Unknown ruins near old city

On saturday, I visited some ruins on a hill that over looks the road by the south part of the walls of the old city.   There are no markings of this site there or on the maps. Map here

Its directly above the yellow street which turns into a sharp bend.  Up here is interesting remains of an archway of a building set into the side of the hill towards the old city.   You can go underneath this archway (I didn’t as it was very steep) and there are caves underneath that been using for dwelling of some kind.  Below this hill there are trees as I have seen an Arab shepherd leading his flock of goats across before.

To the top of this arch is a big hole in the ground where someone has thrown the wrecked remains of a truck.

I am not sure the origins or age of this site, would appreciate if someone who knows wishes to comment.

Through East Jerusalem

Rode through a bit of East Jerusalem, from the back of my house northwards on sunday.

This part here with zigzag bends was good fun to ride around.

Was a mistake as realised this particular part of town was not safe, I often pass through smaller Arab sections, this was definitely the worse part of this country I have been outside of a car.

To start I went down a very very steep road, as I was hoping to go on the opposite side of the Peace Park, but I was quite some place from there.

Around the main centre bit of East Jerusalem there was a rubbish bin on fire.  I am always seeing bins on fire, seems like people have nothing better to do that burn stuff.  I asked some kids if they had called the fire service which they said they had.   I turned down another road and saw three different army jeeps patrolling around.

Suddenly noticed the kids (young Arab kids always say Hello to me)  were not so friendly, a large coke bottle landed  few metres away from me, not sure where it came from, but they teenagers were throwing rocks at me, so I walked the bike up the hill quick (its too steep to ride upwards)

I notice this part of town is a complete hole.  All the cars appeared to be vandalised and there is masses of rubbish absolutely everywhere.   The media says Israel needs to be kinder to the Arabs and Palestinians but how can you help people that more or less choose to live like this.  Once I reached safe-ish distance you can see this red VW Jetta had all the windows broken as well as at least 4 other cars further down.   By the way I am on the Israeli side of concrete barrier here, so these people have more freedom than East Jerusalem on the other side of the wall.

Anyway after another mile or so through the old city I arrived at the Zion Gate.  Glad to be in a nicer place.  Note the bullet holes in the wall date from 1948, the country’s modern formation.  Will bring my map with me next time.

Bethlehem – journey to birthplace of Christ part V – The church of the Nativity finally!

Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

It was now time for the main centre point of the thing for this trip, so I was quite excited.

Outside is this conference centre, decorated with Palestinian flags.    Before going into the church’s entrance there were photographs canvassing our party for impromptu souvenir pictures, this consists of sitting in a big row in front of the church, which a picture of the group is done and a print is provided in a presentation cardboard frame.  The group I was with, a Filipino church here on the coach trip did this, I was in it, but didn’t opt to buy a picture, I think copies of the prints (assuming the photographer could guarantee at least say, 20 copies of a average typical coach party) were quite a reasonable price I think.

Generic picture I found, as I didnt have a good shot of the front of the church, note, its probably very rare that its this quiet!!

The door way opening to the church is very short for some reason, odd for the importance of this place and considering how big it is inside.   Going in, and it looks fairly similar to a number of other church like the Church of Ascension in Jerusalem, large pictures of Jesus, Mary and the Apostles in big gaudy guilded frames, all types of candlesticks, and various other typical church decorations.

There were people lined up in a queue for something, I wasn’t sure what.   I decided to join in with the rest of our party, I was guessing the trip to the actual grotto would outside somewhere a bit later.   Therefore this queue was a bit of a mystery what I was in for.  Queuing of course, I use the term loosely as its more like funnelling people into a tight space down some steps into another small doorway.

I suppose a grotto wherever this term came from would be an accurate phrase, its normally something associated with Santa Claus’s domain, but as anyone who grew up as a small child who visited a Father Christmas in a department store you would go into a cave like place, queuing often for a long time.    Easy comparison really.

Once in the narrow cave like corridor that was under the church floor, people were crowded around something but one of the staff of the church was trying to get people to move around away from it, ie: you could not block the main passage way.

So here it is, there is the place were Jesus was most likely to be born in a manger at the stable by the inn in Bethlehem.

Below the archway in the picture is a tiny gap, a small shrine where the expected place our Lord was born was.

On the right here, you can see they have made the shrine very small, it just looks horribly artificial.

The story of the nativity tells us about Christ’s birth in a simple place, a stable, not the place you would expect a king to have been born, however the masses of decoration and clutter around the place does spoil it, I was hoping to see a simple stable but the church structure and decorations have been built over it, somehow taking away the simple notion of a place our Lord came to this world.   A bit disappointing really.   Its kind of like a waiting ages in a restaurant for a nice meal and then your food arrives, but someone’s added every type of sauce and condiment to it making a bit a mess.

Before going home through to the border, our tour guide, a Palestinian Christian invited us to meet his family at his house for dinner, yes about 30 people!  We had some big platters of chicken, plenty of vegetables and heaps of rice, all of us were crammed into this first floor flat not that far away from the main part of Bethlehem city square.

I did feel sorry for the fact that Christian Palestinians don’t get the ability to travel easily through the borders easily and it is easy to see why they blame Israel for that, however given the very real threat of terrorism, the borders have to be tightly controlled, and there isn’t much you can do.  It was nice that the tour guide invited us for dinner and to meet his family, there was a chance to visit his family’s shop underneath but as this had some simple cheap souvenirs like olive wood crosses and scented oils, it was clear that they were genuinely hospitable and not really after our money.

On the whole I really enjoyed this trip, any chance to see the places Jesus lived is exciting, Nazareth is high up on my to do list now!!

Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Sizergate and Anti-Zionism in the blogging world

Reading quite a bit online lately about quite a bit of controversy on Sizergate, a blogging centred around a Reverend Stephen Sizer an Anglican vicar who has books such as Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? His books have been both praised and condemned by Christians around the world.

Someone once told me I should get a copy of this, thinking that Christians that are interested in Israel are often labeled as nutcases, but its interesting to see that bloggers such as British Messianic Jew Seismic Shock and also Harry’s place has exposed the not so nice intentions of the seemingly polite and well spoken Rev Sizer, having the usual ‘occupation’ rhetoric typically spewed by a lot of mainstream media, and his failure to comment on why should Israel tolerate rocket attacks in Sderot from Gaza, but more disturbingly amongst involvement with senior people in the Iranian government, its hard to see how you could be more antagonistic than to cuddle up with Israel’s number 1 arch enemy and sending the police round to people criticising him on their blogs.   Sad that this man is in Iran considering there is a new fledgling church up and coming in the Islamic Republic mostly in secret that could be potentially poisoned by his questionable doctrine.  He also writes for quite a few Christian magazines, you may want to make careful choices of what publications you choice to read.   But the point of all of this drivel feeds the bogus doctrine of Replacement Theology into our churches and cloud the legitimate biblical backed claims that the founding of the modern state of Israel and the Jewish people DO play a part in God’s plan, today, whether you like it or not.

Interestingly enough Amazon also have another book inspired by Sizer’s called Defending Christian Zionism by David Pawson.  Sadly Amazon is chock full of books with ant-Israel and anti-Semitic writings, some of them very offensive sounding.

Please note I am not interested in a heated debate, so most comments here will be deleted.

Bethlehem – journey to birthplace of Christ part IV – pictures around town

Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Almost to the end of my serialised guide on Bethlehem, here are some pictures:-

Very small man begging outside one of the tourist places in Bethlehem, hes on a small bike as a sort of wheelchair as he has some kind of disability.

Blatant rip off of a well known international coffee shop, this one is called Stars & Bucks.

By the border on the way back to Jerusalem through the security gate on the concrete wall

Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Holocaust memorial day / 62nd anniversary of Israel

This week in Jerusalem has been important week for two reasons.   One is holocaust memorial day.   This mean a war siren sounded, and people just stopped what they were doing in the middle of the street.  Cars just suddenly stopped in the middle of the road.  After a minute or two everything just carried on as normal.

Each year not only Israel but many nations remember how the terrible tragedy of many men, women and children lost their lives in concentration camps in Europe, mostly Jews, but also disabled, homosexual and Romany people were killed in a meticulously planned death assembly line by the million.   People should today should remember this event and be vigilant that it should not happen again.   With frequent hateful rhetoric spoken by nations like Iran, it should be taken seriously there are still people with an aim to destroy and should be stopped.   Having peace talks with the Islam republic of Iran, is like trying to stroke and make friends with a huge aggressive dog with toothache, its just not possible.   Also despicable is holocaust denial, especially when it comes sometimes from the church occasionally.

The other event of course, is the 62nd anniversary of the formation of the State of Israel, I went to Gan Sacher Park today with some friends from church and had a barbeque and played a kind of unusual variation of volleyball which was fun.   Interestingly enough was some people giving away Tshirts for free (they only had children’s sizes left)  this was a freebie from the government but logos also on showing it was sponsored by a local car rental business.  I didn’t realise how big this event was, as I missed out on some fireworks and entertainment out in the city centre the night before.   But some enterprising people took advantage of the thousands of people out in the parks and provided snacks and food for sale, including a rather novel mobile candy floss machine on a trolley which had a petrol generator underneath running it!

Explosive geology of volcanos and natural disasters

Just a few days ago, the media reported that Britain told Israel it could not use the Western Wall in tourist marketing material.   Sounded ridiculous.  The next day a Britain and surrounding northern European nations have their airspace completely shutdown in the biggest downtime in international aviation history by an Icelandic volcano.   Whatever you want to make of this, I am praying that Britain and other countries do not attempt actions that could interfere with God’s plan for Israel.

Iceland is an amazing place, its in the top part of the Atlantic Ocean seated right on the split of the earth’s crust between Europe and North America.  Even before this recent event volcanos have fascinated me since I went to Iceland with some friends in 2005.  With 24 hour daylight during the spring that we went and electricity that runs off of heat produced by the water, this is one place like no other.

The volcano that went off in the Westman Islands off of South West coast in 1973, did destroy a fair bit of the town, but only one person died, the place was quickly rebuilt, but the most amazing thing was the people prayed the lava would stop, and it did!  right in front of the church gates.   I visited this place and bits of ruined houses are still left with lava rock wrapped around it.  It serves as a testament to the mostly Christian people of the Westman Islands the power of prayer.

Interestingly enough when volcanoes happen, cartographers have to rewrite the maps as the place will look radically different afterwards.

I am not a endtimes sort of person, but in the five months of this year there has been an awful lot of natural disasters lately, Haiti, China, Turkey and Chile just coming to mind.

Camping in the Golans

Just two weeks ago, a camping and hiking expedition was announced at my church in Jerusalem, and I naturally lept at the chance to visit the Golan Heights.  Previously I got to visit a different part of the Golans about six years with my father and his US friends, close to Mount Herman which serves as the little known ski result which operates the few right times of the year, there also military outposts as well as probably the most isolated coffee shop in the world which is atop of a steep hill with rusting artistic dinosaurs made of out of metal scrap adorning the path up.

This more unusual corner of Israel is something of extreme beauty being part of the Jordan river, and staggered top right corner of the Jewish state close to the borders of Lebanon and Syria.   This is a hotly argued over piece of real estate as it was got after 1967 6 day and there are voiced attempts to make ‘peace’ deals from Syria.   It is a beautiful place with those in pursuit of a challenging hike up waterfalls and seeing different breeds of animals should be well satisfied here.  There are also farms nearby with a wide variety of different types of vegetables.

The first night was a chance to gather some firewood (only from some trees already cut down by someone)  then have dinner and sing some worship songs by the fire.   Sleeping was either in a tent (a limited number) or just plan outside.   I took the opportunity do something new and slept outside, it was great as the temperature in my sleeping bag was just about right.   There were a few strange noises like groaning from the woods.  I was told that this could be from some Coyotes who live around this neck of the country, I also heard some Woodpeckers.  (there are some near my flat I can hear too)

Only I neglected to bring necessary equipment as this wasn’t your typical church walk out.   Swimming gear was necessary as bits of the trip are impassable because of a waterfall and river with no obvious alternative routes around.

For people who know me well, I don’t swim.  At all.  A combination of a fear of drowning as a small child, not being able to assume the means to breathe inside water and having the most unpleasant swimming teacher at school made me dread swimming. Some people have kindly offered to teach me, but this has not been successful so far.

The brilliant plan hatched by the leadership of King of Kings young people’s group, the Hilsden brothers (the Canadian-Israeli chaps from the church worship team, three of them) Jeremy our Aussie ex-lifeguard and Nico from Germany was to put our belongings in bin bags to keep the dry, the experienced swimmers simply dived off the waterfall and waited on the other side of the river for the rest of us not quite so confident with water antics.  That meant climbing down a 20 metre steel ladder with bin bags of peoples belongings (and a dog!)

So the next plan was then to ferry people and bags and a dog on an inflatable mattress about 10 metres to the other side, I learned the trick was by Jeremy was to sit astride this thing as if it was a horse, after this it was quite simple, once we were on the other side part two was to then go across some stepping stones over the river with all our gear back to the path.   To do this I went across and found with careful observation some of the stones that were wider apart have some hidden stones in between, after testing this by means of a sort of scout party of a few of us in front, we could go back in direct the rest of the people where to put your feet.   For some reason this turned out to be a very funny and peculiar experience, you see the small (1-3″ long) fishes that were active in the water like to come up and nibble your feet and it tickles!   Found out later they quite like pita bread so, bit of our sandwiches were tossed into the water only to make them a couple of dozen of them frantic fight over the bits.   But they don’t seem to be interested in banana peel though.

Some differences here between Jerusalem and its surroundings, and places like the Dead Sea or the Negev desert was the presence of these strange porous rocks, they have lot of different size holes in.   Might be because there was a volcano by Mount Herman not so far away.

The varied wildlife and the spectacular views were a real treat though.  Got to see groups of different coloured neon Dragonflies, butterflies, unusual birds, an unfortunate torn up corpse of a goat or ibex probably a meal for the packs of Coyotes that I heard the day before that were around.

Got to know plenty of new people at this brief but enjoyable two day event.   I am really happy that I have seen so many different Christians (from all five continents) here exploring and seeking adventure in God’s land.

The money changers

Now, for us Brits if you want to order some cash ready for a expedition to another country, what do you call this type of business?

A foreign currency exchange shop? or maybe the more upmarket French sounding ‘Bureau De Change’ kiosk you might get inside a department store like Debenhams?

Well what was the name of theses businesses in the times of bible?

The money changers?  Yes that’s right, a place Jesus mentioned where he got cross and turned over some tables when he said ‘…why have you turned my Father’s house in to a market?’ as the temple should not of been a place for business activities.  Matthew 21 : 12

Well some things have stayed the same in Jerusalem, nice and simple, ‘Money changers’   This one is right inside of the famous Jaffa Gate.

drumming band, rare easter egg shop and familiar name in Arabic

People having fun singing along to African drumming music.   Nice to see both Jew and Arab here partying.  This was at the Promenade above the Peace Park near my flat.

One of the very few shops in the old city (I think run by Arab Christians) with eggs and Easter products for sale.

This picture I thought was interesting, although written in Latin (ie: like a European language) the word ‘Issa’ is Arabic for Jesus, but I also think its used as a common first name for some Arabic people as well.  In this case, its the back door of an Arab man’s business.