Day 7 – More Jerusalem and tunnels

Our last full day in Jerusalem didn’t start out so great – well at least for some of us.
 Micah (who had previously been sick the day we went to the Dead Sea) was eating his breakfast at the table when he suddenly vomited between bites of corn flakes. So we decided that perhaps he needed a bit of a rest. Susan stayed home with him and Alma for the morning, and the rest of us headed off for our daily adventure.

Us using phone maps with limited awareness of where we really are (us that is..not the phone)


We first headed towards a church called Saint Peter in Gallicantu.  Gallicantu is from the latin Gallus cantat – literally the rooster crows  – as it is built on what is believed to be the site of the palace of Caiaphas the Roman appointed Jewish high priest.

our shortcut…once we got past the rabid dogs

This would have then also been the place where Jesus’ follower Peter had followed at a distance, out of fear that the same thing which was happening to his rabbi would happen to him.  Jesus had told Peter he would deny even knowing him three times before morning – before the rooster crowed. He did – and that’s where this place gets its name from

The palace of Joseph Caiphas would have been the place where Jesus was taken  after his arrest, and where he was beaten and held overnight before being sent to the Roman prefect Pilate for execution.

Jonah pointing to our house back on the other side of the valley
down in the stone holding cell where they think Jesus was held overnight prior to his tiral

After St Peter’s we walked along the old city walls toward the ‘real’ old city – an area called ‘the city of David’ as it contains a dig site that dates back to the time of King David (~1000 BC) – many centuries before the ‘old city’ – which only dates to the first century BC.


The City of David archaelogical dig is a very impressive site that has uncovered remains that span from the remains of a house from the time the Byzantines (all the way up to ~1100AD) all the way back to pottery fragments dated to before the Early Bronze Age (prior to ~3500BC).  So this one site alone has discoveries that cover in excess of 5000 years.

kids calibrating themselves for the depth of the water in the tunnel at the entrance to The City of David


One of the main reasons we wanted to go to the City of David was to walk through Hezekiah’s tunnel.

kids walking over the remains of the 10th century BC wall of Jerusalem

Hezekiah’s tunnel also know as Siloam tunnel   (נִקְבַּת השילוח‎, if you written Hebrew is good) is an ancient subterranean aqueduct, that runs from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam

view across to the Mount of Olives and towards many graves from millennia gone past
gearing up for the tunnel


…going in…


Jonah up ahead …towards the end when it was quite shallow
out the other side



drying off quickly on our way home


We walked back to the house – where Micah was now feeling better – so all 12 of us headed back to the old city for lunch.  We made our way to the Jewish quarter and found ourselves a bagel shop.

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Susan is very impressed (Nate….not so much)


running along outside the city walls
three boys in an olive tree


We found a place that delivered pizza – and so that was our last meal in Jerusalem.

dining room

And, just in case you were wondering where the 12 of us stayed, here are a few shots of the house we had in Jerusalem.

kids reading in the living room













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Israel – Day 6

The next morning we returned the rental cars and spent the day back in Jerusalem, which meant it started off like every other day we had in the city….walking from our place over to the old city.

the younger boys blending in with Israeli security forces

We walked through the old city, out the Damascus gate, and over to what is known as The Garden Tomb.  This was a late archaeological discovery made by the British, and is the  alternative potential location of Jesus execution and burial to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The two really couldn’t feel more different. The Church is a massive, dark, incense-filled, busy structure, full of pilgrims venerating icons, lighting candles etc. The garden tomb is almost like a small oasis in the middle of the hustle and noise of the city.

looking at the rock hill they believe is “Golgotha” – ‘the place of the skull’. Meaning Jesus would have been executed down where those busses are parked.

So , is this  the place Jesus from Nazareth was buried?

I don’t know. No one does. There are some significant archaeological issues with this proposed site, and specifically with the tomb.

But to be honest – I dont’ really care.

The great part about this site is that it gives you a feel for what the place of execution, burial and resurrection would have felt like in the first century.  Where as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been built up since Emperor Constantine assented to its authenticity and built the first structure in the 3rd century, this is still just an open garden that you can walk through.

The other interesting thing to me is that no one knows.  Typically when someone dies, their final resting place is memorialized and marked.  When that person was a public leader, and a spokesman for a group even more so.  When they are a spiritual leader or the founder of a religion, it becomes critical.  The final resting place of every individual who has been the central point of a religious movement (as opposed to those based on ideologies etc) have their graves clearly identified.

You can travel to India to find the final resting place of the Buddha  or to Saudi Arabia to see the prophet Mohammed’s grave, or to see the tombs of the Jewish Patriarchs in Hebron, West Bank. The founder of Bahai’s remains are inside the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh in Israel, Joseph Smith who started Mormonism is buried in Illinois, and Confucius has been interred in his hometown in China.  The reason why no one knows where Jesus of Nazareth was buried, is that the grave is empty.

After that, we headed back into the city for what we were told were the best falafels in the old city.

just a typical street patrol
Judging from the look on Joshua’s face -I assume he’s on the “YES these are the best ones in town” side of this debate
the bus station, right below the “skull hill” that is seen from the Garden Tomb

We grabbed our lunch – and waited for Rob to buy an entire 1.5l bottle of fresh squeezed pomegranate juice – and ate it before we got on a bus and headed up to the mount of olives.

The view from the top back over the Old City of Jerusalem is pretty spectacular.

This is Dr. Peter.  The mule, not the guy.


As there are belifs within Islam, Judaism and Christianity that the final judgement will take place here, people from these three faiths have been vying for cemetary space for centuries.

They want to be first in line I guess, have a shorter commute, maybe beat the traffic of souls coming in from out of town.

At the bottom of the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gesthemane, the place where Jesus was with his followers the night he was arrested.

One of the crazy things is that the olive trees which are currently there, were studied last year by the Italian National Research council and dated to about 1000AD.  So these specific trees, have been here for half the time that has passed between Jesus day and now.  That also makes them pretty much the oldest living trees known to science. 

From there we walked back across the Kidron Valley to the Old city.


just your typical fashion accessory for teen-age girls

We went back to the Western Wall, since it was so crowded and busy when we were there the first time – plus we were walking right past it, so it seemed weird to just walk on by.

Oh Look. We ended up back here for supper again.


It was tough to go wrong in this place.

We walked back to the house after supper.

Yet another good day, (noticing a pattern?)

Day 5 – Galilee

The next day we got up and started heading north.


Our destination was the Sea of Galilee – and once we got there our first stop was the Galilee Boat

This is a 1st century boat that was found after the sea receded quite a bit during a drought in the 80’s. Some amateur archeologist/fishermen brothers found it and it was excavated and underwent a 20-year long process of slowly extracting moisture and replacing it with a resin so that the 2000 year old wood could remain intact in open air.

It was a pretty cool thing to see as there are so many references to boats on the Sea of Galilee in the New Testament – and previously there hadn’t really been any significant findings of them. This one – which they dated to about 50AD – helps give some idea what kind of vessels were used for fishing and transport back in the first century.



After we saw the boat we had a bit of a snack lunch in a park just outside the museum


we found Cheerios were available in Israel (which they aren’t in France) and introduced Alma to them. She was quite taken -and actually just stole this box out of the trunk of the Balls rental car



Everyone was just enjoying the beautiful weather, the shade in the park, and a chance for the kids to just run around .



From there we went a bit further along the coast of the Sea to the Church of Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes – which you may be able to guess from the name -was built to commemorate the place where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.

quick stop for some thirst-quenching fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice
this was possibly the most interesting part of the church for the kids



From here we drove just across the road and up the hill to the mountain of Beatitudes – the place where they think Jesus gave his “Sermon on the Mount”

It is actually a beautiful hillside on the north shore of the lake – surprisingly lush and green.



our resident Jedi’s


The church itself was quite a bit like so many of the other churches/monuments that are around these parts – rather shrine-like. It really seems that people want to attach so much significance to the actual place – the ground where Jesus supposedly stood to speak, or the rock where he supposedly set the bread and fish  – that it feels like they are thought to be more important that what He actually did, or who He actually was.

For me, it was much more interesting – and meaningful – to walk around the grounds, and begin to have some sense of what this place looks like, to have an idea where the people were sitting when they were gathered here.

Ethan teaching us all from his Israel book
harvesting bananas just down from the church- covering them with blue plastic to protect them from the sun (I think)
close up

After that we headed back down along the west coast of the sea – and stopped where the Jordan RIver leaves before it heads all the way down to the Dead Sea.

At this spot there is a place that is set up for baptisms in the Jordan RIver – the same River that John the Baptist did his work in, and where he baptized Jesus himself.  We had come here as Emma and Ethan had both decided that this would be the time and place they would like to be baptized.

It is quite different than the sanitized indoor baptisms that we’re more used to…as these were the kinds of attendants who were there with us:

We were directed to a spot with some stairs heading down into the water – just the 12 of us there, but we could hear from other parts people being baptized  There was what appeared to be a Korean pastor with dozens of people with him. He was out in the river, up to his chest, preaching with such conviction that he was practically shouting and splashing with his hands. There was a group that appeared to be from Central America, singing hymns in Spanish as some of them went down into the water.

Then Rob got in the water (and we later learned, kept moving his feet to try to keep the massive cat-fish at a distance) and baptized his two oldest kids.  At the very end of the trip on our last day, despite all the things we had seen and done, our kids each listed this as one of their favourite things that we did on our trip.

Eventually we made our way back to Tiberias along the sea just as it was starting to get dark.  We wandered down to the water, and found a place to have supper.



Pretty hard to argue with the view we had for supper – we were as close to the water as we would have been on a boat – but on solid ground for the kids to run around on, and no rocking back and forth……

St Peter’s Fish (aka Tilapia) from the water just under our table.


As we were finishing our meal, the moon began to come up over the hills on the other side of the Sea. It was a completely cloudless evening, and a perfectly full moon. A pretty spectactular way to end our day in Galilee.

the kids running along the boardwalk as we finish supper


Yet another great day