this sensational place, but I had other things planned, so about 10 o’clock I took to the trail again and 15 minutes later came to the cove where it is believed Jesus preached the sermon recorded in Matthew 13 and Mark 4.  Here’s how the event begins from Mark’s account:  “He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land. And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching, 'Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow…'”

There is an obvious location for this event because of its natural amphitheater shaped shoreline, and, well, I just REALLY wanted to experience this place from both physical angles (audience view and Jesus’ view) so I took in the scene from the shore, and then it was time for a swim. 

As always, I had my trunks and swimming shoes in the pack, so, slipping into the water I first sculled my way along toward the middle of the cove with my video camera held up out of the water in my right hand.  Then, I came back to the rocks of the beach and switched cameras, repeating my swim with a still camera held over my head.  Neither one of these is waterproof, so I had to be pretty careful.  Finally, after recording both the video and the still shots, I left the cameras on the beach and swam along the shore and out past the halfway point in the middle of the cove so as to drink in the view as fully as possible from Jesus’ vantage point.  No doubt in my mind that Jesus could have easily preached to several thousand people from a small boat in this place.  Finally, I swam out beyond the rocky points to take a look at the greater shoreline.  My oh my.

The first photo is from the water pretty close to shore where I can imagine Jesus’ boat might have stayed, and the second photo is from close to the center of the cove so you can see the lay of the land and the scale (because of the bus in the center).  The third photo is from the shore looking back at the rocky point from which I entered the water.  Of course, this is the location of my second teaser photo where I got only a fuzzy shot of myself swimming in the Cove of the Sower.

Satisfying as all this had been, the day was far from over.  After an hour and a half in the cove I headed out once more.  Since it had gotten hot again and I was tired from the miles and the swimming and the harshness of the previous day, I set about fulfilling yet another big wish for the whole trip.  I had taken my swim last year in the Dead Sea, and this year in the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee, so I had only one body of water left – the Jordan River.It took two hours of enjoyable hiking on beautiful (and blessedly level) trails to strike the Jordan just above its entry onto the delta through which it now proceeds to the Sea itself.  This following picture is from the location of my first view of the river (looking upstream).

Moving upstream maybe a tenth of a mile to a more suitable location I found a place where the rushing waters seemed manageable.  This time I just kept all my walking clothes on since I had a hot day to deal with now and several hours of heat yet to face.  I carefully placed myself down in the water, lying on my back, fully submerged but only barely so, in order that I could cool off and enjoy the feel of the river while safely wedged in among (and holding on to) the rocks, thus avoiding the peril of being swept downstream. 

My oh my it was blissful.  Floating in the swift current of the Jordan River, enveloped in her soothing and cooling flow.  Nothing to do for hours ahead but soak in the river, dry out in the sun, and wait for my ride on the bridge up above.  My, oh my.  Life is so good.

Jordan River looking upstream from my swimming location at Arik Bridge (photos taken while standing directly under the bridge):

Jordan River looking downstream from my swimming location at Arik Bridge:

But the fun wasn’t over yet – I just didn’t know it.  After two hours and 15 minutes with the Jordan River I walked up out of its channel to stand by the Arik Bridge and wait for a scheduled taxi to pick me up.  My ride wasn’t due until 4:30, but at 4:10 a car pulled purposefully up and its horn honked (standard procedure).  So, I walked over to the passenger window which was open and said, “Chiki?” (my scheduled driver’s name).  This driver said, “Chiki, yes!” and then pulled the handle on the door so it would open.  I put my gear inside and off we roared, way up over the speed limit. 

In short order it became apparent that this man couldn’t speak more than maybe 25 English words.  When asked where my other bag was (it should have been in the car but wasn’t) he couldn’t recognize the words “bag” or “suitcase” or “Taylor” (the man who delivered the bag each night) so I gave up and we pressed on in silence while my mind was racing faster than the car trying to figure out what is happening to me.

Suddenly (frighteningly) he whips the wheel to the right and then jams on the brakes so we jolt to a stop next to a bus stop bench.  He leaps out of the car, runs around to my side, opens the door, and gestures for me to get out.  Then he grabs a partly filled water bottle off the ground, dumps the residual liquid, and makes a cutting motion around the bottom of the bottle to ask if I have a knife.  I don’t, so he uses a rock and some strong hands to hack and tear off the bottom which he tosses heedlessly aside.  Then he sticks the rest into the gas filler tube.  Grabbing a five gallon plastic jug out of the back, he has me hold this newly created funnel while he spills a couple of gallons into the tank and quite a bit onto my hands.  Satisfied with himself, and leaving me soaking in gasoline, we get back into the car and continue what has now become for me a most thought provoking ride.  “What in the world is going on here?”  I’m thinking, “This CAN’T be right!” (and it wasn’t). 

After 20 minutes, so that I am now quite a few miles away from my rendezvous point, and having recognized only two of the words I’d been using with him (“Tiberias” and “bus”), he turns right again, jerks the car to another stop, and motions for me to get out.  Sure enough, it's a Tiberias vicinity bus stop, but not the bus STATION that I need.  Still, what can I do?  So, I grab my gear, step out of the car, and without a word, he’s gone.  Who was that masked man? 

I’d lost my phone a few days before and there is no place in sight that might have one to borrow so I can’t call anyone from the "Jesus Trail" to resolve the approximately 4,319 questions ripping around in my head.  But I see a taxi is right there so I figure, “Oh, it must have been some sort of transfer.”  Yet my bag isn’t in this vehicle either and the driver wants 40 shekels for a ride to Tiberias and the main bus station.  I decline and start walking, figuring that the driver I’ve obviously missed might give up waiting and find me trudging along the road on the way to the bus station he’s supposed to take me to. 

By now I’ve figured it out and it is later confirmed that my previous driver was a complete stranger, just a really good Samaritan (in Galilee), and in our communication fog must have thought I was INTRODUCING myself as “Chiki” rather than asking if he WAS Chiki.  Good grief, Charlie Brown.  He was just a nice guy offering to help and then riding off into the sunset, leaving me miles in both directions from where I was supposed to be. 

A lot of people think it's dangerous in Israel, but my biggest problem right now is that an overly helpful stranger kindly volunteered to take me places I don't want to go.  By the way, another total stranger I never met found my lost i-Phone and mailed it back to me here in the States two weeks after I'd left Israel, so, far from ever being in any danger in land of milk and honey, I was surrounded by very helpful and well meaning people manifesting the milk of human kindness. 

But what am I gonna do, now that I'm standing out by the side of the Sea of Galilee miles from my rendezvous point and miles from Tiberias too?  Well, I could see up ahead that I was close to the ancient site of Magdala (yep, Mary of the same name's old home town) and I'd wanted to get some pictures of the excavations, so my mystery driver had done me a favor.  I walked over to the fence, climbed up onto the cover of a large electrical transformer and snapped the following photo, although I wasn't able to get very close because the site isn't open to the public yet:

After walking another mile or two along the western shore of the Sea I came to a YMCA – go figure!  So, after more language issues, I’m granted a phone, call my driver, and sure enough, he’s been waiting for an hour wondering where I got off to.  We finally connect, he leaves me at the Tiberias bus station, and by 9:30 that night I’m dragging my wheeled “carry on bag” behind me, while still wearing both packs, along Jaffa Street in Jerusalem.  Another 30 minutes and I find the Hostel.  By 11:30 I’m in a comfortable bed and laughing in the dark.  

Good grief, Charlie Brown.

3rd Journey, Day 4

"And A Fierce Gale Of Wind Descended On the Lake" (Luke 8:23)

DAY 21  (May 17, 2011):  Third Journey, Day 4
Over and Down and Through the Cliffs of Arbel to the Sea of Galilee

Shavit’s Bed and Breakfast on a shoulder of the Arbel Cliffs is one REALLY fine place to wake up even if it is only 4:20 in the morning and after a mere four and a half hours sleep.  The place is magnificently beautiful with arbors of hanging vines and flowers everywhere.  By the way, this is apparently just what the expression “every man under his vine and under his fig tree” (used three times in the Old Testament) is all about.

Shavit’s B & B is a hard place to leave, so I got a late start at 9:30 after a terrific breakfast and began the three-quarter mile walk up to the Cliff Park itself.  It was while making this first effort of the morning that I encountered my nemesis for the rest of the day.  It was only 10 o’clock but already a hot wind was blowing in my face.  What I couldn’t know at that moment was that as I climbed the western slope the mountain was acting as a shield so that I wouldn’t feel the brunt of this wind until I summited.  As soon as I stepped out upon the actual heights of Arbel I knew I was in for an unusual day.

The view was phenomenal and despite the dust in the air I got the following shot of the Plain of Gennesaret.  This is the Northwest corner of the Sea.  Just out of sight on the waterfront to the right are the ruins of ancient Magdala from whence one very famous Mary came.  All the rest of the shoreline is the area in which Jesus spent a tremendous amount of time, preached some of His very most famous sermons, worked many miracles, and made His home in Capernaum which is along the shore as it turns the corner and heads off to the right in the distance.  Much food for thought when you stand in this place.

Unfortunately, the wind was howling and dangerous here.  I don’t have a weather report, but guess it was in the vicinity of 40 miles an hour since I was actually being pushed off balance and forced to take a step now and then to keep from falling over.  It did give me pause, but I was determined to take the shorter, harder, steeper trail down, so I spent about 20 minutes re-rigging my equipment.  Fearing the monopod “sword” might jam itself on the rocks somehow I removed it from the under arm position and strapped it vertically to the back of the pack.  Then, using the extra leather chin strap rope I’d brought along for emergency, I took off my hat and lashed it on the back of the pack too.  This hat had a very wide and stiff brim which had helped shield my face from the gale on the way up, but was now a liability, capable of catching the wind and pulling me off balance, so I stowed it.  Then I took the pack’s belly straps and lengthened them so that rather than directly clutching my stomach, they came out and over the front pack so that I could tightly restrain it from swinging.  Having thus reduced my exposure to the wind I started down.

It was now man against mountain, rather than nonchalant tourist with a camera time.  The trail is quite manageable, but make sure you have a full complement of fingers and toes before you embark upon it because you’ll need every one of them.  Add in the wind, and I can tell you for sure that I was one focused (though I think not foolhardy) neophyte mountain climber.  Here are a couple of shots along the way to give you the feel.   Remember, I was always DEscending though the first two shots might suggest ascending…

Only one way to traverse this face, use the hand and foot holds...

Half way down, the trail levels off along the line where vertical cliff face meets sloping gravel falling down into the valley.  This produces a shelf area of soft and clean dirt to walk upon with the sheer face of the cliffs (in places even overhanging) rising up above. This area has quite a few caves in the rock wall which are big enough to stand in.  I found two cows in one of them and one or two caves with the capacity to hold maybe 20 to 30 of these beasts.  The fascinating historian Josephus describes this area as the scene of much bloodshed when Herod defeated a band of robbers in the area.  I highly recommend that you follow the link I’m about to provide and then scroll down to chapter 16 to read the first five (numbered) paragraphs from his account.  This passage also mentions the town of Sephoris which is another name for the Zippori I mentioned (and showed a photo of the view from the roman theatre) back on the blog post for “Third Journey – Day 1”.  So, here’s the link for Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 1 after which you need to scroll down to chapter 16 to read the few salient paragraphs one through five:

Passing through this region one comes to an easy and well maintained trail leading back down to the Arbel River and the ancient Via Maris, a primary highway most certainly used by both the Old and New Testament heroes and villains.

Despite the heat and contrary winds, my morning had been spent in constant delight and wonder.  Sweeping panoramas of Galilee, from the Horns of Hattin in the west to the Plain of Genneseret lying at the feet of Upper Galilee’s mountains in the north, the Golan Heights across the Galilean Sea in the east and the expanse of the Sea itself with Tiberias prominently displayed on its western shore are enough to transfix even the most jaded traveler.  And of course, for the Bible student, all of these places play significant roles in Scriptural history, both Old and New.  Ah, Galilee!  Oh, Galilee!

But striding out onto the plain at the foot of the cliffs at 12:30 I was about to confront (figuratively) Matthew sitting in his tax collector’s booth waiting to take the toll, for I would pay dearly for all of this splendor.  It was in this immediate area, here on the north end of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus met Matthew in the Gospel which bears his name at chapter 9 and verse 9.  And it would be here that I would meet the second of the two great challenges on this journey.

The first challenge had been that ascent from the Arbel Valley up to Shavit’s Bed and Breakfast the evening before.  This, the second, was on mostly level ground wandering through gentle hills and either olive or banana groves.  But the heat was rising and the wind was merciless.  My hat had worked perfectly as a sun screen throughout the trip, and I was especially glad for its stiff brim which never flapped in the wind and thus fully protected my face from the wind, but it also presented a significant surface area for the air to push against.  I would spend the next two and a half hours leaning into this gale which was directly against my line of travel. 

Do any of you remember the photo on the back of the “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album which depicts diminutive little Paul Simon pushing the towering Art Garfunkel along with the top of his head lodged in Art’s back?  That’s how I felt for two and a half hours, like I was pushing someone along with the top of my head. 

But to complete the picture you’d have to imagine several people walking alongside, each of whom is holding a hair dryer and blowing it into my face.  Miserable, and sucking my strength as fast as I was sucking juice out of the “camel back” bladder in my pack.  I drank about four litres of water and juice this day thanks to the gas stations which I could periodically leave the trail to utilize.

At 2:45, I was only three quarters of a mile from all the comforts a beach front hotel on the Sea of Galilee can offer, but just then that distance seemed altogether insurmountable.  By this point I was actually shuffling my feet on occasion and tripping over stones no larger than my big toe.  I was done in, altogether wasted.

So you can imagine my relief when I limped into a little gas station convenience store to find air conditioning and two empty plastic chairs at a 30” square plastic table next to a plastic juice and soft drink cooler!  At that moment (shades of Esau in Genesis 25:29-34), I might have traded all the grandeur of Galilee for the cheap plastic comforts of that gas station.  Shame on me, but I have a new found sympathy for Esau, I can tell you that.

I sat there in my refreshing oasis for 40 minutes, drinking a litre of “Pear Cactus Apple Soft Drink” and summoning strength for the final push.  Finally at 3:10 I headed out, grimly determined, and gained my purpose 20 minutes later at the resort of Karei Deshe where the accommodations were most welcome and deeply appreciated. 

As is my custom (this you know by now) I checked into the hotel and shortly later walked down to the beach hoping to soak in the Sea.  But, no deal, for there were imposing red signs denying me the right, and for good reason.  The lake was covered with white caps, and while the waves were no more than six or eight inches high, the desk clerk had warned that currents could be treacherous and I’d seen the brown clouds of dirt in the water along the shoreline from the heights of Arbel earlier in the day, which betray the presence of off shore currents (rip tides).  So, no soak in the Sea today. 

And so, less than an hour after I arrived, at 4 o’clock, sleep overwhelmed me.  I woke again at 6, showered, and went down for dinner, but by 9 o’clock I was fast asleep once more.  Much as I love you all, I confess to thinking, “Forget about the blog, they’ll just have to wait.”  Can you forgive me?

For an excellent little treatise on "The East Wind" see Ferrell Jenkins' article at this link:  Ferrell Jenkins' Travel Blog

Larry H

Thursday, May 19, 2011

3rd Journey "Idling Overheated Engines"

Hi everybody.

Just wanted to let you know that I'm fine, but already three days (and counting) behind on blog posts.  Two of these last three days have been among the most amazing and satisfying spins of the planet in my entire existence, but circumstances also militated against finding either the time, strength or means to write them up and get online. 

Worse, I'm about to enter the suspended animation of plane time.  I'm currently sitting in a Jerusalem hostel waiting for a shared taxi ride I think they pronounce "share-root".  Then I'll be an hour on the road before heading into the security and check-in lines at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.  At "midnight 0 five" the plane leaps into the sky for eleven or twelve hours before disgorging my depleted mind and body in New York.  Two and a half hours later I'll be catapaulted into the sky again before finally sweeping down into Seattle.  Another hour after that and I'll be home battling a wicked jet lag that took me three days to beat last year.  All of that is just my way of pleading, "Please be patient with me and I'll get these last few days of "The Third Journey" written up as soon as possible."

So, at this moment I'm kind of "idling my overheated engines".  For now I'll only leave you with these teasers.  Here are three photos to peruse.  Each is taken at a different location.  The first two are on the Sea of Galilee.  The third is from Jerusalem.  Can you guess where I was?

Monday, May 16, 2011

3rd Journey, Day 3

DAY 20  (May 16, 2011):  Third Journey, Day 3
Ilaniya over Horns of Hattin down through Arbel River Canyon and up to Moshe Arbel

It’s 9:21 as I begin to write.  My body has been brutalized today after about 14 miles of hiking (being interpreted from the kilometers), yet I’m strangely energized.  Had the worst night of sleeplessness on the whole journey and don’t think I even got two consecutive hours of unconsciousness in the whole thing.  Really not sure why, since after a false start I was pretty comfortable, just couldn’t nod off.  So, you’d think I’d be nearly comatose after logging this many miles on poor sleep, but instead I’m buzzing.

The yurt was cold and a breeze was blowing through it which was playing havoc with my newly bald head.  So, I moved the head of the sleeping pad up against the side of a stack of other pads.  Then I propped up some two foot square pillows which were lying around so as to create a couple of bridge abutments.  Sticking the edge of a towel between the pads and draping it over the pillows produced a shield which rested on the covers.  Then, I plugged in my laptop and turned it on.  Standing it up against one of the pillows inside my newly formed yurtling produced a silent heat source which kept me cozy all night.  I know, because I spent most of the night lying awake thinking about how comfortable it was.  Good grief, Charlie Brown!

Here’s what it looked like after I vacated my cozy yurt in a yurt:

And this is what breakfast at 7 on an Israeli Goat farm looks like:

Then, it was down to business.  I’d been up since 5:45 and took to the road just 5 minutes before 8 am.  I knew it would be the longest hike of all and I was genuinely concerned about it.  But the first seven miles were pretty level and the only problem arose when I was forced to spend a mile or more in the weeds when the trail disappeared into the brush.  I could see the Horns of Hattin (no Biblical significance but HUGE in world history – look it up) so there was never any doubt about where to go, I just had to do it “off road” so the end result for both feet looked like this shot of just my right pod as I was changing into a new pair of socks.

Here are the “horns” themselves as one approaches through the fields.

I spent perhaps an entire hour either up on the peaks themselves or on the large plateau just below and on the other side of the peaks from what you can see in the preceding photo.  This plateau was awesome because it had the largest concentration of butterflies I’d yet seen.  Amazing!  I had maybe 15 butterflies at a time whirling around in a white tornado and all close enough to touch.  They are feeding on the abundant flowers at about ankle to knee height and then as soon as you approach they explode into the air and whirl about.  Really cool, but no photos.

However, the view of the Cliffs of Arbel and the Sea of Galilee between them in the distance was equally awesome:

I chose to leave the trail and descend from the Horns on the south side and circle around on the eastern slope and then descend pretty directly to the road below on the north.  This filled my socks with stickers again but was immensely satisfying as I spent perhaps an hour on three sides of the mountain walking through the never plowed but often grazed slopes which had been trodden by cattle, sheep, and goats for millenniums.  There for a while I was one with the herdsmen.  No photos, I was lost in reverie.

At this point I had a choice.  I could turn right and get to the Bed and Breakfast in only two miles on paved roads.  Or, I could turn left and use the trail which ran in a huge circle heading first west then north then east and finally south again for about 5 and a half miles.  I judged my strength carefully because by this time I was right in the vicinity of nine miles on my feet bearing the burden of my water and camera equipment which amounted to maybe 15 pounds at this point.  Scoping out the lay of the land I erroneously thought “Well, it looks like it’s all pretty level and just circles around through several shallow valleys, probably for scenery’s sake.  Let’s go for it!”  This time it never occurred to me that I might consider the elevation lines.

I was really glad I took this trail, but the mistake in my calculations would cost me dearly.  At first I was right.  The scenery WAS beautiful and the road stayed essentially level for the first mile or two as it headed west and I even got a short video clip of a mongoose which never even knew I was only about 25 feet away as he snuffled along a tiny little brook which crossed the trail.  

But I didn’t pay any attention to the fact that the road began steadily descending as it rounded to the north and then lost elevation even more quickly as it turned back to the east.  I had come to the Arbel River valley and was now walking a most delightfully beautiful swale with running water and much overhanging vegetation to please the senses.  I saw two small turtles and imagine there must be a plethora of frogs, although the water seems much too shallow for any but the tiniest of fish.  Regardless of how much I was enjoying this, I was going down, down, down, ever down.

It was there right by the water that I suddenly came on two women dressed in the traditional robes of the Arabs.  I had to make a snap decision and decided NOT to ask if I could take their picture.  They seemed quite uncomfortable at my presence, and confused so that they didn’t know whether they should stand still or keep advancing toward me.  They opted to step off the path and stop but appeared to be so flustered that I decided to set their minds at ease and just march on by within the three feet that the trail allowed and without looking at them any more.  But all the while I was thinking, “Wow, she’s carrying a bag of what might be rice or flour on her head (look ma, no hands) and this would be just the most AMAZING picture here on the banks of the Arbel River with those trees as a background!”  Please don’t hate me, but for their sake I didn’t go for the shot.  However, for just a few seconds, all alone on the Arbel, I was transported back in time by two millenniums. 

Shortly later a man with what must have been a 40 to 50 pound sack on his shoulder and two more in the 10 to 15 pound range in his left hand came trudging along behind them.  I studied the map and these people could not have come less than four miles already with these burdens and I’d seen no place for anybody to live in my journey so there’s just no telling how much farther they had to go as they lived the lives of our forefathers for centuries before us in these hills and river dales of Israel.

After another little while I came to a man exiting an enclosure for horses.  Again, there’s no way to know if he’s connected to these others or where any of them might actually live, but it was so very eerie to be in this time machine here by the river.

It was quite hot down here in this deep valley and I was passing the 12 mile mark on my feet.  So, when I came to the trail junction I was excited to see the Cliffs of Arbel from down here on the ancient Via Maris which Jesus and the apostles must certainly have used. 

Here’s a shot looking up at the Cliffs from alongside the Arbel River (what we'd call a creek in Washington State), just before I started the climb:

I was pretty desperately disconcerted to see that the last mile and a half would be directly up the steepest trail I'd seen yet.  Where oh where is a good elevator when you need one?  Now it was time to pay the piper for my glibly thinking this journey would all be on the level.

I took the packs off, drank some water, ate some pita bread left over from breakfast and leaned on a rock in the shade of a tree to mentally and physically prepare myself for the prodigious task at hand.  Ladies and gentlemen, I was already tired clear down to the marrow of my bones.  I’d be surprised if it was less than 80 degrees so I was drenched in sweat already.  But unless I wanted to backtrack several miles and try to hunt down the indigenous peoples of the valley and prevail upon their hospitality for the night, there was nothing I could do but take on that hill.

So, I shouldered my packs and put one foot in front and above the other.  Oh boy, it was BAD.  No shade was available, the slope was hideous, and my energy level was so low that I really truly suffered.  Now I’ve measured, and if I stretch my normal stride just the tiniest bit I have exactly a 36” step.  But I kid you not, most of the way up this slope it was all I could do to set the heel of my advancing foot at the toe of the retreating.  What’s that?  Ten inches?  Twelve?  In fact, I actually got to the point that I used my hands to lift the front pack away from my chest so I could breathe more easily and oxygenate the blood better.  I’d stop and take a picture about every 100 feet because the elevation change was providing wonderful views of the Arbel cliffs, but I needed those stops to catch my breath a great deal more than I needed those pictures.  And again, it was WONDERFUL!

I spent this time thinking about Jesus in utter exhaustion bearing the cross.  I thought about the hymn, “The Last Mile of the Way” since that was just how far I needed to go.  I thought about a lot of things I might never have connected in quite the same way without this strength sapping ascent.  It was truly difficult for me, but it was also worth it.

Here's a photo I took at one of those rest stops looking down the trail I'd climbed and out through the rift of the Arbel Cliffs to the Sea of Galilee:

This next shot shows the Sea of Galilee and its northwest shore in the vicinity of Magdala through the space between the Arbel Cliffs.

At precisely 5 o’clock, nine hours after I’d started hiking, I wobbled on into the Shavit’s Arbel Bed and Breakfast Inn from which you can prominently see all of the Horns of Hattin and a little bit of the Arbel Cliffs.  At 5:05 I checked in and went to my room.  At 5:10 I tore into my bag like it was a Christmas present and at 5:15 I slowly eased myself down into, you guessed it, A SWIMMING POOL!  For the next 35 minutes I slowly sculled around on my back or lazily swam the breastroke around and around and around that wonderful pool.  Here I thought of Herod the Great in his huge pool at the Herodion, of Caligula in Rome, and of Pharisees and Sadducees in Jerusalem whose ruthlessness and riches gave them the power to snuff out life on a whim. 

Here's a shot of the pool with the Horns of Hattin in the distance:

Brethren and friends, there’s just no way to immerse yourself in the Bible stories like walking the very trails upon which Jesus set his sandals.

Shalom and good night