So we've done Dubai to Egypt, gone from Cairo to Mt Sinai, and made our way to Israel. Our last day in Galilee starts with a visit to Mount Tabor - where Jesus' divinity shone forth in the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2).
We reach the base of the mountain, however our coaches are not able to climb the narrow steep road to the top so we are taxied up in small groups up to the church at the peak of the mountain. It's an absolutely magnificent view atop the mountain.
The Church of the Transfiguration is where we have Mass for the day. Another beautiful church, another beautiful mosiac artwork, something that is common with the churches in Israel. After Mass we look around at the views down to the valleys below and then hop into the taxi vans to make our way back down to the bottom.
Feeling a little depleted in energy, Ryan and I pick up a couple of snacks including some freshly pressed pomengranate juice (which is a speciality of Israel) and a few pieces of some sort of candy that caught my eye. It had an almost turkish delight taste and texture with the addition of the pistachios and coconut.
Next we head to the town of Cana, which is where Jesus performed his first miracle, turned the water into wine at the wedding feast (John 2:1-11).
Inside the church, this is actually not the original church but is what has been built over the original foundations. Underneath the church there were some stone vessels which are said to have been used to contain the water which Jesus turned into water.
Grapes on a vine, on the gate of the church.
Of course a food blogger would not be a food blogger if her mind wasn't on food! Not far from the church is a small restaurant where we head to for lunch.
It's the usual suspects again - falafel or chicken shawarma. The sandwiches come pre filled in little pita pockets for us. After a while falafels, shawarma and schnitzels kind of start tasting the same but they were definately something I looked forward to after a very ordinary breakfast spread at the hostel.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee is alluring and Ryan joins the queue for some, I'm not a big coffee lover but the smells everywhere we go make me want to convert.
After lunch we're taken back to the hostel to for an 'afternoon of leisure' which involves swimming in the sea (of Galilee!). We also need to pack up our stuff as we're moving on to Jerusalem for the second part of our pilgrimage in the Holy Land.
Our journey from Galilee to Jerusalem sees us heading to the top of the Mount of Beatitudes. On the way, we do a slight detour to pass by the Neocats Centre at Cardinal Pell's request. It's quite a contrast to the surroundings, very stark modern building compared to a landscape that's thousands of years old.
Unfortunately, all of Ryan's photos from this point onwards were lost due to his camera being stolen when we got to Madrid and he hadn't had a chance to back them up. I didn't take many photos because I was feeling a little exhuasted from our jam packed schedules and was getting a little 'churched out'.
Some of the architecture and artwork on the site - Jesus with his 12 disciples.
We arrive at the Mount of Beatititudes, 'The Sermon on the Mount' (Matthew 5:1-12). We're unable to have Mass inside the church, so the alternative was to hold it outside in the surrounding gardens.
The next place we visit is Mount Carmal at Muhraqa, where the Carmelite Monastery is. (Elijah went to the top of Carmal after confronting the priests of Baal in a conest of faith between his God and theirs).
Birds eye, 360 view of Israel on the top of the monastery.
Lunchtime! My eyes lit up with excitement when I saw all the salads and vegetables on offer at the restaurant. It all looked so pretty and colourful!
Lunch options are again falafel or schnitzel. Ryan gets excited when he spots a lychee drink in the fridge so we try it out. Very sweet and artificial which was a bit disappointing.
After lunch we head to the crusader port city of Caesarea. It is a seaside city built by Herod the Great and was once the Roman capital of Israel. It was here the centurion Cornelius was baptized by Peter, becoming the first gentile convert to Christianity (Acts 10), and where Festus tried Paul (Acts 25: 6-12).
There is a huge amphitheatre at Caesarea though I'm not sure how much of it, if any, is part of the original city. Afterwards, we stop by to check out an old aqua duct that's along the coast.
It is quite a long drive to Jerusalem but we finally arrive. It's a bit of a change in landscape compared to what we had been used to for the first part of our time in Israel, it's alot more developed and populated. It is a city after all.
One thing we observe as we arrive in Jerusalem is the the start of the Jewish Sabbath. As Israel has the biggest Jewish population in the world, the city goes into a bit of a stand still approaching sunset on Fridays. The Sabbath in the Christian context historically means a day of rest, or God's day - Sunday, though this day of rest sometimes seems non existent when you live in a very multicultural, multi faithed and somewhat secular world. You can read more about the Sabbath here.
In Israel, everyone stops work from Sunset Friday to Saturday nightfall, where this time is dedicated to prayer and worship. As it is also Ramadan, the Muslim community of Israel are flocking to the mosques so trying to get anywhere near central Jerusalem (old city Jerusalem) is quite a feat with the roads all congested with people heading to the 'Wailing Wall', synagogues and mosques. Our drivers battle their way through though as a visit to the Wall is on our agenda for the afternoon and our time is limited as the area is blocked off to non Jews come sunset.
I've only ever seen photos and video footage on TV of the Wailing Wall, never thought I'd actually be walking right up to it in my lifetime. Even though it has more significance to the Jews, it was quite surreal to be there. Only the first few rows of the wall are actually part of the original temple wall (Matthew 27:51). The men and women have seperate entrances and are divided by a barricade in the middle.
After our visit to the Wall we are taken to our accommodation which is another youth hostel. Some of us notice that the pedestrian crossing signs bear a man with a hat, which is quite interesting. The Jewish men are required to wear a hat or skullcap, which is a sign of their subservience to God, or something along those lines so don't quote me here.
It's been a long day but there was a souvineer buying expedition to Bethlehem, a Palestinian city just outside of Jerusalem (also the birthplace of Jesus, which we come back to visit later on). The store is absolutely huge and full of all sorts of stuff, crucifixes, icons, bibles, rosaries, postcards, jewellery, all sorts of olive wood carvings of various Christian themes.
It was quite overwhelming being in that place but Ryan and I managed to spent a fair few hundred between us on some things for family and friends as well as some personal treasures. We're able to have everything shipped back home for a reasonable fee which saves us worrying about having to pack it all into our luggage.
Almost midnight by the time we're back at the accommodation and it's yet another early start the next day.