Israel Day Trip #1

Trip Start Dec 01, 2011
Trip End Jan 20, 2013

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Friday, December 14, 2012

It was a four stop day today that stopped by Caesaria, Haifa, Acre and Rosh Hanrika.  We originally wanted to do a day trip to Haifa, but I am glad we decided to do a tour because we saw several world heritage sites and it is very hard to do this by bus.  Many of the sites were not near a bus stop and the tour took us directly to the site, so this turned out to be a great day.  So here is the summary.
Caesarea was our first stop on the long day.  It is about 45 minutes from Tel Aviv.   It is a fortress on the water that is a combination of a Roman colony and crusader fortress.  They had the typical ruins here like a theater (still used today), hippodrome (for horse racing), residences, pools, guesthouses, storage rooms and many other places to make this a thriving spot.  In roman times, this was the official residence for the governor of Judea.  At the time of Jesus, Pontius Pilate lived here and there is a stone tablet that is original here with Pontius Pilate’s name on it and I found this the most interesting part of the trip.  He was the one to sentence Jesus to death. 

This was an interesting stop here.  I wanted to go to see Mt Carmel, which is my first city (of many) that is in the bible that I will visit on my Israel trip.  Mt Carmel was just a small mountain that really had nothing historical about it.  The interesting thing about it was the Baha’i Gardens.  This is actually based after a religion was Islamic, but didn’t want to be that serious, so they broke off and had a mix of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.  I never heard of this in my 29 years of living.  This garden is a world heritage site and to enter it, you have to have a guided tour and be pre booked by someone who is Baha’i.  You can not enter this garden with someone who is not Baha’i.  The garden is the world’s longest hillside garden in the world.  It ends with the golden domed Baha’I shrine at the bottom.  There are 19 lookouts in this garden, but without a tour, you can only see one lookout.  This garden cost $25,000,000 to build and was donated by Baha’I from all over the world.  It is quite funny though because not many Baha’I live in Israel and if you want to see this famous religious site that you have to apply to get in to see Haifa and this can take up to six years.  
Acre was an ancient historical city that had a fortress on the water.  It was the key port for the crusaders in the 1200s.  It has been battered for years and changed hands several times.  Alexander the Great came here as well as Julius Caesar.  The Arabs held the city at one point, then the crusader era hit.  It was a major trade center for a long time and there is still a port here today.  This place was layered with history.  They keep excavating the site and still have more to uncover, but there are 3 levels of ruins here that have all the things fortresses has like halls, knights hall, kitchen, market, prison and other places.  The strange thing about this place was that apparently the Crusader’s took this over and the Muslim’s took over and filled the fortress on top with sand and buried it then built on top of it to erase the history of the crusaders.  There is supposedly a church underneath the mosque and the Muslims covered this up to erase the history and they won’t let the church be excavated because this would prove that Christians existed here and that would be bad for Muslim’s.  This later happens in Jerusalem when they cover up the history of other religions.  You can now walk in parts of the underground part of the city including some underground tunnels that lead to an escape route.
Rosh Hanrika
Rosh Hanrika has famous grottos here.  It is at the Lebanon/Israel border, which is now closed.  According the our tour guide, Israel helping Lebanon develop the country and when Israel let them free, they went to war with each other and are now enemies.  We got to see the Lebanon border.  I have now seen North Korea and Lebanon borders but not entered.  There was once a railway here that passed from London to Egypt, but it is now closed.  The grottos were formed naturally by the water and there are these underground tunnels that you can walk through and see the water passing through underneath your feet.  It was a fun site.  It did not cost any money to see any of the sites on this tour and was all included in the total price of our tour.  

 At the end of the day, I have to say that Israel has some of the best transportation and roads in the world.  It is a very small country, but the driving was very smooth today.  It is a very upmarket country that is very developed and ahead of the rest of the Middle East and most of the world, which is strange considering it is one of the oldest countries in the world.  
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