Saturday, November 19, 2011

Israel - Day Three

After another fine breakfast of yogurt and granola (or the local equivalent) we headed out to visit the museum / tourist trap of the "Jesus Boat." it's a 2,000 year old fishing boat that was discovered in 1986 by two brothers. There's no evidence that Jesus or his disciples ever sailed in this particular boat, but there's a fair chance they used something similar.

The museum / tourist trap features a gift shop that offers every tacky bit of religious and cultural memorabilia imaginable. I managed to avoid buying a replica of the Ark of the Covenant ($214), mostly cuz I didn't want to risk having my face melt off. I also thought about buying an "I Love the IDF" bracelet ($4) but didn't wanna tick off any of my future Arab friends. (IDF = Israeli Defense Force, by the way.) I did snag a nice ($5) cappuccino, by the way.

While there we also took an hour-long cruise on the Sea of Galilee. In keeping with Disney attraction standards the boat is a classic style for this region and no doubt runs on an automated track along the north-western shoreline.

The Golan Heights was the next stop and affords one of my best chances to really create an international incident. However I refrained from yelling out threats to Hezbollah supporters in southern Lebanon as we drove through Kiryat Shimona, which is literally a stones throw from that border.

Tel Dan is another sweet archeological site that also doubles as a nature reserve. Back in the 90's a stele (a big, tall stone with a carved inscription) mentioning "David" was found. It is the only mention of David outside of the Bible. In addition it is also it's not every day you get a history lesson along with your hike.

From there we climbed to the upper reaches of the Golan Heights, passing the Nimrod Fortress, a former assassin's hideout. We drove along the Syrian border for several miles and got a good view of a couple of Syrian towns, a U.N. base and even a spot where some Syrian Palestinians had broken through the border fence, probably to escape President Assad's attempts to quash the recent rebellion. Potential International Incident #2: I quietly said, "Assad sucks!" a couple of times. Made me feel better.

An hour (and a short nap) later, we were at the Church of the Beatitudes. This is the spot that commemorates the Sermon on the Mount. The church is octagonal, representing the eight Beatitudes.

Nearby is the Church of the Multiplication which commemorates the development of mathematics. Okay, maybe not. It commemorates the whole loaves and fishes deal. I love the church here because it looks very crusader-like.

Two cool stories about this place. Well, cool for me, at least.

First, when I was here in 2001 I met a priest who had served in both Galilee and Jerusalem for many years. His name is Bargil Pixner and he wrote a couple of great books about Jesus ministry in both places. Each book is steeped in the culture and dynamics of the locale. Last time I bought his book "Jesus in Galilee" and was lucky enough to get him to autograph it. This time I bought the second book, "Jesus in Jerusalem." He wasn't around to autograph it this time though.

This trip something even cooler happened. On the altar of this church is a mosaic depicting the loaves and fishes. It dates way back to an early incarnation of the church on this site. The mosaic (see below) is a frequent subject of all the trinkets and trash you can get in Israel. Unfortunately it is situated on the floor in a spot that makes it tough to get a good picture. This time I snuck into the chapel ahead of everyone else and had the place to myself. While at the roped off area in front of the altar a nun approached me and asked, "Would you like me to take a picture?" I said, "yes please!" and handed her my iPhone. She stepped over the rope and took two nice pics of the mosaic, at a much better angle and much closer than others normally get.

One last note. Jet lag is still kicking my butt. After dinner I went straight to bed. I slept from 8:00 PM to about 1:30 and then was up for about 2 1/2 hours and then slept for a couple hours more. Hopefully I'll be back to normal soon.

Feral cat count today: 5

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