Just another magical day in this beautiful, Holy Land where my faith was born. We weren't going to leave Tel Tamar until 9 AM today, but I woke up bright and early this morning - by 6:0
, so I climbed the guard tower atop the Tel and snapped some pictures of the beautiful desert vista that surrounds this place. Then I walked to the nearby Cafe Aroma to post some pics to my FB page and enjoy one last cup of this marvelous concoction I've come to enjoy so much.
Come 9 AM, we were loaded up and on the road again. Our first stop was Arad, which features prominently on the Book of Exodus. When Moses first reached the Promised Land's borders, the spies he sent out returned a grim message: the land was too well-defended, its people too strong, and the city walls too high for them to take. At that point God told the people He was sick of their grumbling and complaining and ordered them to wander in the Wilderness for the next forty years. The Israelites then said "No, we're sorry, we'll go attack them right now!" God replied, "Go ahead, but I will not be with you." So they attacked Arad, this very Canaanite fort whose walls I stood on this morning, and the Canaanite handed their rear ends to them. So the Children of Israel headed off into the Wilderness for a 40 year humility lesson, and when they came back after it was done, they easily captured the mighty fortress of Arad and built their own town over it.
Today there are two distinct ruins visible : the Canaanite Arad, a truly impressive fort with massive gates, and then the even larger and more impressive Israelite city built just up the slope from it. It was fun just wandering over the site, trying to imagine how it looked in its glory days. I also had fun chasing Israeli lizards around here; the buggers are very fast, even on a cold day.
Next up, we went to the ruins of ancient city of Beer Sheba, another site prominently mentioned in the Old Testament. It was near here that God spoke to Abram and gave him his new name; it was here that Isaac dug the well that gave the city its name. This place was smaller, but still quite impressive. The ancient water works undeneath the city are huge and cut very deep into the bedrock below.
After this we stopped for lunch (McDonald's in Israel has a HUGE burger they call the Big America!), and then we headed up to Jerusalem - and I do mean UP! We climbed higher and higher into the Judea mountains, until finally this marvelous city, sacred to three faiths, appeared on the horizon.
So what is Jerusalem like? First off, it is COLD. It was fifty degrees with a chill west wind. It's crowded, and the traffic is insane. But it is also magical and wondrous and its walls glow at night. We are staying at a hostel run by the Rosary Sisters, a Catholic order. It is just a few blocks from the Jaffa Gate, and once we got unpacked and settled in, five of us headed into the Old City for a quick look around. We entered by the Armenian Quarter, then stopped and ate at a lovely little restaurant. By the time we were done, it was dark and rainy, so we headed back to the convent and settled in for the night. Tomorrow we REALLY get to see the sights!