Roman Ruins and all that

Leaving Tiiberias was easy, finding Maimonidies’ grave in Tiberias was not. After 3 failed attempts we left Tiberias and headed out of the Galilee toward Netanya on the coast. On the way we stopped at Zippori National Park. Although the heat was still instense, the visit was well worth it. Zippori is an old Roman/Byzantine city with many buildings, exquisite mosaics and a very large cistern built into a natural fissure in the rock to create deep water cavern to capture drinking water.

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The picture of the cistern is not adequate to show the depth (approximately 40 feet) and the length (approxiamtely 1/4 mile) of the cistern, the plastered walls and floor (to keep sand and dirt to a minimum), and the tunnels built to connect the length of the cistern to the city.

The mosaics are outstanding and replete with references to Roman gods.

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IMG_1066The site itself is quite large with many dwellings, store houses and baths.  It also has a Crusader era fortress and an ancient synagogus.

From Zippori we drove to Beit She’en National Park another Roman Ruin dating to the second -sixth centuries.  There is much marble at this site which is unusual as there are no marble quaries in Israel. It features two large streets both flanked by columns and a large rectangular area similar to the Roman Forum although not nearly as large.  It also has an almost intact theater which was only excavatied in the 1960’s.

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As well as some of its own outstanding mosaics.

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It was hot and getting hotter so we skipped the last Roman Ruin and drove to Netanya on the Mediterranean about 30 Kms. north of Tel Aviv and called it a day.  Finding the hotel was a whole other story, but finally realized it was on a plaza where cars can’t go.  Always a challenge.

The next morning it was an easy drive into TelAviv.  We dropped the majority of our stuff at the Hostel in a locker, said good ridence to the car and hopped a bus to Jerusalem.  After an hours ride, we walked the 15 min. to our Hotel. We went to a nearby street full of shops and vendors to pick up some much needed staples and some not so much needed other stuff.  Since evening was the day before the jewish Sabbath and the Sabbath was followed by the Jewish holiday of Shuvoth, the market was quite busy and very colorful.

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We took the tram to the Demascus Gate and entered the Old City on our way to our first look at the Western

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Wall. It is larger than expected with only about 1/4 of it is visible from above ground. The Second Temple which included the Western Wall was destroyed by the Romans in 68 A.D.  It is imposing and eerie to think that it has seen so much history both before and after that.  We went our separate ways to actually go to and touch the Western Wall as, in the Orthodox Jewish tradition, men and women do not worship in the same room.

We left the area of the Western Wall and wandered around a little more. We got our first look at Temple Mount which is just above the Western Wall, but not visible from that level.  It is a holy place for all three major religions and in the Jewish section of the old city. It was too late to visit it but quite impressive to see it.

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Friday we again went into the old city for our tour of the tunnels under the old walls of Jerusalem.  It was fascinating.,,, 4000 years of building, tearing down, building, wars, and rebuilding, not to mention the occasional earthquake and fires.  Also did the markets of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Armenian quarters. The alleys (they are too small to be called streets) are filled with shops.  The trinket shops all sell the same items as is true for the scarf shops, the sandal shops, the shoe shops, the leather shops, the t-shirt shops, etc. The men tending the shops all try to get your attention and engage you in conversation so that they can sell you something.  Quite repetitive and annoying, but based on the number of shops, probably successful.

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Before heading home we walked the Via Dolorosa (the street Jesus walked carrying the cross), and toured the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

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It’s shared today with the Catholics, Greek, Russian and Armenian Orthodox, and Egyptian Copts .  Jesus was buried on that spot and rose from the dead there.  Quite moving whatever your faith.

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We had to be back at the hotel before 5:00 as it was Sabbath therefore no driving, no public transportation, restaurants , stores….EVERYTHING closes until Sat. evening at 9 p.m.  However, this Saturday was  the Jewish holiday of Shavuot so everything was closed until Sunday night at 9 p.m. There were many people scurrying to get home before the Sabbath began at sundown.  The cabs driven by Muslims were running though, so we got a ride out to Steve and Varda Franks’s home near Bethlehem for Shabbat service and dinner.  He’s an Oncologist who works in our practice in Grand Jct. several weeks per year.  He and Varda have a lovely family of 6 kids. Steve’s parents were also here from Florida so it was a lively house.  Varda knocked herself out cooking the many course dinner for that night and, because of the Jewish holiday the meals for Saturday and Sunday until sundown as well.  What a feast.  We finished dinner at midnight.

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