Wednesday 6 October 2010

Places to go, things to do in Israel

Sunday the 17th is for the Dead Sea - the RWB will be there too -(no not dancing on the sea).
The lake is "deep to the very shore, and has water so very heavy that there is no use for divers, and any person who walks into it and proceeds no farther than up to his navel is immediately raised afloat. It is full of asphalt. The asphalt is blown to the surface at irregular intervals from the midst of the deep, and with it rise bubbles, as though the water were boiling; and the surface of the lake, being convex, presents the appearance of a hill. With the asphalt there arises also much soot, which, though smoky, is imperceptible to the eye; and it tarnishes copper and silver and anything that glistens, even gold" (Strabo, Geography, XVI.42 cited in The Holy Land, Jerome Murphy O'Connor).
Note: such water in the lungs is fatal.
Below Qumran, the road passes over the wadi ed-Nar (Nahal Qidron). The detergent from the sewers of Jerusalem is still intact as the evil-smelling stream passes beneath the road (give that one a pass.)

At the top of the cliffs a splendid view, and in the northern (left) corner of the vast natural amphitheater are the celebrated hot-springs of Callirrhoe where Herod went in his last terrible illness (Antiquities 16:171). Just below the skyline a truncated cone slightly whiter than the surrounding hills is Machaerus, where (according to Josephus) Herod Antipas put John the Baptist to death. At En Gedi - swim - and see the nature reserve in Nahal Arugot.

But we begin in Jerusalem where the view to the east is blocked by the Mount of Olives which rises 100M above the city. David escaped this way when confronted by Absalom's treachery (2 Samuel 15:30-32). Solomon built temples for the gods of his foreign wives on the southern spur (2 Kings 23:13). Here the ritual of the Red Heifer was celebrated (Numbers 19:1-10) . When Jerusalem was full to bursting and Jesus was there at festival, he walked over the hill to the city and returned at nightfall (Luke 21:37). The lie of the land permits only one route if one wants to avoid climbing in and out of wadis. Gethsemane straight up hill to et-Tur and along the ridge to Bethphage. Luke locates the Ascension here (Acts 1:6-12) where you can find the Russian Ascension Church and the chapel of the head of John, and the Mosque of the Ascension where in the Byzantine period the footprints of Jesus were 'plainly and visibly impressed in the dust' which pilgrims were permitted to take away (!)

The look for the Church of the Pater Noster (Acts of John C3 CE), a cave associated with the teaching of Jesus (closed Sundays, open 8:30 to noon and 3-5 PM, Lord's Prayer in 62 languages).

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