We woke up early to go to Masada and afterward we visited the Dead Sea Spa and went into the water which was incredible. We had lunch at the spa. After lunch, we drove to the top of a mountain to take a beautiful picture of the city and went to the ship.
July 17, 2018
Today we went to the Lebanon border and took a picture by the fence and spoke to a nice soldier. It turns out that he was half Lebanese and half Irish. At the Lebanese border is the Rosh HaNikra Grottos after the Grotto we then went to Acre (Akko) and walked through the souq and had a nice fish lunch at Abu Christo. After lunch, we went to this little town where we walked around a bit. Unforutanlety, I don’t remember the name of the town.
This is a side note about our Tour Guide Zvika he was one of the best guides we ever had. He showed us all the best Israel had to offer. His business card is the first picture below. Tell him you want the Selloni experience. I guarantee you will have a great time!
Today we were redirected to Haifa because the Palestinians were throwing missiles into Israel at the Gaza Strip. Our tour guide Zvika Livneh picked us up from Haifa and took us to see Caesarea. After dinner, Zvika took us for a walk around Jerusalem at nighttime. I recommend doing that if you get the chance.
Today we were getting a tour of Bethlehem.We were excited to see the ancient streets and the Church of the Nativity which is the oldest church in the Holy Land which is still being used today.Driving through the Judean Hills and seeing the Valley of Elah, which gets its name from the Elah tree, a type of oak tree that produces turpentine.I’ve read that biblically the valley is known as the area where David fatally wounded the fearsome Philistine warrior Goliath with a stone plucked from the nearby Elah Brook.
We finally arrived in Bethlehem, the birthplace of David and Jesus.We took a tour of the Church of Nativity.We looked through the trap doors on the wooden floor and saw the original mosaic tiled floor below.We also saw the low Door of Humility that prevented anyone from entering the room without bowing, and the grotto, which is supposedly the birth place of Jesus.
We drove from Haifa into the Judean Hills to get to our first stop which is Mt. Zion. We arrived at Mt. Zion and visited the Room of the Last Supper, where according to tradition Jesus’ last meal with his disciples and the descent of the Holy Spirit took place. On the ground floor is the Tomb of King David, which is one of the places most visited by the people of Jewish faith. Next up we saw the Dormition Abbey, a beautiful structure with a high domed bell tower.
After getting a bite to eat, we began our walking tour of the old city. Entering Jaffa Gate, we walked past some of the most sacred sites in religious history. We passed by a cool bazaar which was very colorful. We saw the Christian Quarter which is right next to a part of the famous Via Dolorosa, believed to be the route Jesus took as he carried his cross to Calvary. We also saw this golden topped Dome of the Rock. This breathtaking shrine is considered the third holiest site in Islam. One of the wildest things that we saw while walking were these big round metal bins that are used for suspicious packages found.
The next stop on the walking tour was the Western (Wailing) Wall, the holiest site in the Jewish world. We wrote a prayer on the piece of paper and John stuck it in the wall. The wall is believed to have been the closest to where the Holy Ark once stood. We also had the chance to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. High on top of the hill known as Golgotha, the church marks the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.
One of the things that I love that Oceania Cruises does in certain ports that we are in they decide to entertain us while boarding the ship, they had a lot of the crew members lined up and were clapping along with music being played by the band that is onboard.
Our second stop on the itinerary was an exciting one and a nerve wracking one.Israel is always on guard because of the threat of terrorism in the Middle East. We were told that we can’t get our passports stamped in Israel because when we get to the other ports on our itinerary they wouldn’t grant us entry. We were given landing cards and a photocopy of our passport.John and I are both religious I am Greek Orthodox and he is Catholic so visiting Jerusalem today is something we both have always wanted to do.
It is believed that Jesus lived, preached and performed his miracles in this beautiful place.It might not be exactly where we were but it sure is close. The first stop on tour was the top of Mount Carmel.We had a great panoramic view of Haifa.After taking great pictures of the city, we headed towards Nazareth the place where Jesus spent his early years.We saw the amazing Basilica of the Annunciation, one of Christendom’s most revered shrines and the largest church in the Middle East. The Basilica is built on the same sight where the Archangel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah.We were mesmerized by the grotto where Mary had lived. A 170’ high cupola that rises high above the upper church adds to the Basilica’s grandeur that allows the interior to be lit up by natural light.
Next stop was the Church of Joseph, which is built over the chambers that once housed Joseph’s carpentry shop where Jesus worked with him.From here we went on a small walking tour through the colorful bazaar past Mary’s well, a white stone fountain that serves as a shrine commemorating the Virgin Mary.
After boarding our tour bus, we headed through a town called Cana, the place where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine.Then we moved on to Tabgha, where Jesus later multiplied the loaves and fishes.
Next stop on tour was a trip to Capernaum located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee; this is considered the center of Jesus’ ministry while he was living in the area. We had a chance to see the synagogue with a lovely mosaic floor which was recently discovered.
Our last stop was Yardenit baptismal site where the River Jordan separates from the Sea of Galilee. We were lucky enough to see a few baptisms happening while we were there.