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Trip Report for Tiberias

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Melbourne, Australia
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Trip Report for Tiberias

Today is our first full day here in Israel on what will be a wonderfully long 7 week vacation. Since it isn't our first trip we are aiming this time to "fill in gaps".

Waking early this morning gave us a beautiful picture of dawn breaking in glorious splendour over the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). We were glad to have splurged a little to get a room that has a great view of the lake.

We didn't plan to do a lot today because we are still tired from the long 31 hours of travel it took to get here, and sadly my walking ability isn't too good at the moment so I have to take things slowly at the moment.

After a slow start we took a taxi to Hamat Teverya National Park. It is a small site where hot springs spurt out of ground. It was surprising to find how hot - the brochure says 60 deg Celsius (that's about 140 deg. fahrenheit). The highlights were some nice mosaics in ancient synagogues there, the remains of a Roman Bathhouse, and also a bathhouse dating to 1870. The one thing I found puzzling was the content of one of the mosaics in the synagogue - a large wheel of the zodiac surrounding the image of Helios, the sun god. We were thankful there were places we could shelter as showers came through

We caught a taxi back into Tiberias and went to the Dona Gracia Museum. This is located in a hotel in Tiberias. Dona Gracia was a remarkable lady who used her wealth to save many Jewish people from the Spanish Inquisition. The building is castle-like with halls which tell her story. Just seeing the way some of the rooms looked was interesting but sadly this place is better for those who speak Hebrew. There is a guide who does tours in Hebrew but not in English. We could appreciate the furnishings and decor etc and there were some written explanations in English, but we could overhear one of the tours and it as clear we were missing out on a lot of information.

We then spent a pleasant time exploring some of the streets and shops in Tiberias, and enjoyed sipping our afternoon coffee on the promenade along the lakes edge. :)

We have a very full day planned for tomorrow so this was enough for us today while we are still getting over jetlag.

Cincinnati, Ohio
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1. Re: Trip Report for Tiberias

Seven weeks?! I just broke the Tenth Commandment -- I am insanely covetous! What a wonderful journey. With your mobility issues, that gives you lots of time to see without being rushed or pushing yourself too much physically.

Isn't that zodiac mosaic at Hammat Tverya amazing? It the Fourth to Sixth Centuries, that Hellenistic/Roman influence was still strong, with pagan elements making their way even into synagogue decorations, including the depiction of the Greco-Roman sun god Helios. Not for the religiously purist, but a fascinating example of the syncronicity and cultural influences among religious traditions in that part of the world -- even where you don't expect them.

I look forward to reading every word -- thank you for sharing your trip with us!

Douglas Duckett

P.S. If you don't mind saying, at what hotel or resort are you staying at the Lake?

Edited: 12:14 pm, March 10, 2014
Melbourne, Australia
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2. Re: Trip Report for Tiberias

We are at the Leonardo - the smallest and most economical of the three in the Leonardo chain in Tiberias. It's the one almost opposite Decks Restaurant. We stayed here before and they did well helping with my gluten-free diet. Whilst it isn't as central as the other two Leonardo hotels it is still walking distance of the promenade and shops.

West Kelowna, Canada
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3. Re: Trip Report for Tiberias

Heather, I enjoyed reading your trip report ! You are a great writer. Thanks for sharing . I am interested in reading about your vacation.

Israel
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4. Re: Trip Report for Tiberias

what a wonderful report! Thanks for sharing.

Falls Church...
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5. Re: Trip Report for Tiberias

great TR. Thanks for sharing!

Melbourne, Australia
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6. Re: Trip Report for Tiberias

Sunrise was beautiful and different from yesterday. It always amazes me that the Kinneret can look different every hour of the day and the view is never identical.

Thank you to those who recommended Richard Woolf as a tour guide. We have just spent a very pleasant and interesting day with him. Our previous visits to Israel have had a strong Biblical/Christian flavour so today we included my desire to learn more about specifically Jewish areas.

We began our day visiting the comparatively new site at Magdala. Christians know this as the place that Mary Magdalene lived. The Fransciscan church had purchased land in order to build a new centre for visitors to the area and work on this had to be halted when important archaeological finds were discovered. The most important so far has been the discovery of a 1st Century Synagogue. This is of interest to Christians as well as Jewish people because it would almost certainly have been a synagogue in which Jesus taught.

A young man volunteering at the site happily gave us information on other discoveries and showed us around the new centre being built by the Franciscans.

From there we headed off toward Safed (also spelt Tzfat and about thirty other ways, and I finally learned how to pronounce the name.

We enjoyed walking around quaint Rosh Pina, and learning its history on the way to Safed.

Somehow I had imagined Safed to be a small old place so the size of the more modern city took me by surprise. We were glad to have Richard drive us through a maze of streets to the quaint old part that is the draw card for so many. The old synagogue, the candle factory and the intriguing art galleries and shops gave us much to talk about.

We drove on to Merom, learning about different aspects of Judaism as we were shown different sites.

Kafar Birem was another place visited and we were saddened by the difficulties faced by those in border towns. A drive along the Lebanese border proved to be an interesting experience and Richard Woolf was a constant source of interesting information throughout the whole day. We can heartily recommend him as a tour guide,

Cincinnati, Ohio
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7. Re: Trip Report for Tiberias

You've been to some of my favorite places -- particularly Bar'am (Birin in Arabic). That ancient synagogue is stunning -- and yes, the story of the Maronite village is heartbreaking.

I am glad to hear another endorsement of Richard Woolf. I know my favorite guide in the country, Madeleine Lavine, shares a lot of clients with him. While we will not be in the Kinneret area in this upcoming trip, I have a strong interest in exploring the area of Karnei Hittin (the Horns of Hattin), and planned to hire him to show me the area on my likely next trip after May, a solo trip in February or March 2015. I think based on your report I will add Magdala -- I have a strong interest in that site based on Mary Magdalene as well the likely site of a major Jewish town destroyed early in the Great Revolt/Jewish War (as described by Josephus).

Thanks again for sharing your long, lovely journey with us!

Douglas Duckett

dallas
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8. Re: Trip Report for Tiberias

Thanks Heather! What a great report. It is always good to hear of great guides :)

Melbourne, Australia
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9. Re: Trip Report for Tiberias

The weather wasn't quite so kind to us today and this morning started with us nervously picking up the hire car to make our first attempt at driving in Israel. Well.... To be more accurate, My husband was driving and I was navigating and the miracle is that we have survived our first day!

Picking up the car took longer than expected but we were still able to get to the Shofar factory in Givaat Yoav and enjoyed seeing how shofars are cleaned and made. I only wish that we could have taken photographs.

This afternoon we had a fascinating and informative jeep ride with Ilan Shulmann, through the kibbutz at Merom Golan and along the border with Syria. I never imagined we would get so very close to the Syrian border or learn so much about the situation there. Thanks to those (Chana and David Wexler) who made the recommendation to go.

Two years ago we spent about ten days touring Israel with Biblical Israel Tours. After I booked to do the jeep tour with Ilan Shulmann I happened to surf over to the Biblical Israel tours website and found that the leader, John Delancey, was not only going to be in Israel with another group at the same time as us this year, but they were actually going to be at the top of Mt. Bental today while we were on the jeep tour below! They were also staying in Tiberias only 500 metres or so from our hotel! So we were delighted to be able to catch up with John Delancey for just a few minutes before dinner tonight. I like coincidences. :)

Israel
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10. Re: Trip Report for Tiberias

Sounds like you had another wonderful day, despite the much needed rain. Hope tomorrow will be just as good.