I’ve said many goodbyes in the past week — I had my last meeting with the students at the university (a celebration of their year-long course on leadership), and also with the professor and administrative assistant with whom I’ve worked this year; I had my last Arabic lesson; my landlady left for a visit to family in the States (she’ll be returning a day after I leave). Last week, I went up to Nazareth for a few days to say goodbye to friends there.

As a result of these numerous “inshallah I will see you agains,” I’m feeling a bit displaced and out of sorts. So this week, in lieu of a real post, here are some photos of my holiday for you to enjoy… Pretend you’re sitting in my living room, watching slides click through a home projector, stifling yawns as I drone on about all the buildings/food/bridges/flowers/etc. I saw on my trip to the Holy Land.

This is a picture of the cliffs of Arbel, above the city of Migdal on the Sea of Galilee. It was a bit hazy, as you can see, and so windy (but luckily the wind was keeping me on the cliff tops, rather than pushing me off). Josephus claims that one of the first “manly” actions of Herod the Great was clearing “bandits” (e.g., rebels) out of the caves in these cliffs, which the army did by lowering soldiers in baskets from the top of the hills. Today, you have to hike down… and back up… if you want to visit the caves.

Arbel CliffsOne day I visited Gamla, a city besieged and destroyed in the First Jewish Revolt. This is the spot the Romans broke through the walls — and into a house that had been built into the wall for extra fortification. There’s very little left of the city beyond the hole in the wall, which makes it a nice desolate place to read Josephus’s description of the fall of Gamla: “at that moment the rage of the Romans was such that they spared not even infants, but time after time snatched up numbers of them and slung them from the citadel. Thus on the twenty-third of the month of Hyperberetaeus was Gamla taken…” (Jewish War 4.82-83, Loeb Classical Library).

Gamla My holiday was not entirely taken up with sites of war, destruction, and suffering. I also saw lots of rock hyrax (hyraxes?), including these at Korazim. I did  not know they squeaked at visitors; I was slightly nervous at first, hearing all these squeaking noises, since I thought I was the only one at the site.

Korazim rock hyrax (2)

Here we have a tree growing out of the ruins of the cultic site at Dan; the ruined foundations of the Temple/Tomb of the Sacred Dancing Goats (yes, really) at Banias; and a hungry lion on a sarcophagus at Bet Shearim (where many, many rabbis were buried way back when).

Dan cultic site Banias tomb temple of sacred dancing goats (1)Bet Shearim cave of the coffins sarcophagi (18)

I was rather surprised to find corn growing in a small patch of garden outside the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. It was a little taste of home.

CornTwo of my very dear friends took me to a local ice cream parlor in Shefa’amr, an Arab city near Nazareth. They ordered the largest size for me — pistachio, mastic (gum arabic), and lemon. I was almost too late to get back into the convent guesthouse (with a 10 pm curfew) because of the traffic jams on the streets leading to the shop… It had been a very hot day, and everyone wanted ice cream.

ice cream with Ibtisam Shefar'amI have a few hundred more pictures, if you’re interested. Just let me know.