Holy Land Days 9-11

Here is a quick wrap-up of the last three days. We stayed in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee, which is inside the 1947 borders of Israel. No more visits to the West Bank for the rest of this trip.

We visited the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, where the angel Gabriel told Mary she was to have Jesus. The cave where Mary and Joseph lived is inside the church. We also visited Capernaum on the coast of the Sea of Galilee, the center of Jesus ministry, and where Peter lived. We took a boat ride on the Sea during a beautiful afternoon and saw the location where the Sermon on the Mount was given.

Traveling north into the Golan Heights, territory that was part of Syria until the 1967 war, we saw the archeological site of Dan. Along the way we passed within a few hundred feet of Lebanon, and could see villages across the border. Dan was founded around 4500 BC. There exists a gate into the city built of mud bricks from around 1700 BC, and also one from about 700 BC, as well as a synagogue and other structures. At this site was found the oldest writing that mentions the House of David, from around 800 BC.

If I understand it correctly, there are at least three main categories of Arabs living in Israel, those born within the 1947 borders. They are Israeli citizens and carry Israeli passports. The second group are those born in or close to Jerusalem (but outside the 1947 boundaries). They are not citizens but have the ability to travel relatively freely. Finally, the people born in the rest of the West Bank that do not have the right of free movement, must get special permits to travel to Jerusalem or other areas, and are not citizens of any country. The Israeli government can decide for any reason to deny anyone travel permits thus restricting movement of Palestinians. During the recent violence, Israel has threatened to take away the special status of certain neighborhoods near Jerusalem as retribution for some of their people being involved in stabbings or demonstrations.

In the past week, we have had Palestinian speakers from the West Bank and from the Jerusalem area. In these final days we heard from two speakers, one an Arab Israeli citizen, and the other a Druze Israeli citizen. The first speaker, who’s brother was was working for peace but was killed by Israeli soldiers when he was 18, finds herself more aligned with the Palestinians, is not happy with the Israel government, and would like to move to a one-state solution with Palestinians having equal rights to Jews. The second speaker, a retired policeman living in a Druze village, had two sons who served in the Israel army that were both killed during their service, one in the invasion of Lebanon. He is working for peace and for understanding between Arabs and Jews. The Druze split from mainstream Islam about 1000 years ago. Among other things, they believe in reincarnation.

We had a great lunch prepared by the Druze family, then travelled on to Tel Aviv. It was good that we saved Tel Aviv till last, since is seems like a totally peaceful, booming, thriving, western city. None of the tension, issues, gnawing questions are apparent here. As one of our guides commented, it’s just a normal city until the rocket sirens alert the people of possible attacks.

For our last day in Israel, we visited Caesarea Maritime up the coast. Herod built a magnificent city here, on the site of past Greek (and older) towns and settlements. Our guide was Beverly Goodman, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer who has been working here since her college days. She and her students have made a number of important discoveries over the past 20 years. Her specialty is diving off the coast to learn more about the ancient harbor and the portions of the city that have been lost to coastal erosion and a series of tsunamis that have struck over the years. She discovered one tsunami that did considerable damage to the city in 115 AD.

This ends the Israel portion of our trip. Tomorrow we leave for Jordan where we will visit Petra and other sites before coming home.

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