Remembering the Days of Old While on lockdown

So in response to the growing pandemic of COVID-19 in the Philippines, our President declared the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine. It is essentially a lockdown—movement restrictions with exceptions (the front-liners such as medical professionals, grocery clerks, restaurant workers, truck drivers, warehouse workers, and sanitation workers).

Although I am on a work from home arrangement, I have more time in my hands, and so I’ve decided to give this blog a little love.  

So I continue with our Holy land journey focusing on Israel this time.

The land of Israel is also known as the Holy land or Palestine. It is the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity.  

Until 1948, the land of Israel had lain in a virtual state of waste for over 1900 years.   As God had promised in Ezekiel 11:16-20, He gave back the land of Israel to the Jews and gathered them from the nations to which He had exiled them. Today, over 6 million Jews have returned to Israel from more than 102 different countries representing 38 languages. The deserted desert land is once again blooming as promised.  

Some Significant Places Not to be Missed

Follow me as we step into history through the sites where my faith was born, tested, and proven. We will walk where Jesus walked, taught, and died.

Dead Sea

A salt lake bordered by Jordan and Israel. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on the earth’s surface, which extends from Asia Minor to Africa. Its shoreline is 430 meters below sea level, 72 kilometers long, and 18 kilometers wide. 

It is one of the most unusual lakes in the world, and people from all over the world flock to this hypersaline phenomenon. It has no outlet, so water is only lost by evaporation, making it the world’s saltiest body of water.  

Rich in mineral content, many as far back, Cleopatra has been making use of the Dead Sea mineral for beauty treatments and health remedies. It contains 33% salt and 328 minerals, such as magnesium, bromide potash, potassium, and other metals. Its concentration of salt and minerals is about 50% compared to 5% of that of regular oceans.

Because it smells of rotten eggs from the sulfur of the earth, the Dead Sea (also referred to the Salt Sea in the Bible) has been called many names — Sea od Sodom, Sea of Lot, and the Stinking Sea. According to the Book of Genesis, God “rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed all of Sodom and Gomorrah. They once stood at the south end of the sea, they were submerged beneath the waters that formed the lowest and saltiest lake in the world.

Masada National Park

On the western shore of the Dead Sea, between Sodom and Ein Gedi is a natural fortress on a mesa in the Judean Desert. The plateau rises 440 meters above the Dead Sea and is surrounded by a deep gorge on all sides. Its remote location made it a natural fortress.

Masada shows the engineering and architectural abilities of Herod the Great. 

He kept his family at Masada during the years of his struggle for power in Judea. In the days of the Great Revolt, a group of Jewish rebels besieged by the Roman army entrenched themselves in Masada. 

From its beautiful views of the desert and the Dead Sea to the legend behind it, this stunning archeological site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see.

Qumran

In 1947, two Bedouin shepherd boys found the Dead Sea scrolls, the oldest known copies of biblical texts, in caves north of ancient ruins near the Dead Sea. 

How the Qumran caves look like

Its origin, which was written between 150 B.C. and 70 A.D., remains the subject of scholarly debate to this day. They are supposedly the work of a Jewish population that inhabited Qumran until Roman troops destroyed the settlement around 70 A.D.

The Dead Sea Scrolls include fragments from every book of the Old Testament except for the Book of Esther.

Ein Gedi

The literal translation of Ein Gedi from Hebrew means “the spring of the young goat.” It is the biggest and the most crucial oasis in Israel. It has springs and waterfalls and flowing brooks at the foot of the cliffs. You can find trails of dessert streams along the reserve. The abundance of water yields thriving vegetation that formed the foundation of its ecosystem.  

There is much to explore throughout this expansive park, including archeological sites that date back to the 1st century. Still, the most popular is David’s waterfalls.

The site was known in the Biblical times as fertile, blessed by the spring it is named after. This area is where David hid from the pursuing King Saul (1 Samuel 23 29: “And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strongholds at Engedi “).

Beit She’an

Walk back through time as you explore an old theater that is still in use today, a public bathhouse, two streets with partial columns still standing, temple ruins, and many more ancient sites.  

A city in Northern Israel, which has played an essential role in history due to its geographical location, where the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley meet. 

In biblical account, the most famous episode featuring Beit She’an follows the death of King Saul on Mt. Gilboa (1Sam 31:8-13 and Chronicles 10:8-12). Later, Beit She’an became incorporated into the Kingdom of King David and his son Solomon. It became a significant administration center in Solomon’s Kingdom.

There is so much to explore in Israel so I will break Israel into 2 parts, so join me on my next post as I share with you more of this small diverse country.

Stay safe, everyone. Praying that you are all well. Let stay away from crowds so we can flatten the curve. God Bless us all, and may this pandemic end soon.

Israel

Those who love history, current events, and the spiritual will enjoy exploring this tiny country.

Israel has a history of survival, the Jews have had to endure captivity after captivity throughout their existence.  Its history begins with God, who chose Abraham and his descendants to be His people and entered into a covenant relationship with them.  He was to be their God and the Israelites, His people.

Beit She’an Ruins

He promised that they will inherit the land of Canaan and grant them national protection, provided that they keep the 10 Commandments.  This covenant took effect at Horeb and renewed on the plains of Moab.

The ruins of Beit She’an

As recorded in the Bible, the land of Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people, where its culture, religion, and national identity was founded.  The Jewish people never severed nor forgot its bond with the land, even after many were forced into exile.

Best friends spotted at the Jewish Quarter

Israel gained independence in 1948.  It is (today) a modern-day nation in the Middle East that makes up part of the biblical Holyland.  The modern country of Israel included two distinct nationalities, the Palestinian and the Jewish.  Each nationality is free from its religious identity.  The Palestinians are Arabs whose traditions are founded in Medina culture. At the same time, the Jews define their culture in large part around their religion as well. 

Streets of Tel Aviv

The Israelis embrace many lifestyles, from modern to traditional, from urban to rural.  The country has a lively contemporary culture that is also very variegated because of the country’s diverse population originating from some 100 countries.

Jews at the Wailing Wall

While the majority of Israel adopts a secular lifestyle, both amongst Jews and Arabs, freedom of faith and worship is a cornerstone of Israeli democracy. 

The Dead Sea

A fascinating country steeped in history.  It is the land of the Bible.  In the next posts, we will walk through the days of old.

Egypt Highlights:

One of the oldest kingdoms on record dating from 3100BC, officially known today as the Arab Republic of Egypt is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and the southeast corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula.  It welcomes you with its mighty Nile and magnificent monuments, the enchanting desert, and lush delta. 

Egypt was one of the first countries in the world to embrace Christianity.  By the time Abraham was in Egypt, it was already over 1,000 years old.  After 2,500 years of triumph, this nation fell to conquering armies.  It has never gained back its past glory. 

Before its collapse, ancient Egypt the land of the Pharaohs and monuments like the legendary Great Pyramids and the Spinx. 

A visit to Egypt must include a visit to the Egyptian Museum, where around 120,000 Egyptian artifacts can be found, albeit not all are on display.

Likewise, for the Great Pyramid of Giza, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the World still standing, the oldest and largest of the 3 pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex. The famous three pyramids of Giza were built around 2700 BC., primarily used as tombs.

The Great Spinx is a statue of a reclining lion with a human head that stands on the Giza plateau, a national symbol of both ancient and modern Egypt.  Recent studies are still inconclusive as to who founded the Sphinx, why and when it was constructed, or whose image was carved on the Sphinx’s face.

Climbing Mount Sinai was the highlight of my Egypt leg.  Located at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, a mountain ridge that has long been considered the site of Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai. 

According to the Bible, it was in Mount Horeb that God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and commissioned him to return to Egypt. (Exodus 3:1-4:17).It was also here that God told Moses to strike the rock, which provided water for the Israelites (Exodus 17:1-6).  In Mount Sinai, God appeared to Moses and gave him instructions and the 10 Commandments (Exodus 19:13-34:45)

From the foot of Mount Sinai in St. Catherine, we rode a camel up to the last rest stop before ascending to the summit (never again… lol), the final 750 steps.  To catch the sunrise, we started the trek a few hours after midnight and reached the summit before dawn.

The scenery on the way down was fascinating – expect dramatic, jaw-dropping granite landscape views.  It is one of the richest eco-system in the Middle East.  It is home to many endemic, rare and protected plant and animal species. 

The Camel path is a 7km long snake-like trail and trekking up to the top will take about 3 hours on average.