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Posts Tagged ‘ashdod’

In the immortal words of Willie Nelson…”On the road again.”

There are many things in life that give the appearance of hindering anything a person attempts to do. This is not a new concept, but for people with disabilities, it does seem like the “curve balls” come faster and harder. Giving in, or quitting, to the trial often seems like the only course of action to be taken. And then we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel (praying it is not an oncoming train) and press forward. So that being said, let the journey continue.

IMG_0408Leaving the port of Ashdod behind us, we sailed our way northward to the port of Haifa. The city of Haifa slopes upIMG_0411 steeply from the coastline to the top of a small mountain. The view from the ship was beautiful as we were docking at 7:00 AM. Haifa is located in northern Israel and from here we would be touring many sites in the Galilee region: Mt. of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Church of the Primacy, Church of Loaves and Fishes, Capernaum, and a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.

I had visited all of these places on my last trip to Israel, and despite my memory of some IMG_0412IMG_0417accessible challenges ahead, I was eager to see them again. Of all the places to visit in Israel, the beautiful region around the Sea of Galilee is probably my favorite. From the sloping hills of the Mt. of Beatitudes, to the steep Arbel Cliffs, the area isIMG_0423 filled with biblical history. The churches have a peaceful simplicity to them that welcomes a person to slow down and reflect. Our guide was wonderful, and made sure that each place we visited we saw and heard about it in great detail. She was completely at ease with me being in a wheelchair and anything that I wanted to attempt she was eager to make it happen for me.

The two sites here that I am going to focus on are Capernaum and our boat ride. The ancient city of Capernaum is amazing to say the least. Excavations here are remarkable including the remains of a synagogue dating back to the Byzantine period. Because IMG_1227IMG_1239Jewish culture demanded that the ground where a synagogue would be built had to be sanctified, it would be marked as holy ground. Rather than going through this process again, any new synagogues would be built on top of the older ones. So the remains of the fourth century white synagogue that we were able to be in is built on top of the first century IMG_0434synagogue that Jesus would have taught in. Just outside the steps of the synagogue there is an excavated site of the first century village. The homes were communal in fashion with larger central rooms for cooking and family gatherings in open courtyards. As the family grew, rooms were added to the central home for expansion. We also saw the site of what is believed to be St. Peter’s home. There is much biblical evidence, and physical inscriptions that have been excavated, for proof of its location. This park area is owned and maintained by Franciscan Monks, and once again, offers the tourist a place of peace and quiet to walk (or roll) around the grounds soaking up the serenity.

IMG_0448When we left Capernaum we headed to Nof Ginnosaur where we would get on a fishing boat for our ride on the Sea of IMG_0452Galilee. The last time I was here, getting from land to the boat proved to be a very accessible challenge. I was absolutely amazed this time! The dock area had been completely reconstructed with a smooth ramped surface taking me right to the boat. Last time I had to have men lifting me up and down stairs and slippery ramps to get me to the boat. This time I had complete independence and rolled my way along with no problems at all. When I got to the boat, three men lifted me and my wheelchair from the dock and set me in the boat. The entire transition was seamless and without fault. Once on the boat we headed out onto the waters as the crew played the US National Anthem and then the Jewish IMG_0794National Anthem. Once we were out quite a ways, the motors were cut off and silence and calm surrounded us. Our guide pointed out all of the many locations around the sea and then the party started!  Lol They played traditional Jewish folk music for us and taught anyone willing how to dance. The boat rang with music, dance, laughter and many good friends. Needless to say it was a wonderful time and I hated to have it end. But like all good things, end it must.

Once back on shore, our bus driver was waiting for us. He drove us back to the port of Haifa where we boarded our ship at a rather late hour. But there is 24 hour food available and wow, were we hungry! The smells coming from the buffet tempted our senses and we ended our day with a tremendous meal and many great memories.

As Wendy and I went to bed that night we felt the movement of the ship as we left Haifa and headed for the port of Kusadasi, Turkey.

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As we left Egypt and headed for Israel, all of us were eager to arrive, even though the news of Hamas militants firing rockets into southern Israel was being watched on the news. Our port of call, Ashdod, is just north of Gaza, so the cruise line and our tour group were paying close attention to everything concerning safety. Everyone was assured we would be secure, and having been to Israel before, I was eager to return to see our friends, beauty and history once again. The purpose of my blog posts is to discuss disability issues and to encourage disabled people to get out and live life. However, because of what is happening in Israel right now as I am typing this (Hamas militant terrorists set off a bus explosion in Tel Aviv) I am going on a brief rabbit trail to express my personal opinion against terrorism and support for Israel. For those of you who know me, I am a Christian, and I firmly believe that Israel as a nation has the right to exist and protect itself.

And now on to Ashdod. When we docked in port, we were met by our guide and driver like always. We drove to Old Joppa, toured the city for a bit, and then met the rest of our group for a wonderful outdoor lunch. The many and varied foods were delicious, but I think one of my favorites is always the warm pita bread and hummus. One thing to mention about rolling around in a wheelchair at the ancients sites – go slow. Most places are ramped or level but are not what I would call smooth. Cobble stones that are 2000 years old tend to be a little on the bumpy side. But taking things slow and easy make it very doable. And let me add here that other people in our group were eager to assist me wherever they could. So anytime something looked like it might prove difficult to maneuver, I had a friend helping me before I could even ask. If I worried about always being on flat smooth surfaces, I would never leave home! And who wants to live a life like that?

After lunch we drove to Caesarea. We visited the ancient portion of the city that has been excavated and is filled with many artifacts. Caesarea was built by Herod the Great as a port city about 22 – 10 BC. Herod the Great built this man-made harbor out of jealousy over the natural harbors in Egypt. He wanted something to rival other sea ports and give him excellent connections to all parts of the Mediterranean world. We saw ancient ruins of the port, public buildings, a theater, an amphitheater, hippodrome, two aqueducts, a colonnaded street and a temple dedicated to Caesar. The theater here seats about 4,000 people and is the first thing you see when entering the archaeological park. Looking out to sea, the hippodrome is on the right. It was fun to look at it and imagine chariot races like most of us are familiar with in Ben Hur.  The disciple Peter preached here and this is where the apostle Paul was in prison for two years.

When we left Caesarea we drove to the Moshav (village) Yad Hashmona. It is located in the Judean Hills just a few miles west of Jerusalem. The scenery here is beautiful and even has a view of the Mediterranean coastline. Here we were taken on a tour through the Biblical Gardens. This was like stepping back into biblical times and seeing many aspects of that life including an open air synagogue, watch tower, olive press, grape press, threshing floor, burial cave, a Mikveh (ritual bath) and many varieties of fruit trees and beautiful flowers. Here Wendy and I also got to reunite with some very dear friends from our last visit to Israel.

When we left here we drove back to the docks for a late dinner aboard our ship. After a long day of touring we were eager to get to bed. Jerusalem was our destination in the morning.

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I am quite certain that all of you have been invited over to a friend’s home for a “fun-filled” evening of listening to endless stories about their family vacation. Garnished with numerous pictures of places that you care very little about, and stories that make you wish your hearing was anything but perfect, you stifle your yawns and pretend to be interested. I must admit that I am feeling like that boring host. Being somewhere in person, seeing the sites, smelling the new smells and tasting the new foods is a wonderful thing – relaying those feelings of awe to others is a totally different thing.

But…a friend of mine, a very famous author in her own right, wrote something once to all aspiring authors: Be prepared to be lonely…the world is not waiting with baited breath to read anything that you have written.

For me, writing is a release. I way of expressing myself in a world that often times I am the only inhabitant. So as I continue telling you about my journey, I hope that you see and feel a touch of the wonder and fascination that I saw and experienced. So continue to join me on my journey as we visit Alexandria, Egypt.

Wendy and I started our morning early on deck five with a steaming hot cup of coffee and a wonderful blueberry muffin. When the gangway was let down, we were eager to get started on our last day in Egypt. Today’s itinerary included Egypt’s Ancient Lighthouse, Library, and King Farouk’s palace. We met our guide and bus driver at 7:00 AM and started off for our tour around Alexandria.

Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC and is the second largest city in Egypt. After the death of Alexander the Great, his general, Ptolemy I, became the ruler of Egypt and continued Alexander the Greats’ dream by creating two significant harbors. This is the location of one of the great wonders of the ancient world, the Egyptian Lighthouse, unfortunately destroyed by an earthquake. Stone blocks from the lighthouse have been used over the years in construction of other buildings, very similar to what we saw of ancient sites in Italy.

We also saw the area where the ancient city of Herakleion (named for Hercules) is located. Also destroyed by an earthquake and sunk into the sea. If I understand correctly, there are some tentative plans to turn the ancient harbor into a museum of sorts which would be fascinating to see. We enjoyed the sea here watching fishermen fish in the ancient harbor, as some very content cats patiently waited nearby for their share of the daily catch.

Another place we visited was the old palace of King Farouk, whose reign was ended with the revolution of 1952. The buildings and grounds were magnificent as we drove slowly through the winding roads. Controlled now by the Egyptian army, permission is granted for visits and the palace is sometimes used as a hotel for foreign dignitaries.

Our guide got me out of the van and pushed me around the grounds so that Wendy and I could get a better feel of the beauty. It certainly was a place of beauty but also filled with many interesting stories. We learned there was a nearby palace for King Farouk’s wife. The purpose for this was so the king could entertain “ladies” as he chose. Times and seasons may change, but man’s heart certainly does not.

The Egyptian Library was incredible. Completely designed to capture natural light and have perfect acoustics, the building is an architectural design of beauty. The university is across the street and the students have access to millions of pieces of literature and artifacts that are now digitally available. The Library is constantly adding more to its database and is available for the world to use at no cost. Their web site is www.bibalex.org I hope that you take advantage of this and do some exploring of the ancient world via the web. It will be almost like you are there.

After leaving the library we headed back to the ship for a late lunch. We pulled away from the docks at 7:00 PM. Wendy and I were on our balcony as we saw Egypt disappear into the distance. We sailed back out into the Mediterranean for our next port of call at Ashdod, Israel.

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