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Middle East: Israel

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Daily Itineraries:

2.7.05 - Got up around 530, packed our bags, and said our goodbyes over a quick breakfast. Basim took us to a downtown taxi post, where we got a taxi to the King Hussein (Allenby Bridge) crossing into Israel. Arrived at Jordanian customs early, and had tea with the custodial crew until it opened. Got the necessary exit stamps and made our way across the bridge. On the Israeli side, went through the typical security checks and safety precautions, and were admitted entry with very few questions. Took a sherut up to Jerusalem, where we stopped at the embassy and then did some shopping on Ben Yahuda street. Walked to bus station, traveled to Tel Aviv, and attempted to contact Slomit (for Israel Trail maps) with no sucess. Decided to bus down the coast to Ashkelon and spend the night with Lin and Janet Stutzman. Linford met us at the bus station, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner on the boat. Caught up on stories from the last few months, and eventually were rocked to sleep in our own comfy cabin after a long day.

2.8.05 - Woke up and had breakfast. Chatted for awhile about schedule details and our plans for April on the boat. Walked around the marina, briefly checked email, and did some more planning over lunch. Spent the afternoon writing and checking email. After dinner, took a bus to Tel-Aviv to meet Shlomit, an Israeli friend who has hiked most of the Israel Trail with her boyfriend Maoz. Met her at the bus station and went to coffeeshop to discuss details of the trail and look at maps. Afterwards we were invited to her mom's house to crash for the night.

2.9.05 - Got up in the morning and said goodbye to Shlomit. Eric returned to Ashkelon to work on website and continue with planning details. Dave went to U.S. embassy and applied for a new full-lenth passport before returning to the marina in early afternoon. Worked on some writing and chatted with Lin and Janet for the afternoon and evening. Went to bed fairly late.

2.10.05 Had breakfast and spent most of the day writing, finalizing email, website stuff before our month on the trail. Talked with Lin and Janet for awhile and then went into town for grocery shopping. Came back with food for 6 days on the trail, and ate another delicious dinner on the boat. Hung out with Lin and Janet for awhile, then stayed up late finishing up details and calling parents.

2.11.05 - Got up early and quickly packed up our things, sent a few emails, and said goodbye to Lin and Janet. Walked to the bus station, where we got on a bus and made another connection to Eilat. Four and a half hours later, we arrived along the Red Sea. Did some quick shopping before the stores closed for Shabbat, and then enjoyed two greasy Pizza Hut pizzas. Decided to take a taxi out to the trailhead for the Israel National Trail (at the Taba border crossing with Egypt) and camp on the beach. Went to bed soon after 7pm, in hopes of an early start in the morning.

2.12.05 - Day 1, 20km, 9.5 hours. After a great night of sleep on the beach, we started up the trail shortly after 7am. Most of the morning was spent climbing through the Gishron valley, until we reached Route 12 (near Egypt border crossing) and the Spring Netafim by early afternoon. We filled up on water and continued through a beautiful wadi, experiencing a few brief rain showers. Found a wide plateu were we decided to camp, high enough out of the wadi in case of more rain overnight. Set up camp to clear skies and the orange glow of Eilat in the distance.

2.13.05 - Day 2, 23km, 9.5 hours.

Started off the morning with a good climb, then descended into a wadi where we picked up water (left for us by a friend of Shlomit). Continued across an open plateu, then went up and over a 600m ridgeline. Spent the afternoon hiking a 4x4 trail across the open desert, eventually arriving at a quarry just south of Timna Mts. Continued for another kilometer before setting up camp, feeling very tired and sore from the hard surface and our heavy packs. Built a nice campfire and enjoyed the starry sky.

2.14.05 - Day 3, 16km, 8 hours.

After a bit of a late start, we hiked past a Bedoin campground and entered Timna National Park from the south. We passed through the mountains and arrived at a Ranger Station on the other side, where we filled up on water. Chatted with the guard, then continued across a valley and began a very steep ascent over the Timna Cliffs. A very tiring climb, with full packs, sore feet, and a blistering sun. Took a long break at the top, then continued across the top of the cliffs and enjoyed some great views of the Jordan valley. Decided to call it a day on an open plain near some old wells (Milkhan). Set up camp, watched the sunset, and built a fire before bed.

2.15.05 - Day 4, 14km, 6 hrs.

Woke up to a breakfast of oatmeal and again hit the trail. Hiked along rolling ups and downs, with some beautiful views of the Rift valley to the east. Took our time, because of Dave's foot problems and the very hot sun. Arrived in the cliff-top village of Shakharut in early afternoon, and was soon offered a ride by a lady looking for a house in the area. Got dropped off at a junction near Ne'ot Smadar, where we attempted unsucessfully to hitchhike for several hours. Met another thru-hiker, Joel, who is a Messianic believer from CA. Eventually ended up camping behind a nearby rest area, several feet from a smelly septic tank. Went to sleep to the sound of highway noise and military shelling in the distance.

2.16.05 - Day 5, 7km, 3 hrs

Got up early and made our way back out to highway. After a half-hour of trying to hitchhike, we decided to take a bus heading north to Mitspe Ramon. Got off the bus on the south rim of the Ramon Crater (supposedly the world's largest), and spent the morning hiking down into the crater. Around noon, we decided to set up camp, and then ate lunch as Israeli Air Force jets went screaming over our heads. Spent the afternoon writing, napping, and exploring the crater. Went to bed after a delicious dinner of lentils and spaghetti.

2.17.05 - Day 6, 7km, 3 hrs.

After breakfast, Eric spent another hours writing, and then we packed up and started the hike out. Climbed steeply out the north rim of the crater to the town of Mitspe Ramon. Arriving around noon, we did our shopping, ate lunch, and then looked for an internet connection. Found a library and a group of Cisco technicians taking a training course. Spent the afternoon eating free food, using the internet, and hanging out with them. As evening approached, we caught a ride north to Be'er Sheva with a fellow hitchhiker. After two more hitchhike connections, we were dropped along the road where we looked for the Israel Trail. Eventually found it cutting through a field, and camped alongside some busy train tracks for the night.

2.18.05 - Day 7, 21km, 7hrs.

Woke up and started hiking through beautiful green fields, with blossoming red poppy flowers. Hiked past several tels until we reached the Pura Nature Reserve, where we stopped for a break at an old Turkish railway bridge. Continued hiking through fields and tried an unsuccesful shortcut through swampy marshland. Eventually got to the road, where we did a series of hitchhikes to arrive in Ashkelon, where we surprised Lin and Janet. Had a great Shabbat barbecue, got cleaned up, and slept on the boat.

2.19.05 - Day 8, 1km, 1 hr

Slept in late on Shabbat morning, and then spent the morning in conversation with Lin and Janet on the boat. Walked around the marina and hung out with them for most of the day. In early evening, we got a ride with Moshe (a friend from the marina) out of Ashkelon to the spot where we stopped on the trail, just south of Kiryat Gat. Spent about an hour looking for the trail in the dark, and ended up camping in the middle of a field for the night.

2.20.05 - Day 9, 28km, 9hrs

Packed up camp to a heavy dew and began looking for the trail. Crossed several fields to No'am, and then to Lakhish with no luck. Finally found the blazes again near Tel Lakhish and continued northeast towards Jerusalem. Ate lunch on the roof of an abondoned house overlooking Beit Guvrin and the Green Line (Hebron in the distance). Hiked along a beautiful ridgeline through Britanya National Park and Ya'ar Masu'd. Threw up our tent under the pine trees in a nice camping area (with picnic tables!)

2.21.05 - Day 10, 22km, 8 hrs.

Awoke to the sound of wild donkeys exploring our campsite. Packed up and went down to small town of Li-On to restock food and water. Also ended up using internet at a computer shop. Hiked over Tel Azeka and down to a small kibbutz. Continued through the Me'arat ha-Te'omim Nature Reserve and saw a number of old caves and dwellings. Stopped for water at Mata, where we also lost the trail for a bit. Eric was experiencing some ankle problems, so we climbed a hill overlooking town and set up camp amidst some old ruins, calling it a shorter day.

2.22.05 - Day 11, 25km, 10 hrs.

Woke up, ate breakfast, and started up the trail again. Crossed over a nice peak at Yad Kennedy, and had a view of Jerusalem in the distance. Descended to the town of Even Sapir, where we filled water. Talked to a group of schoolkids for awhile, then climbed up to Sataf and passed the mikvahs that we toured on our cross-cultural. Dropped down into a wadi west of Jerusalem, and enjoyed a downhill descent all afternoon. Eric continued to have pain in his ankle. Set up camp at a picnic area near some old caves, listening to the jackals howl.

2.23.05 - Day 12, 20km, 7 hrs.

Got up and made the early-morning climb out of Rabin Park, stopping for water at Beit Me'ir. Walked along the "Burma Road" to an old Crusader fortress inside the Green Line, where we had lunch. Eric's ankle began giving him considerable pain in the afternoon, so we hiked to Kibbutz Sha'alvim to buy groceries, fill water, and also got to check email. Camped in a beautiful wooded area outside of the Kibbutz, where we stayed up late talking.

2.24.05 - Day 13, 33km, 10hrs.

Packed up camp and started off towards Tel Aviv. Walked through open fields before entering Ya'ar Herzl, where we passed a group of soldiers doing military training. Continued north over Tel Khadid and along the new Highway 6. Lost the trail several times, because of construction and the new highway. Eventually walked along the road to El'ad, where we called Maoz and he offered to take us to his place for the night. We walked along the trail to Antipatris with two girls, one of whom was completing the entire trail with this section. Met Maoz at Antipatris, went to his house, and spent the evening relaxing, eating pizza, and talking with him and Shlomit.

2.25.05 - Relax day. Spent the morning doing writing/internet work and hanging out with Maoz. Went to the market in Tel Aviv, where we had lunch and wandered around. Also visited the old port of Jaffa along the waterfront. Went out to eat with Shlomit, Maoz, and Maoz's sister, where we both had big hamburgers. Went back to the house, had strawberries with chocolate, and went to bed late.

2.26.05 - Day 14, 20km, 6 hrs.

Packed up and said goodbye to Maoz and Shlomit over a nice breakfast. Maoz took us back to Antipatris, where we continued hiking west towards the coast. Passed through the Yarkon park in Tel Aviv, where lots of people were out for Shabbat. Continued north along the coast to near Herzliya, where we found an abandoned lifeguard station along the water. After a beautiful sunset, we decided to sleep there for the night and split up in the morning.

2.27.05 Eric - Day 15, 42km, 11 hrs.

Woke up and said goodbye for the next week and a half. Left the lifeguard station and began hiking north, enjoying the beautiful morning water. Reached Netanya by late morning, and continued on to Nakhal Alenxander where I had lunch. While using the Leatherman, I cut my thumb pretty deep, and decided it probably needed stitched up. An employee from a local restaurant took me to Kfar Vitkin, where I received free treatment at the clinic. Walked back to the coast and continued north, hoping to reach Caesarea by night. Night came quicker than I hoped, and i considered camping at Nakhal Khadera Park, beside the big power plant, but they had no water. Continued north to Sdot Yam, where i was blessed by a young Jewish guy driving by in his car. Back along the beach, i asked a woman and her kids about a pay telephone to call my sister. We talked for a bit, and they offered to take me back to their house for the night, which i accepted. Enjoyed a delicious meal, good conversation, and getting all cleaned up. Slept in a real bed for the night!

Dave - Left Eric around sunrise, while he was sleeping. I hiked with few breaks, mostly along the water  rocks & sand make the pace slower& past the power plant towers and the national park. Looking for a campsite, I got an invitation with bad directions and couldnt find the house. Soon after, I got an invitation with food from Coby and Ali, construction workers living on site. Got a hot shower, clean clothes and some wonderful hospitality.

2.28.05 Eric - Day 16

Spent the morning at the Bar-Or family's home. Had breakfast with Osnat and talked for a while about peace initiatives and Israeli culture. Around late morning, she took me back to Caeserea, where I spent the day hanging out. Read for several hours at the Roman ampitheatre, then spent some time praying and reflecting along the water. Walked down past the aqueduct, and made a campsite on some dunes overlooking the water. Slept wonderfully.

Dave - Began near Jisr E-Zarqa, bought some cheap food: (pitas, olives, tuna, chocolate, zata), walked through the town, practicing a little Arabic  I asked a police officer (actually 3) for directions  he says, What are you doing in this town?! as they are hassling an Arab man& I got my directions and kept moving up hills, cautiously through the herd of cattle (I somehow wore the red shirt today), over Carmel, down, winding 4x4 roads, slightly slower pace& (late start(breakfast at the construction house)) Camped near Ein Hod.

3.1.05 Eric - Day 17, 32km, 10 hrs.

Woke up and walked to the Arab town of Jisr E-Zarqa to resupply food and water. Continued on past Zikhron Ya'akov and had lunch on a plateau overlooking a quarry. Climbed to the Kerem Maharal Reserve and enjoyed some nice views. On the way down to Nahkal Me'aron Reserve (caves) I was offered a bag of sandwiches from some teenage girls out hiking. Went another hour until I found a suitable place to camp in some high grass near the caves. Mosquitos were aweful, so i crawled directly into the tent.

Dave - Woke up after sunrise, went to fill H2O in Ein Hod, met Afik, a woodworker who gave me breakfast, hiked up and over a couple of steep ridges, pretty isolated most of the day, hiked uphill too& eventually came to the edge of the ridge, to an Arab town (Surftat/Ruham?)& stopped to look in a mosque that was being constructed and ended up talking to an Arab guy for a while (studied political science in Haifa University, political discussion about USA, Christians, Bush, Iraq, American ignorance, etc&), descended steep ridge to horse kibbutz (Yagur), started walking down the street and met Evya and Nofar (3pm) in Kfar Khasidim, was invited in for a meal, invited to Evyas in Nofit for BBQ later& talked with Nofars Mom for a while& went to Nofit, helped set up, party for Evyas younger brother and his friends in the army (doing navigation training), lots of incredible food, came back soon after because we were all tired and ready for bed., sleeping at Nofars house& Shower and all.

3.2.05 Eric - Day 18, 18km, 6 hrs.

Left the campsite by the caves and headed north towards the Karmel. Lost the trail, and ended up walking along the highway until I found it again at a junction. Began the climb, although it wasn't as difficult as I anticipated. Hiked with two young guys just out of the army to Har Shokef, then down into a valley, and back up a beautiful wadi to the road. Arrived at early afternoon in the Ashdot Yagur Reserve, and decided to call it a day and set up camp. Read, relaxed, and explored for the afternoon. Cooked a dinner of pasta and spam, and soon went to bed.

Dave - Woke up in the house with the sun  breakfast and conversation with my Mom friend until 8  she gave me a sandwich and coffee for the road  hiked through some beautiful valleys and fields  got off the trail near Ka-abiye (North and South)  really frustrating  some Arabs gave me food (pita with meat and onion inside), the whole process probably took over an hour to get back on track, the trail did some dumb turns, and I think it had been rerouted& Once I got back on I moved well  cooler air  nice breeze, left this nature reserve and couldnt find where the trail continued, so I came back to camp. Made a fire stove, cooked dinner, and headed for the sack.

3.3.05 Eric - Day 19, 28km, 10 hrs.

Woke up to the sound of rain before dawn. Quickly packed up the tent and went into the campground bathroom, where I half slept for another hour or two. Got up and made the many switchbacks down off of Karamel and crossed to the town of Rekhasim, as skies cleared somewhat. Wandered around lost on the hills above town, near a bunch of shanty houses, and had to ask directions. Got my bearings and hiked through a long valley and over several hills. Stopped for water and fuel at a gas station and met a friendly girl who invited me to her family's house for the night. Didn't quite feel right about it, so i continued into the Ya'ar Solelim Reserve where i camped in a cow pasture under some evergreens. Very sore feet, also looks like possible rain overnight.

Dave  I didnt sleep great in the forest, walked through Zippori moshav and hitched into Nazareth, got some pastries at a bakery and stopped into Nazareth Village  talked to Mike, got a tour around the place. Worked at stalling high speed internet for them. Got the internet up on the server and checked and sent some emails. They fed me lunch with the volunteers  talked to the girl from NC for a while, headed out maybe around 3, took a southern route around Nazareth to Nazareth Ilit, cut down a hill eastward form a park on the edge of town, followed dirt roads in this direction with Tabor on the horizon, racing the sun, it going down and me going up, both frantically at the same time, I got into the Arab town of Daburiya at dusk and headed for the switch backing road going up the mountain. As I lost daylight I got where I needed to be. Illhamdallah, I walked up the steepness, passing through the dark and eerie gate and found a campsite down over the other side, decided not to make a fire and do a cold dinner.

3.4.05 Eric - Day 20, 22km, 7 hrs.

Awoke feeling refreshed, despite rain all through the night. Much cooler today, and got off with a good pace. Reached Arab town of Mash'had by mid-morning, then stopped at huge supermarket outside Nazareth to resupply (overwhelming options!). Lost the trail in Ya'ar Churchil, but had lunch with two young guys also hiking the trail, Uzzi and Moad. Continued in direction of Mt. Tabor, stopped for coffee with some Arab guys making charcoal outside of Shibli. Climbed Mt. Tabor, said hello to the priests, and found a campsite near some old church ruins outside the gate. Cooked a tomato/mushroom/pasta dinner to the sound of the Muslim call to prayer in nearby Nazareth.

Dave - It was rainy and windy overnight on Tabor, and I didnt sleep great. I woke up and tried to dry stuff out, ate a cold breakfast, went up to church and poked around. The sanctuary was open but no one was there, so I filled H2O and headed down the mountain. I walked on 4x4 roads, south, east, and north, over bigger green rolling hills and made good time. I lost the trail somewhere due SW of the bottom tip of the lake (missing maps for this part), so I headed in the right direction and came to the crest of the plateau and found a beautiful view of the lake. Headed N/NE and descended to the town of Yavneel, where all the Jews looked very religious, walked the road/4x4 east to Poriya Ilit where I cut back down to the INT. (met a man who lived in PA in Poriya Ilit  filled H2O at his house) & continued with the Kinneret on my east until the 2nd picnic area above Tiberias. Cooked pasta/chicken soup for dinner over the fire and made a big pot of strong Bedouin coffee.

3.5.05 Eric - Day 21, 34km, 10 hrs.

Packed up and made my way back down Mt. Tabor. Stopped at a gas station for water, then hiked along the road towards Ein Dor. From there, headed east on dirt roads through the rolling hills towards Sea of Galilee (Kinneret). Stopped for lunch near a beautiful observation point on the cliffs overlooking the sea. Continued down past Ein Ya'ala, through a wadi, and eventually to the Jordan River. Stopped briefly at the traditional site of Jesus' baptism, but decided to continue north to the Sea to find a campsite. Couldn't find the campsite marked on my map, so climbed part way up the cliffs and found a small park just below Poriya. Not ideal, but it was dark and it worked. Fell asleep exhausted and sore.

Dave - Woke with pre-dawn and started the fire to cook cuscus for breakfast as I watched the sunrise over the eastern shore of the lake. I got an early start hiking, headed through Tiberias Ilit to Arbel Cliffs, and then followed the trail that we did in 2002. The Wadi that we had slept in that first night was streaming with Shabbat hikers, now very green and beautiful. I was able o buy some pita on the N side of the lake, and had fresh pita with tuna oil, and zata for lunch. The wadi was slow moving because of round, loose rocks and a bad trail. I crossed the road (85) and climbed up the side of a canyon, running on rock edge most of the time. Around 3:00 the trail dropped across the stream and I deciced to take a dip and wash some clothes, and there was even a nice campsite here: a flat grassy patch with some beautiful olive trees and a fire ring. Feeling pretty exhausted and liking the attractive site with nearby water, I called it a day. I spent a lot of the remaining afternoon and evening working on the fire to boil some water and cook dinner.

3.6.05 Eric - Day 22, 19km, 5 hrs.

Got up and decided to look for a camping area down near the Sea to spend a day or two. Couldn't find much, ended up wandering to Tiberias where a tourist guide recommended going further north along the Sea. Hiked along Route 90 past the Arbel Cliffs to Ginosar, but couldn't find a good camping place there either. Continued to Karei Deshe, and decided to spend the rest of the day/night at a youth hostel near the Mt. of Beatitudes. Spent the afternoon washing clothes, cleaning up, and resting sore feet. Around 6pm a large school group showed up, and blasted loud music until the early morning hours. Managed to sleep alright despite circumstances.

Dave - Woke up in the dark, got the fire up for breakfast and headed up the trail as the sun was rising, passed two through hikers (Eagle and Oz) near the road and Meron campsite. They had heavy packs and gave me a bag of chips and some tasty Swiss chocolates. Wadi Dishon was gorgeous, green and wet with a stream running down and across the 4x4 road/trail. Lots of yellow, blue, and purple flowers& Im camping illegally and hoping its not a problem, so close to the Lebanon border, I can see it&

3.7.05 Eric - Day 23, 6 km, 2 hrs.

Woke up with the sun and ate a large breakfast with the school group at the hostel. Checked out and walked along the road up to the Beatitudes Monastery overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Spent the day there reading, praying, and enjoying the quiet garden. Watched many tour groups come and go, some singing a few songs in the church. In late afternoon I began walking down the hill through olive groves and banana fields, looking yet again for a campsite. Found a good one overlooking Tabkha (Ein Sheva), where several monuments and church scultptures had been placed. Cooked up dinner and crawled into the tent just as drops of rain started to fall.

Dave - It was a restless night with more tractors, people with flashlights and a little rain. As soon as it was approaching dawn, I packed up and left, ready to get on my way. I bushwacked back to the trail as the sun was rising and started hiking at a strong pace. The trail hugged the west side of the Hula Valley Mountains, giving great views most of the time. Maoz and his mom crossed my path around 10am a little south of Kiryat Shimona. He gave me some snacks to get me on my way, which was a great help because I was low on food. We talked for about half an hour, and he told me I had 25km left, and we both agreed that I could probably do it. I started hauling up the 4x4 road, still on the western ridge, stopping for lunch at Ein (Riam?). When the trail crossed Kfar Giladi, I restocked my food for 2 days, and continued onward with a fast pace, making good time eastward across the valley. Filled up water at the Ha-Goshnim junction gas station and tried to mentally refocus for the last 6-8 km. I passed by military zones and pastures with aggressive cows, and made my way around the north of Tel Dan, arriving at Kibbutz Dan around 5pm. I sat at the locked gate and ate the chocolate cake, just plain glad to be off my feet for a few minutes. I talked to some kids and they showed me how to climb the fence and then made my way to the wildlife taxidermy museum where I met Noah, a girl working there, asking her about where I could camp. She let me look around, make a phone call, and then said I could come back to her kibbutz (Snir) to camp for the night. Her boyfriend, Nir, picked us up and we headed over. We got to talking and they said I could get a shower and make some calls at their place& They had just moved in, and Nir and I talked for a while&traveling, politics (he is a political science major), and he made me supper (turkey kabobs, salad, hummus&). Noah had 6 highschool friends over and they came around 9, bringing a cake. Nirs mom came over and when she heard about me camping, she insisted that I sleep in the extra bed in their home.

3.8.05 Eric - Day 24, 7km, 2 hrs.

Woke up and walked down to the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter, at Tabkha. Visisted the church and did some reading, then continued along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. Spent several hours there, then walked back along the lake to the Bread and Loaves Church, before catching a ride to Tiberias. Walked around town, briefly used internet, and decided to return that night to Maoz and Shlomit's place in Tel Aviv. Walked uphill to the top of town, and caught three rides (old, crazy driver) and a bus back to Tel Aviv. Caught another bus to Kiryat Ono, arriving just in time for dinner. Hung out, checked email, and went to bed.

Dave - I didnt sleep much because of the late night coffee and woke up at sunrise time in the house. Afterwards, hitchhiked to Tel Aviv to here in 5 rides  5 hours  spending one of those taking measurements in a hospital kitchen. I arrived at Shlomits house and cleaned up, sitting around for most of the afternoon, doin some internet and email work. Eric showed up at dinnertime.

3.9.05 - Had breakfast with Maoz and Shlomit, then did some writing and internet work in the morning. Drove with Maoz down to the marina in Ashkelon, where we had lunch with Lin and Janet and sat around and talked. Maoz's brother also stopped by. Spent the afternoon hanging out, then had dinner on the boat. Eric went to bed early, Dave and Janet stayed up watching a movie.

3.10.05 - Got up and had breakfast. Hung out talking, worked on internet stuff, and got stuff packed up to leave. Met Joseph Bertold, a pastor from Lancaster who is doing some independent study/travel here in Israel. Left with Linford mid-afternoon to pick up Alethia Bailey and Laura Helmuth from the Tel Aviv airport. Lin took Dave's bike back down to the boat, we went with the girls up to Jerusalem. Arrived in early evening, dropped off stuff at Ecce Homo, and went out for a quick tour around the Old City. Ate shwarma pitas at a place in the Arab quarter just before closing. Came back to Ecce Homo, stayed up late talking.

3.11.05 - Dave and I got up for breakfast, let the girls sleep longer to get over some of their jet lag. Walked around a bit before meeting Linford, Janet, and Josef for lunch, to celebrate Janet's birthday. Said goodbye to them and talked for a bit about our schedule for the next few weeks. Walked up to the Jewish quarter, visited the wailing wall, went out with Josef for dinner, and returned back to Ecce Homo to hang out. Sat around talking, eating, and having our own little Kabalat Shabbat.

3.12.05 - After breakfast in the dining room, we all went out to an internet cafe to begin the day. Came back to Ecce Homo and made a few phone calls in preparation for the coming days. After a delicious lunch of falafel outside the Damascas Gate, we headed over to the Mount of Olives for the afternoon. Visited the Garden of Gethsemane, Basilica of the Agony (Church of All Nations), Dominus Flevit, and the Jewish cemetary. Returned back to the Old City and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. After a dinner in the Christian quarter, we returned to Ecce Homo and hung out for the evening.

3.13.05 - Woke up early and packed up our things. After breakfast, we went with Josef over to the Temple Mount. Spent several hours exploring the grounds and enjoying spectacular view of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Afterwards, we stopped by Jerusalem University College en route to Ben Yahuda Street in the new city. Returned back to the falafel stand at Damascas Gate, then got our bags and found a sharut for Bethlehem. Crossed in to the West Bank near Beit Jala by walking across a buldozed dirt pile, thus avoiding the hassles of the checkpoint. Got a ride with Issa Zoughbi's son back to their house in Bethlehem, where we will stay for the next five days in their extra apartment. Had tea with them, then went out to buy groceries up at Manger Square. Cooked a delicious meal, then hung out talking around the gas heater.

3.14.05 - Woke up and had breakfast. Dave did some writing while Alethia, Laura and Eric walked the two blocks up to the Basilica of the Nativity. Hung out there for awhile before coming back to the house. Decided to walk down to Beit Sahour, and stopped to visit Dave and Eric's previous host family on the way. Had tea with them and sat around catching up a bit. Continued on to the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG) office, where we met the guys who helped lead our cross-cultural. After talking with them, we were invited to Samer's house for coffee and then dinner. Enjoyed good food and meeting his family. Returned to our apartment for the night.

3.15.05 - After a short night of sleep, we got up and walked down to the ATG office in Beit Sahour. After coffee, we spent the morning with Samer touring around the Bethlehem area. Saw many areas where Palestinian land was being confiscated and new bypass roads were being built. Also went out to Herodian and saw many new Israeli settlements and outposts being built illegally on Palestinian land. After lunch with Samer, we drove out to the Bethlehem checkpoint and walked around where the seperation wall was being built. Returned to ATG, used internet for a bit, then went back to apartment and cooked up a stir-fry dinner. Hung out in the evening with Tim and Chris Seidel, the MCC reps here in Palestine.

3.16.05 - Ate breakfast together and then took a taxi to Wi'am Conflict Resolution Center, where we met with Zoughbi Zoughbi and his staff for the morning. Afterwards walked to Bethlehem Bible College, where we received a tour from the president, Bishara Awad. Walked back to the Church of the Nativity, where we hung out for an hour before meeting Omar at the Bethlehem International Center. Returned to the apartment, got cleaned up, and had a nice dinner downstairs with Tim, Chris, and Omar. Watched an MCC video about the wall and talked about the conflict. Eventually returned back upstairs for a good night of sleep.

3.17.05 - Spent the morning at the Dehaisha Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. Received a tour of the camp and met some of the young people there. Ate lunch and then walked to the Bidal Center for a seminar on divestment issues relating to the Israeli occupation. Afterwards, Laura and Alethia went to art show, Eric and Dave went shopping for dinner. Bought a live rooster, and drank coffee with our new salesman friend before taking the bird back to the apartment. Eric and Dave went to a pool hall in Beit Sahour, where we hung out with our host brother Hussam. Returned back to the apartment, killed and cleaned rooster, prepared rest of dinner, and ate a feast around midnight. Sat around apartment until early morning hours.

3.18.05 - Woke up late, said goodbye to Tim and Chris, got ride to ATG, said goodbye to the Zoughbi family,and finally walked out towards checkpoint. Dave and Eric bought plane tickets from a Turkish Airlines office. While trying to get cash from an ATM, the card was confiscated and we spent awhile trying to get it back. Hurried to checkpoint, passed through with no problems, and took a sharut and taxi into Jerusalem. Caught the last crowded bus down to Ashkelon, where we were picked up by Moaz's sister and driven to the party at Moaz's parents Moshav. Enjoyed delicious steak, lamb, and sides. Stayed up late enjoying arguila and good conversation with a group of young friendly Israelis. Crashed at Moaz's parents house for the night.

3.19.05 - Had a delicious breakfast, got a tour of the Moshav, and saw a view of the Gaza Strip. Started hitchiking east towards Masada, passing through Be'er Sheva, Arad, and finally arriving at the Dead Sea in late afternoon. Found a beautiful campsite on a dusty mesa overlooking the Dead Sea. After a dinner of chicken noodle soup we stayed up late enjoying the night sky.

3.20.05 - Packed up camp and walked to Masada. Climbed the mountain and spent the morning walking around the ruins. After lunch, we descended and walked out to the main highway along the Dead Sea. Very low on cash, we realized that our only way out would be to hitchhike. Fortunately we were picked up by an opium-smoking "believer" from upstate New York. Had an interesting conversation with him and got dropped off at the Jerusalem bus station, where we caught a bus north to Afula, and then found another on to Nazareth. Arrived at Nazareth Village all feeling very tired and suffering from some nasty headaches. Were met at the village by Samer, and showed us a Bedoin tent where we spent the night. Got woken up several times by shady individuals having a party and singing loudly in the back corner of the village. Had no further problems and enjoyed a good night of sleep.

3.21.05 - Woke up and met Mike Hochstetler, the director of Nazareth Village. Were introduced to the rest of the staff there, and given costumes and work to do weeding the stone walls on the property. Enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere and friendly staff as we worked throughout the day. For dinner, we were invited by Mira, a recent employee of the village, to a Mother's Day meal with the rest of her family. Ate until our stomachs hurt and enjoyed their genuine hospitality. Returned back to the village and stayed up late talking.

3.22.05 - Got up and dressed for another day of helping in the first century village. Some of us continued weeding while others helped prepare food in the kitchen. We helped serve a noon meal to a bus load of tourists and got many pictures taken with them. At dinner, we joined a previous volunteer group for their farewell party. Moaz came up to visit the village and spend the night. Hung out with him for awhile and eventually slept in the synagogue for the night.

3.23.05 - Woke up and had breakfast, then said goodbye to Maoz. Spent the morning working on writing and updating the website. Helped out in the gift shop during the afternoon, and also helped with some other odd jobs around the village. For dinner, we went with Evon to her home up on the hill and enjoyed a delicious meal with her and her mother. We were all blessed by her warmth and hospitality. Walked back to the village and stayed up late talking.

3.24.05 - Got up and enjoyed our first shower in nearly a week! After breakfast, some of us helped out in the kitchen and others did odd jobs that needed done. Around noon, we packed up our things and began saying goodbye to the staff we had grown to love so much. We walked to the Basilica of the Anunciation, where we enjoyed several peaceful moments before catching a taxi east to Tiberias. Walked along the ridge south of Tiberias Illit to a nice picnic area overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Ate a delicious meal of pasta, hot dogs, and tomato sauce before calling it a night. Slept out under a full moon.

3.25.05 - Woke up and spent the morning reading, journaling, and enjoying the beautiful views of the Sea of Galilee. Around noon, we walked down the hill to Tiberias, bought some groceries, and caught a bus north to the Mount of the Beatitudes. Spent about an hour visiting the church before walking down the hill to a small campsite above Tabgha. Somone told us the historical markers on the spot mark the place where Jesus appeared to 500 people after his resurrection!? Ran out of fuel, so we walked down to a Benedictine Monastary and found a young monk who let us borrow his camping stove and fuel for the night. Went to bed soon after dinner.

3.26.05 - Woke up slowly and ate a small breakfast. Visited the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, then the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. Eric and Laura walked down to Capernaum and saw the synagogue and the house of Peter. Met back together for lunch and then hitchhiked back to Tiberias. Waited until the end of Shabbat to catch the first bus south to Jerusalem. Arrived in early evening, took a taxi to Jaffa Gate, and slept out on the roof at Petra Hostel.

3.27.05 - Got up before dawn and walked to the packed-out Garden Tomb for the Easter sunrise service. Met Janet Stutzman there, and then hung out with her at Jerusalem University College for the morning. For the afternoon, we all did our own things around the Old City before going out for dinner together. In the evening, Dave and Alethia walked to Ben Yahuda street to take in the Purim festivities, Laura and Eric stayed at the hostel and journaled.

3.28.05 - Woke up and ate breakfast, then packed our bags and checked out of the hostel. Dave met with Glenn Witmer, Eric and the girls went shopping in the markets. In the afternoon, instead of going over to Bethlehem, we decided to travel down to Ashkelon and camp out on the beach. After a crazy bus ride out of Jerusalem, we arrived in Ashkelon, bought some groceries, and walked down to the beach. Walked around, relaxed, and rolled out our bags on a somewhat deserted stretch of beach south of the marina.

3.29.05 - Got up with the sun and spent the entire day on the beach. Journaled, explored, read, and napped throughout the day. Very refreshing and much-needed down time. In late afternoon, we walked over to the Ashkelon Marina and enjoyed a great dinner on the boat with Lin and Janet. Stayed up talking with them and telling stories of the last few weeks. Slept overnight on the boat.

3.30.05 - Woke up to a wonderful breakfast and sat around the table talking for awhile. Later in the morning, Eric helped Lin with some odd jobs around the boat, Dave worked on his journal update, and the girls relaxed a bit. Took turns cranking each other to the top of the mast for a nice view. After lunch, Eric went with Janet to the market in Ashkelon. Returned for a dinner of BBQ chicken and potatoes on the gently rocking boat. Spent the evening talking, and stayed up quite late.

3.31.05 - Woke up, had breakfast, and got to work on the boat. Eric and Dave got the dingy out and worked at scraping off slime from the undersides of the boat. Around late morning, Lin decided to take us all out for a sail. After maneuvering through the silted channel out of the marina, we enjoyed a gentle sail in the waters off Ashkelon. Learned some basic principles of sailing, and also hung out with Rueben, the Israeli who owns a boat beside us in the marina. After a few hours, we returned and worked at getting things back in order around the boat. Girls packed up and the boys unpacked. After getting cleaned up, we took Lin and Janet out for a nice dinner at the restaurant by the water. Came back to the boat, and the girls said their goodbyes to the Stutzman's. We stayed up with Laura and Alethia until midnight, when they caught a taxi to the airport. Saw them off, returned to the boat and talked for a bit, then went to bed.

4.1.05 - Had a later breakfast, and began a busy day on the boat. Did several loads of laundry and hung it all out on the desk to dry. Eric went to the supermarket with Janet, while Dave did some writing and computer work. After lunch, we cleaned up our berth in the stern, stowed some of our gear in storage, and got our stuff organized. Eric did some website work, we all got cleaned up, and had a nice Shabbat meal together. Went to bed early.

4.2.05  Woke up after 11 hours of sleep and had breakfast. We spent the morning scrubbing down the deck, getting rid of accumulated dirt and giving it a nice clean shine. In the afternoon, Maoz and Magen stopped in to say goodbye, and we talked for about an hour. Afterwards, we went with Lin and Janet to visit with the couple in the large catamaran. Returned to the boat, had dinner, and sat around talking about the weather and our plans for leaving, decided to wait until morning to make a final decision.

4.3.05  Got up early to haowlign winds and hight surf. Lin and Janet decided to delay our departure by 24 hours, hoping the sea will improve. Lin and Janet ran errands in the morning, we worked on emails and journaling. After lunch, Eric wrote emails and Dave took a nap. Had dinner together, and sat around talking and listening to the news.

4.4.05  Woke up to lighter winds, but still quite high surf. After consulting with the marina manager, we decided to wait another day to leave.

David P. Landis & Eric S. Kennel

September 9 , 2004