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Location - Middle East; Capital - Jerusalem; Population - 7 million; Currency - New Israeli Shekel MORE ISRAEL

It's less than an hour's bus journey from Safed to Tiberias, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee - November 2014.


israelnote120 New Shekels








israel268The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake fed by the waters of the Jordan River. It's the second lowest place on earth after the Dead Sea - Tiberias


israel271The water level surveyor provides the current level of the lake, somewhere between 208 and 213 metres below sea level - Tiberias


israel274Never trust a man with green skin - Tiberias













israel275A small harbour outside the Galilee Experience - Tiberias













israel280South Beach is one of the better beaches in the area but it was absolutely chucking it down. Back to the hotel to dry out! Tiberias


israel282Just over 10km south of Tiberias is Yardenit where the Sea of Galilee flows out to the Jordan River













israel293A short walk away is the supposed site of Jesus' baptism - Yardenit
It's a hugely popular place for Christian pigrims to don white robes and immerse themselves in the Jordan River (there's one person at the bottom of the steps)












israel302There's not too much public transport in the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights so I hopped on a day-tour, firstly to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee's northern shore where Jesus lived during his ministry


israel305The remains of a 4th century synagogue - Capernaum


israel301This church is suspended over the ruins of a 5th century church - Capernaum













israel314Another stormy view of the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of the Beatitudes, where Jesus is believed to have delivered the Sermon on the Mount


israel308Inside the Church of the Beatitudes are inscriptions of the eight beatitudes (blessings) referred to in the Sermon - Mount of the Beatitudes


israel318The clouds briefly clear over the Sea of Galilee for excellent views. Ten minutes later there was a deluge - Mount of the Beatitudes












israel324Passing through the town of Kiryat Shmona in Upper Galilee, less than 5km from the Lebanon border


israel326Further east of Kiryat Shmona, in the Golan Heights, is Banias Nature Reserve












israel330It's very popular with day-tripping tourists - Banias Nature Reserve













israel333Our guide told us this town is Rajja - half in Israel, half in Lebanon. I've googled it and checked the maps but I can't find it..


israel337Close to the nature reserve are the ruins of the Temple of Pan, built by Agrippa II, Herod the Great's grandson. There's also a spring below - Banias


israel342We stopped off for lunch in the Druze town of Mas'ade. And yes there's lots of dairy produce available..













israel339The Druze are an Arabic-speaking community who follow an offshoot of Islam, with most living in Syria and Lebanon - Mas'ade












israel347The Golan is known for its vineyards and wine and we sampled a few good ones at the Odem Winery


israel352Just about visible through the rain from near Mt Bental is the UN compound next to the Syrian town of Quneitra. The Golan Heights were captured from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed in 1981. Quneitra now lies in the UN demilitarised zone buffering Israel and Syria. Unfortunately we didn't go up Mt Bental itself as the rain continued to pour and it was engulfed in cloud. Next time!


israel361We returned to Tiberias via Tabgha and the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, where Jesus multiplied the.. OK, the clue's in the title! But I know it as Feeding the 5,000













israel435After Tiberias it was straight to Jerusalem and the Old City, with the walls shown here near the Jaffa Gate entrance - Jerusalem


israel362It looks like the stallholders were still in bed at 08:30 in the morning - Jerusalem


israel368A few hours later and the Muslim Quarter has plenty of life - Jerusalem













israel534A party of Chinese Christian pilgrims pray along the route of the Via Dolorosa - Jerusalem













israel376The Via Dolorosa, or Way of Sorrows, is the path Jesus took while carrying his cross on his way to crucifixion. It comprises 14 Stations in the Old City, this one being the Third Station where Jesus is believed to have fallen for the first time - Jerusalem


israel379The Sixth Station (the door on the left) is where Jesus' face was wiped with a cloth by Saint Veronica - Jerusalem


israel380At the Eighth Station Jesus told crying women to weep for their children and not for him - Jerusalem















israel396Stations ten to fourteen are all within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the world's holiest Christian sites - Jerusalem













israel387Pilgrims kneel in front of the Stone of Unction, where Jesus' body was prepared for burial - Jerusalem


israel383israel384Stations Ten, Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen. The Twelfth Station is said to be the site of Jesus' crucifixion - Jerusalem


israel391The Fourteenth Station of the Cross, the tomb of Jesus, is inside the Holy Sepulchre itself. Join the queues.
Jerusalem is a fascinating city but I can't say the walk felt spiritual, just crowded, noisy and irreverent. But I'm not religious..












israel625Queueing up to view an alternative site of Jesus' crucifixion at the Garden Tomb, a short walk from Damascus Gate in Arab East Jerusalem













israel399Spend time wandering the alleyways of market stalls and soak up the history. So you might be browsing plenty of tat but the city's history, both ancient and modern, is incredible - Jerusalem


israel401Just inside Jaffa Gate is the Citadel which includes the Tower of David. It began as Herod's 1st century palace but was destroyed, rebuilt and expanded over the years right up to the Ottomans in the 20th century - Jerusalem


israel407Climbing the Tower of David makes for great views of the Old City. This is the large dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Jerusalem












israel410The unmistakable Dome of the Rock with the Mount of Olives rising behind, topped by the spire of the Russian Chapel of the Ascension - Jerusalem













israel417For a different perspective walk the Old City ramparts, starting from Jaffa Gate. On the left is St James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter - Jerusalem


israel415Look out for the 19th century Montefiore Windmill from the ramparts - Jerusalem


israel418Outside the city walls on Mt Zion is the Dormition Abbey - Jerusalem














israel609Mt Zion is the highly disputed site of King David's Tomb, the king of Israel in the 10th/11th centuries BC - Jerusalem












israel610Close by is the Cenacle, better known as the Last Supper Room where Jesus shared his final meal with his apostles before crucifixion - Jerusalem


israel612Also on Mt Zion is the final resting place of Oskar Schindler, the German who saved over 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. The events are told in Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List - Jerusalem


israel426Unfortunately it's no longer possible to walk the ramparts past the Dome of the Rock, but you can get this close - Jerusalem













israel422The sheer walls hide much of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, while the greenery on the right is the Jerusalem Archaeological Park & Davidson Centre - Jerusalem












israel424A tour party get into the spirit of a Jewish song and dance - Jerusalem


israel431The golden Dome of the Rock as seen from the city walls, again with the Russian Chapel of the Ascension behind - Jerusalem


israel430There's more excellent views from Golden City Cafe's rooftop - Jerusalem













israel620Female Israeli soldiers pose for photos near Jaffa Gate, with the backdrop of a very entertaining street musician - Jerusalem













israel437Until recently Haredi Jews, or Ultra-Orthodox Jews, were exempt from military service. However a controversial law passed in 2014 sets an annual quota to serve in the army - Jerusalem


israel449The Old City is divided into Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim quarters. Here the presence of Israeli flags indicate a Jewish area, near the remains of the Roman remains of the Cardo (main street) - Jerusalem


israel451After going through a security checkpoint complete with x-ray machines you'll walk down the steps to the Western Wall Plaza.
The covered walkway, back right, leads up to the Temple Mount - Jerusalem











israel464The holiest Jewish site is the Western Wall, all that remains of the Second Temple, built in the 6th century by Herod - Jerusalem












israel463Praying at the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall or Kotel in Hebrew, on the Sabbath - Jerusalem


israel468Earlier there was heavy rain but this guy was prepared. Notice the white prayer notes lodged in the wall crevices - Jerusalem


israel477The Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD leaving only the retaining wall of the Temple Mount, the Western Wall. But there's more to the Western Wall than that visible at the Plaza.
Book a fascinating Western Wall Tunnel tour and see how it extends nearly 500metres, beneath the ground level of today - Jerusalem












israel479This is the closest point to the Holy of Holies where it is said the Ark of the Covenant, containing the Ten Commandments, was stored in the First Temple. Only women can pray here - Jerusalem












israel482The excellent guide talks through the history of the construction of the Temple Mount including the building of the Western Wall, as well as everyday life on the streets of Jerusalem centuries ago - Jerusalem


israel538Back on present-day street level, this is the Dung Gate entrance to the Old City close to the Western Wall - Jerusalem


israel541Outside the Old City near Dung Gate is the City of David, where remains of settlements 3,000 years old have been excavated - Jerusalem













israel546Take in views of the Kidron Valley (and the Mount of Olives) from the City of David - Jerusalem













israel486A security checkpoint sign at the Western Wall Plaza - Jerusalem


israel489The covered walkway leads to the Har HaBayit as it's known by Jews (Temple Mount), or Al-Haram ash-Sharif by Muslims (Noble Sanctuary). Security is pretty tight here and delays can be expected, especially when Jewish visitors are in the queue - Jerusalem


israel494An Israeli security presence on the Temple Mount - Jerusalem













israel497Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia - Jerusalem












israel496Muslims shelter from the rain in Al-Aqsa Mosque. It's the closest I got to the mosque as only Muslims are allowed inside - Jerusalem


israel500An arched walkway on the edge of the Temple Mount/al-Haram ash-Sharif - Jerusalem


israel506The Israeli police/military look on as Muslim women congregate nearby - Jerusalem













israel504A group of Jewish visitors (right), with Israeli security in close attendance, provoked cries of 'Allah Akbar' from Muslims whenever they walked close by.
In 2014 tensions heightened following increasingly vocal demands by Jewish religious lobbies to pray on the Temple Mount, which currently isn't allowed - Jerusalem











israel515The stunning 7th century Dome of the Rock is the big draw for visitors to al-Haram ash-Sharif - Jerusalem


israel516Immediately to the left of the mosque is the small Dome of the Chain - Jerusalem


israel521As the name suggests the Dome of the Rock houses a stone, the Foundation Stone, sacred to both Muslims and Jews - Jerusalem












israel526The beautiful, intricate blue tiles were added in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent - Jerusalem













israel522The gold was donated by the late King Hussein of Jordan. Not sure about the ladders though - Jerusalem


israel529Though the Old City is controlled by Israel the al-Haram ash-Sharif is administered by Jordan's Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. Back in the 1990s I was allowed inside the mosque and I met several non-Muslims who entered this time, but on the days I went I was told Muslims only. All about timing! Jerusalem


israel533A market entrance opposite the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer - Jerusalem














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