Welcome back! I have returned with part 2 of my Israel travel blog. If you haven't read Part 1, take a step back and start on that! I've been really into white rose tea lately! Add peach syrup to it and you've got a treat! Grab a drink that you've tried recently, find yourself a nice corner of a cafe and let's get started.
In part one I mainly talked about architecture and famous religious sites so let's switch it up a bit and talk about the people and culture!
We travelled to St. Photini Church located in Bir Ya'qub to find the iconic well at which Jesus met the samaritan woman. Well preserved within the small basement of the church, our 42 person class was barely allowed to squeeze in at the same time. Sending a few representatives up, we watched as they drew and drank the water of the thousand year old monument.
"Wow, that is one hell of a reliable well." said Austin Green, one of my classmates.
The church attendant watching us did not look like he approved of that comment.
While a large group of the class remained in the basement to try the well's water out for themselves, I went to explore the Church's gorgeous furnishing. From chandeliers to a pristine garden the Church was fully capable of entertaining both religious and non-religious visitors. Here's a photo of the Mama in the garden and one of the chandeliers!
Natural Springs & The Dead Sea
Staying true to the Californians we are, we emerged ourselves in nearly every body of water we could. With the Mediterranean Sea and the Lake of Galilee off our list we were absolutely looking forward to jumping into the third and final sea we had on our bucket list. Our local professor decided that he would give us a little gift before that.
He took us to a cute park for a lunch of pita bread and announced
"After lunch you guys have an hour to roam around, be back on the bus by then! Oh by the way, this park has a bunch of springs and a waterfall if you hike up the mini-mountain."
OF COURSE WE WERE HIKING!
I took that back 8 minutes of hiking later. Satisfied with my little springs lakes in the middle of the hiking track, I allowed myself to be left behind with three other friends while the rest of the group continued their search for the great waterfall.
Reluctant to leave the springs we got onto the bus an hour later BUT only because it meant we were on the way to the dead sea.
Barely dried off when we got there - not that it mattered much - we practically flew out of the bus and ran towards the sea ignoring all the tempting juice stores surrounding the path to the beach.
The dead sea was
- vast and
- extremely salty and
- felt like olive oil when we floated in it.
It was also a very unfortunate but sadly common story if one got salt water in their eye, up their nose or up other openings in one's body - you know what I mean. Me, it happened to me, it hurt.
But yay photos! Here's a picture of Mason & Renee (two of my classmates) at the natural spring and me with the Chimes Newspaper at the dead sea. (At these point I have conditioned myself to bring a copy everywhere. What can I say? I'm a committed worker.)
If I had a donkey on the main roads of Singapore, I'd probably be fined and have my animal confiscated. It is OBVIOUSLY a very different case in Israel. There were animals EVERYWHERE! I saw a bit of heaven that day.
Allow me to introduce them to you.
This is a donkey that we met when we were overlooking the city view on a mountain top. I was not given the official name of the donkey but I call it puffy and so it's name is puffy. No, seriously, it was REALLY puffy. It also ate everything, including our clothes. Bad puffy.
The funniest pet encounter I had was probably when I saw a man chasing wild peacocks around pretending that he owned them. This way whenever people took photos of the birds he tried to charge them. It really didn't work.
Dead Sea Scrolls
History lesson! The dead sea scrolls were a collection of teachings written by a
group of devout believers called the Essenes. They were obsessed with purity and convinced that they and only they would be led to heaven. The Essenes had hidden their scrolls in a cave where they were one day found when a shepherd boy wandered upon it. The shepherd boy took some with him and sold it to a peddler. The peddler in turn sold it to travellers. A few years later, the scrolls had been all of the middle east. News of the existence of these scrolls reached the New York Times and the scrolls suddenly had a global market. Peddlers ran around retrieving even more scrolls from the cave and tearing them into pieces so as to have more pieces to sell. Eventually, a researcher collected them and placed them in what is now the Israel Museum. They are conserved in a dome like structure called the Shrine of the Book. I wasn't allowed to take photos inside the structure itself but I did get a photo of the outside!
Here's Mama Li again!
Young Israeli Friends
On one of our other field days we stopped for a picnic lunch of more pita. While we were eating the children of the Israeli middle school who were also having a picnic nearby took interest in us. They had never seen white people nor had they seen Asians. As every minute went by they became more and more curious and got closer and closer to observe us.
We started talking to them and they showed us all the "American things" that they knew like multiple fortnight dances (using which they challenged us to a dance battle) and memes. Here are some super cute photos of them!
The Wailing Wall
One of the most impactful activities was the visit to the Wailing wall. The Wailing wall is the Western side of the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. Thousands of Jewish men and women go there everyday for hours on end to pray, read scripture, and be in fellowship with one another. The men and women's designated praying areas are separated by a large wooden divider. The women wore head scarves to cover their hair while the men had their religious robes and kippahs (Jewish Skull Cap) on.
Coming from a modern baptist church, such discipline was an extremely foreign to me and I found myself watching them in silence for nearly an hour. In a way, the discipline of the people had it's own beauty to it and it was mesmerising to me.
This is all I have for you guys for now! Till next time lovelies!