biblical world

An omnistic bobcat

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Restoration work at the site of Maritime Caesarea, Israel, is ongoing. Fresh aspects of the site are visible with every visit.

There is a newly opened path along the eastern ramparts inside the Crusader fortress and an extension to the pavilion north of the fortress.

If you haven’t been to Caesarea lately, it is time to come back.

I thought you might enjoy a shot to this omnistic bobcat resting from his labor in the harbor area.

Oh, and don’t miss the rainbow in the winter sky!


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Our most recent group of Bible Land Explorers just completed a walk along the Jesus Trail, a 65 km trek across Galilee. In addition to exploring Caesarea, we visited Mediggo, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem.

For a list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details.

Doused by sun and rain

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The city of Sepphoris was splendidly restored by Herod Antipas. According to Josephus, Herod “built a wall about Sepphoris, (which is the security of all Galilee) and made it the metropolis of the country” (Ant 18.27). Antipas renamed it Autocratoris, a term that may suggest the title of the emperor or the fact that the city was somehow politically autonomous.

As I hiked by the site I was alternatively doused by sun and rain. Galilee in January can be that way.

In this shot, the acropolis of Sepphoris rises on the left. The summit is marked by a Crusader-era stronghold. Buildings of the modern kibbutz spread in the foreground. Upper Galilee looms in the distance, wet and purple.


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Our most recent group of Bible Land Explorers just completed a walk along the Jesus Trail, a 65 km trek across Galilee. In addition to exploring Sepphoris, we visited Nazareth, Magdala, and Tiberias.

For a list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details.


Between mangoes and bananas

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Jesus Trail hikers pass through tropical orchards on the Plain of Gennesaret. It was a muddy go, but much improved from last week. The heavy rain has subsided and given us three lovely days of sunny skies. It was just enough to reach Capernaum.

Just ahead: a lunch stop in a clearing overlooking the Sea of Galilee.


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Our current group of Bible Land Explorers are walking the Jesus Trail, a 65 km trek across Galilee. In addition to hiking through muddy orchards, we are laughing, talking, and experiencing sites associated with the Gospel story.

For a list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details.

Serious about lunch

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Dedicated Jesus Trail walkers are serious about lunch. Actually, they are pretty serious about breakfast and dinner too. But who counts calories when distance walking in rugged terrain?

Today we walked over the Horns of Hattin, visited the traditional site of the tomb of Jethro (the father-in-law of Moses), and followed the Wadi el-Hamam (Arbel Valley) eastward. It was a challenging hike, but nothing that this intrepid group couldn’t handle.

John, Diane, and Virgil are pictured here.


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Our current group of Bible Land Explorers are walking the Jesus Trail, a 65 km hike across Galilee. In addition to eating good lunches, we are walking, talking, and experiencing sites associated with the Gospel story.

For a list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details.

Drone pilot

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Cody prepares to launch a drone from the top of the Nabi Sa'in ridge in Nazareth, Israel. Can you believe he controls the flight and camera of that little booger from his cell phone? Incredible!

Capturing a bird’s-eye view of our hike along the Jesus Trail is a new experience. You can tell when the drone is around; it zooms overhead on four propellers and sounds like a swarm of bees.

I can’t wait to see what the aerial camera captures!

Cody is not only an ace drone pilot, he is currently a student at the Cincinnati Christian University and staff member of the Crossroads Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.


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Cody and 9 other explorers are walking the Jesus Trail, a 65 km hike across Galilee. In addition to droning around, we are walking, talking, and experiencing sites associated with the Gospel story.

For a list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details.

Taking a pounding

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There was a break in the heavy weather yesterday. The sun broke through to illuminate waves crashing against the breakwater at Caesarea.

It is hard to imagine that the artificial harbor engineered in the time of King Herod went out another quarter of a mile.

Read about Herod’s magnificent Mediterranean harbor in the Jewish War of Josephus. Find a starting point here.


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Consider this your invitation to participate in a trip of adventure and renewal to the Lands of the Bible in 2019. For a complete list of travel opportunities, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details. We make learning fun, eat good food, sleep in some respectable places, and send you home with memories for a lifetime!

Uncrossable

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Heavy rains in recent days have made for difficult trekking in Galilee. As I post this note it is coming down in sheets and thunder is rattling the windows (I’ve retired for the night. My wet clothes are hanging from every knob and bracket in the room.).

Streams that cut through the Plain of Gennesaret are swollen. Navigating the area on foot requires care. The shot above is the Tsalmon stream pouring over a low water bridge. The name, Tsalmon, ironically, means something like “calmness.”

Gennesaret is a small fertile plain located on the west side of the Sea of Galilee between Migdal and Capernaum. Josephus calls it the most fertile place in the entire country (War 3:516-521).


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Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine soon. We plan to investigate the region of Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.

Scouting

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Checked out a portion of the Jesus Trail today. It’s been a couple of years. Hiked from Sepphoris to Nazareth and back again. I’d rather get lost solo. I don’t want to do it with a group behind me.

Saw four bushy-tailed foxes in the woods near Sepphoris.

Saw lots of rain too, but a rainbow in the end.


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Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine in just a couple of days. We plan to investigate the region of Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.

Sitting room

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Wouldn’t this be a lovely spot to welcome the New Year?

The sitting room at the Jacir Palace in Bethlehem is located in just off the entry door. Note the painted ceilings described in yesterday’s post (see here).

I trust you will find the perfect place from which to say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019.

All the best from us at Bible Land Explorer!


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Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine at the start of 2019. We plan to investigate the region of Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.

Living history

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The painted ceilings in the Jacir Palace, Bethlehem, are splendid. They are relics of a moment in time.

The end of the 19th century was marked by stability in the Levant. The elite of Palestinian society responded in an open-minded way. They continued to build in traditional styles, but incorporated new—and flashy—elements drawn from northern Mediterranean lands. These included ceiling paintings.*

The entry to the palace and its adjoining rooms was adorned with landscapes, abstract designs, and this single portrait. I believe it to be Youssef Jacir, a prominent figure of Bethlehem (died 1888). He was a leader in the local Christian church, the town’s registrar, tax-collector, and historical orator.** He fathered five children; the eldest was responsible for building the Jacir Palace. Not surprisingly, the face of the patriarch was respectfully placed on the ceiling where he remains at watch to this day.

Aren’t the colors magnificent?

A European artist by the name of Marco was commissioned to do the work.


*An excellent source for information about such things is Sharif Sharif-Safadi’s Wall and Ceiling Paintings in Notable Palestinian Mansions in the Late Ottoman Period: 1856-1917. Riwaq, 2008.

**See the history of the Jacir Palace here (accessed 12/20/2018).


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Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine at the start of 2019. We plan to investigate the region Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.

Juliet perch

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“What light through yonder window breaks?”

A Juliet perch adorns the face of the Jacir Palace, Bethlehem.


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Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine at the start of 2019. We plan to investigate the region Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.

Palatial

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The dream-home of Suleiman Jacir was built at the turn of the 20th century. This Bethlehem family is remembered for their generosity as well as their successful business in mother of pearl ornaments.

While a core of Christian artisans remains in Bethlehem, Palestine, it is difficult to imagine this commercial heyday. The downward spiral of the fortunes of Ottoman-era merchants accelerated in the period of the British Mandate. Less than two decades after this stone palace was built the family went bankrupt and was forced to sell the property.


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Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine at the start of 2019. We plan to investigate the region Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.


A place to drink coffee

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The Jacir Palace in Bethlehem is an exquisite example of Late Ottoman architecture. Little work is needed to imagine how this space was used at the beginning of the twentieth century. Local and foreign guests of the Jacir family could rest here from the heat of the middle eastern sun. The courtyard is still used today as a place of meeting, drinking coffee, and telling stories.

The surrounding riwaq, or arcade, crouches behind columns of alternating colored stone. The riwaq provides a transition between surrounding rooms and the open courtyard in the center of the palace. Colored stonework continues around a fountain, a stimulating centerpiece.

Balconies to additional rooms are visible on the second floor.

For more on Bethlehem’s Jacir palace see here.


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Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine at the start of 2019. We plan to investigate the region Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.

A fine centenarian

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I’m usually not one to recommend hotels, but if you do happen to visit Bethlehem in the Christmas season, this is the place to hang your stocking cap. The stately manor at the core of the Jacir-Intercontinental Palace was built in 1910 by a well-to-do Arab Christian family. It is located near Rachel’s Tomb, although one is hard pressed to reach that place from here; Israel’s Great Barrier Wall often makes travel in and out of Bethlehem difficult.

The architecture of the structure is a blend of western and Oriental styles. A citadel-like entrance gives way to a lovely check-in area with a sitting room, a grand piano, and painted ceilings. Beyond this welcome area is an internal courtyard space of three stories.

Over the course of time the Jacir Palace has been a family home, the headquarters for the British army, a hospital, a school for boys, a school for girls, and now a hotel. For more than century it has been a familiar landmark in the community of Bethlehem.

I’ve stayed here only a few times but have always found the rooms, service, and food to be exquisite. I’m no cigar smoker, but if I was, the courtyard would certainly be the place to do it . . . while chatting about things that we gentlemen often chat about: riding, fencing, shooting, boxing, swimming, rowing and dancing.

Okay. You can laugh now.


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We are gearing up for our next walk across Galilee. In January of 2019 we aim to do portions of the Jesus Trail with a small but intrepid group of travelers. I’ll keep you posted. If you are interested in joining another of our 2019 trips, have a look at what we have planned here. If you see something of interest, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com. We’ll do our best to accommodate you (although it may not be the Jacir Palace!).

Manger Square mystery?

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I picked up this slide several years ago as part of a anonymous donation to the Cincinnati Christian University. There are no labels so I don’t know the date or place exactly.

I’m guessing this is the plaza known as Manger Square in Bethlehem. The view is toward the west from the area in front of the Church of the Nativity. The minaret is part of the Mosque of Omar and the street running away from the camera is Pope Paul VI.

The mosque confuses me; the lines are different from the mosque seen today. Could this be because the Jordanians renovated the site in the early 1950s? Might that a Jordanian flag on the post?

That’s my best shot. Anyone else have a guess?

If I’ve got it right, the mosque seen here is the one constructed in 1860. It was erected on the footprint of a still earlier structure. According to tradition, the original structure represents the place where Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattib (7th c AD) prayed when he came to town. Omar was persuaded by a local monk to pray here rather than across the plaza in the Church of the Nativity. The move preserved the church; otherwise it would have likely been converted into a mosque.

Check out the donkeys and the vehicles. Hey, maybe someone can date those vehicles? The donkey?


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A few seats have opened up on our Johnson University Study-Tour to Israel-Palestine slated for March 12-23, 2019. If you are interested in being a part of this high-energy student trip, contact me immediately at markziese@gmail.com. Don’t hesitate. Our roster must be finalized by mid-December. Academic credit is available.




What's the score?

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The concrete wall surrounding Bethlehem is a bitter testimony to one way in which the powerful control the powerless. A little graffiti painted on that concrete suggests another.


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A few seats have opened up on our Johnson University Study-Tour to Israel-Palestine slated for March 12-23, 2019. If you are interested in being a part of this high-energy student trip, contact me immediately at markziese@gmail.com. Don’t hesitate. Our roster must be finalized by mid-December. Academic credit is available.

An enclosed garden

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A few miles southeast of Bethlehem, Palestine, is the village of Artas (or Urtas). It is famous for its springs and watersystems (the so-called Solomon’s Pools) and has a garden-like appearance (see our post to the Wadi Urtas/Artas here). It is a splendid place to escape the heat of a Jerusalem summer.

Just opposite Artas, on wadi slopes, is a convent known by the name al-Banat (“the maidens”). Inside the complex is the Chapel of Hortus conclusus, Latin for “enclosed garden.” The phrase is drawn from the Latin Vulgate’s expressive presentation of the female lover in the Song of Songs.

“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain” (4:12, NIV).

Christian allegorical interpretations of the Song have linked Mary, the mother of Jesus, to this female character. By miracle, she conceived without having her virginity disturbed. Hence, this notion of a cloister, or the phrase hortus conclusus, has been applied to Mary.

The Convent of al-Banat was founded in 1894 by the Italian Order of the Sisters of Mary of the Garden. Local tradition links the site with a garden of King Solomon.


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A few seats have opened up on our Johnson University Study-Tour to Israel-Palestine slated for March 12-23, 2019. If you are interested in being a part of this high-energy student trip, contact me immediately at markziese@gmail.com. Don’t hesitate. Our roster must be finalized by mid-December. Academic credit is available.

Messina memories

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Ah Messina! Awash in the Mediterranean sun. Shaken by volcanic roots.

What stories your waterfront has known!

Greek colonists. Tyrants! Carthaginian galleys. Roman soldiers venture off-peninsula.

Richard the Lionheart passes, grim-faced, on Crusade.

Oh no! Black plague! Jesuits.

Hold your ears! Boom! A German Dunkirk. Patton sneers at Montgomery.

And now? After all this?

Your harbor is cupped against Sicily’s breast.

Boats bob. The current shifts. The moon rises. Quiet.

The seas mix as we wait for swordfish.


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A few seats have opened up on our Johnson University Study-Tour to Israel-Palestine slated for March 12-23, 2019. If you are interested in being a part of this high-energy student trip, contact me immediately at markziese@gmail.com. Don’t hesitate. Our roster must be finalized by mid-December. Academic credit is available.

Double-barreled

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The “High Aqueduct” that carries freshwater to the site of Caesarea Maritima is not a single system but two. The side that faces the parking lot is the older member of the construction; it corresponds to the birth of the city in the time of Herod the Great (late 1st c BC). A single canal carried water along the top of an elevated arcade. It is visible only in the upper right corner of this photograph.

Abutting the first system is a second. This side faces the Mediterranean Sea and is largely visible here. It has been suggested that this addition was built shortly after the first. Soldiers from the Second, Sixth, and Tenth Legions assisted in repairs carried out in AD 130 according to inscriptional evidence.

For more photographs and explanations of the water system at Caesarea Maritima, see the link here.

For our previous post on the “High Aqueduct”, see here.

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer Melinda Lee.


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A few seats have opened up on our Johnson University Study-Tour to Israel-Palestine slated for March 12-23, 2019. If you are interested in being a part of this high-energy student trip, contact me immediately at markziese@gmail.com. Don’t hesitate. Our roster must be finalized by mid-December. Academic credit is available.