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hamsa

A hamsa

The Hamsa and the Evil Eye

I’ve just returned from St Louis where I was for 6 weeks to help my daughter with a new baby. While there I remembered that we had bought her a hamsa from a shop in Old Jaffa (www.adinaplastelina.com ) while we were in Israel last year. It’s very pretty—a pendant on a ribbon—and I started reading up more on what its significance is.

These days, with so much strife and discord around the world, especially in the Middle East, it seems to me that it would be a really good thing for people to find similarities between groups, rather than differences. It seems the hamsa could be one such agreement.

hamsa2

Hamsa pendant

evileye

Typical Turkish-style “Evil Eye”

According to the leaflet that came with my daughter’s hamsa: “Known in Islamic societies as the Hand of Fatima, and in Jewish lore as the Hand of Miriam, the hamsa serves as an ancient talismanic way of averting the evil eye or, more generally, of providing a “protecting hand” or “Hand of God”. Some sources link the significance of the five fingers to the five books of the Torah, or to the five pillars of Islam. In recent years some activists for Middle East peace have chosen to wear a hamsa as a symbol of the similarities of origins and tradition between the Islamic and Jewish faiths.”

This idea of protection from “the evil eye” is common in many countries in the Middle East, especially in Turkey and countries where the Ottoman Empire ruled, such as Bosnia in the former Yugoslavia. The concept is the same—wearing, or having, some talisman that will protect against bad things, or ward off evil—but the actual amulet is very different. The typical Turkish one is a flattish bright blue circular bead with light blue and white inner circles and a darker blue center, like an ‘eye’. They are made into jewelry, or into beads that hang in cars, over doorways etc. People have them in kitchens, on baby strollers, on motorbikes etc. We have bought quite a number over the years, in Turkey and more recently in Bosnia.

eyeandskull

This kitchen is protected by a Mexican folk skull and a Turkish evil eye

eyeinkitchen

This kitchen also has an evil eye

Here’s a short discussion about the Turkish evil eye:

http://www.turkeytravelcentre.com/blog/the-blue-evil-eye-in-turkey/

For a more extensive history and meaning of the evil eye, see here:

http://www.jewishgiftplace.com/What-is-the-Evil-Eye.html

How can we all rally, and have some kind of hamsa, or evil eye, or other protection from the evil in this world? A symbol that would bind people together? I’m just being idealistic, I know, but it doesn’t hurt to dream!

 

 

 

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Looking up to Masada

Looking up to Masada

From the cable car we look down to the Visitors Center, and the Dead Sea in the distance

From the cable car we look down to the Visitors Center, and the Dead Sea in the distance

Cable Car to Masada, Israel’s Old fortress

While at a conference at En Bokek (Dead Sea hotels area) in Israel, we took a side trip to Masada, about a 20-minute drive north. All the international conference attendees were determined not to miss this sight, so we took a taxi-van for 7 people. Thank goodness we made the effort, as this really is a not-to-be-missed place, one that is on many people’s “bucket list”.

It’s huge, it’s impressive, it’s symbolic, and it’s quite difficult to access. The old Roman fort was approached by three, narrow, winding paths leading up to fortified gates. Today, visitors can still walk up two of those paths—the Ramp Trail on the west side, or the Snake Path on the east/Dead Sea side—or they can take the cable car, which leaves from the Visitors Center. The cable car, built in 1998, whisks you along, for almost a kilometer (0.55 mile), with an altitude increase of 950 feet (290 m). If you are young, or fit, or have a lot of time, it’s possible to walk up, but many people rely on the cable car (or aerial ropeway). We all went up in it, but three of our party (young and fit) walked down the Snake Path. They said it took about 45 minutes but that it was a bit slippery in places, especially at the top, and that it was very crowded, especially with large groups of high school students on a field trip. It must be much worse at peak season, as we were there in February.

From the cable car we look across the mountain desert

From the cable car we look across the mountain desert

The cable car arrives at the top

The cable car arrives at the top

At the top of the cable car lift, you arrive at the Snake Path Gate and ahead of you is a sloping plateau, roughly oval in shape and more than half a kilometer long. Much of what you see is ruins, but enough still exists to give a really good idea of what a magnificent place this must have been, a remote gem in the desert. Besides getting an idea of what was up here on the plateau and trying to visualize the story of the rebels, you get absolutely stunning views out to the Judean Hills and the Dead Sea.

The cliffs of the hills and mountains right next to the Dead Sea are spectacular in a brown-gold desert way. The bright blue of the Dead Sea on one side and the sculpted brown and cream crags, peaks and hills on the other, make for a dramatic place to have a palace and then to stage a major rebellion. Add to that, the day we were there, huge inky-black rain clouds over the north side of the Dead Sea, and the picture becomes almost dream-like with the haze in the air. The wind picked up and we even had some light rain—imagine that in the desert!

What an amazing view!

What an amazing view!

Exit to the cable car down through that doorway on the left

Exit to the cable car down through that doorway on the left

Besides this setting, the site is full of symbolism, which is why it attracts so many tourists annually. We are told it’s Israel’s #2 tourist sight (after the Western Wall), and it’s easy to see why.

People come to see where Jewish rebels stood up to the Roman Legion in a bid to free Israel from the Romans, and almost succeeded.

A Bit of Background:

King Herod the Great built this ancient fortress on top of an isolated natural rocky plateau with cliffs more than 800 feet high (like a huge mesa), on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Herod built grand palaces for himself up there between 37-31 BC, partly because he thought it was impregnable and partly so he could enjoy the health benefits of the Dead Sea (see my earlier post on the Dead Sea here: https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/dead-sea-salts-and-suchlike-the-dead-sea-is-dying/ ). In addition to the natural defensive cliffs, Herod added fortifications with a casemate wall and towers.

What is the Story of the Rebellion?

The 1st-century Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus wrote that in 66 AD a group of Jewish rebels, the Sicarii, overcame the Roman garrison at Masada (so-called because they carried small knives called sicaris). After the Jewish Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 AD, more of the Sicarii escaped Jerusalem and settled on Masada after massacring the Roman garrison. A Roman legion surrounded Masada in 73 AD and the Romans built an enormous siege system around Masada that we can still see clearly today. The Romans built a ramp up to the plateau and eventually breached the walls with a siege tower and battering ram in 73 or 74 AD. Rather than surrender or be killed by the Romans, the 960 rebel inhabitants on Masada supposedly set all the buildings on fire and committed mass suicide, their last stand against the Romans.

Viv M, Dead Sea in the distance

Viv M, Dead Sea in the distance

This dramatic event has become a symbol of the fight for freedom from oppression. Thousands of Israeli soldiers now swear their oath of allegiance here. However, there are discrepancies between archeological findings and the writings of Josephus, plus the remains of only 28 bodies have been found.

But, for us and for most other visitors, the truth or otherwise of this mass suicide doesn’t detract from the power of this place. The siege did take place, after the Jewish rebels captured Masada. The Romans did slowly wear down the rebels and breached the fortress and some people died. Whether 28 or 960 died, it’s still a story of bravery, tenacity, and strong belief—on both sides, both determined to win.

From this vantage point you can see the 3 levels of Herod's Palace

From this vantage point you can see the 3 levels of Herod’s Palace

Today:

Some people come on a day trip from Jerusalem, or from En Bokek, or you can stay in a guesthouse up there. You definitely need a minimum of 4-5 hours, so you can visit the Museum too, and more if you decide to either walk up or down the Snake Path rather than use the cable car. It’s very hot in summer, so take lots of water, and wear comfortable walking shoes.

Entrance into Masada (including the museum at the bottom), plus return cable car was 96 NIS per person (roughly $24).

We are very glad we went—it would have been a great pity to be so close and to miss it. And I, for one, am very grateful that there’s a cable car to whisk us up to the top of Masada painlessly!

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Weizmannplaque

Approaching the Memorial Plaza

Approaching the Memorial Plaza

Rehovot, Israel: At the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, we visited labs, the Weizmann house and a Holocaust Memorial—an unexpected addition to the tour.

The Weizmann Institute of Science is a public research university and offers only graduate study. It was established in 1934 by Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952), Zionist leader, Israeli statesman, and first president of the newly-formed state of Israel. He was also a biochemist, who developed the acetone-butanol-ethanol fermentation process that produces acetone. His acetone production method was of great importance for the British war industry in WW1.

The surrounding walls have multiple quotations and sayings inscribed on them

The surrounding walls have multiple quotations and sayings inscribed on them

The Memorial to the Holocaust Plaza was designed by Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan and completed in 1972. It is a memorial plaza to victims of the Holocaust on the campus of the Weizmann Institute of Science. The centerpiece is a bronze and stone sculpture representing a torah scroll that has been split in half (very symbolic for Jewish people). On the walls surrounding the plaza are inscriptions with names and quotes. One of them is by Weizmann (1946), which says “I feel sure that science will bring to this land both peace and a renewal of its youth, creating here the springs of a new spiritual and material life.” It’s a great compliment to science, but a little ironic really when one considers what has happened in this part of the world since then.

The broken Torah closer

The broken Torah closer

The Memorial Plaza is a lovely tranquil area on campus, surrounded by trees and gardens. A place for some quiet reflection.

Sculptor Dani Karavan (born 1930) is best known for site-specific memorials and monuments that merge into the environment, such as this one. Another is one (2005) depicting the foundation of the Regensburg Synagogue that was destroyed during a pogrom in 1519.

The Torah is inscribed with the ID numbers of some concentration camps' prisoners

The Torah is inscribed with the ID numbers of some concentration camps’ prisoners

 

The open plaza facing the Torah Memorial

The open plaza facing the Torah Memorial

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First view of the Western Wall and Plaza

First view of the Western Wall and Plaza

View from the women's side of the Plaza

View from the women’s side of the Plaza

The Western Wall, or the Kotel, or the Wailing Wall

(Note: this is a longish article—I really wanted to try and understand this complex subject)

What is special about the Western Wall? The wall has withstood time and has witnessed war and peace. I am not Jewish, and I have not visited Israel before, so I wanted to try and understand the significance of this wall, which is the most visited site in Israel today.

(For other sights in Jerusalem, I’ll post another article later).

In order to understand what the Western Wall is, we need to go back three thousand or so years. Long before a temple was built on this mount, Abraham came here to sacrifice his son Isaac, and Jacob slept here, dreaming of a ladder to heaven. Then called Mount Moriah, its summit was where Solomon built the First Temple on the land that his father King David bought from Aravnah, the Jebusite, 3,000 years ago.

Diagram of old Temple

Diagram of old Temple

The Temple stood for around 500 years, until it was destroyed by the Babylonian conqueror Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. The Holy Ark and the Ten Commandments, which were in the Temple, vanished and the Jews were expelled from the land of Israel. They were allowed to return 70 years later and built the Second Temple.

Closer view of the Wall today

Closer view of the Wall today

King Herod (who ruled 37-4 BC) decided to rebuild that in 19 BC. He had a problem, though: the Temple was on the peak of a mountain where there was limited space. Herod, who was known for huge building projects (such as the port at Caesarea, and his palace at Masada), decided to build four massive supporting walls around the mountain and transform it into a level platform. Which he did, and built the next Temple on the new platform.

In 70 AD, during the Jewish rebellion against the Romans, Jerusalem was conquered and the Temple destroyed.

After the rebellion, Jews were not allowed to return to the Temple mound and the Kotel (Western Wall) was the closest they could come to that area. The Western Wall is the most sacred, because the Temple (and its inner Holy of Holies) had been built closest to that wall. Since then, the Western Wall has been the center of Jewish belief. For Jews, touching the stones links them with their nation and heritage, and their long turbulent history.

Today, people from all over the world converge here, to see, to feel, to pray, and to wedge notes and requests between its timeless stones.

Bar Mitzvah. Taken by me from over the dividing wall

Bar Mitzvah. Taken by me from over the dividing wall

Women's side of the Plaza---note the women standing on chairs looking over!

Women’s side of the Plaza—note the women standing on chairs looking over!

What is the Western Wall Plaza?

This is the cleared area in front of part of the Western Wall, and is the setting for many national events, such as the Priests’ Blessing at Pesach and Sukkot, candle lighting at Channukah, swearing in of Israeli police and armed forces recruits, and Jerusalem Day ceremonies. It is also a popular place for bar and bat mitzvahs of young people from Israel and abroad. The Plaza today is part of an open synagogue, which is why men and women are separated like in many synagogues.

When we visited, there were two bar mitzvahs in progress, which the men in our party could easily see from their side of the divided plaza. However, the women could see too, as we could stand on a row of chairs and look over the wall! (This seemed a little incongruous to me in such a holy place!). Everyone should cover their heads, and if you don’t have a covering, then a volunteer group will give you one. There’s also a table when you can pick up a slip of paper and a pencil, to write a note to put into the wall.

Until about 700 years ago, the entire length of the Western Wall was accessible. Gradually, the city’s Mameluke and Muslim conquerors built up against it. Jews continued to pray at the wall and had to wind their way through narrow alleys to reach it. This ended in 1948 when Jordan occupied Jerusalem’s Old City and Jews were denied access to the wall. When Jerusalem was reunified in 1967 the plaza was cleared and Jews could again approach the wall, which became a symbol of national unity.

One of the large vaulted passage ways below today's Plaza and city streets

One of the large vaulted passage ways below today’s Plaza and city streets

Our guide, Shani Kotev, points out details on part of the tunnel wall

Our guide, Shani Kotev, points out details on part of the tunnel wall

Do we see the entire Western Wall from the plaza?

What one sees from the Prayer Plaza is actually only a small part (about one seventh) of one of the original four walls. About the same stretches to the right as you face the wall, and the rest to the left, into the Western Wall tunnels.

If you think that huge wall in the Prayer Plaza is impressive, then you will be astounded by what you see underground on the tunnel tour. You can only do this on a guided tour, which needs to be reserved in advance usually. I’m told that many tourists don’t know about this tour, which is a great shame, as it really does extend our knowledge and appreciation for this massive construction of Herod’s.

Our day tour, with guide Shani Kotev, included the tunnels luckily. The main tunnel is adjacent to the base of the Western Wall and is under buildings of the Old City of Jerusalem—residential neighborhoods built over ancient structures from the Second Temple period.

Below, we saw special bath houses for ritual cleaning, as the Jews of that time approached to pray at the wall. Even today, in the tunnel is a small synagogue at the closest physical point to the Holy of Holies where women come to pray.

Our host points out some of the masonry marks

Our host points out some of the masonry marks

The cistern underground today

The cistern underground today

We noted parts of Herod’s wall with massive stones, including the Western Stone. It is the largest stone in the wall, supposedly one of the heaviest objects ever lifted by humans without powered machinery. It is 45 ft long and between 11-15 ft wide with an estimated weight of 520 metric tons.

Note part of the market street that used to run along the wall and where Jesus may even have walked. At the northern part of the Western Wall, remains were found of a water channel that supplied water to the Temple Mount. The exact source of the channel is unknown but it passes through an underground pool/cistern called the Struthion Pool, which they think gathered rainwater.

Parts of the tunnel have concrete supports that reinforce the ancient streets above in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter. Visitors today leave the tunnel through the northern exit, which leads to the Via Dolorosa. This exit was specially created so visitors didn’t have to retrace their steps back to the entrance by the Prayer Plaza, and only opened in 1996 after much deadly protesting by Arabs. Still today, the entrance is only open during the day, due to security reasons, and a guard sits at the exit.

So much history is here, concentrated in one place, that it’s almost overwhelming. To do the Western Wall and tunnels tour you need about 2-3 hours, and then perhaps it’s a good time to find lunch in one of the small cafes dotted all over the market street area. We went to a hommos (hummus) place for falafel, hummus and pita bread, which was great.

See a good description here: http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/WesternWallTunnels.html

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A narrow stepped street

A narrow stepped street

A market street

A market street

We enter old Jerusalem at the Jaffa Gate (left)

We enter old Jerusalem at the Jaffa Gate (left)

Note: This post is picture-heavy, but the place is so photogenic that it’s hard not to try and capture it all. Please go all the way to the end, to see the T-shirts!

On a day trip to Jerusalem you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking, and much of it will be along the narrow market streets on the way to the major historical sights.

Our guide for our day trip was Shani Kotev (shanikotev@gmail.com ). He was a very good guide, with an incredible knowledge about his subject: Jerusalem and its history, including all the other cultures and religions.

market3

A plaque on the wall indicates that this is some of the original paving from the time of Jesus Christ

A plaque on the wall indicates that this is some of the original paving from the time of Jesus Christ

We entered the old city through the Jaffa Gate, one of 7 gates into the city. Jerusalem has no port, so for thousands of years Jaffa was the naval gateway. Shani told us the story of Suleiman the Magnificent building this gate and huge walls around the city in 1538. He was so pleased with them that he never wanted an imitation, so he had the two constructors killed. They are buried just inside the walls and we saw the two graves, guarded by a soldier. These walls define the old city, which has traditionally been divided into four; the Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim Quarters.

We wandered along many narrow, sloping or stepped market streets, the paving stones shiny with use and slippery from rain that morning. Some of the huge old paving stones are very old, even from the times when Jesus may have walked here—it’s quite an amazing feeling to realize that we may be treading on the very stones that famous people walked on so many years ago.

I think we would have initially got lost if on our own in this maze of interconnected alleyways, but Shani has obviously done this many times. Small stalls and shops line both sides of the alleys, some with a vaulted clear roof, selling all kinds of goods, from shoes, to clothes, to pomegranates, to small thorn crosses and thorn crowns. We saw fruit of all kinds, huge slabs of halva, bowls of nuts, suitcases, lots of religious items and icons, and gorgeous, brightly-colored fabrics.

market4

thorns

You can also stop to have freshly-squeezed juices or a glass of tea, and many small hummus (hommos) and falafel cafes are dotted around. We even saw a western-style coffee and pizza café. And what about the Holy Rock Café!

A colorful cafe

A colorful cafe

The Holy Rock Cafe

The Holy Rock Cafe

priestsIt’s fascinating. Vendors call out, “Come buy” or “Look, I have a good deal” or “Best price here.” Local women with head scarves carry small children, workers trundle gas tanks on a small trolley, and religious leaders were chatting at the top of some stairs by the 8th Station of the Cross.

Chicago Bulls, Palestine, SuperJew

Chicago Bulls, Palestine, SuperJew

What really caught our eyes too—and what our hosts kept stopping to point out to us—were the T-shirt stalls. There’s an amazing selection, some the usual “I Love Jerusalem” type, and many with a US sports team theme. But, there are many that are overtly political, often related to Israel’s relationship with the USA, and about Palestine. All making a very definite statement. None of our group bought any though!Tshirts3

Shani points out many T-shirts with a Palestine motif

Shani points out many T-shirts with a Palestine motif

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We approach the Dead Sea from the desert hills

We approach the Dead Sea from the desert hills

Even from our bus we can see that the north and south parts of the Dead Sea are getting separated

Even from our bus we can see that the north and south parts of the Dead Sea are getting separated

One of the world’s first health resorts, the Dead Sea has a far from healthy future.

The Dead Sea is in the Jordan Rift Valley and its main tributary is the River Jordan. It is actually a salt lake. It is 304m deep (997 ft), making it the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. In 2011 the salinity was measured at 34.2% (9.6 times as salty as the ocean), which makes it one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. However, since about 1950 the water level has dropped about 130 feet, and it’s estimated that now the level drops around 3 feet every year. It’s called the Dead Sea as its composition cannot support aquatic life. At 428 m (1407 ft) below sea level, it’s the lowest place in the world—a mind-boggling concept anyway, even before considering seas and salts.

The mountain desert is a fascinating, surreal kind of place

The mountain desert is a fascinating, surreal kind of place

If you look hard, you can see camels in the distance

If you look hard, you can see camels in the distance

As we drove from Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea, we passed a large board announcing “Sea Level” and then markers every so often, saying “minus 200m” for example. As we drove down, the landscape changed from groves of date palm trees and many vegetable tunnels to much drier and sandier with amazing rock formations. Some wild camels roam, and at a couple of petrol stations locals had camels, decked out ready for tourists. As we went along, it was really difficult to work out what’s Israel, what’s West Bank, what’s off-limits behind walls. Huge walls snake along the hills and the Israelis say they’ve helped cut crime etc. It’s hard even for the locals, such as Shani our Jerusalem guide, who lives on a kibbutz near the north-east part of the Dead Sea—Jericho is very close to his kibbutz but he’s not allowed to go there, because it’s in Zone A.

As we drove down, the guide explained that the Dead Sea is shrinking, for a combination of reasons: less rain,

A person floating in the Dead Sea

A person floating in the Dead Sea

less water coming in from the River Jordan (because of dams), less drainage into the Sea, and more evaporation, much linked to various salts extraction. We also had to go on a detour, to skirt a huge sinkhole, one of many that have appeared due to the change in the Dead Sea levels.

The sea is so dense with salts that it’s basically impossible to actually swim in it— you can just wade in and then float on your back. The weather was a little chilly and very windy when we were there, so I couldn’t actually get in and test it for myself. But we did dip our hands in— the water feels sort of thick and a bit oily. Strange.

Welcome to En Boqeq resort area. Note the 3 languages used

Welcome to En Boqeq resort area. Note the 3 languages used

One of the huge resort hotels in En Boqeq

One of the huge resort hotels in En Boqeq

Health benefits of the Dead Sea. It has attracted visitors from around the Mediterranean for thousands of years. In the Bible, it was a place of refuge for King David, and was one of the world’s first health resorts, for Herod the Great. It has supplied a variety of products, from asphalt for Egyptian mummification, to potash for fertilizer. People also use the salt and the minerals to create cosmetics and herbal sachets.

At the Dead Sea resort area of En Bokek, where the conference was held, is a cluster of high-rise resort hotels with spas and special pools, and a series of small malls with a variety of cafes and shops for the visitors. Many of the flyers and signs are in another language, besides the usual three of Hebrew, Arabic and English: Russian. Apparently they get lots of Russian tourists and visitors (although the numbers are down right now due to the dip in the Russian economy), some of whom come for medical tourism. Our one tour guide told us that some Russian medical insurances will even cover some of these treatments!

Dear Sea herbs for sale---note the Russian language too

Dead Sea herbs for sale—note the Russian language too

Black Mud from the Dead Sea

Black Mud from the Dead Sea

Many of the shops sell all kinds of beauty and health products that have ingredients that come from the Dead Sea, and are supposedly very healthy—although one Israeli lady from the conference told me that there is very little empirical evidence to prove this claim. Supposedly, the salts are very good for skin ailments, like rashes, eczema and psoriasis, if you rub some of the water on the skin area. This very robust industry of salts, cosmetics, and creams etc is actually part of the problem affecting the health of the Dead Sea. There are conflicting interests between the tourist and industrial sectors and they are destroying what they depend on.

The local Regional Council, working with the Dead Sea Preservation

A typical shop sign

A typical shop sign

Government Company (with help from the Kingdom of Belgium and US Aid), is making an effort to try and stem this. They’ve set up information boards explaining the problems and have prepared a walking trail, on both sides of the Sea (Israel and Jordan), to help people appreciate unique natural features and heritage of the region (and then try to save it). I walked a bit of the trail and it’s fascinating to see what can grow here if it’s fostered, using the drip irrigation method. They say the desert landscapes of the Dead Sea have changed a lot over the last few decades, on both sides of the Sea, due to mismanagement of the Jordan River and Dead Sea ecosystems.

Greenery in En Boqeq

Greenery in En Boqeq

Looking down on the south part of the Dead Sea you can easily see some of the salt extraction ponds

Looking down on the south part of the Dead Sea you can easily see some of the salt extraction ponds

They also say that Israeli and Jordanian industries that intentionally aggravate the evaporation of water to harvest minerals are responsible for accelerating the yearly decline of the Dead Sea. Also, the evaporation process causes the annual accumulation of 20 cubic meters of salt residue at the bottom of the pools, which raises the seabed and water level, constantly threatening to flood the surrounding areas, especially in hotels and other infrastructures, like roads.

In short, a very real, serious problem. It’s a shame, as the area is gorgeous, and the Dead Sea such an unusual geographical feature.

The view from our hotel window---how gorgeous is that?

The view from our hotel window—how gorgeous is that?

 

 

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Artist's sketch of the hippodrome in Roman times

Artist’s sketch of the hippodrome in Roman times

Ruins of the hippodrome today, unfortunately recently flooded by the Mediterranean

Ruins of the hippodrome today, unfortunately recently flooded by the Mediterranean

An animal panel, but note small human figures on the far right

An animal panel, but note small human figures on the far right

While touring in Caesarea, Israel, our guide Danny the Digger made a very interesting observation. We wandered through the ruins of the Roman city built by Herod the Great, including the hippodrome. On the lowest level of the seating stands, facing into the actual racing oval, Danny pointed out a series of mosaic panels with pictures. Many are animals, some are abstract. All are colorful and seemed designed to be seen by both the contestants and the viewers on the opposite side.

Danny mused that these might be the ancestors of our modern stadium advertising billboards. Fascinating concept! Seems like the Romans came up with everything.

An absract design

An absract design

animalcloser

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