Holy Holy Holy!

Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world - a layer-cake of history and culture, a crucible of emotions and faiths. The city is an international stage to an on-going active drama. Inside the 16th century walls, the most sacred sites are within walking distance from each other. It is a dazzling mixture of ancient and modern, conflict and co-existence. We will walk the city’s alleys, visit notable monuments and absorb breathtaking vistas. Jerusalem is a fascinating, immersive experience.

In the Footsteps of John the Baptist

Yohanan Cohen left the comfort of his aristocratic home and embarked on a spiritual journey. He lived in seclusion in the Judean desert, subsisting on locusts and wild honey. He preached repentance, confession and purification of the soul. Of the multitudes who were baptized in the Jordan river, Yeshua of Nazareth became so famous, that John was declared his forerunner. John’s charisma threatened the king and led to his tragic death, but his message became the foundation of the monastic movement. His spirit continues to inspire.

Ein Kerem – Faith and Art

Ein Kerem is the fourth most holy site to Christianity. It was here, at the village spring, that Mary met Elizabeth. John the Baptist was born in a local cave. Churches and monasteries were built on the venerated sites. Ein Kerem has inspired creativity through the ages- resources and talent were invested in architecture, sculptures, mosaics, murals, tiles and icons. The singularity of every artist creates a unique symphony of accumulated culture.

The Ein Gedi Oasis

The Rift valley created the lowest and saltiest lake on Earth. Less than a mile from its barren shores lies an oasis full of life. The reserve is a sanctuary for a unique combination of plants, birds and animals from the tropical, desert, and Mediterranean regions. Local birds are by joined migrating species in the spring and fall. Nubian ibex and rock hyrax look upon the visitors lazily. A hike in Ein Gedi offers a delightful blend of geology and nature.

The Orchard of the Spring

Since 2004 we have been restoring the Ein Kerem valley, transforming an overgrown, trash-filled ravine into a local paradise. We have reconstructed terraces, planted trees and created shaded picnic areas. This community project is led by a handful of persistent volunteers with occasional help from groups of students, soldiers and tourists. The project delights visitors from near and far. This grass-roots effort is part of a struggle to maintain ‘green-lungs’ fighting the massive pressures of urban development.

An Artistic Dialogue with the Desert

Ezra Orion was an existential rebel and a laconic sculptor. He erected monuments that converse with their environment and make us measure up to them. To feel a “meaningful spiritual experience” one has to go far into the desert, arriving after a purifying hike. From the soaring bulldozer of Beer Sheva to the twin pillars of Yeruham, from the vertical railway ties to the massive boulders on the edge of cliff above the crater – Orion’s creations are “launchpads of consciousness” leading us towards the craters of Mars and the intergalactic infinity.

Crusader Ghosts in Haunted Castles

Although the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem existed for less than a hundred years, it has marked the region forever. The last knights sailed away in 1291, but their myths live on. Many wars since were declared Holy - a Crusade, or its mirror image, a Jihad. Propaganda hides the complexities of co-existence, the common social structure and vibrant trade. Exciting Crusaders’ castles adorn the land - dramatic monuments, evoking the heroic mythologies. Visiting the sites armed with modern knowledge is a wonderful historic adventure and a lasting experience.

The British Cradle of Conflict

When they came, the British saw themselves as crusaders and were greeted as liberators. They planned to stay for good yet left after 31 years. They made conflicting promises and implemented contradictory policies. Their sense of polite ‘Fair Play’ clashed with the bitter struggle between rival nations. When the British Mandate ended, they were hated equally by all. The British heritage captured to this day in grand architecture and laid the foundations for the state of Israel and the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Was the British Mandate doomed to fail? Was it really a failure?

Jerusalem Divided – Touring the City Line

The line cut across the heart of the city. It was drawn in exhaustion - a temporary armistice line, yet it remained frozen as a hostile border between the Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel. Fortifications were deployed, adjacent buildings became military posts civilian buildings became military posts. Jerusalem grew as two shabby, tormented cities. Then, suddenly, after 19 sleepy years, the city was “United” or “Liberated” or “Occupied” – the terminology depends on one’s point of view... The physical barriers were removed, but the mental separation remains. Touring the city line, one sees shadows of the past and glimpses of the future.

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