Nazareth – 1. Arrival at the city

I have always hoped Michael Palin could do journals around the holy land one day, until this happens I try and blog on the places of the life of Jesus myself.  I am tired by the attitudes of the media and fellow Brits who try to slander Israel and accuse it of being a ‘Apartheid’ state amongst other things.  I set out to the central Galilee city of Nazareth, to see what it was like for Jesus to have grown up there, glimpses of places from the bible, how the Arab people there live in the centre of the Galilee and how different it is from Jerusalem.

Just before getting off the bus which took me from Jerusalem, I asked some people next to me if this was the right place to get off, and there didn’t seem to be a proper bus station, just a stop by the main road.   This Arab couple were really friendly and were happy oblige to walk with me from the street through some narrow streets uphill through the old city towards my hostel.

Jesus frequently went to and fro from here or the greater part of Galilee to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  When you live some distance from your family this must be a lot of effort to travel often.

This provocative message to Christians stands out a junction heading north towards the Synagogue where Jesus first preached.  Behind is the tall turret of the famous huge and grand looking Bisilica Church.   It says “and whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the hereafter he will be one of the losers. – Holy Quran”

I have a better message though: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14 : 6

I have seen this on some guides before, and all the research I did suggested Nazareth is a safe city to visit, and it is too.  I had a number of worries though to do with the busy time of year.  I booked this trip at rather the last minute as its in between Pesach and Easter, and with two different holidays, the buses are not running for some of those days, Easter making it more busy for Christian visitors, and I had hoped to visit Tiberias but both youth hostels were fully booked, so was one of the main hostels in Nazareth, and I got myself one night booked but not for the other days, this needed a lot of prayer of exactly how to figure out where to stay….

Soon!  Different Youth Hostels, the Spice Mill, Thousands of Arab Israelis Christians in the streets at Easter, the church at Cana for weddings, today’s modern Nazarene carpenters and residents finding hidden wells in the back yards by accident!

1. Arrival at the city2. Staying in the old city3. The modern day Nazarene carpenter4. Where Jesus first preached5. Religious vehicles in Nazareth6. Mary’s Well and the Bath house7. The precipice8. On top of the Precipice hill9. More old city streets and market10. The spice shop11. Churches from A to Z or Alpha to Omega12. The Basilica church13. Easter service at the Basilica

Mount Hermon snow trip: Part 5 Badgers Rock!

1/ Go forth north!2/ Snow patrol3/ Sloping off4/ Nimrod’s Fortress5/ Badgers Rock

I have mentioned this little creatures when I went to Ein Gedi, next to the dead Sea.   Lots of them live around the rocks, they are pretty active and move fast.

These are Hyrax (also known as Rock Badgers)

They look like giant Guinea Pigs.   I wondered if people ever ate them, after all they are a bit bigger than a rabbit.  I checked the bible.  Leviticus 11 : 5 The hyrax, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you.”

Ah.  They are not Kosher. Oh well 🙂  The bible mentions them quite a bit actually.

Arabic inscription on some stone up here.

Some amazing views from up here.

Lastly, just before we went home we stopped off at a friendly Arab restaurant on the north part of the Galilee just close to Tiberias.

1/ Go forth north!2/ Snow patrol3/ Sloping off4/ Nimrod’s Fortress5/ Badgers Rock

Soon: visit to Yad Vashem holocaust museum.

Karmiel overnight work project

Last week I had to go to our remote site in Karmiel, this required wednesday and thursday away, its a 2.5-3 hour drive away.

Packing stuff to take.  laptops, tools, CDs, iPod for the long bus journey, overnight bag and clothes.   Think I will make sure there are some tools and CDs already at this site, so there is less to carry in future.

Also my bike helmet and lights as I need to ride to the main station.

I didn’t get any pictures of Karmiel sadly, as when we finished work it was dark.

There are these amazing hills that surround this town though, as this picture I got on thursday morning before work shows.

Servers to be patched and updated, unfortunately we hit some snags that meant we need to come back and do this another time.

Me and my colleague got lots of small little problems done here, quickly visited a local PC store to get some cooling fans and mice to replace broken ones, and now one of the PCs no longer sounds like an elderly blender.  I managed to set up the remote software (UltraVNC) properly so we can remotely take control of systems from HQ to fix a majority of problems that may happen.   Also managed to write some more documentation and update our software licencing spreadsheet.  Some things like the wireless routers we didn’t have time for, so I took one back with me and I will configure it and have it shipped back.

All these things mean that our staff can carry on feeding poor families without being held back by technical issues.   Its always good to do preventative maintenance that will look out for IT problems than can cause far more trouble if left in the future.

Heading back to Tiberias, its a real joy to go along these roads, the scenery is beautiful.  From Tiberias we caught the Egged bus back to Jerusalem.

Into Tiberias, (the main city overlooking the Sea of Galilee) as traffic was hectic and it was dark once we got there.  Left: In the middle of the high street was this ruined building, but I am not sure how old it is.  I would guess Roman seeing as this city is named of a Roman leader.  Right: It may be a little hard to see past this tree, but there is a fish shop there, right opposite the sea where Jesus and his disciples used to fish.

Autumn in Jerusalem, around town and at work

This last few months has been quite a varied collection of events.

September my good friend John came down from Portsmouth, originally from Malta, John is of Armenian Jewish decent and I do admire his huge amount of energy and enthusiasm for Jesus, and Israel and the Jewish people, he stayed a few days with me and got to visit a few places and walk along the city walls amongst other things.

I also got an extra person for my department at work which means I am no longer having to look after the computer network on my own.   I also made the decision to extend my time for the second time, and I will be volunteering right into the spring of 2011 when my visa runs out.

In October I had a strange stabbing pain my chest.  I originally attributed this to a strange cold I have had for about two weeks which could of spread somehow.   This was really painful so I decided to stay home from work the next day.   I booked an appointment with the doctors which I got with 4 hours notice, which was good.   As I did mention I bruised my hands from falling off my bike, they wanted to xray me in case I had cracked a rib, although I never got any bruising or injuries to my chest.   This results of this ancient xray machine, who the lady technician told me is probably the oldest in the country proved negative.

The next day after forgetting to take my pills for this condition, I found the pain to be completely gone!   Whatever it was, its no longer there and I am really thankful to the Lord for this.

Had a sad farewell to my friend Matthew from Switzerland as he goes back to Basel, actually twice as did one party at mine and one at his, and also to Taylor, volunteer journalist from the ICEJ as she come to the end of her time here.

Have had some really nice surprises with opportunities God has opened up for me with several  Jewish friends and acquaintances who are planning to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel) one is a friend from my home city.   It will a real honour to put them in touch with people I know that will help them get settled here.   I also have been asked to help with technical set up for a colleague’s son’s Bar Mitzvah early next yet.   All of this is confirmation that I am not meant to get back into regular secular work back in the UK just yet.

I got to go with Christopher my work colleague and a couple from Canada to see some live blues guitar music (a few articles below) and also quick visit to the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem’s biblical zoo, I will cover the zoo visit soon.

This Wednesday I am going up to our food bank warehouse in Karmiel.   This requires a stay with one of the volunteer staff up there, as its 170km bus ride.   Actually I have to get up to Tiberias and get picked up by a van driver and brought up to Karmiel.   The Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning me and my co-worker at there there I hope to do a full back up the server and put on Windows patches, set up wireless routers and sort out a few other things.  Once I get a ride back to Tiberias, I will probably find somewhere to get dinner there before heading home.   I would dearly love to properly explore Tiberias for a few days, being the largest city in the Galilee but this will have to be another time, I only have a few weeks left here.

Work projects at the moment, include a fairly big redesign of our network to sort out the weird kinks that happen sometime, writing up documentation, replace a UPS system, source more memory for servers and a special presentation laser mouse and virtualise a few more PCs that are only used for remote VPN access.

I will probably skip going to the young adults worship event at church as I need pack for a camping trip at the weekend, not sure where it is, but staying somewhere on a beach and going to do some caving.   Looking forward to this.

Overall things are not always easy or go as planned sometimes, but life is good.

St Peter’s fish

This is a Tilapia, also known as St Peter’s fish.  Commonly found in the Sea of Galilee, there are several restaurants in Tiberias (the largest city in this area) and places around Galilee.

Known as St Peter’s fish as its largely thought to be the creature that had the coin in its mouth in the bible.  Matthew 17 : 24

I went down the market and bought one of these for dinner for friday.   The fishmonger gutted it for me and rinsed with a shower head thing that was hanging on shelf.   The market is a good place to get fresh fish, even if the man had a cigarette in his mouth whilst working.

This one is about 6-7 inches long and has dark grey scales and white flesh once cooked, it also has a row of tiny sharp teeth.

After Jesus’ resurrection, after his followers were in disbelief he had come back to see them, he asked Peter for a piece of the fish they were sharing, as way to prove a point he was not a ghost.  Luke 24 : 40 I would take a bet it was some of this type of fish.

25 minutes under the grill at 150 and its looking good.   I need a bit more skill at getting the bones in one go though.   Also meant I found a use for some limes sitting in the back of the fridge. 🙂

I should of taken a photo before I cut the head off. 🙂

Galilee road trip part 2 : setting up camp

Parts 1 2 3 – more soon…

Sometimes known as Lake Tiberias, Lake Kinneret, but its probably best known to most people as the Sea of Galilee.

After some driving around and exploring on foot on some picnic sites over looking the lake, we eventually settled on this one.

This would be wonderful enough if this was just a regular national park, but – this is Jesus’s backyard, a lake that was the place for many miracles, feeding the 5,000, turning water into wine, putting the demon from a man into the herd of swine (who fell to their deaths) finding many fish in the lake when the fisherman’s earlier efforts in the day yielded nothing.

The place we pitched on a picnic site was nothing short of spectacular.  The lake is about 13 by 8 miles long.

I wasn’t able to get join the six pictures together to get a full impression of the lake, but I think this one is ok:

top: As the ground is very hard and difficult to get pegs in without a hammer, I opted to mix bodging and camping and tie my tent ropes to this tree which had branches in the right place. lower: the Lance boys are well used to making a good fire.

That night I got to learn the phrase ‘glamping‘ ie: glamorous camping, a word to induce general banter, amusement and teasing of other members of the party who were less used to proper camping and would take frivolous luxuries such as iPhones, posh wine glasses and other things more suited to home. ‘you glamper, you!’

Parts 1 2 3 – more soon…

Road trip to the Galilee

Parts 1 2 3 – more soon…

Last weekend I went on a road trip, 10 of us in two cars up to the north of the country towards the Golans and the Galilee with me doing some of the driving, I picked up the rental car, a Kia Magentis a fairly dull Korean car which did the job fine, it had plenty of space and was reasonably pleasant to drive.  Seems that Israelis mostly favour automatics I am not sure why it maybe to do with the lot of Americans that are here, or possibly due to the roads are steep and hilly, and as the speed of your driving has to change very frequently, it becomes a lot of work to constantly switch between second and third gear often as I have found as I often use to drive around Hindhead and Surrey way back in the UK when I often drive through the twisty roads  in a forest in mostly darkness to go and have a few beers and a curry with my good friend John P who is there.

Anyway the trip required a large cooler box for perishable food, a ton of nuts and dried fruit, lots of firewood as well as 5 tents and sleeping bags for everyone as well as the pots and pans.

The drive up there, although was challenging needing to be assertive enough to squeeze in competing traffic, not in a aggressive or selfish way, but part of the hectic patterns of driving which is common here.  Cars here are often old and beat up and deaths in road accidents are twice what they are in UK and the US, not hard to imagine when I often see other drivers impatiently overtaking on some completely blind bends and hills.  Although driving standards are bad here so is Italy, Greece, Turkey and Egypt, so it seems to be a Mediterranean thing.  I found it not that hard to drive on the other side of the road but an auto box takes a little bit of getting used to.   Unlike modern European cars which have a stereo integral into the dash which is not easily removable, this car has a generic type stereo fitted, this meant it had tiny buttons, no steering column controls, and produced lots of scrolling messages about how many channels and watts it has which I find quite irritating.  There is a small numeric keyboard glued onto the dash (all cars in Israel have these, it’s a mandatory requirement by the insurance companies I believe)  and requires a four digit code to enable the engine to start, but the Kia I had although new doesn’t like starting first time, and needed the ignition off after a first attempt to get going.  This car is also a bit dated in styling as I think it’s a rehash of an older Hyundai model.

I think it took me two hours to get to Tiberias, this city named after a Roman leader is the main city in the Galilee region looks out towards the east side of lake and depends on tourism from foreign Christians for its economy.   When I came here before this town looked a bit shabby with the concrete hotels looking a bit reminiscent of a communist era, today these still are a bit of an eye sore but the place looks much smarter now.

Oddly enough it started to rain (remember rain is a rarity here) whilst driving through Tiberias although there is a great need for water as the Galilee (and the Dead Seas as well)  are desperately short, and where as the water is much welcomed I was surprised to see there were no drains or obvious gutter system so the water has no where to go, so the road had lots of surface water.   Hmm, me thinks a good engineer is needed to design a system to channel this to where it’s needed I reckon.

Next camping overlooking the lake…

Parts 1 2 3 – more soon…