Pictures, pictures, pictures!

By , December 18, 2007 17:58

I’m sure you’ve all been very happy with the most recent and more frequent updates showing up on this site and are wondering if we have gone insane or if someone else is doing the typing for us! Well, thanks to Lindsay, there was another new one not that long ago that helped fill everyone in on what we were up to. Now, besides us putting in more updates, we have also decided to upload more pictures for your enjoyment.! Isn’t this exciting? Are you all rubbing your eyes in disbelief? Don’t get too worked up; you never know when we’ll go "silent" again.  And this is not all pleasure for you; there is some work involved. Because we added three new albums all from different time periods inbetween what is already there, it bumped one of the new ones off the list. You’ll have to go looking for it on the Photo page.

Danny did an awesome job, as usual, giving you the play-by-play of their stay in Israel. I was in Nova Scotia with the boys, and while I can’t promise my visit was as exciting as Danny’s I did have a great time. Well, outside of Jake going through Terrible Threes and Isaac developing a major diaper rash that lasted the whole two weeks it was great. The best part about it was the surprise visit from Jen and Jason. It truly was a surprise (and minor heart attack) with a midnight knock on the window of the bedroom to announce their presence. But it was wonderful to see the newly married couple and be "home" again.

Enjoy those new pictures and smile all.

Snow Storms

By , December 14, 2007 10:32

Remember the days when snow storms meant the day off school?  There could be no better way to start the day than hearing that radio announcement.  Woo hoo!

Well, snow storms now bring equal smiles.  You see, even though I don’t get the day off school, at least I get to use the snow blower.  Yesterday dumped a foot of fresh powder here in NH, snarling traffic and commutes.  Me?  I was at home in front of fire – enjoying the fact that the snow blower was working and that I have Blizzaks.  🙂

Update:  We have now received 30 inches of snow since Thursday.

Goodbyes

By , December 8, 2007 08:29

Our last full day together in Israel was a little more relaxed, while the final few hours were a little nerve-wracking.

Yesterday we began the day by meeting at the Kotel (Western Wall) for a tour of the Temple Tunnel excavations.  This was a tour that Heidi and I very much wanted to do on the first trip, but we weren’t able to make because it had to be pre-arranged.  A Believer at work had told me that this was the highlight of their trip to Israel and we didn’t want to miss it.  The tunnels run the full length of the Western Retaining wall from the Jewish Quarter through to the Muslim Quarter.  The most "holy" place of Jewish worship is in this tunnel at the closest place to the "Holy of Holies" in the Temple.  It was well worth the time and 25 shekals for the tour.

From here we wound our way back to Mt Zion where we visited King David’s supposed tomb, the Upper Room and Oskar Schindler’s grave.  (Don’t ask me on that last one? I didn’t even know it was there.)  Then came the best part of the day for me – visiting Hezekiah’s tunnels. 

This tunnel, built during the reign of Hezekiah in 700 BC (2 Kings 20:20), was designed as an aqueduct to feed water from Gihon Spring into the Pool of Siloam.  We were warned that you needed both water shoes and a flashlight as the water levels inside the tunnel ranged from 20cm to 70cm.  I had no idea that this would be the reality – from start to finish.  Wading into the pitch blackness, you immediately begin walking in water that is waist deep.  Not being prepared, I was wearing jeans and running shoes, and only had a 2 shekel LED light.  Taking off the shoes and rolling up the jeans helped a little, but needless to say, I was wet coming out the other end.  The tunnel winds through the mountain for more than 0.5km and takes more than half an hour to walk from end to end.  The height inside ranged from 3 to 20 ft in height, but never really more than shoulder width.  You certainly can’t pass people inside.  All the while, clear clean  cool water is rushing by your feet.  It was a highlight of Jerusalem not to be missed.

After walking through the tunnel, the rest of our day was really spent wandering through the Old City souks.  Not having planned the itinerary perfectly, we realized when we went to visit the Dome of the Rock that this was a Muslim holy day and we were not allowed to visit.  Oh well, lots of wandering, negotiating and buying things made the end of the day more relaxing.  This was good.  We needed to be well rested for this morning.

Merri’s flight left at 5:30am from Tel Aviv.  We were staying in the Muslim Quarter and we had parked in the Jewish Quarter two days previously (the only parking lot inside the Old City walls).  I figured it would take 15 minutes to walk to the car, and then 45 minutes to race off to the airport.  Assuming we needed to be there at 4:30, an hour in advance, we needed to be leaving the hotel this morning at 3:15am – no later.  Getting out of bed this early was less than fun, but we dragged our luggage through the empty streets of the Old City – only being foiled once by a closed gate.  Arriving at the car … it wouldn’t start.  The battery was dead.  Pray! Merri had a flight leaving in less than 2.5 hours and it was a 45 minute ride to the airport.  Taxis?  Ha.  Nothing.  And do you really think that Israelis keep jumper cables in their cars?  The closest gate was the Dung Gate and I ran down there.  There were three soldiers with automatic machine  guns ready to greet this guy running down the hill.  Thankfully, they were very friendly.  They happily informed me that there were no taxis at this time of night, although I might be able to get one if we went to the Jaffa Gate as they came by every half hour or so.  On the other hand, they might be able to track down a military vehicle somewhere that might have jumper cables.  3:25am  Praying, I chose the latter.  Who knows?  It might be 15 minutes.  It might be an hour.  3:40  Would I like a cup of tea?  Sure.  Standing with three soldiers next to the Western Wall, listening to the crowing of roosters, I sipped on my cup of tea.  3:50  I didn’t know whether I should run back up to Coralie and Merri, but the soldiers told me I should wait.  At about 3:55, a police van arrives up at our car, and one of the guards offers to drive me back up.  It takes about five more minutes, but the car starts.  4:00

As we pull out of the Dung Gate, ready for the race, the gas light comes on.  Yeah – the gas light.  And the first three gas stations we pass leaving the city are all closed.  Thankfully, it’s all downhill from Jerusalem down to the Ayalon Valley.  However, after driving for 40 kilometers and seeing black between the "E" and the needle, I stop at the only open gas station between Jerusalem and the airport.  Pulling in and quickly putting in 40 shekals, the last lap is ahead.

All things considering, we made the airport by 4:40am.  I didn’t get to say "good-bye" as I dropped Merri at the door, but after a bit of hassle, Security let her clear and she made her plane.  A fitting finish for a hectic week.  An answer to prayer for many prayers.

Into the Desert

By , December 6, 2007 18:22

Petra I last left you as we arrived in Petra?  Awaking the next morning, we headed out for Petra around 7:30am in order to maximize our time.  Here was one of the wonders of the ancient world and we slotted it in before noon.

Wow!  I have to say that this is probably the most beautiful man-made location that I have ever seen in my entire life.  Coralie put it well, "You have both incredible and awe-inspiring architecture displayed in a place that shows the glory and beauty of the Creator."  It is little wonder in my mind that this was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  I’ve been to a lot of places and I think this is at the top of the list.  I took about 150 pictures, but I’m afraid they don’t do Petra justice.  It was actually a blessing that we finished up by noon, as the heat was enough to kill by noon time.  We ended well by climbing up to some abandoned caves and enjoying the cool of the stone before buckling up for another cannonball ride south to Wadi Rum.

We were a bit tentative about going to Wadi Rum when we did and only spending half day at Petra, but it was no mistake.  This was a desert out of the story book.  Both blood red and white white sand depending on the direction you took.  A true Bedouin loaded our gear into his 4×4 and we headed out into the desert.  Coralie was more instrumental in ensuring we hit the right things, but for the remainder of the afternoon, we saw no one but sand, stone and camels.  We discovered that climbing sand dunes takes a herculean effort, but running down them is a wonderful feeling.  For a little while it seemed that clouds were going to block the desert sunset, but out Father gave us a few brief moments of pure wonder.  Sitting high on a dome rock in the middle of the desert, we had a 360 degree view of the wonder of creation.

After sunset, we headed to our Bedouin camp where we met up with 7 or 8 other folks (all British) who were having similar tours.  It is difficult to describe the ambiance of eating fire-cooked meals, drinking Bedouin tea and listening to Bedouin music (lute and Arabic lyrics) while sitting cross-legged in a tent in the middle of the desert.  It’s one of those things that you need to do.  While everyone else slept in the two tents, we took our blankets and mats and laid out camp beneath a slight overhang beneath the stars.  When I asked our guide how cold to expect, he laughed and said 0 degrees – before amending his answer to 10 or 12.  It wasn’t warm.  That said, with two blankets provided courtesy of our guides, it was more than enough to stay toasty warm beneath the star-studded sky.  I really didn’t think I would sleep well, but after going to bed around 8:30 or so, I slept soundly until 7:00 the next morning.  I managed to sneak out of bed and watch the sky come up over the horizen (and posted some pictures).

After a Bedouin breakfast, our mode of transport (camels) came around the bend.  Remember when I said that I don’t like the circle ride with camels?  Well, I’m thinking that the three hours that it took us out of the desert is about my limit.  It’s either that, or someone has got to design a more comfortable saddle.  Regardless, the scenery was breath-taking and visiting the springs and places where Lawrence of Arabia lived, was an experience that won’t be forgotten.  Put this into the top 2 or 3 outdoor places I’ve ever been.

Hurtling back to the border once more in a taxi, we crossed back over into Israel.  Driving to within a mile of the Egyptian border, we all decided to take a break and snorkel in the red sea.  Nemo, parrot fish, flute fish, and fish of every color swam over, through and around the coral reefs.  Even though we didn’t dive, I think it’s safe to say it was one of the best snorkels I’ve ever had.

Driving back north that afternoon, we just hit the Ramon crater in Israel in time for the sunset.  It was a perfect end to a day that continued to exceed itself in beauty.

Last night we arrived in Jerusalem, tired and worn out about 7:30 or so.  Parking the car, we managed to drag our feet to a hospice in the Christian quarter and fall into bed.

Today had us take in many of the sights on Coralie’s list: the city walls, the Western Wall, the Ophel, the Pools of Bethesda, the Garden Tomb, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  It was a day of walking.  Two of those things I had not done before – the city walls and the Ophel.  While I can’t say the city walls were a highlight, the Ophel was well worth the time and money.  There is something about standing on the very step that you know your Lord has stood upon to make one reflect.  If you are to visit Jerusalem, make sure this excavation site is on your itinerary.  It is the excavations south of the Temple mount – some of which are inside and some of which are outside the current city walls.

Tonight?  Tired and exhausted once more, it looks like bedtime will come about 8:00pm or so.  🙂

A Full Schedule

By , December 3, 2007 14:18

So I kind of skimmed over the events on Saturday, so maybe I’ll back up a bit …

Caesarea
We got to the Ben Gurion airport at 6:00am to pick up Coralie despite her warnings that we definitely shouldn’t.  Anxious to get the itinerary moving, we headed off to Caesarea.  As it’s only an hour or so, we were there well before the opening time of 9:00am.  That was OK, we were able to start the day with a quiet relaxing and reading on the shores of the Mediterranean.  The sun was shining and the birds were singing.  Caesarea was no less beautiful the second time around, but you’ll note a lot less pictures (of all the places).  That’s just because I figured I already have most of these.

Megiddo

From Caesarea, we headed 30-40 minutes east to the Megiddo, overlooking the Jezreel valley, or the valley of Armageddon.  We didn’t tour the ruins, but instead just stood and watched a view that is in so much of the Bible … from battles in the Old Testament between the Philistines and the Israelites … to a coming day when the blood will rise to the horses bridles.

Acco
Driving up the Jezreel valley brings one alongside Mt Carmel and up to Acco.  Heidi and I had not done Acco while we were here, and it is a definite must for anyone coming in this direction.  While the feel and ambiance of the streets is much like the Arab Quarter in Jerusalem or perhaps a typical Arab souk, there were some definite highlights from the Crusader era.  Not to be missed are the Templar tunnels that run beneath the city streets, or the Knights Halls that end in an incredibly closed-in tunnel like passageway that again stretches out through the city.  The castles, tunnels, and passageways brought one back a thousand years.

Mt Hermon
Driving northeast from here, brought us to the peak of Mt Hermon for sunset – and I mean the peak.  We drove all the way to the ski hill at an altitude of several thousand meters.  There wasn’t snow on the hill like last time, but the vista was incredible and the sun setting over Nimrod castle was beautiful.

Sea of Galilee
The Youth Hostel in Tabgha that we stayed at was unlike any other hostel I’ve seen.  It might as well have been a hotel with its luxurious accommodations including breakfast, clean and furnished rooms, and a beautiful spot on the side of the Sea of Galilee.  Although it stormed during the night, we awoke to a shining sun and warmth radiating through the hills.  We started at Tabgha here and were treated to an amazingly quiet scene of two fishermen in a boat casting their nets in the same place of Seven Springs that fishermen have been doing for thousands of years.  It was a neat way to start the day.  From here, we drove to Capernaum and did the typical quick tour.  The one thing we were able to do this time that I had not done before, was visit the Cove of the Sower.  I had been told that the acoustics here were especially powerful, but visiting the Cove where the Lord may have spoken from the boat brought a new meaning to the passage.  Driving south, we visited the Arbel Cliffs just as the sun broke through a second time and lit up the Sea of Galilee from south to north.  We could not have asked for better weather.  Driving around the sea and crossing the Jordon river, we came down the eastern side to eat at Ein Gev kibbutz.

Hills of Gilboa
It was a bit of a race to make it down to the Hills of Gilboa for sunset and we didn’t quite make it, but we were able to climb the lookout tower and have an incredible 360 degree panorama of the land from Nazareth to Sheckem.  To my disappointment, there were no flowers at all on the Gilboa slopes.  I guess the flower season is from mid-December till March.  All was not lost.  Finding a cave on the way through the Gilboa forests, we stopped the car to do a little cave exploration.  Our tools of lighting?  The flash from my camera and my Blackberry.  Note to self: pack a flashlight.

Nazareth
Last night we slept at a nun’s convent in Nazareth.  Needless to say, there was no internet access.  🙂  However, I can now assure you with confidence that the best baclava to be had in all of Israel is just down the hill from the Church of the Annunciation.  Mmmmm …

Dead Sea
Today brought an incredible three-some of some of my favorite spots in Israel: Qumran, En Gedi and Masada.  Qumran was unchanged although I discovered that in my previous three trips, I had yet to stumble upon THE caves of the Dead Sea scroll discovery.  The fourth trip was the charm.  Merri and Coralie had fun bobbing in the Dead Sea, and no one discovered the "Ow Water" too painful.  Thankfully, no heads were submerged.  We then climbed up to David’s waterfall in En Gedi and saw lots more conies and ibexes.  From here to Masada, we completed the tour.  I discovered a few more things here – including a massive water cistern that I don’t believe was open last time.  Same views?  Incredible views.

Jordon
Racing against time, we headed south to Eilat to cross into Jordon.  You have to understand the time schedule.  We left Masada at 4:00pm and we were driving to Eilat two hours south.  From here, we hoped to park the car, cram the gear in our sacks, cross the border, and grab a taxi for the two hour ride north to Petra.  We were attempting to get here by 8:30pm for a candlelit tour.  Do the math on that – not much time.  Bottom line was we didn’t make it, but we had a VERY memorable experience.  Getting to the border at 6:30, we thought perhaps we would feign ignorance and try to drive across in the car.  I hadn’t received anything from Budget telling me not to.  It didn’t work.  They told us to park the car and we could walk across.  Unfortunately, crossing between an Israeli and Arab border crossing takes more like 45 minutes with security, passport controls, and cautious guards.  We didn’t get to the taxi till 7:12pm and we had a two hour ride to make with a taxi driver who knew NO English.  We were quite concerned that he would not drive as fast as we hoped.  No worries there.  Talk about crazy?  You think the autobahn is in Germany?  Nope.  Jordon.  Driving like a madman, taking the whole of the highway from shoulder to shoulder, we raced at breakneck speed through the countryside.  I’m glad our driver seemed to know the road because the speeds we were going (I’ll not divulge in a public forum) on a two lane were slightly short of lunacy.  We certainly would not have made it here as fast as we did (if at all given the Arabic-only signage) if we had driven across ourselves.  Crazy.  Crazy.  Crazy.

Well, here we are in Petra.  Tomorrow morning starts bright and early and ends with a snooze on the sand dunes.  Something tells me there won’t be WiFi tomorrow night.  Hopefully, the following morning will still bring smiles as our mode of transport out of the desert will be camels.  🙂