Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Back home

Sea of Galilee
Well, we've been back from Israel since Thursday afternoon.  I got sick on the last afternoon of the last day - just in time for the short 4 hour night before getting up at 1am to start the long journey home.  We figured by the time we got home, if we didn't sleep on the plane (and I couldn't), that 4 hours of sleep was all we got in the previous 36 hours or so.  I'm sure that didn't help.  I'm still sick and very tired from not being able to sleep through the night, but I think my sleep schedule is slowly getting back to normal.

I didn't have time until tonight to go through all my pictures.  I merged mine with my dad's pictures and videos and categorized them generally by location. I'll post an announcement when the pictures and videos are finally uploaded, which could take a little while.

In the coming days, as I have time, I will also try to sit down and describe each place we visited and give my impressions.  Overall, the trip was wonderful.  Very busy schedule, and I've never felt like such a tourist, but it was great hearing all the information the guide had to offer at each place, reminding us of the stories that occurred here and there.  The ~80 National Christian Choir members that made the trip were joined by about another 80 or so singers from around the country.  And another group of non-singers toured with us - about 300 people in all.

My overall impression - Israel really is a beautiful country.  I was struck by the diverse terrain.  They had just about every kind of terrain except maybe rainforest and ice.  There are big mountains, small mountains, high cliffs, rolling, rocky hills and fields, valleys, deserts, lush areas, palm trees, the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Galilee, which is really a large lake.  Most of the towns were built on the tops or on the sides of the hills.  Very picturesque.  It was really neat to see all the terrain, so that when the Bible says that so-and-so walked from here to there, I actually will have a mental picture of what that walk must have been like.  And really, the country is so full of hills, valleys, mountains, and deserts, that I can say that walking from one city to another in that region was probably never an easy journey.

The Israeli dad and I sat next to on the flight from Vienna to Tel Aviv said he was happy we were coming and would see that the country isn't what the media portrays.  It really wasn't scary - it was quite peaceful.  People were just living their lives - Muslims, Jews, and Christians.  Children would be running home after school all by themselves.  I really didn't see an unusual number of soldiers everywhere - only on the Temple Mount and at the checkpoints at Israeli/Palestinian borders.  Israeli helicopters and jets did fly over frequently, though, going who knows where.

If I had to pick a couple favorite locations - I really liked Joppa.  It was a quaint little town that still has a Biblical feel to it, and it's right on the Mediterranean.  I could see it being a very relaxing place to live.  I also liked Ceasarea - again right on the Sea, but what I liked was seeing the ruins of King Herod's palace and imagining from the guide's description what a magnificent place that would have been to live.  The waves would have literally been crashing against the palace itself.  Finally, I was very impressed with Masada.  It's a fortress that was built by King Herod on top of an isolated, almost 1,000 foot high plateau in the middle of the Judean Desert by the Dead Sea.  The view was great, and it was amazing to see that they had built and carved a little city way up there.  The story of Masada is quite dramatic, and on the top, you can still see the remnants of the Roman army's camps where they laid seige to Masada, as well as the ramp they built to batter down the walls.  Very impressive.

Well, like I said, as I have time, I will try to go through and describe what we did each day, using some of the pictures I'll be posting soon.  Right now it's time to try to sleep again.  Thanks so much, mom, dad, and Beth, for letting me take this trip.  It was very special.

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