I visited so many places and experienced so many things while in Israel, it’s hard to capture them all for you… Here are a few of the “must sees” in this Holy Land…

Jordan River

We visited the Jordan River, in the North, where it flows out of the Sea of Galilee…. They don’t remember their Sunday school classes, Eryn… Remember people, where Jesus was said to be baptized by John the Baptist?  Yes, I was there…  Well the actual baptismal site, I read, was further south down the river, more near the Dead Sea, which is in the West Bank, but after the 6 day war of 1947, it was decided that the area was too dangerous for tourists, so it was moved to its’ current location.  Here are some pictures of my visit to this important biblical site.

jordanP1060529 Same text in Hebrew… Isn’t it a beautiful script?  They write from right to left, by the way, in case you didn’t know.  To us westerners, their books read backwards, from back to front… Kinda strange

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Notice how close we are to Syria…. EEekkkkk!!

20140606_110740Me and Carolina, first day in Israel…

P1060544Aaahhhh, the fish are nibbling on our feet!!!

P1060536This is Rannan, Dalit’s husband going in with us…

20140606_110901P1060546Hebrew, English, Russian, French, Arabic – We are in the land of many nationalities…

Jerusalem – The Old City

The “Old City” is said to be one of the oldest cities in the world located between the Mediterranean and Dead Sea on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains. It is considered holy in 3 major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Since early 19th century, the city has been split into 4 quarters – Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim. Each of these quarters have their own little shops, food vendors and religious dwellings. It’s really an amazing experience to stroll through these ancient streets from one quarter to the next and notice the different cultural influences within each quarter.

I was honestly surprised to see these cultures so intertwined within this city that I thought would be primarily Christian and Jewish.  The Islamic influence was evident though, as I sat in a courtyard with my friend Nir, and we heard the Muslim call to prayer…

The Old City is a World Heritage site since 1981, and according to Wikipedia, Jerusalem has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times and captured and recaptured 44 times.. Wow, that gives you some context for their conflict here…. Oyyy…

P1070144P1070229P1070158P1070234I’m struck by the conflicting images of Israel… Religion and spirituality meets conflict and a huge army presence…  An unfortunate necessity in this country with clashing cultures…

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Western Wall (Within the Old City) 

The Western Wall is a part of the old city wall surrounding Jeruselum and more specifically at the foot of the western side of the Jewish Temple’s courtyard. Thousands of people from varying faiths flock here everyday and place written prayers in the cracks of the wall. The areas for prayer are segregated with a men and women’s section, and in their strict Jewish tradition it is forbidden to cross sides.  This is one of the most fought over piece of real estate in Israel as the Jewish currently have rights to it, but was under Jordanian control for some time.

P1070160 Have all my prayers written on little bits of paper rolled up – Wrote some prayers for my special people back home too… XXOO

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Here’s some info on the Western Wall from my Israeli friend Nir – check it out…

Via Dolorosa (Within the Old City)

In the Christian faith, this is the street where it’s said that Jesus carried the cross to his crucifixtion… Whoa…

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P1070186P1070191My friend and I walked down this cobblestone street and shared a juice at the Holy Rock Cafe… Clever marketing…  When in Jerusalem… LOL 🙂

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre

This site, according to certain faiths, is said to be where Jesus was crucified and buried and is one of the most visited sites in the Old City.  Apparently the building is currently shared by several different faiths; Catholic and Orthodox, although Anglican and Protestant Christians do not have a presence here.   They actually report that the crucifixion and resurrection happened elsewhere at the alternative Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.  How do you know what/who to believe when all of these conflicting faiths report different things?   The one consistent thing your finding is that information is not so consistent amongst the different religions… Grrrrr.  Either way it’s the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen…

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Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is a body of water unlike any other. It is the lowest place on earth at 1041 ft below sea level… Say whhhaaatt????  I’ve been to the lowest place on earth… Wow!!  It is also the deepest “hyper saline” lake in the world with almost 35% salinity, almost 10 times saltier than the ocean.  This harsh environment does not allow for marine life to flourish, hence the name…

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P1070292Me and a new friend from Canada – I met her at breakfast and we hiked to some waterfalls together.  Super cool Canadian chic – I hope I get to see you again, eh!  LOL

P1070259 P1070330P1070339Everyone gets all mudded up with the famous Dead Sea mud (great for your skin!!)  You let it bake in in the desert sun until it’s all crusty on your skin and then you go hang out in the salty water for a while.  (Dalit, I blame you for the extra 2 kilos I gained in Israel!! LOL)

P1070347The water is more dense than typical ocean water which allows for floating rather than swimming… It was the strangest experience to just sit back, relax with your feet up and float with zero effort…  It was just a crazy feeling – you should’ve been there.

And after you get out, you’re skin is so soft – I ran my hands across my arms and it was the smoothest skin I’ve ever felt.  Most people only stay in for 15 minutes or so because they usually experience some sort of stinging on their body that becomes uncomfortable – skin abrasions, etc… ouchy!!!

Masada

We left the hotel at 4:30am one morning to hike Masada so we could see sunrise from the top.  We, being Carolina my Jewish friend from the US and her Israeli born fiancé’ Yaron.  There were hundreds of us that dragged ourselves from our cozy beds that morning to make the hike…

Masada is a tourist attraction with an unfortunate and tragic past.  This large rock plateau in the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea was home to Jewish families during the first Jewish-Roman War.  They lived in rock fortresses atop this impressive desert mountain to escape the Romans.  Eventually the Romans ascended the mountain and found the Jewish settlers there.  Rather than being captured, these Jewish families chose mass suicide.  It’s said that the husbands took the lives of the wives and children before taking their own.  Wikipedia reports that 960 died and 7 were captured that day.  CANNOT IMAGINE…………Oyyyy

Today, people from all around the world climb this mountain to commemorate the fallen Jewish people and their heroic struggle against oppression.  There were school groups, organized tours and lone hikers that ascended with us that morning.  While we were there, there was a little impromptu celebration music and dancing – it was really beautiful experience to see them come together as a culture to pay homage to this tragic event in their history.

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This was an aerial picture I found online…

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masadda View of Dead Sea from the top of Masada

P1070378Awe, the happy couple here exploring their heritage…  They got engaged while here in Israel.. Congratulations Carolina and Yaron 🙂

P1070405 P1070401You’re so freakin’ cute I can’t stand it!  I love you Carolina!!! XXO

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My Israeli Family 

And last, but certainly not least, here are some pics from my time with my Israeli family… They made my time here so special and welcomed Carolina and myself with open arms…  How amazing that we all met in India and are coming together here in their home country…  Wow, so blessed to have these people thrown into my universe…

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