Jerusalem is, of course, the epicenter for the three monotheistic (Abrahamic) religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Lisa and I aren't religious -- a religious pilgrimage this trip definitely was not -- but there was no way we were going to miss seeing the sites responsible for all the religious hullabaloo. First up was the Western Wall: the holiest of Jewish holies:
|Modest dress is required (head covering for men) with men and women being segregated in the prayer area.|
|Small wall...big significance.|
|Touching the rock upon which the crucifixion is believed to have occurred.|
|And the Stone of Unction where it is claimed that Jesus' body was cleansed and prepared for burial.|
Last up was the Dome of the Rock (golden-colored dome) -- photographed from afar -- since only Muslims are permitted inside. This is the place from which Muhammad is believed to have risen to heaven where he then received the precepts of Islam.
|The Al-Aqsa mosque is nearby and also off-limits to non-Muslims|
The Garden of Gethsemane, located just outside the "Old City" (the walled portion of the city surrounding the Western Wall, Church of Holy Sepulcher, and the Dome of the Rock), is where Jesus is believed to have come after the Last Supper to pray and where, eventually, he was betrayed and arrested. Some believe the olive trees in the garden are older than Christianity itself.
After two days of religious sites, we headed south for Masada -- King Herod's palace-fortress that was eventually overtaken by the legions of Rome -- and the Dead Sea -- the lowest point on Earth and one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet.
|Decorative digs atop this flattop rock overlooking the desert and Dead Sea.|
|Breathing easy down here!|
|Bobbing like a cork.|
|Dead Sea shoreline.|
Our detour to the northern part of Israel took us to Akko (a principal transit point for the Crusaders) and to Haifa (home of the Baha'i Shrine and Gardens).
Tel Aviv was the most metropolitan and secular among the cities we visited. Perhaps the Mediterranean Sea, the food, and the liveliness of the city distract the residents from the religious tension afflicting the rest of the country?
|Quaint Akko harbor.|
|This beer isn't fake, is real..|
|As is the glorious chickpea.|