I Want To See “The Real Israel”

In my conversations with Yoav before traveling to Israel, he asked me what I might like to see. We would not be training mules the entire time and this was a glorious opportunity for Susan and me. Just as there are places here in Arizona that people traditionally visit, there are places in Israel that tourists enjoy. But I did not even have to think about his question. I immediately replied that I wanted to see “the real Israel”. I wanted to see Jerusalem, Galilee, and Lake Galilee. I wanted to see places that I have read about in the Bible. I wanted to walk the countryside as Jesus did. I wanted to meet the people and learn the culture.

My Trip to Israel

One of the things I wanted to do while in Israel was to buy a good handmade knife. Yoav told me that several of his friends loved to do blacksmithing work and as you can see in the pictures, the young knife maker and I crafted exactly what I wanted. My wife. Susan, took the pictures you see. She spent the time in an air conditioned bus that was converted into a kitchen. There she read and stayed cool while we enjoyed talking while we worked. The blacksmith listened to my stories about ranching, hunting, and packing in the US and he told me tales of blacksmithing and how the art is gradually becoming rarer.

We had a late lunch of grilled fish and vegetables that day. The vegetables there were always fresh and the bread was made daily. Most of the Israeli men that I met were very lean. It was the combination of the type of work they do and their diets I am sure. While we were enjoying our day, we got a phone call from Yoav’s father. He told us that Yoav’s mule had gotten into the high carbohydrate sheep and goat feed and told him he should get right home. My knife maker said to go ahead – he would finish the knife. We headed back to Yoav’s home.

The trip back to the farm was about an hour and a half. I asked Yoav if he had some banamine to relax the muscles around the intestines. I keep it around my ranch at all times. There is a common myth that mules don’t colic. My advice: DON’T YOU BELIEVE IT. While it might be rarer in mules, it surely does happen. They are equines and subject to much of the same maladies as any equine. I have worked with some very knowledgeable vets and I have ranched a good part of my life, and I have learned that things can happen. There are lots of good books and DVD’s to guide you and I encourage education. Then when you do have problems, you are better prepared.

When we arrived back at Yoav’s, we checked the mule out. We watched his breathing, checked his heart rate, and checked his respiratory rate and rhythm. We also checked his urine and his manure and watched for any rolling or side-biting. Everything looked normal and stayed normal, thankfully. We ended up not having to give banamine or take any other emergency steps, but we watched for 3-4 hours to be sure. We were both very grateful.

Visiting the Dead Sea and Masada

Over the next few days, we traveled around the area and saw the farming and agriculture operations. We took two vehicles. Yoav drove the first car. We called in the “man car” and Yoav’s wife drove the second car which Susan called the “girl car”.

Yoav loves to work with steel and fabricating. You will see a place in these pictures that supplies hydroponically grown vegetables. It is a family owned and operated business. Yoav helped construct the buildings for this business. It took nearly 2 years to build it up to where it is today.

We also traveled to the Dead Sea. It is the home of the Dead Sea Scrolls showing the historical accuracy of the Bible. You can see the Dead Sea on the horizon and Saudi Arabia on the far side. One of the things I wanted to do while there was float in the Dead Sea and take the healing mud from the Sea bed and rub it on our skins. The water is salt water and salt is harvested from this body of water.

We also asked to see the ruins of Masada on top of the mountain. The siege of Masada was one of the final events in the first Jewish-Roman War which took place for 73 to 74 BC on a large hilltop in current-day Israel. Masada is one of the most exciting and frequently toured places in Israel and relates a story of perseverance and power, faith and surrender, ambitions, and a tragic end. Masada is a place where battles were waged with rocks and flaming arrows as well as battles of human spirit.

Masada is situated on the top of a mountain with steep sides and a flat top like a parapet overlooking the desert panorama to the west and the Dead Sea to the east. The story of the site shows the courage of the defenders of Masada and their battle against the conquering Romans. It is fascinating history and you can read more here.

Masada has so much history. A king built one of his castles there along with an impressive city on the top of the mountain where it sat impenetrable. If you read about Masada, you will see that the Romans managed to build a road to the city and could then access it with their chariots and solders. The story of the city tells that when the Romans did come through the gates of Masada, everyone was already dead. They had committed suicide rather than have the Roman army take over and make slaves of them. Being on top of that mountain was absolutely incredible. The views of the Dead Sea and all of the mountain range circling Masada was truly amazing.

On our first night in the area, we stayed at a hotel (elder hostel) which was very simple. There were lots of young people there – students studying in Israel. It was common to take a two hour journey up a switchback on rough and rocky trails to be on top of the mountain for the sunrise. During the trek which was done in the dark, people relied on head lamps and flashlights and there were so many people it was easy enough for us. My wife and Yoav’s wife and kids went along. One of the children was only 4 so the hike was challenging. It took us hours – but was well worth the effort. Yoav stayed behind as the hike was too difficult for a man with a prosthetic leg. Now I must say there was a tram that would go to the top and back, but we chose to make the walk and take the tram back down. There was also a museum where we watched a movie on the area and the city and viewed artifacts and displays.