Sights Around Israel

From Dead Sea to Red Sea - June 2003

The beach at Ashkelon
Ashkelon is a small industrial town on the northern edge of the Gaza strip. My hotel (equipped with bomb shelters on each floor) is the white dome in the distance.

The Monastery of Saint George near Jericho
Built into the cliffs of Wadi Qilt, the Monastery of Saint George was established in 480AD beside a cave that was said to have once been home to the prophet Elijah. The Monastery is now home to two monks, several Romanian workers, and about 37 cats.

Homes for Bones
Alter boxes in the main chapel hold the skulls and bones of monks that were killed by the Persians in the 7th Century AD. The complete corpse in the glass case is that of a relatively recent hermit who died in one of the nearby caves (and was left there for several years). When his body did not decay, it was taken as a divine symbol and added to the chapel.

Still more dead things... the Dead Sea
The high concentration of salts in the Dead Sea make the water completely sterile and devoid of all plants and fishes. The higher density also makes it impossible to sink and you could easily read a magazine while floating on your back (just don't get any water in your eyes!). Note the Muslim women in their burkas and the complete lack of waves.

Road Through the Negev Desert
The great Negev Desert covers the lower third of Israel from the Bedouin city of Beer Sheva to the shores of the Red Sea. It is about as hot, desolate, and isolated a spot as you could ever want, but at least the traffic is not bad.

The Oasis at En Avdat
Springs in this rugged Negev canyon feed a small waterfall and several deep pools. As in Arizona, water sources in the Negev support riparian environments that are the cornerstone of local plant and animal life.

Streets of Shivta
Shivta was an important trade city built in the first century AD by the Nabataens (the early Arab culture that also built Petra). It was abandoned shortly before the Crusades and the extensive ruins have only been partially excavated. The ruins are located in the middle of nowhere and during my visit, I was the only person for miles around.

Gateway to the North Church at Shivta
Several large churches were built in Shivta when the Christians of the Byzantine Empire controlled the city starting around the 5th century AD. The large domed apses of these churches are among the most prominent surviving structures in the city.

Fun and Sun on the Red Sea
The resort town of Eilat on the Red Sea is a popular destination for Israeli vacationers. Although the beaches are not great, there are incredible coral reefs with colorful exotic fish only a couple hundred feet off shore. The white buildings in the distance on the right is the city of Aqaba in neighboring Jordan, where the recent peace summit was held.

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