Tuesday, January 3

Lower Galilee, Israel

Day 2 in Israel is complete and we still enjoy each other! Hurrah! Although we're not loving the seats of our rental Mazda 2 car! Ugh. Having to fit a rear-facing baby seat behind me leaves me no leg room or ability to recline and Ryan's just too long for economy-sized cars! Ryan did find a great deal though - I think is was just $200 for the entire week and that included full insurance coverage! Just one more day of driving though until we'll be walking our legs off in Jerusalem!

You might be curious to know our daily routine on this trip. It's really not as intimidating as you might think it would be to travel here. Breakfast here at the moshav is at 8:30 so I get up and get moving as Jake or the need to shower dictates. Today I was up at 7:20, yesterday it was 8. We get on the road at 10 after eating, chatting with the staff, topping off Jake's tank so he'll be a happy camper, and packing up necessities for the day.

I try to narrow our itinerary down to three or four sites for us to see per day and let Ryan give me his opinions. Sites here in the winter close at 4 or 5pm but most require you inside the gate by 3pm. It's a little aggravating, but it's going alright. I just have to keep telling myself that Ryan just wants to see as much of the lay of the land as possible and he'll be happy. With the great, filling breakfasts at the moshav, we haven't needed to stop for lunch but have stopped for snacks. If Ryan's doing the shopping, it's bags of chips and candy bars to see us through to dinner. And every gas station or convenience store clerk needs to tell you about every relative they have in the States or that have visited the States! But let's get on the road, eh?

We started the day in Nazareth at a new living history museum - Nazareth Village. Most people come to Nazareth to visit the shrines and churches, but we opted for this instead because I'd read good reviews and we generally like living history places everywhere we go. When we tried to visit the Basilica of the Annunciation, our GPS couldn't see us through the maze of streets so we gave up. We were happy with the Village and really appreciate what they are trying to provide here in the Holy Land. They've done a thoughtful, good job. Here's some of what we saw and talked about:

A shepherd with his flock of goats and sheep.

A replica of a rich man's tomb.

An olive press - this part hooks up to a donkey to walk around in circles as the stone crushes the olives for the first press. Then the olives are put in woven bags to be pressed using a system of weights as shown below.

A carpenter and his workshop.

A living area spread for a meal. The network of houses they've made here was really cool. They're really trying to do everything authentic to the time.

Women washing, dying, spinning, and weaving with wool.

A synagogue true to the time of Christ.

As Ryan was settling himself for bed tonight and I sat here trying to sort and upload photos with a recap of our day, I asked him what he'd liked about today.

"I'm glad we didn't stay in Nazareth!" A reference to the insane web of roads and snaking stalled traffic.

"Zippori's mosaics were cool." Sephoris/Zippori was a vibrant, thriving city being built up during the time of Christ. Just an hour's donkey ride west from the sleepy little village of Nazareth back then, its likely craftsmen like Joseph the carpenter would have found work here. A relatively newer excavation site, we saw some great mosaics - this is the most famous - its "Mona Lisa" uncovered in a mansion near the citadel at the top of the hill.

The synogogue's mosaics were also pretty cool and gave me a good spot to stop and feed Jake.

"Megiddo (Armageddon), I liked the ruins. And seeing the valley and military installations." We got here an hour before closing but Ryan still got to enjoy walking all over up there.

It's interesting to see how archeological methods have evolved. Archeologists used to approach a big mound site (a "tel") like this by taking a slice of the pie -- cutting down through multiple layers of civilization at once. Now they systematically work in squares so the ground begins to look like a giant waffle where they focus on one layer of civilization at a time. Both approaches can be seen at Megiddo. But Megiddo is also fascinating because as you look out across this beautiful massive flat valley, you can picture centuries of armies and peoples moving up and down it. It's amazing!
Two shots of the valley as seen from the top of the tel.

And yes, Ryan was on the lookout for military installations. We saw many as we drove across the valley back toward Mt. Tabor near where we are staying.

The setting sun and a look down the steep side of Mt Tabor as we drove the hairpin turn, switchback road up to the top.

"I liked the church," Ryan said. I remember this site from my time here before. It's a very peaceful, simple beautiful church and grounds with a nearby monastery on the top of this huge hill. It really is bigger than your average "hill" but I don't know what else to call it. As I reread the accounts of the Transfiguration, I've got to question how plausible it was for Christ, Peter and James to walk all the way from Banias near the border with Syria where we were yesterday to here at Mt Tabor in 6-8 days. My bet is on Mt Hermon up north, but regardless - this is a very nice spot and vantage point of the northern side of the Jezreel Valley.

Around the side of this church to the left here is a balcony to look down into the valley. It was almost 5pm and we could hear the Muslim muezzin singing the call to prayer down below us. I really love that! Too bad my watch can't be programmed to sing a beautiful call to prayer like that many times a day. I could use more reminders and I really appreciate this aspect of the Muslim faith.

And last but not least, a flock of adoring Asians work for Jake's smiles. Will this be the closing theme for each day? We end with Masada tomorrow, a major tourist site, so I'll let you know!

For dinner tonight we grabbed a pizza from the Pizza Honey, recommended by our moshav staff in the nearby Circassian village of Kefar Kama. We also had to stop and grab some pita and hummus from their favorite Arab restaurant. Oh how I've missed the pita bread! We watched "Moneyball" while stuffing our faces and reminiscing about a great day in the Holy Land. Love this sunshine!!!