Monthly Archives: January 2014

Israel Day 7 – 20 Shekels

The desert above the Dead Sea can be surprising.  You can pull off the road (on to a dirt road) and think you are in the middle of nowhere when all of a sudden you are being presented with beads and scarfs and greeted with, “Twenty Shekels.  Twenty Shekels.”

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The Judean Desert

So, there we are on this lonely deserted road when all of a sudden…

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Bedouin Merchants

They were a pushy lot.  One handed me a string of beads after telling him repeatedly, “No,” and just walked away.  I ran him down and put it in his hand and said, “No thank you.”

I did end up purchasing a keffeyah as I did like how it felt on my head.  (You may see me shoveling snow wearing this thing.)  As we left the area, I did notice a tag that read, ‘Made in India’.  Oh, well.  I did buy it in Israel.

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Me in My Keffeyah

Our next stop was a life-long dream.  There was a time I was so in to the Dead Sea Scrolls I bought and read every book I could find on the subject.  The story of a Bedouin shepherd boy throwing a stone in to a cave which lead to the discovery of some ancient scrolls at Qumran intrigued me.  So, I could not pass the opportunity to see the cave, and visit the ancient Qumran community.

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A Wider View of the Caves Along the Cliff

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The Cave Where the Scrolls Were Found

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Ritual Bath at Qumran

By the way, the Dead Sea Scrolls are currently on tour in Salt Lake City.  It is my understanding they will be on display through April.

We don’t know a whole lot about the people of Qumran except they were a religious group who fled to the wilderness.  They performed ritual washings and had very strict rules.  It is suspected that John the Baptist may have stayed and studied with them.  The believed in a Messiah ben Joseph and a Messiah ben David.  Some say they were of the Essenes.

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A Facsimile of One of the Scrolls

This much we do know… they were prolific writers.  Many of their writings have been translated and correspond very directly with the modern bible.

Our next stop was En Gedi.  This oasis is where David hid from Saul, and after an exhausting hike up the wadi (hmmm… I like that phrase, “Up the wadi”.  Think it will be come popular?)  we found the waterfall.  No wonder David hid here.  (By the way, this is no hike for the faint of heart or the weak-kneed.  It is steep, lots of stairs cut in to the rock, dry and dangerous in places.)

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The Trail Up the Wadi

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Matt at the Base of David’s Waterfall

It is said that the source of the waterfall is in Bethlehem.  How symbolic!

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Matt Ponders the Symbolism of a Half-Eaten Dilly Bar

At the base was a nice gift shop.  I’ve come to learn that Matt can’t resist buying an ice cream bar.  He shared an object lesson using it.

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The Diversity of Israel

I saw this Bedouin man walk up to the snack counter.  At the same time there was a long-haired man at the counter.  This shows some of the diversity of Israel.  We brag about America being a melting pot, but we don’t hold a candle to Israel.  I met people from all around the globe during our visit.  Many are Jews who have moved there to live.  They come from countries like Russia, Germany, USA, Argentina, Bolivia, and more.

Our next stop was the shores of the Dead Sea.  This salt lake is 2nd most salty in the world.  The water level continues to drop.  Currently, it is about 1,400 feet below sea level.

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The Shore of the Dead Sea

The salt creates a beautiful Mediterranean blue in the water.  (Which, the Mediterranean Sea is only a few miles to the west.)  The frothy foam on the rocks looks like suds from the washing machine.  This is largely due to the alkalinity of the water.  Of course, you can float in the Dead Sea without any effort.  We didn’t try it as we were not prepared with swimsuits and towels.

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Salt from the Dead Sea

You can pickup up big chunks of salt (above) all along the shore.  Like the Great Salt Lake, they harvest the salt in areas.  Yes, you foodies will recognize “Dead Sea Salt” as found in the gourmet section of the grocery store.

We decided to head south and cut across and come up to Jerusalem from the south.  The drive was interesting and we saw what that part of Israel looked like.

By the way, here’s a map.  You can see we are very close to Egypt and the Gaza Strip.  We went to Beersheba before heading north to Jerusalem.

Israel Map

Israel Map (click to zoom)

Oh, before I go on, I thought I should mention the GPS we rented from Budget was a Kosher GPS.  It seems certain routes it would avoid.  In fact, some cities it would not even give us direction to them.  Why?  They were in Palestinian occupied areas.  For example, it would try to route us around the entire West Bank and not through it.  This meant we had to rely on paper maps instead of our GPS.  And, it also meant passing through military check points.  You MUST carry your passport at all times when in Israel.

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My Happy Meal

We stopped at Mesada to eat at the cafeteria.  Good food.  I had the beef with couscous, veggies (cooked and fresh), pita and hummus.  One of the veggies was an onion puree condiment.  It was quite good.  I could see using it as a substitute for mayo on a burger or sandwich.

I got a kick out of the name of the meal.  Yup, the Happy Meal.  78 nis means 78 shekels.  70 shekels is $20.  Thus, 78 is a little over $22.  Yeah, food is expensive in Israel.

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Happy Meal?

As we drove down the highway, I saw this Bedouin shepherd.  When he saw I had a camera, he immediately turned and covered his face.  His expression while doing so was as if to say, “Oh, brother!  Americans.”  You see sheep, goat and camel herding all along the shores of the Dead Sea.

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Now, here is a sign you don’t see often in the USA.  The first one, yes.  The second one, no.  In Western New York we have our Amish buggy signs, but I don’t think I’ve seen a camel sign.

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Watch for Camels

When we got back to our hostel, Matt asked if Doug and I wanted to take a walk.  We headed to Jaffa Gate and there we bought some bread.

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Bread Vendor Inside the Jaffa Gate

Just to let you know what everything is…  Starting by the man with the pink bag and moving clockwise around the table:  bagels, a nut, nougat and honey bar, date-stuffed pastries, and more bagels.

Israel Day 6 – BYU and the Museum

We started our day by going to the national museum.  This is like Israel’s Smithsonian.  The coolest thing there is this huge model of Jerusalem as it may have looked at the time of Christ. It is very detailed and quite big.  I took lots of photos of it.  It was helpful in seeing what was where then, and then picturing in my mind what is there now.

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The Temple

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Huge Model of Roman Era Jerusalem

Of course, on the temple mound today is the Dome of the Rock.  But, the above picture is how the eastern wall may have looked in Christ’s day.  To the left, you see the Western Wall.  And, in the front center is the Golden Gate.

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And Example of A Sepulcher

Inside the museum were lots of things of interest, but this one caught my attention.  This gives us an idea of what the sepulcher Christ was laid in might have looked.  Of course, the layout is a little different, but it is about the same size and shape of the Garden Tomb.

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A Painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Nothing to do with religion, they had an original by William Bouguereau.  I only noticed that as I was rushing out the door.  I had to stop and take a photo.  After all, he’s my favorite.

We then drove to the Mt. of Olives to the BYU Jerusalem Center, or as they call it “Mormon University”.  We received a tour and an organ recital.  One of the volunteers played three pieces, including a very difficult piece by Bach.

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The Organ at BYU Jerusalem Center

The tour also included an overlook over the city, a demonstration of a couple different types of olive presses, and a video about what students do at the BYU center.  It’s a beautiful campus and should be on everyone’s list of “must see” things in Jerusalem.  (They do have the best view of the city.)

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Our Tour Guide at the BYU Jerusalem Center

Once outside, one of the other visitors to the campus too our photo with our tour guide.

Then, Matt took us on a hunt for a wood carver he met two years ago.  I was honestly thinking… “Really, haven’t see seen LOTs of wood carvings in the market place?”  But, I’m game and it seemed important to Matt.

In a Palestinian section of town, we found his shop.  As we parked the car, a car load of girls yelled, ‘Welcome to Palestine!’  Omar met us in the parking lot and walked us to his store.

The first thing I noticed was a bulletin board with Omar’s photo with President Ezra Taft Benson.  And, another picture with Gordon B. Hinckley.  In addition, he had pictures of LDS notables like Steve Young too.  I’m not talking about pictures of these people, but these people with Omar.

He pulled out a nativity set and said, “You know what I call this one?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer his question.  “A Nativity Set?”  I thought.

He said, “I called it the Elder Holland.  I called it Elder Holland because he always orders this set for his family members.”

This guy has some serious connections at Church Headquarters!

But, look at his work and you’ll see why…

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Omar’s Carvings

So, to be in good company, I asked to have my picture taken with my favorite piece.  (It was out of my price range.  It’s a $480 carving.)

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Omar the Wood Carver

I love the painting by Arnold Freiberg titled, “Peace Be Still”.  So, when I saw this carving I fell in love with it.

After spending a considerable amount of time in his shop, Omar asked if he could buy us dinner.  We graciously accepted.  He then added that he would normally ask us to his home, but his wife has been recovering from a stroke, so he asked us to accept his apologies and had his nephew bring us shawarma’s from his shop down the street.

Omar pulled out chairs and step stools for us to sit on, and boxes to use as tables.  (It brings tears to my eyes just retelling the story.)  There, he insisted we sit and eat and be his guests.

I came to love a fine man today.  Omar the Wood Carver as I call him.  Not only is he a very talented artist, but a man with a huge heart.

As we left his shop, he stopped and said he had one more thing for us.  He then gave us each a small nativity ornament made from olive wood.

If you ever go to Jerusalem, you MUST visit Omar’s shop.  (Also, budget about $500 as I’m sure you’ll find something you will fall in love with.  Some day, people will say, “Oh, you have an Omar!”)

Israel Day 5 – Megiddo

We headed north after breakfast to Megiddo (Armageddon).  This ancient city sits atop a hill overlooking a very important valley.  From the city you can see Mt. Tabor, Nazareth and Mt. Hermon.   There is a thumbnail history at

Here at Megiddo there is a large stone alter, much like the one the Priest of Baal would have used when contending with Elijah.  (It is said this is where Ahab lived.  So, it could be the very alter.) See I Kings 18.

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Alter (big round stack of stones) at Tel Megiddo

It is one of the oldest cities and one that has been repeated occupied.  Today it is an Israel national park.

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Grain Bin


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Chariots Were the Tanks of 600BC.

Tel Megiddo was quite the site, but to look out the valley and reflect on John’s prophecies Revelations chapter 16.

Our next stop was Mt. Tabor.  This is where we believe Christ took Peter, James and John.

1 And after six days Jesus taketh aPeter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,  2 And was atransfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.  3 And, behold, there appeared unto them aMoses and bElias talking with him.  4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.  5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright acloud overshadowed them: and behold a bvoice out of the cloud, which said, This is my cbeloved dSon, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.  6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore aafraid.  7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.  8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.  9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the avision to no bman, until the Son of man be risen again from the cdead.

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Mt. of Transfiguration (Mt. Tabor)

This was another one of those special places for me.  To think that Christ, Peter, James and John stood upon this mountain while Moses and Elias appeared, and sacred keys were given to Peter, James and John.  It was humbling to be there.

Of course today, there is a church built over the summit, but they have a glass window displaying earth below.

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Summit of Mt. Tabor

Our next stop was to a park that had just closed.  The park ranger wasn’t to happy with Matt and so we turned around and went to the hostel where we plan to stay a couple of days.

For dinner, we drove in to Tiberius and found a McDonald’s… a Kosher one at that.

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the BIG AMERICA burger

Yeah, that was the most expensive burger I have ever had.  $17 bucks and a bun to match.  Oh, and it comes in various varieties.  For example, the Texas has BBQ sauce.  The NY has mayo.  Etc.

Don’t expect to buy a cheese burger, because putting cheese on your burger is not kosher.  And, if you want a shake, you have to go outside, to a separate window where they sell dairy products.

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McD Menu

Next time I’ll get the BIG AMERICA Jr.  That’s more like a normal size… I hope.

Okay, normally I wouldn’t post this… but I’ve never peed in a

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And, since I don’t read Hebrew, I have no idea what it says.  Nor do I know what is so special about the Urimat Brimag urinal.  It was the only one I saw in Israel and you’ve got to laugh when you see something like this.

I wonder if they have TV commercials?

Israel Day 4 – The Garden Tomb

Yesterday I forgot to mention we tried to find the Garden Tomb. Well, we found it, but we couldn’t find where to park. So, today we went back with renewed determination to find it.

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The Garden Tomb (believed to be THE tomb)

Located in a Palestinian area of town, the Garden Tomb has all the archeological signs that it was the tomb where Jesus’ body was placed when they removed it from the cross.  I won’t repeat all the information they have on their web site.  You can find it here:

Our tour guide, Norm Derkson, was great.  This Canadian minister and his wife are serving at the Garden Tomb for a few months.  Norm was great because he pointed out the importance of seeking the resurrected Savior.  He repeated often, “He is not here; He is risen.”

I felt this to be a special place.  It somewhat saddened me that Golgotha is now the backdrop for an urban bus station, and topped with a wall and a tank. (if you look near the center top you can see a military tank just to the right of the obtuse corner.)

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The Door They Added

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Inside the Tomb

The painted cross was added, probably by the crusaders.  Letters XC means “Christ” (short for ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ).  Alpha and Omega are also shown – a name for the Savior.  YC for Yesu Christo.  Perhaps these ancients recognized this as the tomb of Jesus Christ.  Again, we don’t know, but all of the pieces of the puzzle come together at this location:  Golgotha, outside the city wall, a tomb of a rich man, a tomb in a garden, the body’s resting place to the right as you enter the sepulcher, a sepulcher meant for permanent rest, and not one where they remove the bones and place them in a box later, a track for a very large stone to seal the door, etc.

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A Panoramic View of the Tomb Area


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Our Group Outside the Tomb (Thank You Norm)

After visiting the Garden Tomb, we continued on to Absalom’s, Jehosephat’s and Zacharais’ tombs.  They are at the base of the Mount of Olives along a path that leads to the City of David near the Pool of Siloam.

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Absalom’s Tomb

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Jehosephat’s Tomb

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Zacharias’ Tomb

We then crossed the street (Road to Jericho) and went to the traditional Garden of Gethsemane.  I found it interesting that I felt a stronger spirit near the entrance to the Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens.  Although beautiful and interesting, it isn’t so much important as to whether this is the actual place of the atonement, but that the atonement is real.

39 ¶And he came out, and went, as he was awont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into atemptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, aremove this cup from me: nevertheless not my bwill, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an aangel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
44 And being in an aagony he prayed more earnestly: band his sweat was as it were great drops of cblood falling down to the ground.

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Me at the Garden

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Outside a Garden of Well Maintained Olive Trees

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Inside the Church at the Garden of Gethsemane

We obviously didn’t travel based on the time-line of our Savior’s last week.  Although that would be a fun thing to do, we visited the sites based on convenience and location.  Our next stop would be Caiaphas’ house.

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Church Erected Over Caiaphas’ House

It is believed that it was here where Peter denied being one of Christ’s followers.

54 ¶Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the ahall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. 57 And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.  58 And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.  59 And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilæan. 60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.  61 And the aLord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.


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Peter Denies the Christ

It was hear where Jesus stood before the high priest Caiaphas and they took him to a pit under the house.

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The Pit

Our next stop was a church built where the “upper room” would have been.  No, this is not the same building.  In fact, the city of Jerusalem where Christ would have been is several feet below the modern city.  Remember, Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times.  However, it is believed it would have been in this general area.


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The “Upper Room”




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Church of the Holy Sepulcher




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Kosher Pizza (No Meat with Cheese!)


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Aladdin Shopped Here


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Israel Day 3 – Masada

Our first stop today was the Road to Jericho.

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man‍ went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and awounded him,‍ and departed, leaving him‍ half dead.

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Road to Jericho – Good Samaritan Road (trail)


31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him,‍ and passed by on the other side.

Matt pointed out that this valley has been filled in to bury a gas line.   2,000 years ago it would have been much deeper, and the trail very narrow along the side of the mountain.  To “pass by on the other side” would have meant backtracking and then crossing to the other side of the valley.  In other words, the priest and Levite would have gone out of their way to avoid the man.

Seeing this adds more depth to the scriptures and their meanings.  This is hostile country:  hot, dry, rocky and steep.

33 But a certain aSamaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had bcompassion on him,
34 And went to him,‍ and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took acare‍ of him.

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Matt and Doug Hiking Up a Hill to What May Have Been a Shelter

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them‍ to the ahost, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. (from Luke Chapter 10)

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Looking Towards Jericho

While we were out there, this surveillance plain flew over 3 times checking us out.  Yes, we were in hostile territory between Jerusalem and Jordan.  We smiled and waved to show them we were just stupid tourist wandering around in the desert.

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Military Surveillance Plane

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Elizabeth, Me, Diane, Doug, Kelly, Matt and Sushi’s Owner

We stopped at the Sea Level marker along the highway.  Remember, the Dead Sea is about 1,400 below sea level.  This guy accepted some cash from Matt because Matt wanted to ride his camel.  His son, Ahkmed, took some pictures with my camera.  I attempted to show him how, but he said, “I know, I know.”  (By the way, the dad was wearing the same style shoes I wore.  I guess I wear camel-jockey shoes.)

While there I bought a 1/2 Kilo of dates.  They were the freshest dates I’ve ever had.  $6 for a 1/2 Kilo.  Won’t find that price in the states.

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The guy who sold me the dates said, “Like me on Facebook”. (When I find his business card, I will.)

From there we drove along the Dead Sea to Masada.  Now, until today I had never heard of Masada.  Masada was a city built on a very tall plateaued mountain (1300 feet) by Harod the Great.  Yes, the same one who ordered the death of all children under the age of two.  This fortress was to be a safe haven from his enemies.

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From Masada

To get to the top, we took a tram.  Once on the top, one must be prepared for some hiking and stairs.

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Our Group on Top of Masada

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Discovered in 1842, it was excavated by Yigael Yadin’s expedition in 1963.  (Yadin is one of my heroes.  What an amazing man.)

They stored grain, fruits, water, ammunition and weapons atop this mountain.  Unfortunately, the Romans built an earthen ramp to the top and defeated them.

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Model of Masada Showing the Roman Ramp

So, how do you sit there watching your enemies build a ramp to your fortress?  My wife suggests the Romans simply had them outnumbered.

When we got off the tram back at the visitor’s center, Matt suggested we eat at their cafeteria.  I had lamb kebobs on cinnamon sticks.  Quite tasty.  The food in Israel is somewhat bland.  I expected more spices.  But the produce is so very fresh.

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Dinner at Masada

When we returned to Jerusalem, it was time for a snack.  So, down Jaffa Street we went looking for some tasty treats.

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Cookies and Pastries

I got a kick out of this 7-11-like store.  Notice they are only open 7 days a week?

Yes, they honor the Sabbath day.  Or, Sabbott (SHAH-bot) as they call it in Jerusalem.

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24 Hours a Day x 6 Days a Week


Israel Day 2 – Our First Full Day

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Tangerines, Butter, Tomatoes and Marmalade

Today is our first full day in Jerusalem.  I got up, showered, and headed down to the breakfast hall.  The breakfast buffet started with some cold cereal and milk (a choice between granola and generic “O” cereal), followed by fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, cottage cheese, feta cheese, tangerines, butter, chocolate spread (kind of like Nutella without the hazelnuts). orange marmalade and rye bread.  An interesting selection for breakfast.

I made myself a bowl of granola (which was quite good), and some tomatoes, cucumbers and cottage cheese.  The cottage cheese tasted very good when compared to the US version.  I contribute that to kosher food being made to a higher standard.

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Matt Washing Dishes

After breakfast, you have to wash your own dishes.  Here’s Matt doing his dishes.  (If you’ve never stayed at a hostel, it’s somewhat communal living.  They had a fridge for “shared” food, and one for “private” food.  If you had extra food you wanted to share, you could place it in the shared fridge for others to partake.  Hence the sign on the wall above Matt.)

We next headed to the BYU center to see when we could get a tour.  From there, we headed to the Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens.  What a beautiful view of Old Jerusalem.  Upon entering the gardens, I felt the spirit much as I do when I enter the temple.  I knew I was walking on sacred ground not far from where our Savior took our sins upon him.  I knew it was here where he suffered under great agony.  The feeling replaced my feelings of sadness for the litter and vandalism that was all about; those feelings were replaced with feelings of gratitude for my Savior, Jesus Christ.

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View of Old Jerusalem from the Orson Hyde Gardens

The words of the song rang through my head:

I walked today where Jesus walked,
In days of long ago.
I wandered down each path He knew,
With reverent step and slow.

Those little lanes, they have not changed,
A sweet peace fills the air.
I walked today where Jesus walked,
And felt Him close to me
And felt His presence there.

My pathway led through Bethlehem,
A memory’s ever sweet.
Ah! mem’ries ever sweet
The little hills of Galilee,
That knew His childish feet.That knew those childish feet

The Mount of Olives, hallowed scenes,
That Jesus knew before
I saw the mighty Jordan roll,
As in the days of yore.

I knelt today where Jesus knelt,
Where all alone he prayed.
The Garden of Gethsemane,
My heart felt unafraid.

I picked my heavy burden up,
And with Him at my side,And with Him by my side
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
Where on the Cross He died!

I walked today where Jesus walked,
And felt Him close to me.

Once in the gardens, I met the caretaker.  A nice Muslim man began to tell me of all the General Authorities he had met, and how he had been working there for 23 years.  He accompanied us to the small outdoor chapel.

After he left, we read a talk about the dedication of the gardens, and then we read Orson Hyde’s dedication of the holy land.  What a touching moment to read the dedicatory prayer while sitting there on the Mount of Olives.  (see  It’s fun traveling with two seminary instructors and an institute director, as well as two very knowledgeable temple workers.  I see I’m going to learn a lot from these wonderful travel companions.

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Entrance to the Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens

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A Wonderful View from the Orson Hyde Gardens of Old Jerusalem

Now, before I go on, it is important to note the following:

We do not know exactly where many events took place.  I will say this just once to avoid repeating this.  Many locations are based on tradition.  The exact location of the Gethsemane is not known.  We only know it is on this slope of the Mount of Olives.  Likewise, as I post about other locations, keep in mind many are based on traditions that may not be correct.  This said, my daily prayer was to feel the spirit as I walked these sites.

We returned to our hostel rooms, and then we headed to Old Jerusalem via the trolley.  It cost 6.90 shekels to ride the trolley.  (At this time, there are 3.5 shekels to the dollar.  Thus, it was about a $2 train ride.)

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The Train on Jaffa Street

It was only 2 stops to where we wanted to get off, but we missed the stop and ended up backtracking a bit to get to the Jaffa Gate of the city.  As you enter the Jaffa Gate, you enter an entirely different world.  It was like going back in time as you enter the Byzantine-era city.

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Walking the Streets of Old Jerusalem

We made our way to the Western Wall, also know as the Waling Wall.  There, you pass through security as you enter the plaza.  Next, women go one way, and men another.  All must cover their heads.  They had yarmulkes for the men.

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Doug Donning a Yarmulke

People come to the wall and write their prayers on pieces of paper, and then stuff them in the cracks of the old temple wall.  Someday the Jews will rebuild the temple.  In the mean time, this is their sacred site where thousands come to pay their devotions.

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Touching the Temple Wall (and Prayer Papers Stuffed in the Cracks)

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The Waling Wall

We wander the old city and market place, and eventually went outside and wandered around to the Golden Gate.  Yes, the Golden Gate is sealed, but it is the Gate Christ will enter at his Second Coming.  Believing a rabbi will not pass through a grave yard, Muslims have built a cemetery outside the gate.

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The Golden Gate and Graves



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Dome of the Rock and the Eastern Wall and Golden Gate


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Reading the Orson Hyde Dedicatory Prayer


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One Shekel


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Boys Walking Home from School


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Western Wall and Dome of the Rock


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The Market Place


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Doug Displays a Bagel


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Jehosephat’s and Absalom’s Tombs


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City of David Excavation Project


Israel Day 1 – Getting Settled

We arrived at Tel Aviv about 2 and a half hours early.  Doug rented an SUV and we headed towards Jerusalem.

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Heading to Jerusalem

Israel has some nice highways and most exits are labeled in English, Hebrew and Arabic as you can see from the photo.

It’s the Sabbath here and so many places are closed.  Since the Jewish Sabbath runs from Friday sundown until Saturday sundown, comes sundown things will start to open up.

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Arrival at the Abraham Hostel

The car ride was a little cramped.  This Mitsubishi SUV should be called a 4 passenger + 2 small children.  Everyone had something on their laps and we were glad to make it to our destination.

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Front Desk Board

The hostel is clean, and it appears they cater to the young adult crowd.  We quickly checked in and then headed out to see some sites of Jerusalem before calling it a day.

In our attempt to find the Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens ( we ended up on the back side of the Mount of Olives.  This entire end of the Mountain is covered with graveyards.  Because of the rocky ground, the graves are above ground boxes as you can see in this photo.  (Looking towards Bethlehem I believe.)

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Back Side of the Mount of Olives

After hiking around this grave yard in the dark, we decided to head back to the car and drive around the mountain to find our intended destination.  We found it, parked, and enjoyed the view of Old Jerusalem.

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The Group Near Gethsemane with Old Jerusalem in the Background

We then packed in to the car and headed to the BYU Jerusalem Center (aka Mormon University).

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BYU Center and Hebrew University.

This is an amazing city.  I can’t wait to see it in the daylight.

We went back to our hostel and after a short break we headed back out to the Ben Yahuda area to get some dinner.  Matt took us to a shawarma shop he had eaten at before.  (We’re about to find out that shawarmas are about as common as hamburgers are in the USA.)

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Sister Babcock poses with our shawarma chef and a skewer of shawarma chicken meat.

The shawarma was quite tasty.  Like Subway, they let you pick your toppings.  If memory serves me correctly, I had them put hummus, coleslaw, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, eggplant and chicken on mine.  It was made on a large lavash (like a thick tortilla only lighter in texture).

We continued our walk back to the Abraham Hostel as we checked out the shops along the way.

copyright 2014 db walton

Bakery… yum

My favorite was the bakery where they had some of the best pastries.  I’m not real wild about some kosher foods, but these baked goods were great.  I went for the baklava – both walnut and pistachio.

Our first night in Jerusalem was fun.  We got a good view of the city and I can’t wait until tomorrow to see it in more depth.

Israel Day 0 – Getting There

My friend Matt called and said the flights from Rochester to Philly weren’t looking good and suggested we head to Syracuse instead.  I picked Matt up and started driving towards Syracuse.

About 1/2 way there (as he was looking at the flights on his iPhone), he said, we should head towards Binghamton.  The flights out of Binghamton were looking better.  (We are flying standby, and so we have to watch for available seats.)  Parking at Binghamton was nice and convenient.  It’s a small airport in the middle of nowhere.

We made it  on time and there were plenty of seats.  Matt introduced me to two co-workers:  Elizabethe Buttemiller and Kelly Babcock.

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The 4 of Us Ready to Go

We boarded our flight after grabbing a sandwich at Subway, and we were off to Philadelphia.

We arrived in Philadelphia where we met up with Doug and Diane Ellsworth.  Matt’s son is married to their daughter, and I know them from the temple.  They served a temple mission in Palmyra.  I also photographed one of their daughter’s weddings, so it was a nice reunion with some old friends.

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Matt Stowing His Bag

We got our flight to Tel Aviv, and the two sisters upgraded to First Class.  Matt and I got a row with 4 seats between the two of us.  It was nice to be able to spread out a little.

It was now time to get a little sleep before we land in Tel Aviv.

Are Mormons the Only Ones?

Are Mormons the only Christians who keep the Sabbath day holy any more?

I know there are devote Jews who completely close shop during their Sabbath day.  (B&H Photo being one of them.B&H Photo and Video)

So, what has happened to our Christian friends who feel it is okay to do non-church activities on Sunday?

The last time I looked, Exodus chapter 20 still reads the same:

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy astranger that is within thy gates:

It saddens me when organizations schedule events on Sundays that compete with religious observance.  I got an invitation today (I won’t say from what group) to attend something I would really love to attend, but I’m not.  I’m not going to do it because I made a covenant to observe and keep the Sabbath day holy.  If I were to attend, I would be causing other people to work.  Hence, as the scripture says, “thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter…”, etc.

I brought this up to an activity organizer years ago.  He was planning an event where one of my Boy Scouts was tempted to attended.  I asked the man (who was also a Scouter) if he though it fair that this boy was having to choose between church (God) and camping.  He said, ‘I can’t think of a better place to commune with God.’

I counted his claim and told him although I find being in nature a good way to commune with God, I also think it is important that we keep covenants to attend church and partake of the sacraments.   He had no response.

I don’t want to force my beliefs on anyone.  At the same time, if someone respects my religious beliefs and expects me to participate in something, they should avoid placing me in a position where I have to choose between their activity and God… because I will choose God.

A few years ago I asked someone, “Why do you plan these for Sunday?”

They said, “Because none of the Jews will attend if we do it Friday or Saturday.”

I replied, “What about the Christians who attend church on Sunday?”

The person’s reply was very saddening.  It was, “Most of them don’t.”

I guess if you’re trying to keep several religious groups happy, don’t schedule such events on weekends at all.  Or, at least alternate.  One year on Sunday for the Jews (and Seventh Day-Adventist) and the next year on Saturday for the Christians.

Oh, well.  The promises God gives for keeping the Sabbath Day holy far outweigh any benefit I can get from attending something on Sunday.