Horns of Hattin

The Crusaders battled here in 1187 and were defeated by the Muslim forces.  Well, we climbed the Horns of Hattin and I can vouch this is no easy climb!  

We left our gypsy camp after a lovely breakfast of homemade quiche, salad from the garden, cantaloupe and an eggplant dish that was delicous.  We ate with Victor from Lyon, France.  A funny guy who had just quit his job as a social worker and is now planning to open his own spiritual center featuring yoga and other forms of relaxation and meditation.  He kept us laughing!  Victor started out after us this morning and got lost about as many times as we did, so we finally started walking together around 11AM and did better reading the signs and the GPS.  Takes 3 sometimes!!!  He convinced us to take a “shortcut” which meant we climbed over the Horns of Hattin.  Breathtaking views, but a real killer on the legs and feet.  Victor hurt so much that he hitchhiked when we got to the road below!  

We ran into a slight snag in our plans.  After walking to Moshe Arbel and finally finding the apartment we rented in the first floor of a house, we discovered that all grocery stores and all restaurants were closed.  Not that there are many, but we googled and found one store and one restaurant nearby.  It is the last day of Passover and apparently a holiday for Druze (many of whom live in this area).  Luckily, the man who owns this place had pity on us and brought us some food for dinner …….and we quickly signed up for breakfast in the morning.  The town is literally shut down.  No stores, no transportation, no nothing!  

The last 3 photo are from this morning at Ilaniya and the rest are from our walk- mostly around and over the Horns of Hattin.

Our hippie lodging for the night!

J said all the places within a days walk from Cana were booked since this week is Passover, so he booked a tent!  Well, after walking 5 kilometers out of our way (and 5 kilometers back!), we found the “tent”!  It is actually a petty nice place up in a little village called Ilaniya.  I quickly got over the extra 10 kilometers of hiking when I saw the place!

Only 550 people live in this town, but our place is peaceful, tiny and interesting!  The pictures don’t do the place justice.  The place is a virtual flower garden with stone paths, hammocks, lounging chairs, outdoor kitchen areas, a jacuzzi, little guest rooms made of stone.  Our “room” looks like a little wooden shack – almost like a wooden camper – complete with a tiny sink/kitchen,  table and bed.  The bathroom is outside.  Our option was to sleep in what reminds me of a Bedouin tent.  Huge, with cushions in a circle around a central stove.  The little camper was cozier!  A very pleasant surprise!  Hope the bed is comfortable.  Last night’s bed was NOT!  Anyway, we certainly are finding this hike interesting.  The accommodations alone are a story worth telling!

Last photo:  Cana Wedding Guest House

2nd last 2 photos:  Our hike

The rest:  Our hippie lodging!

P.S. Our breakfast tomorrow is all from the garden.  Should be a treat!  

Sore legs after 14 miles

We easily found our way out of Nazareth, starting with a climb up 406 steps!  The markings were great…..until we got to a meadow filled with flowers.  The signs suddenly disappeared and we were lost for the next couple hours.  So, we took the long way over several hills I am sure were not on the trail, over several horse paths that I am sure were not on the trail and finally around a forest that was definitely was not on the trail.  But, we ended up at Zippori National Park where we picnicked, saw some old Roman roads and mosaics as well as a water system that was amazing!  

We arrived in Cana by about 4PM and visited the church where Jesus attended the wedding and turned water into wine.  We are staying next to the church at the Cana Wedding Guest House.  Sounds like a lovely guest house?  Well, it reminds us vividly of a place we stayed on the Portuguese Camino (my sister Beth will remember it well!)…..and let’s just say it’s an extension of someone’s home and is overpriced even had we only paid $10 a night!  We did have dinner here and it was delicious, although after a 14 mile walk perhaps anything is delicious!  We have the VIP room which means we have a private bath and shower.  That means they sectioned off a corner of our small bedroom and put in a plastic bathroom.  The curtains are bright red and shear.  The walls are paper thin and there are a group of young people staying in the house too.  But the owner said we can have free tea and coffee!  Oh, what walkers will put up with!! 

We had sunshine all day and the spring flowers were abundant and lovely.    The sore legs will be better.  Nothing a little Advil can’t cure…and a good nights sleep!

Photo #1:  Somewhere right after Nazareth (before we got lost!)

Photo #2:  Taken from our Guest House patio in Cana looking at the Church where Jesus turned water into wine. 

Photo #3:  The Cana church

Photo 4,5,6,7,8:  Zippori National Park

Photo 9:  Lost

Photo 10:  Found (Between Zippori and Cana)

The rest of the photos are all Nazareth.  We are “fresh” at the beginning of the Trail!  Nothing like we look now!!!!

Ever Hopeful:  So Far, so Good!

We left Bethlehem this morning before 8AM headed to Jerusalem, Afula and on to Nazareth.  We arrived in Nazareth round 1PM and checked into the Casa Nova, a guest house run by the Franciscan priests.  It’s a nice, clean place directly accross from the Church of the Annunciation!  I took a photo from our room.  Can’t get any closer.  This church is the bit draw for Nazareth.  Although the church itself is only about 50 years old, it was built on the ruins of 2 former churches; one from the 4th Century and one from the time of the Crusaders.  It is believed to be the sight where the angel appeared to Mary and told her she was to be the mother of God.  It is a beautiful church with mosaics from countries all over the world.  

There is also a church of St. Joseph built over the sight of Joseph’s workshop.  Quite interesting actually.  Visited the spice market and St. Gabiel’s Orthodox Church as well as Mary’s Well and the Souk.  We plan to get to bed early.  Tomorrow we begin our walk on the Jesus Trail. 

Photo #1:  Leaving Bethlehem on the bus early this morning.  We are hopeful!!!!

Photo #2;  View from our room window at the Casa Nova

Photo #3 and 4:  Inside the Basilica (Church of the Annunciation)

Photo #5 and 6:  Outside St. Joseph and inside St. Joseph

Photo #7:  Looking toward the Basilica

Photo #8”. St. Gabriel Orthodox Church

Photo #9:  Mary’s Well

A Delightful Day in Aboud!

My namesake (St. Barbara) was killed by her father in the 4th Century in Aboud for converting to Christianity!  We visited the cave where she hid and the cave where she was killed.  The sight is on a hill in the West Bank overlooking Aboud, Tel Aviv, 3 Iraeli settlements…….in the Holy Land.  This was our second visit with Hiam.  Although it was a bit chilly, the sun warmed everything up and the visit warmed our hearts.  

We had Makluba at Hiam’s home; a yummy Palestinian dish with carrots, cauliflour, eggplant, onions, rice and chicken.  An upside down “cake” of sorts.   We visited the local Church of God school and visited relatives and friends of Hiam.  There is a date cookie here that is traditional for Easter and we ate several with our arabic coffee.  We also learned the secret of enjoying Nescafé coffee; make it with hot milk, not water!  

The ride to and from Aboud from Bethlehem is always interesting and always full of surprises.  In all the times we have taken a service taxi, I do not think we have ever traveled the same route twice.  This time, our taxi from Aboud to Ramallah broke down, so we caught another service taxi passing by.  It was dark by the time we left Ramallah so the service taxi went to Bethlehem via Jerusalem, not the usual route around the hills between Bethlehem and Ramallah.  There was a family on board with a baby that cried off and on.  Usually we are riding with workers traveling back and forth to work.  It was nice to be with a family this time.  As we walked up the cobbled streets from Manger Square to our home here, I couldn’t help but think about how fortunate we are to be here.  

The Occupation makes me think of how I act sometimes as if I was living in an occupied territory.  We, who are free and have our faith and God’s promises,  should live abundantly.  Yet, how often do we live as if we are confined under an occupation of sorts.  We have freedom of movement…… a blessing. 

It is now Easter morning!  The church service at Christmas Lutheran in Bethlehem was joyous and meaningful.  A blessed Easter to all of us! 

It Was a Good Friday

We are getting ready for Good Friday service after a lovely day!  We walked about 10 miles; to the Virgin Mary Church, the Church of the Annunciation, the Lutheran Church in Beit Jala, Talitha Kumi ( the Lutheran school in the hills of Battir outside Bethlehem) and finally to the Lutheran Cemetery!  These places in Beit Jala are rarely open except for church services, so this was an exceptional day for us to see all of them!

 Every time we take off here something always surprises us.  Our surprise this morning was running into one of J’s students (Ibrahim) just as he was entering the community center in Bethlehem (Ghirass Cultural Center).  Ibrahim is an art teacher at the Center.  He invited us in and the manager and a teacher showed us around.  What a center!  It is especially for children after school – all ages- art, dancing, tutoring.  The Center serves over 1000 students from the area, many of whom are refugees.  The manager explained that she started this center in 1990 and it has grown from a 2 room center to an active 7 day a week place for children, mothers and families.  They even offer yoga classes for moms on Saturday!  (Wish I had known about this.  I definitely would have joined the class!). She said this Center gives her hope when the Occupation does not.  We stayed to watch a group of young children dance the traditional Palestinian dances.  Such energy and so many smiles!  This just made my day!!!!
Again, we marvel at the hospitality of the Palestinians.  We are always welcomed wherever we stop in.  No hesitation.  This is something I will treasure from our stay here.   Today was no exception.  At the Center, we were not expected but greeted with open arms, coffee and attention.  At the cemetery, the custodian of the cemetery offered us coffee and even picked lemons for us off his tree and shared them.  A Good Friday. 

A Taste at all 3 of the world religions on Palm Sunday

Our final day in Jerusalem!  We ate dinner last evening and breakfast this morning with a Catholic priest named Peter from Bristol, England.  He was given a week’s paid vacation in Jerusalem by his congregation in honor of his 40th anniversary in the priesthood.  We shared similar feelings about the Palestinians and the Occupation.  He is an activist priest.  He also marched with about a million other Brits to protest Brexit in London 2 weeks ago.  My kind of priest! 

From 10AM-3PM we toured Jerusalem with an American/Isreali guide.  Our group numbered 10; with 2 Muslims from England, a German theology  teacher, a Columbia/Mexican couple now living in Las Vegas, a family from Louisiana and us!  A really good day.  We started at the Holy Sepulcher, then on to the Wailing Wall and finally ending with the Temple on the Mount.  Our guide was full of history and stories which made the walk so interesting.  It is truly amazing how all 3 religions can get along so well in Jerusalem, but not outside the city walls!  Maybe that’s the key.  Force everyone to live and work together…….and they will!  An enlightening day! 

Boarded the bus back to Bethlehem just before 5PM.  Truly exhausted!

Top 4 pictures at the Holy Sepulcher Church (J is touching the place where the cross was placed on which Jesus was crucified.

Picture 5:  Wailing Wall

Photo 6: Restaurant where we ate the best Hummus and falafel in Jerusalem (according to our guide)!

Final 3 at the Temple Mount

We walked and walked and walked

Just under 10 miles and all within a city that is only 1 kilometer square!  We never left the Old City of Jerusalem today.  I applied 2 coats of sunscreen and I think I still got burned.  The Souk was a madhouse so we tried going above it all.

  We took the free 2 hour walking tour at 11 AM after walking on the rooftops near St. Mark Street.  Then we walked the ramparts above and around the Old City after attending church at St. James, the Armenian Orthodox Church (named after James, the brother of Jesus).  James is apparently buried in the church.  We touched his grave along with all the priests!  It is only open to the public for 1/2 hour a day.  The priests wear black robes and pointed hats to remind the people of the Ark that rested on Mt. Ararat after the flood. 

The city of Jerusalem is beautiful, complicated, busy and full of history.  I absolutely LOVE history, so convinced J to sign up for another walking tour tomorrow morning – this time for 4 hours!  Can’t wait!!!!!!!  Tomorrow is Palm Sunday so we hope to see the procession of palm waving Christians parading down the Mount of Olives in through the Lion’s Gate.

   Tonight we are at the Ecce Homo Guest House on Via Dolorosa.   We have a corner room which is large, but still cozy and quiet.  Jerusalem is a city of sounds; the church bells, the call to prayer, the singing of pilgrims.  It is also a city of smells; the incense and the spices and the food!   It is a city that is hard to describe. Once I think I know may way around, we encounter a new street and a hidden story.  The remains of the old Roman Road from Jesus time is still in use here so you can almost imagine what life was like so long ago.  

The photos do not do justice to the City.  As you can see, it is really warm!!!!   But, after all the good things about Jerusalem,  I still love Bethlehem.  

The third time was a Charm!

We finally made it to the Masada!  We missed it in 2012 and again a month ago, but today was a charm.   We took the city bus this time.  No fancy tour and no detours to the Dead Sea.  Quite a story behind this amazing palace of Herod’s in the middle of the desert!  A rallying cry for Jews after the Romans captured the Masada many years ago.  

Came back to the Wailing Wall, always a place that is inspirational for all faiths.  We are again staying at the Lutheran Guest House which is ideally located in the Old City.  The weather is beautiful, so getting around the Old City is easy.  


 First one Below:  The view from our room at the Lutheran Guest House in Jerusalem

5 photos at the Masada

J in front of the Lutheran Guest House entrance

The remaining photos at the western wall.