Archive for the ‘Chron’ Category


Well, I made it.  Flights on time, no problems.  Finished The Accidental Empire.  Got into Sleeping on a Wire.  Watched two free movies.  Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to watch “Body of Lies” with Leo DiCaprio.  It’s about CIA collaboration with Jordanian secret service.  Hopefully, they won’t ask about my recent movie watching when I cross over into Jordan next week.

Miraculously, I got to the hotel driving through Jerusalem in pitch black and pouring down rain using only the Hertz map. Jerusalem is probably not an easy place to get around in broad daylight;  it’s interesting at night.  Went past lots of interesting looking theatres and museums;  maybe I’ll get to see some while I mtn. bike around Jerusalem with my guide—he made me bring my cleated shoes.

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Lunch at a hummous joint in the Arab quarter souk in Jerusalem was great:

– ground lamb in some kind of yellow-ish broth

– awesome pita bread—way better than the bread-disks we get in the US

– their jalapenos aren’t that hot

– simply amazing pickles

– lots of other things stewing on the stove

Here is the establishment and proud owner:

Day in Old Jerusalem

Just a few highlights here…

clockwise, from upper left:

– the Dome of the Rock Mosque
– praying and photographing at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount
– young Hasidic man

Big Tourist Day

Did the tourist big 3 today:  Masada, Qumran, and the Dead Sea.

Masada was where 900 or more Jews held out against the Romans in 73AD.  On the last night when holding any longer appeared impossible, the Jewish Zealots drew lots for who would kill whom in order, and the last man committed suicide.  It is a stirring site and the star of Israeli archaeology.   My anthropologist guide points out that the story is very unlikely to be true:  skeletal remains of only about 30 people have ever been found despite years of digging.  It’s still an impressive site that shows how advanced the Jewish culture of 2000 years ago was.

It’s bizarre to hike up 400 meters (over 1300 feet) and only get back to sea level.  Lots of school groups with armed guards.   Lots of Uzi’s carried non-chalantly by twenty year olds.

Qumran is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  My anthropogist guide specializes in analyzing human remains and ancient feces.  He has a convincing account that supports the view that a cult called the Essenes certainly lived at the Qumran site until 60-70AD. It was fun to hear how much the study of poo can teach us about how early people lived (Essenes weren’t very sanitary).  It seems that present-day Christians are much more interested in this site than religious Jews.  The modern day Christian pilgrims are looking for evidence that links the Old Testament to the New Testament, though there isn’t any in the Dead Sea scrolls.  The religious Jews really don’t want to find out that there were more than one version of the Old Testament—it would be confusing.

OK, the Dead Sea “beach” is a pit attracting some of the most unlovely specimens of humanity to don bathing suits.  You really can float.  Not only can you float on your back, but you can float feet down/straight up with your chest, shoulders and head above the water.  This is acrid water—you can sort of tolerate getting a taste of sea water when you lick your lips when you swim in the ocean.  But, the Dead Sea tastes like you are in some kind of chemical bath.  I can’t tell if my skin is more vibrant now, but it was very refreshing after the hot hike up Masada.  The other cool thing is even with the sun beating down you can’t get sunburnt.  The atmosphere is so thick at this low elevation below sea level that most UV rays are cut.

Continue to see some pictures…

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Behind on Blogs

To all (?) my loyal readers,

I am sorry I’ve gotten behind on new items that I know (?) you are anxiously awaiting.  I got a terrible cold as the result of not sleeping because of jet lag, while still charging around unabated during the days.  For two nights I was too tired to blog.

I’m back…


I am starting a new “tag” for impressions so that I can say how what I am seeing and hearing affects me and what I think about it.

The tags in this blog are:

Chron  — updates on travels and activities, more or less in order

Map –- yes, maps

Itinerary  what we are doing, when and where

Books  recommended reading to understand the situation here

Background  historical information and perspective to help understand how the past continues to affect the present here

Driving Tour

On Tuesday and Wednesday, February 24 and 25, we did an extensive driving tour of the north of Israel.  We drove from Jerusalem to the Mediterranean coast—to Caesarea, through Haifa, to Akko (Acre), to Ein Hod (and the former but now displaced Arab village of Ein Hud) and then to Moshav Zippori for the night.

The next day we drove up Mt. Carmel, to the Galilee, to the Lebanese border, and then to the Golan Heights.  In the Golan Heights we had wonderful hummous with ground meat, along with all the Israeli soldiers, at a Druse village.  We passed the only Israeli ski area (no snow).  We then headed south to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret to Israelis), the roman ruins at Beit Shan, through the West Bank, past many Jewish settlements, and finally back to Jerusalem.

I’ll add more impressions of the trip when I get a chance to write again tonight.  For now, here a few photo highlights:

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More Driving Tour Photos

Here are more photos from our driving tour in the north of Israel, which included the Galilee and the Golan Heights.

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Big News

We are staying at the same hotel as Hillary Clinton.

The King David is the primary hotel in Israel where foreign heads of state and other international dignitaries stay.  We saw George Mitchell walking down the hall with his security detail.  The Israeli army (IDF) and Israeli policy blocked off the street in front of the hotel.

Earlier tonight we saw Bibi Netanyahu, the new prime minister of Israel, at the restaurant where we had dinner.

Today, when we visited the Knesset (Israeli parliament) we saw Tzipi Livni, the head of the largest party—Kadima—in the Knesset.  She’ll be the leader of the opposition in the Knesset.

So many other exciting things happened today that I barely know how to capture it all. 

I still need to provide highlights of our visit to Jordan’s primary archaeological sites:  the Roman city of Jerach and the fabulous Nabatean city of Petra, carved out of living rock in a narrow canyon that gradually opens into broader canyon holding an advanced city from 100 BCE.

Jordan Scenes

I am catching up with some scenes from Jordan.

We tried to cross into Jordan at the Allenby Bridge.  There was some unstated security problem, which could take hours to clear up.  We drove 1 1/2 hours to the crossing near Beit She’an.  Our Israeli bus took us to the Israeli crossing.  Then we walked across a sort of no-man’s land to the Jordanian side.  Formalities on the Jordan side were lightweight and tolerably efficient, including xraying all luggage and walking through a metal detector.   Then, we boarded our Jordan tour bus.

Our first stop was the Roman ruins at Jerash.  My eyes sort of glaze over at all of the columns, hippodromes, and coliseums and I am a bit murky on the history.  Jerash was one of the cit1es of the Decapolis—the 10 great Roman cities of the eastern Mediterranean.  Very few Roman sites are as intact or as well restored as Pompeii in Italy.  Still it is impressive to see the remains of structures from the 1st century CE.  The re-use of materials and the layering of additional later cultures is interesting in this area.  After the Romans, we get the Byzantines—essentially Greek Christians.  Roman temples are turned into churches.  Part way through Byzantium we get the Iconoclasts who did not tolerate any imagery from pagan Rome nor any representation of G-d, man, or animals.  So, mosaics and statues are defaced.  Next come the Persians followed by the Umayyad Muslims of the 8th century followed by the Mamluks from Egypt, followed by the Crusaders, followed by the Ottomans.

From Jerash, we drove to Amman, which we could only see by night.  See Jordan Impressions.

Continue to the photos:

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