With the occasion of a general assembly of a engineering association, I had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land in March this year. The first three days we spent them in Haifa, enjoying only the views over the city from the hotels on Mont Carmel and endless meetings and seminars at Techion University. Just a few hours before of our departure we had the chance to go as down as the Baha'i temple and gardens for visiting. I was surprised to find out for the first time about the Baha'i faith and religion and enjoy their magnificent gardens. However, the time did not allow as to visit the famous Carmelite Monastery, the port or the beaches of the city.
The last two days of the trip we took part in some organized tours, one to Jerusalem and the second one to Galilee.
In just a few hours of bus driving from Haifa, we reached the Mount of Olives of Jerusalem, to enjoy the morning views over the old city. This is the spot where the classical view of Jerusalem with its Dome of The Rock is always taken from, and I have managed to add to my portfolio just that (left image). Mount of Olives and the valley separating it from the city is packed with Jewish cemeteries and Christian churches of ancient significance. The Garden of Gethsemane with its ancient olive groves is also located here.
The next stop of the tour was Mount Zion. Here, the Abbey of Dormition (right image), a Benedictine monastery completed in 1910 is the most visible landmark of the area, but the Tomb of David and the Last Supper Hall are in close vicinity.
The Last Supper Hall, or at least a room build by the Templar knights on the supposed place where the Last Supper event took place lies just above some tombs that are believed to belong to King David. During the ottoman rule of the region, to the Gothic design of the Last Supper Hall some beautiful Islamic stained glass (left image) was added and the room which used as a mosque.
The last part of the tour was reserved for visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcture, on the place where the crucification of Jesus is supposed to have taken place and the commercial galleries in the old city. Until we were on the bus on our way back to Haifa, I was hopping to have the chance to visit the Temple Mound and the Dome of the Rock, but I had to settle down with a visit to the Western Wall only...
The next day, after a short sleep we took the second tour to Galiee. First stop was Nazareth, where Jesus grew up and spent most of his life. At that time a small community which was not even recorded as a settlement, grew up in a small quiet town which seemed to me more peaceful than the other parts that I've visited. Celebrating the Annunciation event (Virgin Mary was announced by angels to be pregnant with baby Jesus), two churches were raised in the city of Nazareth, one by the Greek Orthodox Church (left image) which believes that Mary was announced in the village center were the fountain is supposed to lie and one by the Catholic Church (right image) which was recently enlarged near the caves where supposedly Mary's family was living.
Next stops were on the shores of See of Galilee, one of the only fresh water sources in the area: the places where Jesus preformed his miracles. The multiplication of the loaves and fish is one of the most know miracles and the place is celebrated by an ancient mosaic now inside a new church build in 1932.
Photographing the churches on the shores of See of Galilee was disturbed by a spring warm wind which, coming from the desert brings dust and sand, covering the light of the sun like a mist.
In general, my short stay and visit of the Holy Land (now, part of Israel) was enlighting: it is incredible to see with your own eyes the places that we all learn about them or see them referred in many of the books, movies and other types of media.
On the other side, I have to say that the current political situation there seem more sad and hopeless than I was expecting... I wish peace would find its place in the Holy Land!
Click here to visit a gallery will all the pictures from the Holy Land.
Photo credits: Mihai-bogdan Lazar.