Sunday, June 26, 2011

Caravans 3 - March 2018 - Itinerary

DAY 1,  Monday , March 19:
                         "Ahlan wa Sahlan!"

    Arrive at Alia International Airport, Amman               

        It’s strange that one of the places that seems most like home to our 
            family is Amman, Jordan and when driving into the country after a     
            time away, we breathed easier, felt more comfortable and eased a  
            sigh of “home”.  Why we would feel such a fondness for this dry,       
            dusty city situated on  7 jebels (hills) in the northwest area of Jordan
            is most probably due to the fact that we lived there for 7 years
            during 3 different tours, raised our children there, taught school, 
            ambled about its paths and roadways and watched it grow from a 
            small, straggling city spread over open fields, with herds of sheep
            and donkeys munching in the open areas next to our houses, to a
            large, modern city experiencing dynamic growth and change to the
            point that we will probably have trouble recognizing it.  The 
            Jordanian and Palestinian people we knew were gracious and friendly
            and made us feel comfortable there and our lives as expats were
            interesting, easy and pleasant.  Amman is considered to be one of the 
            oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and has passed
            through the reins of a notable list of “Who’s Who” in Middle East
            history including the Assyrians, Persians, Nabateans, Romans 
            (at which time it was one of the cities of the Decapolis – a group of 
            10 important cities in the eastern reaches of the empire), Egyptians
             (who named it Philadelphia), the Ottomans, etc.  The current name is
             derived from the Ammonites who called it theirs during the Biblical 
             period when it was known as Rabbat Ammon.  In 1921, King 
             Abdullah I – the current king Abdullah’s great-grandfather selected
             it as the capital city of the newly delineated country of Trans-Jordan.  
             With the influx of refugees from Palestine, Iraq and Syria, the city 
             has grown and flourished and is now considered an important
             financial and tourist center in the region.                   

              Dinner:   Fahkredin's Restaurant

      Overnight:  Amman Marriott Hotel

            The biggest treat for our children was staying at the Marriott
                   Hotel in Amman when we first arrived in country!  The staff
                   made a fuss over them, the hamburgers tasted like a ham-
                   burger should and they had a delicious strawberry cake in
                   the bakery! Truth be known, we enjoyed the Marriott as
                   much as they did! 

DAY #2 - Tuesday, March 20:
 The King's Highway - The Road the Israelites                   took to the Promised Land

  AM:   Madaba, Heshbon, Mt. Nebo. Wadi Mujib

                    MADABA:    Madaba is an early Christian settlement on the 
                    eastern side of the Jordan River, known as the city of Mosaics,
                    the most important being a mosaic map of Jerusalem dating
                    from the 6th century, one of the oldest in existence.

                HESHBON:  You remember the scriptural reference, right?
               "For Heshbon was the city of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who
                had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken all
                his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon." (Numbers 21:26)
                Talk about obscure, but Rich always stopped here to show
                friends the tombs, complete with large flat stones that roll in
                front of the tomb entrances - like that which sealed Christ's 
                tomb - a visual that even the Garden Tomb doesn't offer.
                Heshbon was an ancient city conquered by the Israelites as 
                they passed along the Kings Highway en route to their 
                promised land.

Image result for Mt. Nebo, Jordan

            MT. NEBO:    At the age of 21, I gasped enthralled when I
            first stood on this mountain where Moses stood and looked 
            out over the Great Rift Valley (the lowest point on earth)
            and the Jordan River to Jericho below.  I must have sensed 
            then that this was  indeed a land of promise for me.  This 
            spot inspired my first and one of my fondest memories of 
            Jordan and upon each of our returns, at our earliest 
            opportunity,  we took a picnic out to this barren mountain 
            top, where goat and sheep herds still graze and looked 
            again out over vistas of promise.  That promise was real-
            ized for us and our family as we held seminary lessons
            there, shared this view with Bro. Hunter & Bro. Faust, met 
            with apostles as they dedicated the land to missionary 
            work, sang Christmas songs on Christmas Eve for Catholic
            services.  It is fitting that your first view of the promised 
            land should be from this same mountain top! A small 
            church nearby is built over ancient mosaics floors of    
            former churches also impressed with patriarchal 

   PM:  Shobak Castle, Wadi Musa, (Petra by Night)

             SHOBAK CASTLE:
             Although Karak grabs the headlines, Shobak Castle, a short way
             further south, was in fact the Crusaders’ headquarters in Jordan, 
             and the first castle they built in the region. Known then as Montreal
             – or the Royal Mountain – Shobak dominates the folded, semi-arid
             hills on the approaches to Petra.The legacy of widescale rebuilding
             work in the 1290s, under Mamluke control, is everywhere, most
             notably in the carved stone panels adorning the external walls and
             towers, which feature strikingly beautiful Arabic callligraphy. 
             Roam the ruins to discover the original Crusader chapel, a palace 
             complex and even a set of secret passages, one of which heads
             down a flight of steep and crumbling steps into blackness,
             eventually emerging through a small gateway at the base of the 
             castle hill.

                      WADI MUSA:
                     The valley in which PETRA nestles, one of the wonders of the world
                     (according to Reynolds' figuring).  Among the weather
                     sculpted hills, the valley and village of Wadi Musa (Valley of
                     Moses) derive their name from the tradition that Moses passed
                     through the valley with the Hebrew Tribes as they traveled
                     along the ancient route of the King's Highway that would
                     eventually take them to Mt. Nebo.  There Moses would have his
                     view of the promised land, before being taken from his people,
                     leaving them to pass across the Jordan River to make conquest 
                     of Jericho.  At the water source, Ain Musa (Spring of Moses)
                     one can imagine that even a prophet would have to strike a rock
                     a time or two to call forth water in this impressively desolate

              Overnight:  Petra Marriott Hotel

                    Sleep well tonight.  You will need all your strength for the rigors of
                    exploring Petra!  Dream of the adventure of a lifetime, for so it is!

DAY 3:  Wednesday, March 21:
                   A Wonder of the World....

      Full Day:  Petra & Little Petra   
            There are 2 ancient sites I have seen that made me stop and go,
            "Ahhh!"  Petra is one of them, the other the temple at Karnak, Egypt.
            The siq generally resonates with exclamations of wonder as tourists
            first catch sight of the rose colored treasury as they walk down the
            last few yards of the gorge that leads into the mysterious ruins
            of the Nabatean city.  A stone carving people, the Nabateans were
            an indigenous group that subsisted by working the trading routes that
            crossed between Syria and Arabia  in the 1st century AD. In fact,
            the Swiss Arabist, John Burkhardt had to muffle his astonishment
            beneath his bedouin head wrappings as he was guided through the
            secret ruins to offer sacrifice at the tomb of Aaron, the brother of
            Moses, nearby. Disguised as a Muslim from Arabia he devised this
            ploy to be allowed into the secret site in 1812.  But he wasn't quiet
            when once away and he blabbed his remarkable discovery to the
            world.  Carved in the soft sandstone marbled with rose, purple,
            orange, colors similar to those in Zion's Park and other areas of
            southern Utah - in fact I thought how odd that southern Utah and
            southern Petra, both places I called home, had such similar
            formations and colorings. The greatest difference is even less
            vegetation grows in the Jordan version. The siq, the 1/3 mile long
            slot canyon which serves as the entrance to the city is similar to the
            narrows of Zions but you walk on dry ground with 500 ft. high walls
            of sandstone on either side. On our first visits, most tourists rode
            horses down through the siq which could turn into a wild headlong
            jaunt, at the whim of the young Bedouin horse herders.  We always
            chose the fat, tired looking horses for the kids and offered a tip
            to the guides if they went slowly - "Schway...schway". The girls
            were more interested in the horses than the siq and were eager to
            know their names.  Odd, but every horse was named "Leila" - night
            in Arabic. Rich always laughed at that, certain that the locals didn't
            bother to name their horses but just had a name at the ready, should
            they be asked. In more recent visits, only the old and infirm use the
            horse-drawn carts to travel through the siq.  The rest of us walk!
            You can experience it better that way and since they've paved the
            pathway, navigating it has become much less tortuous on the feet.

Image result for red rocks of Petra


            "Al Khazneh" the Treasury:  The first building, which peeps its 
            beauty to the tourist as they enter from the siq, is carved into the face
            of a sandstone mountain of solid rock about 40 metres high.  The
            purpose of the building, built in the 1st century is something of a
            mystery, but was most probably a tomb.  Actually, upon entering the
            building, there is only a small interior room, but imaginations run wild
            while marveling at its facade, as in the movie, "The Last Crusade". 
            The name "treasury" originated from the legend that pirates had
            hidden treasure in the giant stone urn on the second story. Pock 
            marks from bullets fired by bedouins can still be seen along with
            the tracks of the original Nabatean carving implements.

           The  Theatre:
           Petra's theater carved into a stone valley is badly deteriorated by
           floods of the centuries but still allows one to sit and imagine as you
           sense the muted echoes of past civilizations.  Our children, never 
           allowing a stage an intermission of quiet, performed renditions of 
           "Tomorrow" and "Jacob and Sons" or whatever musical we were into 
           at the moment, creating new echoes that no doubt caused empty 
           tombs to reverberate. The theater, built in the 1st century AD, seats 8500
           and  faces away from the sun presumably designed to keep the glare
           out of equally sensitive Nabatean eyes.

Image result for Petra Theater

            "Al Deir" Monastery:
            The largest carved structure in Petra, the monastery is perched
            "High on a Mountaintop" and requires a walk up hundreds of steps
            carved into the side of the mountain up to the top. I myself, 
            frequently stop to enjoy the incredible scenery below. Our babies
            made the trek on donkey back - a testament to the sure-footing
            of the noisy beast. Similar to the Treasury in design, it is believed to
            have been a temple to the God Obadas. Glutons for more climbing,
            the adventurous hike up the steep hill into which the building
            is carved, to then pose on its urn capitol.

             The Royal Tombs:
             Most of the carved buildings extant in Petra today were tombs.  Along
             the mountain face across from the theater as one winds down the
             main road of Petra, you will see the Royal tombs, lined up in 
             formation. Known as the Urn, Silk, Corinthian and Palace tombs,
             none are as well preserved as the treasury but contain hollow empty 
             vaults, conducive to singing and kissing apparently.  Rich's sister was
             propositioned by a young Arab guide in one of the tombs and stills
             talks about it to this day!

             The High Place:
             Well named, I have only climbed the 800 carved steps  up to this 
             spot once, when I was 21.  The site itself was a place for
             worship and sacrifice and one can still see 2 stone altars as well as
             an open plaza - worthy sites in and off themselves.  But the view of
             the Royal Tombs of Petra, Aaron's tomb across a valley on another
             mountain and  Wadi Musa are the rewards for your sacrifice in
             effort to make it to the top.

           Little Petra (Al Beidha):
           Petra's little sister, is more of the same in a smaller, more intimate
           setting. Delightfully easy to explore, after Petra, a staircase of carved 
           steps lead you to a secluded box canyon.

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       Overnight:  Beyond Wadi Rum - Bedouin Camp & Dinner

            You have to experience Wadi Rum by starlight and by morning glow - 
            this expansive desert of sandstone mountains and red sand dunes is a
            fascinating landscape through which Lawrence of Arabia wandered.
            Here we will collapse for a much needed night of rest and rose-colored 
            dreams, once your legs have stopped trembling from the exertions of 
            the day.  Sleeping in a Bedouin tent, "luxurized" for the persnickety 
            tourist, - no "roughing  itinvolved - provided with comfy beds and
            a delicious dinner of meats cooked in pots in the ground, salads and
            shrak bread baked before your eyes.  Lawrence would have been en-
            vious of our modern take on the Wadi Rum adventure!  

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    DAY 4,   Thursday, March 22:

            Morning:  Breakfast at Camp
                          Explore Wadi Rum
         Back in our day, which was about 20 years ago now, we would occasionally drive to Wadi Rum and camp with our children.  It was at that time well known from the movie "Lawrence of Arabia" which you might enjoy watching, but camping consisted of bringing everything we needed with us, which we did, including toilet paper and extra water.  The late sun and early morning were exquisite on the vast red landscape, features weathered from the sandstone, and smoothed to make hiking to enthralling views, easy. But when it was dark, it was dark and I wondered what creatures buzzed and bumped about my head in the cool night breeze.  Now days, organized tourist camps are nestled among the various outcroppings of stone and camels abound for riders - we suggest you ride your camel in Petra as they are cheaper and usually shorter rides.  As our son-in-law states, "2 hours on a camel is 1 hour and 45 minutes too long."  
       Wadi Rum is where I first learned I didn't particularly like riding camels.  After their first lurching stand from their knobby knees, you are up high and a captive - too high to jump - too cheap to give a tip to the owner to lower the camel back down! A note of caution - do not choose a camel with a ring in its nose.  It is there for a reason - to pull on if the camel becomes too frisky.  I was on such a camel and he liked to do something like a little skip as he walked. That was my first and last camel ride.  
      We prefer "wadi bashing" which is what the Americans called, piling in a 4-wheel drive and bumping about the desert floor. (Wadi is the word for valley).  Our Rum experience will include loading into jeeps and doing a version of wadi bashing to some of the main sites in the wadi.

Image result for Jeep rides in wadi rum

Afternoon:   Aqaba and the Red Sea

    We will leave Rum and drive about an hour south to the Gulf of Aqaba where the waters of the Red Sea border Asia: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan and Africa: Egypt and you can see all four

countries from the beaches of Aqaba. If the 70 degree water doesn't bother you, you can stick your toe into the sea or swim in the hotel's pools as the historically minded among us explore the fortress of Aqaba. During WWII, the Ottoman forces were forced to withdraw from Aqaba and this fort in 1917 after the Battle of Aqaba, led by T.E. Lawrence and the Arab forces of Auda abu Tayi and Sheirf Nasir. The capture of Aqaba allowed the British to supply the Arab forces.

Image result for Aqaba fortress

     And today Aqaba is the only port in Jordan through which supplies flow to many countries of the Middle East.

A warm shower, a soft bed and quiet evening will prepare us for the wonders that await us in Masada and Jerusalem, all of which we will discover the next day.

Overnight at the Movenpick Hotel:

Sunset View towards Aqaba in Jordan, Red Sea, Eilat, The Negev, Israel : Stock Photo

Day 5, Friday, March 23rd:
 Depart to arrive at Border Crossing by 9 am:

       Morning:  Cross over the River Jordan into Israel

                          Drive north through the Negev Desert

                             or as we sometimes call it, the "Lone
                             and dreary world."


      The symbol to Israelis of an indomitable national will, Masada sits perched
on top of a flat-topped mountain where King Herod built one of his many palace
enclaves.  Here we will ramble about ruins of palaces cisterns and storage vaults
which allowed Herod and his cortege to lull about in the dry desert air without
worry of thirst or hunger.  But it was to a later habitation that Israelis look for
inspiration:  that of the 960 Sicarii Rebels that fled Jerusalem and harassed the
Roman Empire from their defensive position.

   This story is now considered more fiction than fact, but Masada creates a
dramatic backdrop for such a tale.  Roman Legion X did in fact lay siege to
the community in 73 AD filling in an earthen ramp on which they could position
their siege weapons.  The story goes that rather than submit to slavery, the
Jewish population committed mass suicide and destroyed their stores the night
before the Roman attach.  Today you can ride a gondola to the top!  By carefully
navigating you can also walk down the Roman ramp.  This is where my mother
almost disowned me.  Half way down what I assured her was the path down
we came to a ramp-block and had to turn around and walk back up.  Mom was
never fond of dusty walks on hot days!  Never navigate on 14 year-old memory.
From the top of Masada you can still see the remnants of the stone walls that
delineated the Roman encampments below.  Young Jewish soldiers today go
to the mount to swear their oath of allegiance and affirm that "Masada shall
not fall again."

As we drive on up through the Wadi Araba, the lowest point on
earth, 1400 ft. below sea level, we arrive at the ruins of the
Essene community from the 2nd century after Christ.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered here in the 1950's.
A bedouin shepherd boy, bored by his task of caring for his
docile flocks, throwing stones into a cave heard a hollow
plinking sound and went to investigate, where he discovered
large clay pots that held ancient scroll documents.

         UP TO JERUSALEM: 
 And then we begin the twisting, winding drive up to Jerusalem from 1400 ft below sea level to 2474 ft. above (same elevation as Amman).  Did you know that it is"Up' not because it is North, but "Up" because Jerusalem sits atop the hills of Judea, like a beautiful princess, her robes flowing about  her valleys and terraces as Muslims, Jews, Ottomans, Crusaders, the armies of the centuries, battle at her feet to possess her (had to get a little poetic about Jerusalem - she has a magic all her own).  As we ascend from below sea level we will pass the sign that says "Sea Level" where our children would take a big breath as though they had just popped their heads ups out of the sea, gasping for air.      

                                                 WESTERN WALL:

    One side of the retaining wall that surrounded Mount Moriah, and provided the support for the magnificent structures of Solomon'sand Herod's temples, holy to Jews as the last extant remnant of their days of glory.  On Fridays at sundown, the beginning of the Jewish    Sabbath (when we will be there)  the faithful come to the wall to pray and leave tiny notes written to God in the cracks of the stones once quarried and carved by thecompatriots of the Solomnic era some 3000 years ago.      The former name of the spot was "The Wailing Wall" as it was at these cold and merciless stones that Jews wailed for their lost city for centuries.  During the '67 War, when Jews reclaimed the site, there was no longer cause for wailing; hence, the name change.  (And the plants growing through the cracks of the wall, Western Wall Capers - a bit of trivia!)

Friday Prayers at Sundown (Shabbat)
As the observant and orthodox Jews rush - and we
mean rush - to the wall to offer their prayers at
sundown, marking the beginning of Shabbat
(sabbath), watch out for danger of trampling!
A variety of traditional costumes abound -
mushroom cap hats, kippa skull caps, side
curls, aprons and sashes and of course all
include the phylactery.  (If you're not sure what
that is an explanation will follow at some point)
There is something of a celebratory mood at the
gathering of thousands.  Last trip, Shauna
danced the Hora with a group of Israeli soldiers!  

     Overnight:  Jerusalem
            St. Andrew's Scottish Guesthouse & Rafael Residence Boutique


   DAY 6,  Saturday,  March 24:
         The Golden City - 
                   Walk where the Savior walked

    AM:  Church at the BYU Center
              Mt. of Olives Overlook, Orson Hyde Park, Gethsemane
    PM:   Gates of the City - St. Stephens
              Via Delarosa Stops
              Church of the Holy Sepulchre
              Western Wall Tunnel - the Kotel

               David's Tower - Night Spectacular  

Old City of Jerusalem:
    The Old city of Jerusalem is an area of only 1/3 of a square
      mile,the borders of which grew and receded thru the battles,
      migrations and destruction of the episodes of history. The
      current delineation of the Old City is marked by the walls
      constructed in 1538 at the command of Suleiman the Turkish
      leader, with 11 gates (7 currently in use) which lead into 
      streets teeming with history.  The stone paved roads and
      limestone blocked buildings contain several sites revered
      by Christianity and create and atmosphere appropriately 
      Biblical.  The Old City of the Holy City id divided into 4
      quarters - the Christian, Jewish, Armenian, Muslim and
      never the 4 shall meet, the suspicious and embittered
      populations staying fairly close to home in their own
      quarters, but each is happy to sell to the passing tourist!
      The Christina Quarter is our favorite for shopping but
      in the Jewish Quarter more expensive but lovely items
      including menorahs, gems and jewelry, phylacteries
      woven items and candles are sold.          


            BYU Jerusalem Center:
      The BYU Jerusalem Center was built in 1988 in a remarkable setting on 
      Mt. Scopus, the hill adjacent to the Mt. of Olives that overlooks
      Jerusalem.  The center houses BYU students attending study abroad
      program and is the meeting place of the Jerusalem branch of the 
      church.  The western wall of the auditorium where church is held is a
      curtain of windows which allows you to gaze at Golgotha, where Christ
      was crucified, the Temple Mount where Solomon's temple stood and
      the road to Damascus as you sit in the service - the perfect visual aid
      to whatever is being taught!
       The Jerusalem Overlook:
       The most photographed panoramic view of Jerusalem is
           offered at a plaza on the slopes of the Mt. of Olives.  With
           the Jewish cemetery sepulchres crammed and jumbled
           like clumsy barnacles across its skirts, the Mt. of Olives
           rises just east of the Holy City and provides an unparalleled
           vista of the Temple Mount and the Herodian wall that
           encompasses the Old City.  The Eastern Gate (Golden 
           Gate) sealed since Suleiman's time in 1535 to delay the
           2nd coming of the Savior (Suleiman the Magnificent, 
           Turkish Ottoman ruler), stands as a testament to man's
           lack of understanding of the power of the Savior, who is
           not intimidated by mortar sealed stones!  The Kidron
           Valley gouges a deep rift between the mount and the
           city to define this sentinel of the eastern approaches.  The
           Garden of Gethsemane rests further below and a moque
           marks the spot on the top of the mount from which Christ
           ascended to visit his other sheep, after his resurrection.           


   Orson Hyde Memorial:
It was to this same popular mount that Joseph Smith sent Orson Hyde
in 1841 to dedicate the land to the return of the Jews.  they haven't
stopped coming since and now claim Israel as their homeland and they
the rightful heirs.  A memorial stone was placed and a garden created
by the Orson Hyde Foundation in 1979 though the park has suffered
at the hands over the years.


          Russian Orthodox Church:
     The Russian Orthodox Church, Church of the Magdalene,
       built in 1886, is recognized from a distance by its beautiful
       golden onion domes.  Not far away, the Church of All Nations, 
       constructed in 1922 by the Roman Catholic Church, with 
       donations from "all nations", sits in the traditional Garden 
        of Gethsemane.  The claim is made by some that the trees in the
       courtyard are the very same that witnessed Christ's agony as he 
       prayed in the grove.  Perhaps from the same roots, but though ancient,
       not the same trees as the Romans razed the city to the ground during 
       their conquest in 77 AD (didn't every empire take their turn?)  The
       bedrock  upon which Catholics believe Christ prayed during his agony
       is exposed in the center of the church near remains of preserved 
       Byzantine mosaics.

Pools of Bethesda:
          Site of public Roman baths in operation during Christ's
life, it was at this spot that Christ healed the lame man who
could not manage to crawl to the swirling waters to benefit
from their healing powers.  The ruins are now studded with
bright crimson poppies.  Several churches have sprouted on 
the site in the centuries since, including St. Anne's, a small
stone chapel, elegant in its simplicity whose domes and
crevices provide rich resonance for those inclined to sing
Gregorian type chants - we'll teach you our favorite one!


                 VIA DELAROSO OR WAY OF THE CROSS:       
The current route dated to the 18th century makes it unlikely that this road 
was the authentic path of some 2,000 feet which traced the route Jesus took on 
his  final mortal walk.  Christ took up the cross at Station #1 and 13 stops later arrived
at Calvary.  Groups of Catholic devotees follow that course every Friday, some with a 
volunteer playing the Christ as he carries a cross leading th epilgrims, others dressed as 
Roman soldiers.  The processions stop at each of the 14 stations where Christ was 
assumed to have stopped, such as Station #3, where he stumbled under the weight he 
bore; Station #5, where Simon helped him carry his burden and Station #14 (inside
the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) where he was ultimately crucified.  In many 
Catholic churches today, as you look around the chapel, you will see representations
of each station in paintings, carvings or stained glass. There will be a quiz at the end
 to see how may of the stations you can name!

                  Lunch:  Christian Quarter Cafe     
      Many delicious discoveries await in the Old City as well,including bakeries with hot Arab breads (khoubz
and ka'ik), buttery cookies, (grayeb), baklawa & k'nafi,
street foods - felafel & shwarma, fresh juice and cafes 
stuck in stone corners here and there.  Here we will 
munch and lunch!   

Related image

     Church of the Holy Sepulchre                
        This Catholic version of the setting of Christ's crucifixion and burial is at the end 
        of the "Way of the Cross" in the center of the Old City. The church sits in the courtyard 
        of this most sacred of Christian spots, which lured Crusaders from cooler Northern
        climates to come and risk their lives to liberate it.  You will note the ladder which 
       leans against the facade of the second story as it has done since 1854.  It is suggested
      that because of the friction between the different denominations that control the
      church (Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian and Eastern Orthodox -
       the Coptics have a small chapel in the back and the Ethiopians a space on 
      the roof) there was a dispute as to who should remove the ladder and so it remains
      to this day.  A result of the Crimean War, the keys to the church are kept and controlled
       by a neutral 3rd party, two Muslim families, to avoid squabbling over the front 
      door in a complicated arrangement which exists between the interested Christian
      sects.  And that's only the outside of the building!

      9 pm:  Night Spectacular, Sound & Light Show 
                    at David's Citadel,  Jaffa Gate

 Overnight:  Jerusalem
            St. Andrew's Scottish Guesthouse & Rafael Residence Boutique

             Who can sleep!  Your heads will be so full of all the
             amazing things you have seen - visions of olive wood
             will dance in your heads!  But the church bells and
             muezzin calls of Jerusalem will sing out early to wake
              you to another glorious day in the Golden City!

DAY 7,  Sunday, March 25:
             More Holy City - 

       AM:  Temple Mount & Dome of the Rock
                                    Image result for Temple Mount, Jerusalem                                                      Dome of the Rock
 On the Temple Mount today, sits the beautiful gold-domed, "Dome of the Rock" built in the 600s by a Muslim Caliph.  The much less   impressive silver-domed Al-Aksa Mosque, hunkers on the southern end of the mount, but is the more revered of the two.  In fact, the 3rd most significant spot in Islamic tradition:  the spot from which Mohammed the prophet, ascended into heaven on a great white steed to view the glories of Allah. This hotly contested Temple Mount is the very bone of contention between the modern-day inhabitants of Israel; to Jews as the spot of their great temple, to Muslims as their 3rd holiest site and let's not forget the Christians for it was to this mount that Abraham came to offer his son Isaac as sacrifice to show the Lord unwavering obedience.  David the King bought the land from a wheat thresher for the temple around 1000 B.C. - did he have any idea what a contested bit of earth it would become and the fortunes and lives that would be spent in its pursuit of it? 


 Haven't you wanted to see Bethlehem, since a wide-eyed child, enthralled by the beautiful Christmas story? The destination of the Wisemen, the compass of the star, the very                   spot on earth where Christ was born!  I was first impressed with how close to Jerusalem it is - just a walk over a hill, a few minutes car ride - just 6 miles to the south!  A favorite family memory involves going to thes shepherd's fields on the hills outside Bethlehem, on Christmas Eve with a picnic of felafel & hummous.  Sheep and goats, now as then, ambled by, their bells tinkling,  their modern-day shepherds wearing sneakers and jeans. In that idylic setting we sang every Christmas song we could think of with the word "Bethlehem" in it including, "O Little Town", "Angels  We Have Heard on High" &"Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains" and 
yet, when you are there it won't be far at all  and you  will have to pinch yourself to believe
 it is so, because the bustling Arab town is nothing like the Christmas card  pictures of the          sleepy village of the city of David.  And yet, upon entering the Church of the Nativity, you would imagine it must  be so!

Image result for Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

       Church of the Navitity:
         To bring home the point, that every knee must bow, you must stoop to enter the little
          door of the church, which is another motley collection of construction projects by
   different sects during different building frenzies throughout history. St. Helena was the
 first in 327 AD to initiate building church over the site of the cave where she believed
 Christ was born. It is today the oldest continuously used church in the world.  Though
 not glamorous, the stones smoothed by the passing feet of generations yet echo with
 the tales of those pilgrims.  And they are clean! We once visited the church a few
     days after Christmas, our visit coinciding with the annual cleaning of the church 
cleaning of the church by gasoline. Was it the fumes or the sacredness of the holy site,
 that left us gasping for air?!

Olive Wood Factory:
   Manger Square, the market area outside of the Church of 
     the Nativity, hosts several shops selling olive wood nativities,
      bibles, spice containers, rosary beads, crosses, statues, etc.
        our favorite being the shop that owns the workshop down the
          road from the square, which lets you observe craftsmen 
           carving and finishing the wood.

     PM:  The Palm Sunday Processional
               Jewish Quarter & Roman Roads

Palm Sunday Processional:
Palm Sunday is celebrated by Catholics with a colorful procession of pilgrims carrying palm fronds and singing from the church in the small village of Bethpage on the Mount of Olives to Saint Ann's Church on the Via Dolorosa, in the courtyard of the Pools of Bethesda.  We can observe or join in as you prefer as the procession descends the narrow road down the Mt. of Olives, passing Gethsemane, crossing over the Kidron Valley and up again through St. Stephan's Gate into the Old City of Jerusalem; roughly the same route Christ would have taken as he traveled into Jerusalem from Bethany and the home of Martha and Mary, each day during his last week of life. The procession stops at St. Ann's church, the first station of the cross to sing and recite prayers.

Image result for Palm Sunday Procession In Jerusalem

                                    The Jewish Quarter:
The quarter is inhabited by around 2,000 residents and is home to numerous yeshivas and synagogues.  In CE 135, when the Roman Emperor Hadrian built the city of Aelia Capitolina on the ruins of ancient Jerusalem, the Tenth Legion set up their camp on the land that is now the Jewish Quarter.[3] New structures, such as a Roman bathhouse, were built over the Jewish ruins.[The Jewish Quarter changed hands throughout the centuries until finally coming under Jordanian rule in 1948, until the Six-Day War in June 1967 when Israel occupied it. During the first week after taking the Old City, 25 dwellings constituting the largest part of the Mughrabi Quarter were razed to create a plaza at the foot of the Western Wall. Beginning in the years immediately after 1967, around 6,000 Arabs were evicted from the Jewish Quarter, and the start of exclusion of Palestinians from appropriated land by the private company in charge of its development, for the reason that they were not Jewish. This later became legal precedent in 1978 when the Supreme Court made a decision in the case of Mohammed Burqan, in which the Court ruled that, while Burqan did own his home, he could not return because the area had "special historical significance" to the Jewish people.

                                      Roman Roads:
The Roman main north-south thoroughfare, the Cardo Maximus, was originally a paved avenue approximately 22.5 meters wide (roughly the width of a six lane highway) which ran southward from the site of the Damascus gate, terminating at an unknown point.  The Cardo’s most striking visual feature was its colonnade. The line of the Cardo Maximus is still visible on the Jewish Quarter Street, though the original pavement lies several meters below the modern street level. In the 7th century, when Jerusalem fell under Muslim rule, the Cardo became an Arab-style marketplace. Remains of the Byzantine Cardo were found in the Jewish Quarter excavations beginning in 1969.[10]
In 1971, a plan for preserving the ancient street was suggested which relied heavily on the sixth century Madaba map, a mosaic map of Jerusalem found in 1897 in Madaba, Jordan. The map clearly showed the Roman Cardo as the main artery through the Old City. 
Image result for Cardo maximus, Jerusalem

Overnight: Jerusalem, Scottish Guesthouse
                        Having trouble sleeping again? Little wonder. Either that
                        or  you will sleep as though you yourself are awaiting the
                        resurrection. If you are among the insomniacs a game of
                        scrabble or a quick run out for felafel, prowling the Arab
                        quarter by night, will fill in the sleepless hours!

Day #8:  Monday, March 26th
                 "Down from Jerusalem"

    AM:     Garden Tomb
                   Shopping in Jerusalem
                   Israeli Museum & Shrine of the Book

                         St. Helena, the mother of the Christian convert,
                         Constantine, ruler of the Roman Empire (300 AD) made a
                         pilgrimage to the Holyland in 326 and to her inspiration and
                         visitations is credited the location of several of the
                         Christian holy sites, but whose accuracy has been
                         questioned by historians and archaeologists ever since.
                         But who's quibbling - a site by any other name would be as
                         And so the Catholic version of Golgotha (or Calvary) is
                         housed within a Catholic Church - find the spot, build a
                         church and fill it with relics- the traditional way to pay
                         homage. Not even the church building went uncontested
                         and is now controlled by 4 separate Christian
                         denominations who lay claim to four specific areas of the
                         church. It is on this mount that Catholic tradition
                         suggests Christ was crucified and then buried - and it is
                         fittingly enshrined in old stone, festooned with candles,
                         gilded stars and incense perfumes the air. My favorite
                         touch are the thousands of tiny crosses carved in the walls
                         by crusaders throughout the centuries: the medieval
                         version of "Thomas was here."

                        The Garden Tomb:                        
  Now, a bit more humble and subdued is a protestant version
 of a tomb, near a hill studded with more recent Muslim 
tombstones, below which rumbles the Arab bus station of
East Jerusalem.  Some say the face of this craggy mountain
resembles the face of a skull: the term "Golgotha" meaning
place of the skull.  Discovered in the late 1800s, this humble
tomb carved into the hill, adjacent to Golgotha, complete
with a trough for rolling a stone to cover its mouth, is
accepted by some of the Christian world as the actual tomb
where Christ was buried.  The hill is indeed on the road to
Damascus and outside the city wall, as designated and the
lovely, quiet garden is much easier for some to appreciate
as the appropriate setting.  In this small quiet tomb our
children and I sang, "When Jesus Wept" a lovely hymn
that recalls most sacred events that certainly transpired
somewhere nearby.  We will enjoy the ambiance and pick
a sprig of rosemary on our way out.

                 Shopping in the Old City:
                    Shoppers, tie up your shoes, keep wallets handy and hone
                    up your bartering skills for a serious shopping morning! And
                    what do the merchants of Jerusalem peddle? A caravan of
                    tempting souvenirs - yours for the bartering! Favorites include
                    Palestinian pottery - plates, cups, bowls and knick-knacks
                    painted in vibrant blues and whites, leather sandals, jackets,
                    slippers, painted tiles, Roman glass set in jewelry, gold and
                    silver jewelry, oil lamps, ancient coins, spices, woven bags,
                    olive wood nativities, bibles, sheepskin coats, candles, t-shirts..
                    Our favorite shop belongs to Shabaan on Christian Quarter
                    Road, who can spot a Mormon a block away,
                    having catered for years to the BYU Jerusalem Center
                    population. He was always our longest stop in the Christian
                    Quarter as he would insist we sit and visit, offering typical
                    Arab hospitality in the form of fresh orange juice and kibbe -
                    a Palestinian meatball, the best being made by an old man in
                    Jerusalem. Shabaan would send a courier to fetch them for us
                    until the old man died, taking the wonderful recipe with him to

 The Israel Museum
 is host to the finest biblical and 
                    Jewish antiquities collections in the world.  Its star exhibit is that 
                    of the Dead Sea Scrolls housed underneath a roof shaped like 
                    the lid of the clay jars in which they were found. The Jerusalem 
                    Model of the 2nd Temple Period, was great fun for our children 
                    to walk through, the waist high structures making them feel
                    Goliath-like! Other exhibits include a reconstructed Jewish
                    Synagogue from eastern Europe during the diaspora and 
                    fascinating scrolls and records of religious significance.

     PM:    Jaffa, Caesarea, Picnic at Aquaduct Beach

                       Jaffa is located on the Mediterranean coast, just north 
                                of Tel Aviv. 
                           -This is the site of the Biblical Joppa, the town to which 
                                Jonah fled to escape the errand of the Lord at which folly 
                                he was swallowed by the whale.
                            -Jaffa today has been restored to lovely stone streets 
                                winding among polished limestone shops and charming
                                restaurants, (including a favorite French restuarant
                                which would undoubtedly serve whale sauteed in butter,
                                if they could!)
                            -The hill where Jaffa sits provides a beautiful panoramic 
                                view of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean.

The town was built by Herod the Great about 25–13 BCE as the port city Caesarea Maritima It served as an administrative center of 
Judaea Province of the Roman Empire, and later
 the capital of the Byzantine Palaestina Prima province during the classic period.   Following the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, in which it was 
the last city to fall to the Arabs, the city had an Arab majority until 
the Crusader conquest. 
This is the city to which Paul the apostle, was taken and kept under 
arrest for two years.

The Roman Aquaduct at Caesarea

Overnight at Nazareth:
       Al Mutran Guest House:                                
       Villa Nazareth:

Day #9 - Tuesday, March 27:

        ...In His own country...

    AM:  Nazareth, Boat ride on Sea of Galilee,

We will all be Nazarenes for a day - how proudly we accept that 
honor now, to be labeled as He was, to walk in His footsteps, to
climb the steep hills and eat the same kind of flat loaved breads 
He did.  To sleep for a night in the hometown of The Nazarene!
And the places we will stay, right in the heart of the older part
of the town, allow us to walk the alleyways, wander in the souk,
wander out early in the morning looking for fresh ka'ik (donut-shaped
sesame seeded bread.  A must see is The Church of the Annunciation,
built over what is believed to be the spot of Mary's childhood home
and where the angel Gabriel visited her.  Built in 1969, over centuries-
worth of previous churches, an outstanding feature are the mosaics
of Christ and Mary created by various countries around the world.
  "Mary's Well" not far from our hotels also contends
 for the honor of being the site of the Annunciation.  
There is a wonderful spice market in the
town we might visit if time allows.  But we must make time for the
small Synagogue claimed to have been the one in use during the Roman
period and it is one in which you can imagine Christ standing and
reading the prophetic scriptures and boldly proclaiming that they
spoke of Himself.  Its location is odd, in the middle of the market
across from tinkling head scarves and woven handbags, but the
suggestion of authenticity is intriguing.

Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee

               Now in ruins just as was prophesied by the Savior    
               in Matt. 11:23, they are yet wonderful ruins of a
               small fishing village on the northern shore of the
               Sea of Galilee.  This was the home of Peter, James
               & John and perhaps that is why Christ spent time
               there performing several healings, including the
               servant of the Roman Centurion and the paralytic
               lowered through the roof to where the Savior was.
               A carving in stone of the ark of the covenant provides
               an ancient visual aid to what it may have looked like.
               Peter's house is interesting and and my favorite, the
               ruins of a synagogue that some believe date back to
               the time of Christ. Standing on its gleaming white
               stones (most of the buildings were composed of black
               basalt) one can imagine the Savior speaking to the
               congregation about the lack of respect 
               prophets receive in their own countries.

    PM:    Beit Shean, Cross over Jordan at
                          Sheik Hussein Bridge

Beit Shean:
Roamin' with the Romans!
Beit She'an's location has always been strategically significant, due to its position at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley, essentially controlling access from Jordan and the inland to the coast, as well as from Jerusalem and Jericho to the Galilee. Archaeological studies suggest that settlement began in the Late Neolithic or Early Chalcolithic periods (sixth to fifth millennia BCE.)[3] Occupation continued intermittently up to the late Early Bronze Age I (3200–3000), according to pottery finds, and then resumes in the Early Bronze Age III.[4] A large cemetery on the northern Mound was in use from the Bronze Age to Byzantinetimes.[5] Canaanite graves dating from 2000 to 1600 BCE were discovered there in 1926. Then followed the waves of the various cultures and influences of
the Egyptians, Greek, Romans, Byzantine, Arab caliphates, Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottoman, and the British
The Roman era ruins we see today are remnants of the city of 63 BCE, when Pompey made Judea a part of the Roman empire. Beit She'an was refounded and rebuilt by Gabinius.[24] The town center shifted from the summit of the Mound (the "Tel") to its slopes. Scythopolis prospered and became the leading city of the Decapolis, a loose confederation of ten cities which were centers of Greco-Roman culture, an event so significant that the town based its calendar on that year.
The city flourished under the "Pax Romana", as evidenced by high-level urban planning and extensive construction, including the best preserved Roman theatre of ancient Samaria, as well as a hippodrome, a cardo and other trademarks of the Roman influence.

Cross over from Israel to Jordan via the Northern Crossing: Sheik Hussein Bridge/Jordan River
Overnight at As Salt, Jordan:
                        Saltus Hotel:
                        Beit Aziz Boutique Hotel:;sid=165e99c0a5c69945f6748915d5074449;dest_id=-970545;dest_type=city;dist=0;group_adults=2;hapos=2;hpos=2;room1=A%2CA;sb_price_type=total;srepoch=1520568473;srfid=a3085d34b3da64a5334dc5b29e269e6392ebedb2X2;srpvid=27451d0c3620000c;type=total;ucfs=1&#hotelTmpl

Day 10:  March 28th:

    AM:   Ajloun Fortress, Jordan

Ajloun Castle:
Set "high on a hill with a lonely goat-herd" - (actually a possibility), Ajloun castle/fortress dominates hills of cypress and pomegranate  trees dotted with white block limestone houses. When we visited we would spread our picnic mat out under an olive tree and eat as the peskier of the children pelted green olives at one another.  One of our favorite ruins to visit, the drive there was on twisting back roads and through tiny villages or nestlings of houses.  On one occasion it was the end of Ramadan - Eid el Fitr - and little girls waved to us in their frilly new dresses as we drove by. Built on the site of an old monastery in the 1100's this is a Muslim fortress (anti-crusaders) situated in Northwest Jordan.  From its high ground the castle guarded 3 wadis which descend towards the Jordan Valley. It was renovated as a fort in 1184 by Izz al-Din Usama, a general in the army of Saladin (the chief anti-crusader) and controlled traffic along the road connecting Dasmacus and Egypt.  Once you stand out in the open courtyards you will better understand why it was built in this strategic location as you can see the valleys and hills as far as your eyes allow you to see!

PM:  Dead Sea
               Looking for seashells, coral life, a pleasant dive to the
               sandy bottom or even for ruins of the destroyed cities of Sodom 
               & Gomorrah? You may find a pillar of salt but that is as close as
               you'll come to any treasures lying at the bottom of the sea - not
               because they aren't there, but because you won't be able to get 
               yourself underwater to see!  Floating on the Dead Sea is a unique 
               experience (unless you grew up near the shores of the Great Salt
               Lake).  You'll feel something like an inflatable child's toy bobbing 
               on the water. Once you get your bearings to this sort of weightless
               sensation you will have great fun.  And the intense mineral 
               composition of the waters work wonders on your skin, especially
               if you opt for the mud treatment, or just scoop up handfuls yourself 
               and rub it on. Either way, once rinsed and dried, you will feel 
               rejuvenated! The marvelous spa and swimming pools perched
               looking out over the Dead Sea are a rare treat in luxury as well. 
               I once returned from a day at the Dead Sea unable to  move for the
               rest of the evening, I was so relaxed, drugged with its healing 

Dinner at the Terrazo Restaurant:

Overnight:  Dead Sea Marriott Hotel & Spa  


   Day #11:  Thursday, March 29th:
           ....beyond Jordan....

           AM:   More Dead Sea

     PM:  Amman Citadel, Museum, Theater

                                             Philadelphia (Amman) Citadel:  
                            The center of the ancient Rabbat Ammon, the citadel
                         crowns the city of Amman with pillars reaching up to a
                    remarkably blue sky to support roofs which have long since
                   crumbled; remnants of the royal palace of the Umayyad period.
                   But they were just the most recent buildings in a succession of
     houses, shops and palaces that housed the generations of
      inhabitants beginning in about 7,000 B.C.! Other notable ruins
         include those of a Roman temple to Hercules built in 175 AD.
       Remember the story of David sending Bathsheba’s husband to
      the frontlines to die in battle? Somewhere near here he met his
       doom. There was a grazing donkey in our Amman neighbor-
           hood we named Uriah in his memory.

Amman Citadel - Amman
               The Jordan Museum:
               This newly built and rather impressive facility houses the one and 
               only copper Dead Sea Scroll but owned most all of the Dead Sea
               Scrolls until the loss of their East Jerusalem branch of the museum
               in the ‘67 War to Israel. While constructing new roads in 1983,
               Ain Ghazal, a Neolithic community was discovered near Amman.
               The museum touts statues of the same name as their most 
               important acquisition. Considered the oldest anthropomorphic
               statues (human images) made by human hands (circa 7000 B.C.) 
               32 of the statues were found in ceremonial pits. Lime plaster 
               molded over cores of bundled twigs, the statues were painted with 
               clothes and hair with life-like eyes made of cowrie shells.

                   Roman Theater:
                   One of 5 you will see during our trip, the Roman theater in
                   downtown Amman seats 6,000 and is better preserved than 
                   Petra’s but not as large as Bet Shean’s but is still used today for
                   concerts &programs. It is built into a mountainside in a similar 
                   fashion to Petra’s but of limestone rather than sandstone – a 
                   more durable substance. Two small museums have been built 
                   on the site which contain traditional costumes and cultural items.

      Depart for US from Queen Alia International Airport