Masada

Masada

Masada! One of the oldest and most glorious places I have ever seen. We saw the classic, Roman buildings from the 1st century BC on the very top of this 6,ooo year old Chacolithic Period site. Today it is crammed with people from all over the world coming to see and visualize our past as a people. And perhaps to learn from it.

This archaeological site tops the rock mountain at 1,300 feet above the Dead Sea. The ancient Roman fortress, built by Herod the Great in 31BC , became the 20th century symbol of Jewish heroism. UNESCO World Heritage Status evolved in 2001.

Cable Cars

There are two ways to travel to the top: walking the Snake path (curvy, stony, and hot), or taking the Cable Car. Easy decision! You can see the top of the Snake beneath the cars. Obviously the structures were build around the mountain rim for protection. The center plateau was used for farming and cattle/sheep raising. For this water was essential but scarce.

Calidarium

Herod had water chambers dug around the bottom of the mountain with channels catching and carrying the rainfall into the cisterns. Then donkeys were used to haul the water to cisterns at the top. Now, with aquaducts and sufficient water, Herod created a bathhouse complex.

Masada3

The water was heated, passed through pipes into the saunas and eventually funneled into the swimming pool. Incredible.

This Hanging Palace, a 3-terraced structure, was Herod’s personal quarters. If you look closely there appear to be three giant steps down the mountain side. And there are. The top level holds the throne room that opened out to a courtyard. On the back wall behind the throne, we were able to see faded wall paintings. These were the original drawings and it was magic to stand there visualizing the artist working on them. The second terrace contained the meeting/conference quarters, while the third level was the family living area.

Synagogue

The incredible discovery that this synagogue, presumed to be the oldest in the world, has ties to the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The skeleton excavation so far sheds light on this ancient House of Worship. Standing at the edge of Harod’s courtyard, we could just see the Dead Sea beyond and the salt mounds that pepper it. Makes me hungry.

Dead Sea

Leaving Masada we prioritized our needs as air conditioning, food and wine. While driving along the Dead Sea, a surprise Las Vegas appears. A compound of large hotels and restaurants situated along the shore.

Dead Sea2

Shortly we sat in a lovely, cool restaurant, drinking wine and watching the beach activity. Mobs of people, young, old and families plunged in and out of the warm water and lounged under roofed cabanas. Apparently there are wonderful health benefits from swimming in this super-saturated salt water.

Ein Gedi Kubbutz3
Ein Geddi Kubbutz

We checked into Ein Gedi Kibbutz Hotel about mid-afternoon. This family styled hotel was located about a half mile up the mountain.

And this was the view we had from ourback patio.

Ein Gedi Kubbutz2

They closed our wonderful pool at 5:30 so everyone would make a timely arrival the family-style dinner buffet (which closed at 8).

While walking to the dining hall, the lowering sun began its slide toward the Dead Sea.

And tomorrow we have but an hour’s drive till we reach Jerusalem.

Jerusalem1

Tel Aviv: the new Face of Israel

Tel Aviv3

Arriving at 5pm in Tel Aviv, through Security and into a rental car, we dashed to our reserved Lusky Suites Hotel with the sun-lit Mediterranean Sea and the promenade viewed from our balcony.

Tel Aviv4

Tel Aviv was created in 1909, when the Jewish National Fund purchased land among the dunes north of the old Arab port of Jaffa and named it Tel Aviv “Hill of the Spring”.

While not a beautiful city in its self, its rebel but friendly attitude and vitality are most appealing. Dinner that evening, overlooking the Mediterranean shore, was alive with people of all ages and many cultures, walking, sitting but most of all, socializing, along the promenade.

With only 2 days here, we planned the first for a walkabout of the Bauhaus buildings which received UNESCO World Heritage status in 2004. This was a pre-Nazi German architectural style of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The over 4000 Bauhaus buildings have earned Tel Aviv the nickname “The White City”.

Building2

As an architectural form, the buildings are based on functionality rather than glamor but the elongated balconies and rounded corners vastly appealed to me. Some of them are sensually appealing and I wanted to run my hand over them.

Building4
Old Jaffa

THEN OFF TO JAFFA, one of the most beautiful ancient sea ports in the world! According to to the Bible, Jaffa was built after the great flood by Noah’s son Japheth.

Remains have been unearthed dating back to the 20th century BC ,  establishing this site as one of the world’s oldest ports. After a decline in 1948, it revived as a center for arts, crafts and dinning. We can vouch for the food, sea view,  salty breeze and the beautiful antiquity of this ancient site.

We found the Visitors Center on the main plaza just in time for the “English” tour of the “Underground” . Down one level was a museum with many relics: statues, working implements, part of a fishing boat and the like from hundreds/thousands of years ago, all excavated from from this site. Our guide told us who used them and when. Unbelievable.  How many cultures passed through and left their mark??

Old Jaffa2

Two stories down we found the on-going excavation of a Greek village. The stairs took us down-and-around  the walls and room of a typically ancient house opening to a section of the forum and a water well. The excavators were not the least bothered by our passage. The guide said they had many more levels planned for digging. (That’s probably why the workers were smiling!)

At the end of the tour,  we were led to an enormous circular viewing screen. A marvelous 3-D video of the history of Jaffa was presented. I wanted to see it again but our guide said another group was entering and another language would be used. (Dam)

Hot and tired, we headed back to our hotel. Later we walked to an outside Kosher restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea  and sipped an excellent wine.

Tel Aviv

07/20/2013

Korazim Park

Caesarea, Isreal- second part of our trip:

This picture is the entrance-or exit  to Korazim National Park which includes  all of Caesarea.

We saved the Treasure of Caesarea for the last, and it was spectacular. A Saturday with good weather equals crowded. The area was so spread out that the crush  didn’t matter.

This next picture shows the original (excavated) port area. Herod the Great, in 29 to 22 BC, built this magnificent city on the site of an ancient Phoenician port and dedicated it to Augustus Caesar. The Crusaders, in the 12 th century, revitalized the city as a major port.   In the late  13th century, the Mamelukes destroyed all of it. Caesarea was then reclaimed by the sands   until the ruins were found in the 1940’s. It is now one of Israel’s major Archaeological Sites.

Caesarea

Looking more closely at this second picture, you get a good overview of the excavated sites. The original port…

This picture is the entrance-or exit  to Korazim National Park which includes  all of Caesarea.

We saved the Treasure of Caesarea for the last, and it was spectacular. A Saturday with good weather equals crowded. The area was so spread out that the crush  didn’t matter.

This next picture shows the original (excavated) port area. Herod the Great, in 29 to 22 BC, built this magnificent city on the site of an ancient Phoenician port and dedicated it to Augustus Caesar. The Crusaders, in the 12 th century, revitalized the city as a major port.   In the late  13th century, the Mamelukes destroyed all of it. Caesarea was then reclaimed by the sands   until the ruins were found in the 1940’s. It is now one of Israel’s major Archaeological Sites.

Looking more closely at this second picture, you get a good overview of the excavated sites. The original port is submerged.  If you look to the right, you can see the long, curving arm that protects the sunken port. There are choices to view this: swimming/scuba diving or seeing the films. We chose the movie which included the port foundations and parts of sunken ships. Excellent! Finally, looking straight ahead at the same picture, the Roman Amphitheater looks like a brown donut.

Amp2

This is a more defined view of the fantastic job the Romans did on the 2nd century amphitheater.  Now, fully restored, it accommodates over 4000 people  and hosts operas and concerts. Music…..with a view over the Mediterranean. What a magnificent site.

Next we approached Crusader City and the church.

Pamphlet3

The deep ditch in the foreground is the end of the 11 mile aqueduct that Herod the Great commissioned to carry water from a nearby mountain.  The aqueduct was built on arches that allowed for a constant influx of fresh water to the city. Magnificent feat! Above the aqueduct is the side view of the temple of Augustus and the Crusader Cathedral which is still being excavated.

Cathedral2

This beautiful, vaulted Cathedral, although smaller than present day standards, is exquisite. The building was dedicated to St. Paul and built on the site of an earlier Byzantine church.  Not crowded inside, only the waves were heard. And no one spoke. Caesarea, backed by the blue Mediterranean Sea, offers the world its staggering, ancient ruins. Successive  phases of occupation have left a treasure trove of archaeological  remains. And all this began in the 4th century BCE.

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About carolinebotwin

Caroline Botwin and her husband Mike are retired educators who have always had a yen for travelling: he with a PH.D and teaching Architectural Engineering plus California wine education, and she having taught high school English, speech and drama. Both wanted to learn first hand about other cultures. While Mike predominately studied buildings and structures and met with winemakers, Caroline hunted for ancient sites and peoples. And kept journals of all their travels. Kevin Klimczak, extraordinaire, is the website designer and editor of the blogs.
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