Glimpses of Israel

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Modern Israel is an important site for three of the world’s major religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Holy sites gain special attention at this time of year as Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.


Religion is woven inextricably into the land, rocks and water of the region. Pilgrimages by Christian believers from around the world center mainly on Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee.


But in addition to and often inseparable from these places of worship are deep historical roots and surprising modernities. Here are personal glimpses from a few trips I’ve made as a guest of  the Canadian branch of the   Israel Government Tourist Office.

Paper bookmarks

The Basilica of the Annunciation, “House of the Virgin Mary” in Nazareth, was constructed  in 1969 over the Grotto and ruins of four earlier churches dating from the 1st and 2nd century AD.

Young son of our Israeli Arab driver, a resident of Nazareth. We had coffee with his family.

The small refreshing Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, 'most famous as the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before Jesus' crucifixion' — Wikipedia

Despite scholarly dispute, the Via Dolorosa holds general public belief as the path  Jesus walked to His crucifiction

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built on the site where Jesus was believed by many Christians to have been crucified, buried and resurrected. Six major denominations possessively share the church.  

The magnificence of Acre (Akko) is uncovered in excavations beneath the city where the Crusader Knights Hospitaller of St John order had its headquarters.

Islam's Dome of the Rock and Judaism's Western Wall graphically show the close proximity of the two religions

within Old Jerusalem. 

Dr. Dan Bahat, chief archaeologist of excavations beneath the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock. 

Hasidic Jews meeting for prayer in a vault beside the Western Wall, built by Herod the Great as part of the Jewish Second Temple.

Tel Aviv's secular 'cafe society' sits in contrast to orthodox Judaism. Secular and religious differences have been a point of domestic friction.

There's a great view of Tel Aviv from Old Jaffa, just around the bay.

Carmel street market is a cacophony of vendors' shouts, pungent cooking and Middle Eastern spices — plus baklava and halvah!

Day or night, Tel Aviv's redeveloped Old Port area is busy with restaurants and city residents out for a stroll.

My Aha! moment came when this young woman introduced me to Ahava luxury skin care products made with Dead Sea minerals.

Terraced gardens  and the golden-domed Shrine of the Báb comprise part of the Bahá'í World Centre overlooking the port city of Haifa  

Hamam al-Basha Turkish baths in Acre were built at the end of the 18th century when the region known as Palestine was part of the Ottoman empire.

Sunset over the Dead Sea, looking towards Jordan.

A quick break from militia duty to strike a pose.

Yad Vashem Museum is 'the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust,' dedicated to research, education and commemoration of the WW II genocide.

Yad Vashem. A fellow journalist helped create a symbolic gesture against the open skies of Jerusalem.

Former President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres cut the ribbon in May, 2013 opening a Negev desert section of the national system of bike trails.

Cycling by moonlight in the desert near the

Dead Sea.

Sands of time. The wind raises dust beneath a Roman aqueduct on the Mediterranean. 

A trumpeter blasts goodbye as the funicular at the ancient fortress of Masada begins its descent. On a further note, the cableway is the lowest aerial tram in the world, beginning its climb 237 metres below sea level.

Dead Sea resort areas like Ein Bokek are modern oases geared towards sun and spas where everyone can play in the mud and float on water.

So we're riding in a bus beside the Dead Sea when a rainbow appears. We all shout "Stop the bus!" and the driver does. I ran across a stretch of sand for this unobstructed view. Heat haze accentuated with a telephoto lens gave it a dreamy view.

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© 2014 Gary Crallé 

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