The Road To Israel, Part 3: Five Centers of Recreation and Exploration

My departure for Israel is fast approaching (i.e., in the next few hours!), and given the groundswell of interest in my trip, I decided to create a three-part series to provide more information about what exactly I’ll be doing there. Part one covered basic facts about the history of Hazor, while part two covered the intentions and goals of modern archaeology (especially for biblical sites). Part three features some ideas and details about my journey around Israel once my three-week excavation is complete. (See also, my basic itinerary.) So, let’s dig in, shall we?

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Except for two free weekends during which I may or may not schedule trips with my dig comrades, the next three weeks are pretty well accounted for. Wake up at 4:15 am, begin digging at 5:00 am, finish at 1:00 pm, in bed by 10:00 or 11:00. But soon enough, July 14 will roll around, and I’ll be on my own! Though I’m scheduled to stay in Jerusalem along the Via Dolorosa (i.e., the Way of the Cross, at least by the record of tradition), this will primarily be my nightly anchor spot for various trips around Israel.

To make this subject matter as easy to follow as possible, I have grouped the “attractions” I may or may not see/visit directionally from my post in Jerusalem. And I put “attractions” in quotation marks, because the word doesn’t seem quite right for the Holy Land. But, it’s the best I have for now, so we’ll work with it.

Jerusalem Itself: I reckon that you could spend an entire 12 days in Jerusalem and not exhaust your options, but I will self-limit to about 4 or 5 in order to see the other “centers” of Israel as well. Must-visit highlights include Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Memorial and Museum), the Israel Museum (where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed–I may try to find the curator of this museum and introduce myself, because he is coming to Anderson University in the fall), the Western Wall (thanks for the yarmulke, Jasmine), King Hezekiah’s Water tunnel system, and of course, the numerous holy sites associated with Jesus’ last week. These include the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, the Via Dolorosa, the Upper Room, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and many more.

Galilee (North): My dig is taking place in Upper Galilee, so I’ll get many chances to tour around the region of Jesus’ origin. I am excited to kayak or canoe on the Sea of Galilee, as well as touring towns along its banks: Tiberius, Chinnereth, and Capernaum (including the traditional home of Simon Peter), and more. Certainly, I will also visit Sepphoris, Nazareth (including the Church of the Annunciation) and Mt. Tabor, where Jesus was said to have been transfigured before Peter, James and John.

Beersheba, Masada and the Negev (South): Two main cities south of Jerusalem that I plan to visit include Beersheba, which is strongly associated with, and may contain a well used by, Abraham, and Masada, where the last stages of the Jewish-Roman War took place around 70 CE. Since the Negev is basically desert, I think I’ll put this last on my list of priorities.

The Mediterranean Coast (West): There are a number of great locations to visit along the coast of what the Israelites knew as the “Great Sea”: the remains of the ancient Philistine cities Ashkelon and Ashdod, Tel Aviv, Caesarea, where an inscription of Pontius Pilate’s name was found, and Haifa. In Haifa, I may visit the cave where Elijah was said to have hidden, the Baha’i Shrine, and a naval museum dedicated to Jews who sought refuge from Europe during World War II. The entire coast is also full of amazing beaches, judging from the photos I’ve seen.

The River Jordan and Dead Sea (East): I will have to be most careful about travel to this region of Israel, as it includes the West Bank. I would like to visit Jericho and some towns along the west bank of the Dead Sea, but I will have to ask around to see if it’s safe for Westerners. Either way, I will be able to float in the Dead Sea at the very least while I tour Masada. In addition, my mother-in-law found a very interesting restaurant while looking in my Fodor’s travel book: in a town called Abu Ghosh, there is an American-style diner called the Elvis Inn. I may visit in tribute to my aunt, who is an Elvis fanatic.

I haven’t planned out an exact recreation/exploration schedule for myself to allow for flexibility where necessary, either as it is financially prudent or as my interest drives me (or the need to do laundry prevents me). In some cases, I may make reservations for scheduled tours from one of the tour companies in Israel, while in others I will travel mostly solo. So the exact details may be few and far between in this post, but for the time being, these are the ideas I’ve got bouncing around in my head. Rest assured, there will be more to come, and I’ll do my best to capture it with words and pictures right here on the blog.

Got any great ideas I didn’t mention? Want to encourage me to go somewhere I have mentioned, or just want a postcard from my travels? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below.

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