A Travellerspoint blog

Israel Day 2

12/31/18 The first full day of adventuring!


Today was an interesting day to say the least! I was skeptical about the limited sleep time after such a long and grueling day of travel, but I woke up feeling refreshed. It was shocking to see the bright green, dewy morning outside our window and as we got onto the bus. Most of the images I've seen of Israel have portrayed a dry, desert-like state, which couldn't be further from what I witnessed today. The lush grass, cloves, palm trees, and succulents were fascinating and beautiful. From talking to one of the photographers who been to passages before, the dry summer months are much more representative of the stereotypical desert-like pictures of Israel.

We started out our day at a place called Mt. Bental, which sits right on the border between Israel and Syria. Our guide was very reassuring that we wouldn't be going unless we knew it was absolutely safe, and the tourist accomodations at the top of the hill indicated that people come here quite frequently. There was also an old bunker on top of the hill that originally belonged to Syrian forces, and were later captured and occupied by the Israeli forces. Although rain from the previous day flooded certain parts of the bunker, we got to walk down into it and see where these people fought and spent their days. It was a very strange feeling to be where these people were. The civil warring and terrorist activity in Syria is deplorable, and being so close and only seeing greenery and peace was unsettling. Our tour guide mentioned sometimes he could see fires from tanks and hear gunshots in the distance.

From there we traveled to Banias, the ancient city where Philip, Herod the great's son, established the capital of his tetrarchy so many hundreds of years ago. In the face of the mountain was a cave previously considered by the pagans to be the entrance to Hades. These people worshiped the god Pan by this cave, and would sacrifice some of their children by throwing them into it and down the river that ran through. It was a revolting story to hear, and nearby there was a grave for sacred goats where its theories these people tried to appease Pan by committing sexual acts with them. Yeah, pretty gross. Some say that this was were Jesus told Peter to start the church. Our tour guide theorised that he wanted to bring peace and redemption to this terrible place.

After that we went to a nearby Christian church called the Baram Maronite Church and had some lunch. I think I was skeptical at first, but I've really enjoyed the food here so far. Hummus and bread are common, and as a special treat we were each given a meatball made of lamb. Although thinking of the lamb alive made me super sad, that meatball was hecka good. No regrets there.

At lunch we also met up with a local Christian pastor named Shadi Khalloul, who is the Chairman of the Aramaic Center in Jish. He took us to a beautiful church in the area and an ancient temple that stood nearby. He spoke to us for a long time about the history of the Christians in Jerusalem and their modern day plight. Although the jet lag was really getting to me at this point, I learned a lot about his perspective and the aramaic take on local history. At the end of his talk Shadi led us in the Lord's prayer in Aramaic, the language of the early Christians and the central focus of Shadi's intercultural work.

The evening ended with dinner at the hotel and a lecture from a fascinating woman named Dr. Taydra Shapiro, an orthodox Jewish women with a focus on Jewish-Christian relations. She shared an interesting perspective on the Jewish life and culture that shocked a lot of people in our group. One of the main things was a limited concern with salvation-which is one of the a priori components of Christianity. Heaven and hell aren't part of the Jewish religious schema. Also, Christian evangelism can be very offensive to the Jewish people. This stems from a history of persecution and a strong desire to preserve the Jewish heritage, identity, and practices.

Sadly, we were so exhausted that we didn't do anything special for the new year aside from waking up the next morning at 7:00am (when the ball dropped in New York) and offering each other a bleary "Happy New Year." I have no complaints though, what a cool place to be to start out the new year!

Until tomorrow,


Posted by emschroen 07:26 Archived in Israel

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