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MIDDLE EASTERN PHOTOS/COMMENTARY, VOL. II


CAIRO, EGYPT
Home - Desert Monastry.jpg
HOME OF THE COPTIC PATRIARCH IN THE DESERT MONASTERY NEAR CAIRO
This monastery is resting on sand and surrounded by miles of desert.

 

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COPTIC DESERT MONASTERY


We drove quite a few miles into the desert from Cairo to reach the monastery.  The tour plan was to begin with a meeting with His Holiness, Pope Shenouda II, Pope of the Coptic Church & Patriarch of Alexandria.  Much to our disappointment, His Holiness had to leave shortly after we arrived for an unexpected appointment.  However, the monks had planned a delightful evening for us.


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His Holiness, Pope Shenouda II, Pope of the Coptic Church & Patriarch of Alexandria with one of our tour guide professors, Dr. Jim Smiley, and an attending monk.

 

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DESERT MONASTERY CHAPEL
 The monks conducted a tour of the monastery.  While in the Chapel, two Priest/monks played the musical instruments used at prayer.


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Stone cell quarters for the monks.  Rooms opened off this corridor.

 

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DINNER TABLES AT THE MONASTERY
Several women from Cairo drove to the monastery to prepare a delicious meal for our tour group.  An excellent example of the hospitality found everywhere in the Middle East … our group was large enough to fill a tour bus. 


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LUXOR, EGYPT
MODERN LUXOR IS ANCIENT THEBES

 

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OUR HOTEL IN LUXOR
Almost everyone on a tour feels under-the-weather at least one day.  Our first day in Luxor was my day.  I spent the day resting and walking around the hotel’s lovely grounds located on the banks of the Nile River, missing a tour of the ancient Valley of the Kings.

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THE NILE RIVER
Stone mountains appear to be visible in the background.  I’m not sure.

 

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Sail boat anchored on the Nile River in front of the hotel.

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THE NILE RIVER
This hotel swimming pool overlooks the Nile River.
Again, what look like stone mountains are visible in the background.

 

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THE NILE RIVER

That night we attended a Sound & Light Show at the Temple of Karnak ruins in Luxor.  What an unbelievable beautiful sight!  And once more the mind is blown by the gigantic stone structures that pre-date the construction cranes.  We arrived at the Temple of Karnak as the Sun was setting.

 

 

TEMPLE OF KARNACK AT ANCIENT THEBES
NOW LUXOR, EGYPT

The Temple of Karnack in Luxor, Egypt is the largest temple complex ever built by humankind.  It was built during the 13th century B.C. and dedicated to the god Amun.
Further information of this temple may be found at:  http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/templeofamun.htm

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                    The Obelisk Court or Court of Amenhotep III
Obelisks as viewed between two massive columns of the Temple as the Sun is setting.
Compare the height of the people with the obelisks and columns.

 

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Each column within the Temple complex is intricately engraved from bottom to top.  Some of the engraving paint is still visible on the lower portion of this column.

 

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                            Inside the 1st courtyard of the Temple
Against the inside of the first pylon is a construction platform built of brick caissons enclosing packed earth between retaining walls.  A pylon is a massive entrance consisting of two units joined by a gate.  For additional information, see:  http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/karnak2.htm

 

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Grounds along the Sacred Lake at twilight

 

THE SACRED LAKE – TEMPLE OF KARNAK
At Twilight

Sacred Lake at twilight.jpg

The lake symbolizes the waters of the primordial ocean from which life arose.  The temple priests used the lake for the purification of souls—ablutions.  It was also the home of the sacred geese of Amun.

The Sacred Lake at twilight.jpg

 

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Red Granite Scarab
A magnificent red granite beetle scarab watches over the lake.  King Amenhotep III placed the scarab by the lake to symbolize the transforming quality of the sunlight that comes out of the darkness—or resurrection. 

 

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What looks like a cross may be evidence of Coptic Christian use of this site at some point in time.  However, the cross held religious significance in Egypt thousands of years before Christianity.  The ankh cross in particular can be seen throughout ancient Egypt.  The anhk cross was used in the initiation rituals of mystery religions.  It symbolizes life, immortality, etc.  Coptic Christians adopted the ankh as their unique form of the cross—called crux ansata.

 

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ANCIENT ANKH CROSS MADE FROM LAPIS LAZULI
http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/ankh.htm

 

SINAI PENINSULA

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SINAI PENINSULA WILDERNESS LANDSCAPE
Reflections in the sky come from the tour bus.

 

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A DWELLING IN THE WILDERNESS OF SINAI

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WILDERNESS DWELLING

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WILDERNESS DWELLING

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Not sure what type of settlement this is … maybe military. Leaving Cairo very early one morning, our tour drove with a caravan of buses for safety purposes.  We crossed the Suez Canal on a ferry, then drove across the Sinai Peninsula.  Archaeological research has found evidence that bedouin populations have inhabited the Sinai wilderness for at least 30,000 years.  Around 2650 B.C.E., the Egyptians began mining turquoise and copper on the Peninsula. 

Even though the Sinai Peninsula environment is hostile (Deut. 1:19 describes it as “that great and terrible wilderness”), commercial and military expeditions regularly crossed it.  When Abraham and his family made their way between Egypt and Canaan, the trade routes across the peninsula were already well established.  

The Sinai was the setting for some of the most important events in Israelite history.  Saul and David fought the Amalekites in northwestern Sinai (I Samuel 15:7, 27:8) … Elijah made a pilgrimage to Mount Horeb on Sinai (I Kings 19:8) … Moses and the Hebrews spent their 40 years wilderness sojourn on Sinai and received the Ten Commandments … Mary, Joseph, and Jesus traveled across the Sinai on their journey to Egypt (Matthew 2:13).    (Harper’s Bible Dictionary)

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 CROSSING INTO ISRAEL

When we entered Israel, the American influence was immediately evident.  We felt we had returned home to the states when we stopped at a welcome center for refreshments.  The feeling was a mixture of relief that we had passed safely through the Sinai … sadness that evidence of the military is everywhere present in the Middle East … and happiness at purchasing some familiar snacks.

 

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JOPPA
LOOKING TOWARD TEL AVIV ON THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA
A 12TH Century deserted Mosque & Minaret

Joppa (Jaffa) was an important sea harbor in ancient Palestine.  According to the Old Testament, this city was allotted to the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:46).  It was the port through which the cedars from Lebanon came for the building of the 1st and 2nd temples (II Chronicles 2:16, Ezra 3:7).  Jonah sailed from Joppa in his attempt to escape God’s request that he go to Nineveh (Jonah 1:3).  Peter raised Dorcas from the dead while in Joppa (Acts 9:36-43).  Joppa is now a suburb of Tel Aviv.

JERICHO

The ancient city of Jericho is located 6 miles north of the Dead Sea in a very fertile part of the Jordan Valley.  The fertility and tropical climate of the Jordan Valley earned Jericho the title “city of palm trees.”  (Deut. 34:3) 
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MODERN CITY OF JERICHO

Jericho dates back to 9000 B.C.E.  It is known as the oldest walled city in the world, with the wall dating 8000-7000 B.C.E.   At that time, the city was surrounded by a stone wall in which set a circular tower 25 feet high.


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Archaeological remains of the tower of Jericho

Jericho was destroyed several times during its thousands of years long history.  Between 2000–1900 B.C.E., it was destroyed by nomadic intruders.  By 1900–1500 B.C.E., during the time of the biblical patriarchs, Jericho was once more a flourishing walled city.  It first appears in the biblical account in connection with the Israelite movement into Canaan between 1500-1200 B.C.E.  According to the biblical account, Joshua’s army crossed the Jordan River, aided by a miraculous parting of the waters, and laid siege to Jericho and burned it to the ground.  (Joshua 2-6).  Joshua then placed a curse:  “Cursed before the Lord be anyone who tries to build this city—this Jericho!  At the cost of his firstborn he shall lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest he shall set up its gates!”  (Joshua 6:26)  After its destruction by the Israelites, Jericho laid in ruins about four centuries. 

Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho during the reign of King Ahab (873-851 B.C.E.).   “In his [Ahab] days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho; he laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua son of Nun.”  (I Kings 16:34)  Following the Babylonian invasions, the ancient city was abandoned.
                                      ---Harper’s Bible Dictionary

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HISHAM’S PALACE – OLD JERICHO

Hisham’s Palace is so called “because it was first thought to have been built by the Umayyad Caliph Hisham bin Abdul Malek (724-743 C.E.) who ruled an empire stretching from India to the Pyrenees.  Many from the Umayyad dynasty had such hunting lodges, which enabled them to recover the freedom and independence of the desert, which had been their birthright.”  The unorthodox decorations have led researchers to think it is more probable the Hisham’s Palace belonged to his nephew and successor, Al-Walid bin Yazid (743-744 C.E.)  Al-Walid was assassinated a year after coming to power, so the palace was never completed.  http://www.atlastours.net/holyland/hishams_palace.html

 

Mosaic floor in Hisham's Palace - Old Jericho.jpg
“TREE OF LIFE” MOSAIC FLOOR IN HISHAM’S PALACE
The room in which this mosaic is located is marked “Guest Room” on the plan of the palace.  This ancient mosaic is considered one of the most beautiful in the world.

Throughout the Middle East, we find mosaics thousands of years old and still retaining their color.  This “Tree of Life” mosaic is approximately 1,300 years old and serves as an outstanding example of the preservation of history that is such a vital part of the Middle East. 

 

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PALESTINIAN REFUGEE CAMP OUTSIDE MODERN CITY OF JERICHO


With the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, many of the Palestinians had their homes, land, and bank accounts confiscated while they were either forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries or to live in refugee camps such as this one.  The homes are small mud houses with no running water or electricity.  Cooking must be done outside.  Our 1990 tour group later drove by neighborhoods of very nice homes formerly owned by the Palestinians now forced to live in refugee camps—their homes having been seized. 

 

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PALESTINIAN REFUGEE CAMP OUTSIDE OF JERICHO

Refuge Camp at Jericho.jpg

The land now called Israel was not empty when the Zionists moved Jews from Europe to Palestine, following World War II.  Instead, Jews, Muslims, and Christians  were already living together, side by side.  After 1948, the Arabs (Muslims and Christians) were separated out in large part and called “Palestinians.”   Still many of the Jews, Muslims, and Christians sought to live together peacefully and continue to do so to this day. 


JUDEAN DESERT

 

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BEDOUIN CHILDREN TENDING GOATS IN THE JUDEAN DESERT

Leaving Jericho, we travel through the Judean Desert toward Jerusalem.  This 25 mile journey from Jericho, located in the Jordan Valley in a sub-tropical climate, is a 4,000 foot climb to Jerusalem, located 2,500 feet above sea level.  This trip can lead to indisposition and temporary loss of hearing.  As we enter the Judean Desert with its steep mountains and arid climate, the temperature can climb to 128 degrees.

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BEDOUIN CHILDREN ALONG THE JERICHO ROAD
RUNNING TO GREET OUR TOUR BUS.


          The Jericho Road is located on the edge of a deep drop into the valley below, with no protecting fence or rail.  Our tour bus stopped anyway and allowed the tourists to greet the children and hand out treats.  You can see the mixture of anticipation on the older children’s faces and the potential disappointment on the younger children’s faces and in their mannerisms, as if they are thinking “what if there is not enough for me.”  Of course, we managed to find something for everyone.

 

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LOOKING STRAIGHT DOWN FROM OUR TOUR BUS WINDOW


Our tour guide laughingly mentioned this “Valley of the Shadow of Death” might be the site the Psalmist was remembering as he wrote the 23rd Psalm.  It was scary from our perspective!


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A mountain spring flows in the trough across the mountains. 
The ridges around the mountains are goat trails. 


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THE SPRING WATER IS THE DARK RIDGE IN FRONT OF THE WALL.

 

JERUSALEM

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THE SEASONS HOTEL IN JERUSALEM


We spent our first night in Israel in this lovely hotel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
The Seasons is a Jewish hotel equipped with a Sabbath elevator.  That night at dinner, several Jewish families celebrated their Sabbath meal with chanting.  It was awe-inspiring to listen to the Jewish chanting of Psalms and to have our group sharing Christian prayers.  After dinner, John & I walked along a pavement beside the Mediterranean Sea.  We paid close attention to many varieties of flowers, mostly strange to us.

 

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THE SEASONS DINING ROOM OVERLOOKS THE SEA
Breakfast was outstanding:  fresh fruit grown in Israel, several types of bread and sweet rolls,
eggs, fish, fresh orange juice, coffee, and yogurt.

 

CAESAREA

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Caesarea is a seaport on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.  Octavian Augustus gave the town to Herod the Great in 30 B.C.E.  Herod built a magnificent city and port and named it for Octavian who was by then Caesar Augustus. 

Caesarea was the capital of the Roman government in Palestine for over 600 years. It served as the seat of the Roman governors of the province of Judea and headquarters for the Roman legions stationed in the province. 
                                                          -----Harper’s Bible Dictionary

 

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AMPHITHEATER AT CAESAREA


The theater was built near the Sea so the water would echo the actors’ words and all could hear plainly.  Herod the Great sat where the 3 people are standing when he presided over legal cases.

In Acts 23-26, we read of the trials of Paul, a Roman citizen.  “Then he summoned two of the centurions and said, ‘Get ready to leave by nine o’clock tonight for Caesarea with two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen.  Also provide mounts for Paul to ride, and take him safely to Felix the governor.”  (Acts 23:23-24)  Paul was charged by the Jews concerning questions of their law.  (Acts 23:29)

Paul spent two years imprisoned in a dungeon in Caesarea while the legal process worked itself out.  In the end, Paul was sent to Rome.  According to the governor, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.  Agrippa said to Festus, this man could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor.”  (Acts 26:32)  Paul arrived in Rome after a storm at sea and a shipwreck.  (Acts 27-28)

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DUNGEON THOUGHT TO BE THE ONE IN WHICH PAUL WAS IMPRISONED AT CAESAREA FOR TWO YEARS.
The dungeon faced the Sea and Herod’s Palace, which overlooked the Mediterranean.

 

MEGIDDO

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MEGIDDO

An important city in antiquity due to its location in northwestern Palestine and good water supply.  Megiddo is first mentioned in ancient Egyptian writings dated 1478 B.C.E.  Joshua captured the city and killed the king.  (Joshua 12:21)  In the 10th century, Solomon rebuilt the city.  The ruins include Solomon’s stables—capable of housing 450 horses and 150 chariots.  Solomon dug a shaft 120 feet deep, cut a 215 ft. tunnel through the stone to connect the shaft with a spring of water outside the city walls—to give the city a safe water supply in case of battle.

 

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TYPICAL MANAGER FOR GRAIN (the rectangle) & WATER TROUGH
AT MEGIDDO

The biblical symbolic battle between the forces of Light and darkness is to be fought at Megiddo.  “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”  (Revelations 16:16)

The Hebrew meanings of “Megiddo” contain opposites:  place of troops … rendezvous … place of great abundance … most fortunate place.  Many battles have taken place in the valley of Megiddo, such as with the Philistines and the Canaanites.

Symbolically, Megiddo is a place where error thoughts in consciousness make war against the truer and higher thoughts and ideals of individuals.  As the individual gains victory over error thoughts, Megiddo becomes a place of great abundance … a place where growth in righteousness and Truth takes place. 
                                      ---Unity’s Metaphysical Bible Dictionary

Thus, the ultimate battle to be fought at Megiddo (Armageddon) is within every individual as a higher level of consciousness is attained and the error thoughts fall to the ground and die.  The Battle of Armageddon is an inner battle!
RECOGNITION OF THIS SYMBOLIC MEANING FOR THE “BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON” IS ESSENTIAL FOR CHRISTIANS TO GRASP.  OTHERWISE, PHYSICAL PLANE BATTLES IN THE MIDDLE EAST ARE ACCEPTED AS INDICATIONS THAT “THE GREAT DAY OF GOD THE ALMIGHTY” IS APPROACHING.  (Revelations 16:14) 

 

NAZARETH

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POSTCARD – NAZARETH

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GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE ANNUNICATION
NAZARETH

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WELL WITHIN THE CHURCH OF THE ANNUNICATION
This well is thought to be the well used by Mary, the mother of Jesus.  It is now protected by having the church built over it.  The spring that supplied this well is still the only source of water in Nazareth, with a public fountain located in the town.

 

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CHILDREN ARRIVING AT THE CHURCH OF THE ANNUNICATION
FOR BAPTISM (1990)
 The Mother spoke English and was happy for us to take her photo.

 

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NEW CHURCH OF THE ANNUNICATION IN NAZARETH (1993)
This church is thought to be located on the site where Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

 

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CHURCH OF THE ANNUNCIATION IN NAZARETH

 The Franciscans acquired this site in 1620 and established a community to guard the ruins of the Grotto.  In 1730, they were permitted to build a church over the Grotto.  It was demolished in 1954 to allow archaeologists to examine the site.  Excavations revealed the ancient village of Nazareth.  The church now stands over the extreme southern end of the ancient village.  Also revealed were a primitive baptismal font, a mosaic floor, and 7 steps leading down to the grotto.  Several churches have stood on this site.  In 1969, the present church was built in the form of 2 churches, one above the other. 


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GROTTO MARKING THE SITE OF ARCHANGEL GABRIEL’S ANNOUNCEMENT
The lower church enfolds the grotto and remains of the Byzantine and Crusader churches.  On the level with the upper church is a great elevated square protecting the ruins of the ancient village of Nazareth.

 

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THE JAPANESE WINDOW

The upper church is the Latin Parish Church in Nazareth.  The walls of the upper church and of the atrium surrounding the church are bedecked with paintings, sculptures, and bas-reliefs representing the Marian Sanctuaries of the world.  The stained glass windows were contributed by various nations around the world.

 

TIBERIAS

Located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias dates to 18 C.E. (A.D.) and was the capital of Galilee.  Tiberias is situated on a major trade route linking Syria with Egypt.  Administration, trade, and fishing continue to be major industries to this day.  From biblical times to the present, the hot springs near Tiberias have attracted people seeking healing.


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TIBERIAS ON THE SEA OF GALILEE

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APARTMENT BUILDING ACROSS FROM OUR HOTEL IN TIBERIAS

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JEWISH CAR – YELLOW TAG

The Israeli government requires Jews to use yellow car tags and the Palestinians to use blue tags.  Sadly, they are perpetrating on the Palestinians the type of treatment Jews experienced in Germany when they were required to wear yellow armbands.  Cars with blue tags can be stopped at military check points and held for hours for no reason, except harassment.  Oh, that we all could learn:  “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.”  (Galatians 6:7)  Harassment begets harassment; violence begets violence.

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WILD FLOWERS ALONG THE SEA OF GALILEE AT TIBERIAS
LOOKING TOWARD THE RUINS OF CAPERNAUM

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THE SEA OF GALILEE – TIBERIAS

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A JUDAS TREE – PURPLE BLOSSOMS – TIBERIAS

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OVERLOOKING THE SEA OF GALILEE AT DUSK – TIBERIAS

 

 

 

 

ANCIENT RUINS OF THE SYNAGOGUE OF HAMATH TIBERIAS
In use during the 6th-8th centuries C.E. (A.D.)

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SIGN EXPLAINING THE RUINS OF THE SYNAGOGUE

 

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THE HOLY ARC ROOM

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MOSAIC FLOOR OF SYNAGOGUE DEPICTING THE ZODIAC


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MOSAIC FLOOR OF SYNAGOGUE DEPICTING THE ZODIAC

The number 12 is of great significance in biblical symbolism:  12 tribes of Judah, 12 signs of the zodiac, Jesus’ 12 disciples.  As we see in Acts 1:16-26, maintaining 12 disciples was essential.  After leading Jesus’ accusers to him, Judas hung himself leaving 11 disciples to carry on Jesus’ ministry.  Shortly after Jesus “ascended while they were looking at him; a cloud received him and he was hidden from their sight” … Matthias was appointed to become the 12th disciple.

Our tour group questioned having a zodiac in a Jewish synagogue.  In response, I’ll quote Rabbi Joel C. Dobin in the Introduction to his book To Rule Both Day & Night:  Astrology in the Bible, Midrash, & Talmud

The basic philosophy of the astrologer is religious, regardless of the religious direction from which he seeks the truth.  The basic philosophical thrust of Astrology derives from the conviction that the human being, God, and the universe are in some way a unity; that man and universe, if you will, both swim in the sea of space-time whose substrate is God.

That all-in-existence is subject to God’s will is an essential beginning for the astrologer:  “One Creator, One Creation” should be the mantra for every astrologer!  For, combining this latest statement with its forerunner—that man, God, and universe are an essential unity—allows the astrologer to seek in the Heavens for the evidence of God’s will for mankind, which will help the individual person as well as the community realize and act on the most basic religious statement:  “Make Thy will, my will.”

Astrology … revealed to me His order and His beauty, and His place for me in the Divine balance that links God, man, and universe into One Balanced Process which never ends in this life or on other planes of awareness of life….  Astrology helps man to understand God’s will and to put himself in balance with Divine and universal forces, thus enriching my life and experience.

Astrology was so much part of Jewish life and experience and so well respected in our tradition and law that the abandonment of Astrology to follow the chimera of scientific linearality was one of the greatest religious tragedies that ever befell our people.  For in so doing, we abandoned as well the mystical realities of our faith, our abilities to balance our lives and attain Unity.

I write as an astrologer, seeking to turn all those whose various faiths have seemed to abandon them back to “their own faith.”

 

JORDAN RIVER


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As it appears in January at this site near the Sea of Galilee.

 

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JORDAN RIVER NEAR ITS ENTRANCE INTO THE SEA OF GALILEE
IN MAY

The Jordan River flows from the snow-capped heights of Mt. Hermon to the depths of the Dead Sea.  It twists and curves for 160 miles, while the distance it covers is only 65 miles in a straight line.  Its average width is 100 feet.

 

THE END OF MIDDLE EASTERN PHOTOS/COMMENTARY, VOL. II

Volume 3

 

The Caudles of Anson County, NC

What's Really Happening in America?

Divine Government

Re-introduces House Bill 808 Calling for a Dept. of Peace

Wake Up To Mother Earth

Foreclosures, Bankers' Manifesto, & Land Patents

The Debt Crisis Is The Best Thing That Has Happened!

 

 

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