Friday, October 31, 2014

Israel Trip - Swimming in the Dead Sea

The day for our swim in the Dead Sea was overcast and cool.  Not my idea of fun, but the others were willing.  The swimming area location was just so beautiful.  In the above photo, I'm looking toward the sea from a patio area.  The descent from this point is quite steep, so I decided to stay up on the hill.  Some of the others in our group stayed behind, too, and we enjoyed a bit of relaxing after our busy schedule that morning.  We had a couple of very nice kitty cats to keep us company, too.

Swimming in the Dead Sea is not like any where else on earth.  Because of the salt content in the water, one can float without effort.  As a matter of fact, it takes effort to avoid floating.  

As we sat on the patio, enjoying the view, a guy in a golf cart came by and offered to take us down to the water.  I was excited and hopped on!    The beach was not like the sandy white beaches I'm used to in Florida, as you can see below.

Not appealing...but it was great fun watching Shelby and the others doing the Dead Sea float.

It's also part of the experience to cover yourself with the black Dead Sea mud.  

There are outdoor showers nearby to rinse off the mud. The minerals in it are very good for the skin.  As a matter of fact, there is an Ahava factory nearby that sells body and beauty products made from Dead Sea dirt.  Ahava is wonderful and I highly recommend it because it makes your skin silky soft.  

While we were at the factory parking lot, we saw what I thought was a deer walk by.  It was a Nubian ibex -- a desert-dwelling goat found in mountainous areas of Israel.  It was a very large, beautiful animal, and I got some great photos.  You can't tell how tall it is by the photo, but I'd estimate it was the size of a large deer, and the top of the horns was probably five or six feet.  He trotted across the parking lot, up the embankment, across the road and into the bushes on the other side.  

The photo below is of another ibex.  I took this shot from the bus as we were heading toward Masada.  Our tour guide said the ibex rest on the ground like this to absorb the warmth of the sand.  (I told you it was cold that day.)

Tomorrow, I'll post about our visit to Masada, a truly amazing place.  I hope you'll stop by again.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Israel Trip - Qumran and The Dead Sea Scrolls

We left Jerusalem and headed toward the Dead Sea.  The terrain changed from mountainous to flat desert.  The photo above is my first glimpse of the sea that day.  It was overcast, but still beautiful.  The land on the other shore is Jordan.  

We visited Qumran, which is the site where many Biblical scrolls were discovered in the 1940's.  Qumran was a community of men who were dedicated to recording and preserving G-d's Word. The area shows the ruins of many buildings, including ritual baths, meeting halls, a kitchen and water cisterns,

According to local hearsay, the first scrolls were found by a shepherd boy chasing a wayward goat.  He threw a rock up into a cave, thinking the goat was there.  Instead of hearing the bleating of the goat, he heard the sound of breaking pottery. The photos below show the first cave discovered.

The Qumran Cave

The shepherd boy climbed up to the cave and found clay jars filled with seven scrolls.  The museum on the site shows how the scrolls appeared when found:

The photo below shows the size and appearance of the scrolls.

Other caves were discovered during later archaeological excavations of the area.  A total of 931 documents have been found and preserved. They contain portions of every book of the Bible, except Esther.  There are also commentaries on the Bible, rules for community and religious life, contracts, deeds of sale, calendars, and more.  These scrolls are over 2000 years old and are said to be the greatest literary and archaeological discovery of our time.  

 Seven of the scrolls are on display at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.  I visited there in 1996, and it is one of my most vivid experiences.  I remember standing at the display case, staring at a 2000 year old copy of the Bible I have loved since I was a little girl.  Awe filled me, chills covered me, and I praised G-d for His precious Holy Word.  I felt awe, too, as I stood in the place where those scrolls were discovered. 

What impressed me the most is that these 2000 year old scrolls of  the Bible are the same when compared to the oldest copies found prior to that time.  This is very important, and something everyone who loves the Bible should thank the Jews for.  They take very seriously guarding and preserving the Scriptures.  If not for them, we would not have these Holy instructions from ADONAI. 

Every week, when my husband leads our service, I thank G-d, once again, for preserving His Word.  I think about how privileged we are to hold His instructions in our hands.  Imagine how many thousands of years people did not have that.  Think of the people who had to have a teacher read it to them because the only copy was at a church or synagogue.  We are accountable, Gail-Friends.  To whom much has been given, much is expected.  

Once again, I implore you to read the Book from cover to cover.  Don't ever think the Old Testament is not relevant to today.  Don't let any preacher or teacher tell you to disobey what His Holy Word says.  Those same preachers will take one scripture out (that serves their purpose) and tell you to disregard the rest.  They will face G-d one day for that.

You have it in your hands...even on the Internet in dozens of different translations.  Read it in a translation as close to the Hebrew as you can...and obey it.  It disturbs me when I see modern translations omit important words and ideas. The Message translation is a perfect example, and yet it is quite popular, all the while leading people astray. 

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a testament to the blessed truth that He preserved His Word for our good and for our blessing.  He wants us to be guided by it and to be blessed by obeying it.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Israel Trip - Bar Mitzvahs at the Western Wall

In my previous post, I mentioned it was Bar Mitzvah day at the Western Wall.  As we were touring the ruins adjacent to the area, we heard joyous music and drumming.  We could see parades of people heading toward the Temple Mount area.  There was singing, dancing, shouting and much loud rejoicing. The photo above is one of the drummers. 

The two photos below show the families waiting in line to go in.  Each group brought food to share with their party-goers while they waited.   Once a group was ushered to the front, the musicians would go back and bring forward another group.  Our tour guide said this goes on all day long.  

Note the separate entrances for men and women in the photo below.

The decorative kippahs on the men's heads and the gold trimmings on the man's jacket caught my eye.  So beautiful.

Once inside, the men and women must pray in separate areas.  There is a wall that divides, which you can see below.

As I waited in line to pray at the wall, I could see a boy celebrating his Bar Mitzvah on the other side.  He's standing in front of a large Hanukkah menorah  I would have loved to see it lit at night.
It was quite a joyful experience, and I'm glad we were there to see it all.  I took a video of the musicians, but it wasn't very good, so I thought I'd share this one I found on YouTube.  It's almost like being there.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Israel Trip - The Western Wall

To continue my previous post -- (Read it HERE)

The tour guide said, "We visited the tunnels last night, plus today is Bar Mitzvah day and the crowds are terrible up there." (I'll be writing a post about the Bar Mitzvah celebrations later)

She was right, but Shelby had been ill the night before, so we were not able to go on that part of the tour.  I prayed for favor before I asked her if we might go to the Wall to pray for just a few minutes.  She agreed, though begrudgingly, and said, "Okay....but only for fifteen minutes."  My heart leaped for JOY, and I thanked her profusely.  

I have to explain why going to the Wall was so very important for me.  In the early1990's , a friend visited Israel and placed my name in the Wall, praying that one day I would visit Israel.  At that time, I had absolutely no interest in going there, but felt very impressed that she'd done that for me.

Fast forward to 1996.  A woman visited my Sunday School class and talked to us about going to Israel.  She said, "Put your name on this list if you are interested."  I didn't put my name on the list because I wasn't interested, plus I didn't have $3,000 for the trip.   I was recently divorced, with a teenage daughter at home, so money was very tight at that time. 

Before she left that day, she said, "Gail, why didn't you put your name on this list?"

"Because I don't have $3,000."

"Do you want to go to Israel?"

"Not really.  I'd like to travel, but to be quite honest, Israel isn't a place I've ever really wanted to visit."

"Well, I want you to put your name on this list...and if G-d wants you to go there, He will give you the money.  Pray about it."

I put my name on the list, and after that, I started thinking about it and decided I would pray and ask G-d for the money.  To my amazement, I received exactly $3000 within just a few weeks.  Unfortunately, something happened related to my daughter's needs, and I had to use the money.

I remember feeling so bad for using that money, and prayed:  "G-d, I am sorry for using the Israel money for other things.  If you really want me to go to Israel, please give me another $3000."  I know, I know....this sounds so silly, right?  I felt guilty for even praying such a prayer, but guess what?  My prayer was answered very quickly.  I received a large sum of money out of the blue - again!  G-d wanted me to go to Israel, so I thanked Him, and immediately made my travel plans.

On my trip to Israel in 1996, we visited the Temple Mount and I remember being so excited to visit the Wall where my friend had placed my name.  As we were about to enter the area, our tour guide told us she had just gotten approval for us to visit the newly opened underground tunnel.  This was a very rare opportunity, but if we toured the tunnel, we would not have time to go to the Wall to pray.  The group voted for the tunnel.  I remember standing at the entrance to the tunnel, looking back at the Wall and feeling heart broken.  That's why touching it this time was so important to me.

Shelby and I rushed over to the entrance area, which has guards and metal detectors.  There were big groups of people waiting to go in for the Bar Mitzvahs, and there was a band with a drummer, playing joyous music.  It was the most exciting the rain slowed, and the sun began to peep out.  G-d was smiling on us!

The area is divided with the women's side closest to the entrance.  The font in the center (above) is for hand washing.  It is traditional for women to wear head coverings in reverence to Adonai, for this is a very holy place.  There were so many women at the Wall because they were praying for their sons Bar Mitzvahs.

The women were standing three and four deep and many were waiting for a spot to stand and pray close to the wall.  I waited, and prayed for an opening so that I could place the little slips of paper in the cracks between the stones.  (Actually, I had a bulging envelope full of prayer requests.)

As I stood waiting, a young woman turned her head toward me and motioned for me to take her place.  I thanked her, and ADONAI, and slipped in to pray for a brief moment.  I prayed for all of my friends, including my Gail-Friends, who had given me requests.  Then I called Shelby over to take my place.  I took this photo of her below.

I didn't get a picture of me praying at the Wall, but I did attempt my very first selfie:

Scary, huh? In spite of the worried expression on my face, I was so happy and so excited.  This was an answered prayer, and a dream come true!  I was praising and thanking G-d with a joyful heart.

In my next post, I'll share about the Bar Mitzvah celebrations that day.  I am so glad we were there to see it.

(P.S:  Does anybody know of any online tutorials for doing selfies?  Mine always turn out like this...)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Israel Trip - Temple Mount or Bust

In my previous post, I said it started raining.  Well, it started pouring....and like I said before, we were not prepared.  Aaron, our fellow traveler, was the only one who was prepared.  He offered his poncho to Shelby and me, and we used it like a tarp for a while, but the rain came harder.  

We waited for a bit and then decided to walk on.  Bad idea.  It started up again, and we ran for shelter to an outdoor area with trees.  One of our tour members fell on the slippery stone and injured her leg.  After a while, when we were sure she was okay to keep walking,  we continued toward the Temple Mount. 

We trudged on (very carefully) until we found a shop that sold umbrellas and rain ponchos. We stocked up and journeyed on.

On the way, we saw this rocky road, which are remains of the Herodian period.  Can you imagine walking on this road?  It reminded me of a railroad track.

We saw this menorah - which is a favorite site for photographs.  Too bad, the weather prohibited our stopping to take pictures of ourselves.

We finally arrived at the Temple Mount area, and entered through the Jerusalem Archaeological Park.  There was more of delay because the rains continued.  When we were able to go back outside, we walked down a steep staircase to see the remains of the part of the Western Wall that was destroyed.  The photos below are from that area. If it looks like a huge pile of rocks - it is.  But these are important rocks, and Israel is attempting to raise the funds to restore this area, which includes the ritual mikvahs (baths)

We spent some time in the museum and I found this map interesting because it shows the Temple Mount and Western Wall in relation to the infamous Muslim mosque with the gold dome.

According to the Bible, one day the Temple will be rebuilt. The Temple Institute has everything in place for furnishing the Temple, including the golden implements used for animal sacrifices.  You can read about the Temple Institute on Google.  The only thing standing in their way is that mosque...and ADONAI.  We know the Muslims will never give it up, but G-d has ways of getting things done.  This is all part of His plan when Yeshua returns..  Prophecy will be fulfilled in G-d's time.

Keep in mind, dear Gail-Friends, we are standing within ten or twenty feet of the Western Wall  -  the place where I planned to pray.  The place where I would place my friends prayer requests between the stones.   When I asked the tour guide when we would be going to that wall, she looked at me like I'd lost my mind and said, "This is the Wall," and pointed to the fallen rocks.  

This was not the answer I wanted to hear, and I'm sure my face showed my disappointment.  I'll tell you what happened next in tomorrow's post. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Israel Trip - The Cardo

This would be the day we'd visit the Temple Mount.  I can't tell you how excited I was.  On both of my trips, my one goal was to touch the Wailing Wall.  The morning dawned with a few rain clouds, but we didn't prepare.  We would regret it later. 

We entered the gate of the Old City:

A light rain started, and we had to be careful of the ice-like conditions on the stone streets.  Isn't the mosaic star interesting?

The Old City is built on many different levels, with lots of staircases.  We are standing on one level.  The staircase leads to another level.  Note the garbage truck going by.  Also, the Hanukkah menorah.  These are all over the Jewish Quarter, and are lit for eight nights.  I was so happy to be there for the holiday.

The columns you see in the photo above are a Roman shopping area, which is on a level below where I was standing for the photos.  I found this fascinating.  Jerusalem has ruins of many eras.

This area is known as the Roman Cardo, and is one of the key attractions of the Jewish Quarter.  This collonade was built by Hadrien in 130 A.D.  On display in the area is Madaba Map (below).  The Cardo is depicted on the mosaic.

The photo below is of a mural in the area, which shows what the Cardo would have looked like during that time period.

photo source:  Wikipedia, which has a good article about the Cardo HERE
The area is now a popular place for businesses, restaurants shopping and art galleries.  I took the photos below looking down into the Cardo street.  I was fascinated by the dark and light areas.

Standing in the same place, I looked up and took this photo.

I was happy to see another Hanukkah menorah - this one in an apartment window.

I always notice flowers and multi-colored leaves on trees.

and birds...

And here's a good thing for you to know if you ever visit the Old City - a kosher pizza place. 

We are making our way to the Temple Mount, but I have a bit more to show you before we reach our destination.  Come back tomorrow to see more of the beauty of the Old City.