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The Return

Israel Redux - May 2015

Story by Mike Levine May 29th, 2015

Next year in jerusalem

In May of 2015 I traveled with my wife, Sumi, to Israel and Jordan. I had previously visited Israel with my parents as a 14-year-old in the summer of 1963. Some of that trip is lost to memory but I do remember that Marilyn Monroe died while we were there and that we saw Moshe Dayan having 4 O’clock tea at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. At that time Jerusalem was a divided city with Jordan in control of East Jerusalem. That all changed in 1967 with the Six-Day War when the entire city came under Israeli control. I was looking forward to visiting the parts of Jerusalem like the Western Wall that I was unable to see in 1963.

Israel became a state in 1948, the year I was born.

Run your mouse over the photographs to read the captions.

Walking through the Old Town of Jaffa near Tel Aviv
Restaurant in Jaffa with a glimpse of Tel Aviv in the background.
Tel Aviv as seen from Jaffa
Rabin Square with Tel Aviv City Hall.  Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated here on November 4, 1995.
The ancient town of Caesarea built by Herod the Great.
Greek Orthodox Monk I spotted at Caesarea
Remains of aqueduct at Caesarea.  The old city required a large scale aqueduct to bring water from a distance.


Spectacular views from Mount Carmel with the Hanging Baha’i Gardens and the Port of Haifa.


The old city of acre

The Jezzar Pasha Mosque in Acre houses a hair from the beard of the Prophet Muhammad. It is the largest mosque in Israel outside of Jerusalem. Old Acre, which is situated on a peninsula, is one of the few cities along the shores of the Mediterranean whose surrounding walls have remained intact. Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

Old Acre is built in layers that have been almost perfectly preserved.
Jezzar Pasha Mosque located inside the walls of the old city of Acre
There are remains of a Crusader town in Acre
Exploring the streets of Acre

Lavi kibbutz

Kibbutz means group in Hebrew. A Kibbutz is a voluntary democratic community where people live and work together on a non-competitive basis. Its aim is to generate an economically and socially independent society founded on principles of communal ownership of property, social justice, and equality.

In the early days of the kibbutz movement, all kibbutzim were based on a foundation of agriculture. These days, however, the economies of kibbutzim cannot be sustained by agriculture alone. Most kibbutzim have branched out into various industries. Kibbutz Lavi where we stayed, operates a hotel.

Main entrance of Lavi Kibbutz
The grounds of Lavi Kibbutz

Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel and is steeped in biblical history. We were taken out on the lake in a boat by an Israeli seaman who professed his love of America and demonstrated how the apostle Simon would have cast a net from his fishing boat. Later we danced the Horah to Hava Nagila on the deck of the boat. Good times.

Sea of Galilee
Israel loves America
Casting a fishing net on the Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee with Golan Heights off in the distance.

bet she'an

The best preserved Roman-Byzantine city in Israel. Walking the ancient streets of Bet She’an is unforgettable.

At the summit of the large mound or tel in the background once stood a temple of  Zeus.

The West Bank - Bethlehem

We entered the West Bank to visit Jericho and Bethlehem. In Bethlehem we stopped at the Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus.

Wall at West Bank checkpoint.
West Bank checkpoint
Church of the Nativity

Jericho - And the walls came tumbling down

Like Acre, believed to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, Jericho is located near the Jordan River in the West Bank. Although controlled militarily by Israel, the Palestinian Authority has administrative control over Jericho.

The Greek Orthodox Quarantal Monastery stands on the Mount of Temptation where, according to The New Testament, Satan tried for forty days to tempt Jesus, promising him the kingdoms of the world. Three Orthodox monks live in the monastery.

And of course, according to The Old Testament, Joshua at the Battle of Jericho was the first battle of the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan. They marched around the walls blowing their trumpets and well, you know what happened next. It made for a great gospel song too!

The oldest city of the world.
View of Jericho and the Jordan Valley from Quadrantal Monastery
Quarantal Monastery


Our first proper view of the Old City was when we stopped at the Mount of Olives featuring this view from across the Kidron Valley. King David crossed this valley and ascended the Mount of Olives while fleeing his son, Absalom who had rebelled against him.

The Garden of Gethsemane is located on the slopes of the Mount of Olives and is where Jesus was arrested on the eve of his crucifixion.

View of the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives
Walls both old and new surround the Old City
Garden of Gethsemane

Israel Museum

The Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum houses the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world: The Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls are kept and displayed underneath the white dome. Next to the Shrine is an exquisite model of Jerusalem from the Second Temple Period.

Shrine of the Book at Israel Museum with houses the Dead Sea Scrolls
Model of the Old City at Israel Museum

Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem in Jerusalem is Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. I found it to be an incredible history, documentation and commemoration of a lost world of European Jewry.

The Hebrew inscription is from Isaiah 56:5: “Even unto them I will give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name (Hebrew, yad vashem) better than of sons and daughters: I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”

Yad Vashem
Janusz Korczak and the children memorial at Yad Vashem
Isaiah 56:5 inscription at Yad Vashem


When Rome destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E., only one outer wall remained standing. The Romans probably would have destroyed that wall as well, but it must have seemed too insignificant to them; it was not even part of the Temple itself, just an outer wall surrounding the Temple Mount. For the Jews, however, this remnant of what was the most sacred building in the Jewish world quickly became the holiest spot in Jewish life. Throughout the centuries Jews from all over the world made the difficult pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and immediately headed for the Kotel ha-Ma‘aravi (the Western Wall) to thank God.

For nineteen years, from 1948 to 1967, the Western Wall or Kotel was under Jordanian rule. Although the Jordanians had signed an armistice agreement in 1949 guaranteeing Jews the right to visit the Wall, not one Israeli Jew was ever permitted to do so. One of the first to reach the Kotel in the 1967 Six-Day War was Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who helped revive a traditional Jewish custom by inserting a written petition into its cracks. It was later revealed that Dayan‘s prayer was that a lasting peace “descend upon the House of Israel.”

I arrived at the Dung Gate just before sunset and made my way to the Kotel almost 52 years after I was denied a visit in 1963. The scene I came upon was wonderful and sublime. Next year in Jerusalem, indeed!

Western Wall at Sundown
Kotel ha-Ma'aravi
Praying at the Western Wall
Davening at the Kotel
Rabbi shows visitors how to put tefillin on.
View from the Dung Gate at Sundown

Masada and the dead sea

Masada was Herod‘s royal citadel and later the last outpost of Zealots during the Jewish Revolt. The citadel was a site of the most dramatic and symbolic act in Jewish history, where rebels chose mass suicide rather than submit to Roman capture.

The Dead Sea can be seen from Masada
Next to Jerusalem, Masada is the most popular destination of tourists visiting Israel.
Floating in the Dead Sea
Dead Sea black mud is supposed to be good for the skin.

A walk through the old city of jerusalem

Walking through these ancient and historic streets among pilgrims, tourists and locals is one the most interesting walks you will ever take as you venture into the Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish quarters of Jerusalem.

Zion Gate with bullet holes from the 1948 war.
The Via Dolorosa  is the path Jesus took to his crucifixion and winds along the narrow streets of the Old City.
7th Station of the Cross.  Jesus falls for the second time.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre built on the site of the crucifixion.

Last Day in israel before departing for Jordan

One last visit to the Jewish Quarter before traveling on to Jordan.

Replica of the Menorah which once stood in the ancient Jewish Temple
Last view of Jerusalem before departing for Jordan

See Jordan photos here.

Footnote: Photos by Mike and Sumi using a Sony NEX-7 Camera and a Sony Xperia Z3 Cellphone