December 23rd, 2014:  We decided to take a last minute trip to Israel over the Christmas Holidays.  We were able to find really inexpensive tickets through Moscow and took advantage of them.  We didn’t have a lot of time to plan, but managed to find a fantastic guide and had the time of our lives!  I won’t be writing much on these posts because I have far too much school work to do, but I thought I’d post the photos at least.  Enjoy!



Our first view of Israel.


 Beautiful Tel Aviv!


Our first glimpse of Jerusalem.



St. George’s Church, near our hotel.  (Photo credit: Bella)


(Photo credit:  Bella)

On this evening, after a delicious shawarma dinner, we decided to enjoy being OUT of India and decided to take in a new movie.  We saw The Hobbit, The Battle of the Five Armies.  It was a fun adventure checking out an Israeli movie theater, esp. on the last night of Hanukkah with all of the families and vacationing soldiers.

December 24th, 2014:  Our first day was spent in Galilee.  We drove past the Dead Sea on our right, Jericho on our left and then headed directly north through Tiberius to the Mount of the Beatitudes.


You can tell that we’ve crossed the “green line” and that we are in the West Bank.

The “green line” is more than a political line on a map, it is literal because the Israelis plant trees, and the Palestinians (mostly) don’t.

(Palestinians plant trees that bring them a profit, and not much else.  Sad, but true.)


 Our first glimpse of the Dead Sea.


Jericho in the distance.


Date farms are a very lucrative business and flourish in this area.


Sheep are also a very lucrative business for the Arabs.

Apparently they can sell a single sheep for $200 USD.


Did you notice?  We are back on the other side of the green line!


Bananas grow very well here.

You can see the bunches of bananas covered with blue bags to protect them from the sun and the birds.

I did not know that bananas are grown on a plant that they grow from the ground up 4 times a year!


Mount Eremos is considered to be the location of the Mount of the Beatitudes.  

The garden’s here are beautiful!


I would love to get my poinsettias to this height!


You’ll note that I’m not very excited about the churches built in these locations, but more interested in the locations as a whole.

This photo of the Sea of Galilee was  taken from the Roman Catholic Franciscan chapel that is built on the site.



 Beautiful Capernaum in the distance. 


 And a couple of beautiful people soaking up the view!


And this little fellow, waiting patiently on a bird to misstep.


Our guide, Michael Wieser, teaching the girls about olive oil production at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish.

Inside is a beautiful mosaic from the Byzantine period that depicts the fish and bread.

My photo didn’t turn out, so you’ll have to look it up online.

This stone (above) was used to crush the olives before they were put into the press.

Michael told us how to tell if you have real olive oil.  Olive oil mixed with other oils (very common, apparently)

will not solidify into a gel in the fridge.   So go check your oil!

Also, “virgin olive oil” at your grocery store, is not truly virgin.  

In order to be classified virgin, it must be the oil that comes out of the olives ONLY FROM THEIR OWN WEIGHT

after being crushed.  If any pressing is done, it is no longer virgin!  Now you know!   



I loved this nativity inside the church.





Pillars at The Church of St. Peter’s House in Capernaum or Kfar Nahum.


The ruins of the city where Peter lived.


Another beautiful garden, again with the poinsettia.

In Capernaum, we had the best meal of the entire trip.



Salads, all kinds of salads, and I want to find recipes for every single one!


This is my favorite salad… oh wait, it is my second favorite.

Spicy eggplant.


Turkish salad IS my favorite.  I ate it on everything I could the entire trip.


And this fish… to die for.  I talked to the owner of the restaurant and got these details:  descale the tilapia and rub generously with olive oil and salt.  Fry for a few minutes in a pan to give it a crisp outer layer and then toss on the grill until done.  Serve with lemon, cabbage, potatoes, hummus, and Israeli salads!  Enjoy!


 Did you know that the Sea of Galilee had so many snails?  I did not!

The beach is covered with shells and we collected a cup full for our “jars of sand” collection.








Our next stop was Ginosar, where the “Jesus boat” is kept by a local Kibbutz.  This boat was found by a couple of local boys and later identified as a 2000 year old boat.  Can’t you just picture Christ calling Peter to be a fisher of men while next to this boat?


 A replica of the foam that was used to protect the boat until they discovered how to preserve the wood.


If you have the time, this is a fascinating presentation (below) about how the boat was found, etc.


 In the end, we skipped Nazareth (in the distance here).  It was late and we’d done so much already.

Tomorrow, Masada and the Dead Sea!