It was still cold, windy and raining in the morning; but fortunately, we planned on a day trip to various places outside of Jerusalem.
Our first place was St. George’s Monastery east of Jerusalem, near Jericho. As usual, we got lost. Now let me just say here, normally, I am an excellent navigator; but, for some reason, in Jerusalem and surrounding areas I was hopeless. Alexei finally took over driving and navigating, but even he had a hard time because we often could not find signage or read what signage there was to inform us of our location. It was crazy. In Jerusalem, we were primarily following our noses and, thank goodness, Alexei was really good at path finding. Ah well, we saw lots of places we wouldn’t have otherwise.
So it was, we got lost looking for the monastery. We turned into Mitzpe Yeriho drove up a hill to a dead end look out area and this is what we found:
Oh my God, how beautiful. I don’t know what this place is called, but, I felt instant peace. I could have stayed awhile but settled for a picture instead, darn!
We asked for more directions and finally found our way to the parking lot where the path to St. George’s begins. The first thing I encountered were some Bedouins selling souvenirs. Alexei had warned me about buying things too soon that I could get cheaper somewhere else. He also warned me about bargaining which I am not good at. But, Alexei had wandered off to the viewpoint. The first thing I knew, this Bedouin man had whisked off the hat my sister, Sue, had given me and was wrapping a burnoose around my head. (I think that’s what it’s called.)
I liked it and I wanted it, but, I didn’t have enough Egyptian pounds and was looking at the US dollars in my wallet. He saw them and was asking for a bunch of them. I am such a sucker; fortunately, Alexei rescued me and said NO! Too much money! The guy wouldn’t bargain and Alexei told me to take off the burnoose. Then, of course, the man settled on our price. Later, I found out that only men wear the checkered black and white or red and white burnooses; women don’t wear burnooses. But, Alexei reassured me that foreign tourists often wear and do things not acceptable for mid east women so allowances would be made for my silliness. He was right, people often laughed at my craziness, but hey, they do that at home too!
St. George’s Monastery is in the desert and located in Wadi Qelt. It is inhabited by Greek Orthodox monks and was originally created by monks who wanted the desert experiences of the prophets. They built the monastery around a cave where they believed the prophet Elijah was fed by ravens. (1 Kings 17:5-6).
Inside one of the rooms:
We had to walk down a very long, steep path to get to the monastery. Bedouin boys tried to sell me donkey rides to get down, but I refused. It was a beautiful, serene walk down then across the ravine to the monastery.
I really liked it there. This was a place I could see myself living in. I felt very close to the energy of the surrounding desert, the rocks, the building itself and to the cave where Elijah supposedly lived. I could live in that cave. It felt right to me. Weird, huh?
We started the climb back up the hill and that was my first clue that all those hours on the treadmill walking up a level 20 incline were not enough. Yeah, duh, Linda; losing about 50 pounds would have been a big help. My donkey boys were waiting for me. They’ve seen enough visitors to tell who can make it up the hill and who is gonna struggle. Honestly, I know they wanted to make money by selling me a donkey ride, but, I also think they felt so sorry watching me struggle up that hill. I kept refusing the rides though because I was still in training for walking up Mt. Sinai.
When we got to the top, the Bedouin who sold me the burnoose, actually took my hand and said, “You are a good woman; tell that man (Alexei) to take good care of you!” He and the boys smiled and waved goodbye to me. I like the Bedouins I met.
Okay, our next intention was to go to the Sea of Galilee. We could have gone straight up through Jericho but wanted to go up the middle of Israel and planned to take the highway heading north out of Jerusalem through (or to the side of) Ramallah. Well, truly it was a Hebronesque experience because, although we tried to go north on that highway at least four times, we kept losing the road and our way. It was crazy! We could never figure it out. We would be driving on the highway when it then either petered out or maybe we took a fork in the road and then we would be headed south, or east, or, eventually, west toward Tel Aviv. I figured we were probably not supposed to be going to Ramallah for some reason. We gave up and took a well signed toll freeway north.
Our first stop was in the town of Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was named in honor of the second Roman emperor Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus. It was established in 20 CE and is considered to be one of Judaism’s four holy cities. It was just cool to be in this town. We didn’t see much of the town, but the name evoked imaginings of Roman soldiers marching through it. Sadly, I must admit that my fondest memory of Tiberias is that it is the place where I was introduced to…shawarma sandwiches and fresh falafel. OMG! Thereafter, I pretty much turned every meal into a shawarma, much to the mocking delight of my companions.
After eating we travelled on to the Sea of Galilee.
We were slowly driving along the shore and I kept staring at the water. I was lost in imagining Jesus finding four of his apostles there and asking them to be fishers of men. I could imagine Jesus walking on the water or calming a storm.
Suddenly a second rainbow appeared!
“Stop, Alexei!” I yelled. I had to get this picture and express my gratitude to Jesus, his ministry, and teachings of Love.
My attitude of gratitude and feeling of heartfelt peace had been set at the canyon near Mitzpe Yeriho that morning, nurtured by Wadi Qelt and St. George’s monastery, and now was enriched by being here. I had no idea I would feel so much, but it was fulfilling.
We could see where Jesus was reported to have given his Sermon on the Mount but could not access it. Instead we went to Tabgha which is the traditional site of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish; and, the fourth resurrection appearance of Jesus. Inside the Church of Multiplicity’s chapel, underneath an altar, is a large rock which the builders of the church believed Jesus used when he blessed the loaves and fish just before feeding the crowd that had come to hear him.
The following pictures are of the olive tree and fountain in the courtyard of the church.
We left the Sea of Galilee and headed past the snow covered Golan Heights toward Nazareth. I just wanted to be in the town where Jesus had grown up. There is a big church there, but as it was getting late we didn’t go in it. We happened to be in rush hour traffic creeping our way through town. Some driver made a left hand turn from the far right lane and no one even honked at him! Just then a car went by with loud hip hop music playing. I found it all very amusing
Hey, Jesus, look at your town now. Whaddya think? Somehow, I don’t think you’d have a problem with it. In fact, I can kind of see you in cutoffs, holding a surf board and scoping the waves. I think you are that cool. I love you dearly.