Published: December 27th 2006December 27th 2006
Well, December 26th we packed up and left the hotel in Jerusalem at 7 am. As the kids say -- that's earlier than we have to leave for school! What kind of vacation is this? The adults feel the same, but we had an appointment to walk through the Western Wall Tunnel -- and you can't change that. Some groups have to go at 9:30 at night. We saw an amazing stone that's estimated over 500 tons. (David will try to post a photo). David was impressed with the women who go into that tunnel and sit at the stones closest to where the Temple would have stood. Remember - the wall is the wall around the Temple mount (actually made the mount as tall as it is). It's not the wall of the Temple buildings themselves. And not the outer wall around the Old City. If you are confused, well, come and see it yourself.
We exited into the Arab quarter and found a great little shop to sell us more Jerusalem hot baygele...yum, yum. Then we walked out to the bus and drove up past the Mount of Olives and onward north. Actually we started by goinjg east
atgain, the same route as we took to Masada. The difference was when we got to the Dead Sea, we turned north instead of south. WE passed Jericho, which means we were technically in the West Bank. We went through a checkpoint, but otherwise you wouldn't know the difference. We drove north past Arab towns, kibbutzim, and arrived at Beit Shean. I climbed the Tel for the first time in manyyears (it's usualloy too hot). David says: I was amazed that the ampitheater was still standing. (From that, you should surmise that this is a Roman period excavation.) Barbara says: It was so impressive. She felt like she was in Pompeii. (Not so different, since Beit Shean was destroyed by an earthquake, and Pompeii by a volcano.) On top of the Tel (the hill on which the more ancient civilizations built towns), were excavations from Canaanite, Egyptian, and Israelite periods. Gene says: This was comparable to anything he saw in Rome or in Turkey.
AFter Beit Shean, it was still raining, and we broke out the umbrellas again for a quick stop in Beit Alpha and saw the mosaic floor of a synagogue from the Roman/Christian period. You can
find photos on the web. There's a zodiac decoration as part of it -- and we learned that even in those times you needed to have up to date decorations to attract people to temple. We had a great lunch at the kibbutz restaurant too....nice to sit in a warm place with all the cold rain!
Next stop: Kinneret Cemetery where the poet Rachel was buried. We heard about early pioneers (in the 1920's) and read three poems. So sad, her life. And then to Tzefat (Safed) where we went in the rain (and fog, now!) to see two synagogues. We couldn't go in one because they were starting afternoon services. The other was beautiful. It was freezing in Tzefat (but not snowing.) Some people went shopping. And Stuart bought two tallises. After Tzefat we drove in thick fog to Kfar Blum, and settled in for two nights. Great dinner! (If you look on a map we're up in the finger of the Galilee. More on that tomorrow.)