Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Travels Abroad July 19 - July 30, 2012
Luke and I had the great opportunity to travel to the Middle East in July of this year. We joined about 40 others and traveled to Israel and Egypt. I didn't know hardly anyone before we left, but by the end I felt like I had 40 new friends.
Our journey started in Jaffa and continued north to Mt. Carmel, Megiddo, Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. Traveling in July meant hot temperatures, but very few people around. The tourists weren't there, the Jews were on vacation, and the Arabs were observing Ramadan. Some times the heat was over 115 degrees, but I would still take that over the hoards of people that are usually milling around the same places we visited.
The Sea of Galilee was very beautiful. We took a boat ride in a boat that supposedly is a replica of the type of boat Jesus would have ridden.
We went up on the Mount of Beatitudes. Israel is really quite hilly. It is also very brown in the summer. We often wandered what all the fuss was over this hot, desolate land.
We had a tour guide every step of the way. He taught us a lot about the country, its peoples and its history. I didn't realize that the Jews and the Arabs all live together. Just because the UN decided to create an Israeli state did not mean that the Arabs who were living there all got up and left. And for the most part the Jews and the Arabs that live in Israel get along fine. It was interesting to learn about the wars, the boundary line shifts, and the existence of Arab towns within the nation of Israel, where Jews are not allowed to enter (like Bethlehem and Jericho).
Another observation is that the country has been occupied and destroyed many times. There aren't too many original sites. Every place we went was a ruin or had had several buildings built of top of the original. And most every place we went, we were told, "this is the traditional site of .....".
We were able to go the the northern end of the country where we could see both Syria and Lebanon.
The area along the Dead Sea was also very nice. It is the only part of the country that is green during the middle of the summer.)(actually anything that was next to water, ie. the Mediterranean or the Sea of Galilee). We went to two different sites that claim to be where Jesus was baptized.
Jerusalem was a highlight. We visited all the major sites. It was amazing to know that we were walking literally where Jesus had walked.
We finished our trip to Israel by heading south, with stops at the Dead Sea and Masada. I can not tell you how hot the Dead Sea was. Hotter than any hot tub. We did get in and floated, but could last only about 5 minutes.
Going from Israel to Egypt was quite the experience. Our bus parked on the Israeli side. We walked through the check gate and customs and then got on a new bus on the Egyptian side.
Our trip through the Sinai included an armed security man on our bus at all times as well as two jeeps with armed guards escorting our bus. But honestly, I never felt unsafe. I think it is just a precaution the tour companies take in Egypt for their clients. Sinai was very large, very barren, very mountainous.
We spent two days in Egypt. One day was in Luxor, the other day in Cairo. What I really liked about Egypt is that the places we went were the originals. They had not been destroyed and built over. The Pyramids are the real thing. The Karnak Temple is the original.
Our trip ended with a long flight back to the USA. It felt good to land on US soil after being gone. Luke was a great traveling companion. Sorry that we probably won't have the chance to travel like that again, but it was great!