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FC: Israel 2011

1: On July 31st, we took off for Israel. We had just spent 10 days in Texas with family and were now ready to make our move. It was a crazy day. We had lots of luggage and lots of excited kids and lots of nervous parents. Thankfully Grammy came along to help. The first leg of the trip was to Toronto, and then straight to Tel Aviv.

2: "Don't count the years...count the memories." Before we left for Texas, and then Israel, our friend Rachel Defnet put together a good-bye gathering. It was hard to say good-bye to so many good friends. There are so many good people back at home.

3: Our house Originally we had planned on living in Haifa, close to Randall's work, and having the kids go to a local Hebrew school that accommodates English speakers. But we couldn't find any housing that we were comfortable with. So at the last minute we inquired about housing close to the American International School. This was the first house they showed us and the best one for price and location. So we grabbed it. It was a nice little house for our needs. Four bedroom, three bathrooms (though the master bath was very small), an open kitchen with a large eating area, a big entry, and a decent size open room. It also had a nice porch in the back. Plus, it had the bonus of cockroaches and barking dogs in every other house. But we managed.

4: Our first days: We discovered a wonderful Concord grapevine in our backyard. Grammy quickly got the kids picking and they were making grape juice galore. The other big excitement was the pigeon coop. It was left dirty and disgusting, full of refuse and gunk. Grammy got the kids cleaning and they got that coop cleaned out and ready for use. And Jared was mesmerized watching the dirt loaders working all day long on our neighbors house. So much excitement and only a few days in.

5: There are quite a few parks in Even Yehuda. This one happens to be in the middle of the town, right down the street from the gelato store and the little supermarket. Each park's play structure was a little different, so it was fun to park hop and play at lots of different parks.

6: We took a lot of walks while Grammy and Grampy were here and explored our city of Even Yehuda | V I Pizza where we order every week. The bottle recycling where Ryan walks to often. The little local market where Ryan goes to get milk and other small items.

7: Danzo Gelato | We found this great little gelato store that has simply the greateest ice cream around. We went there about 5 times with mom and dad. It is definitely a big hit in this little city.

8: Some of the finer things about our house. A clothesline instead of a dryer. A pretty darn small washing machine. A really tiny master bath shower to go along with a really small master bath. Home sweet home.

9: A recycling bin | Their stop signs | Don't let your dog poop here. Highly disregarded everywhere | They even have bags so you can pick up your dog poop. Unfortunately they're all full, as this one is. | Roundabouts are everywhere | Feel free to play soccer in front of moving vehicles!

10: We were all very excited to have a beach nearby, and that the water was incredibly warm. The children were constantly amazed those first few weeks at how often we went to the beach here compared with how little we went to the beach in Oregon. Our favorite beach was one in Netanya, about 15 minutes away. It had this long staircase down from the street to the beach. At the top of the stairs it had a nice promenade to walk along with many strange structures that the kids loved climbing on. We will definitely miss these beaches when we leave.

11: Grammy has always been a master sand castle builder. She and the kids were left to build some castles. I was able to get back and see the masterpiece, just before it was washed away. Ryan was very upset about his being destroyed. I think it ruined the rest of his day. Good thing there's more sand where that came from.

12: One of the first things we did once we got a little settled was to go to the beach. What a great beach we found. Warm water, perfect sand, everything perfect. Jared was the only one who took some time to warm up to the beach.

13: Caesarea We first found the aquaduct, and since the beach was still quite a novelty, the kids dove right in. This has remained one of our favorite beaches, and one of our favorite ruins to visit.

15: Caesarea eneded up being one of our favorite places to visit. The rocky beach access didn't hurt. They were able to climb on the ruins, explore tunnels and hike up stadium seatings. Except for the stroller wheels falling off, it was an exciting first trip to some ancient ruins. Caesarea was a huge city that Herod built in honor of Caesar. Paul was taken to trial there and stayed before being shipped off to Rome. It had a good sized Christian population after Jesus died. It was a very opulent city and had a big harbor, a hippodrome, palaces, a coliseum, etc. etc..

16: We also went to Caesarea with Randall's parents. They, of course, really enjoyed it. It was a very windy day, but that made for some great waves for the boys to get splashed by. And since I didn't have to deal with the horrible stroller, I was able to enjoy more of the park myself. Above: statues outside the theatre. Right: view of the city from Herod's palace. Below: Emma thought the hippodrome was just a big sandbox and the beach was great for filling up my shoes.

19: Left: a house with the public bathhouse behind it (don't know if I'd want to live right there!). The public toilets. The public gardens around the promentory and Herod's palace. Below: The aqueduct was a hit, yet again. The kids found an easier way to get to the top, and they had fun running around the sand dunes and making sand angels.

20: Our second historical trip was to the valley of Megiddo, or the Valley of Armageddon. It was a hot day, but it was a really cool place to visit. The valley is really extensive. One just wonders why people felt the need to build on this particular site again and again. It is on the major thoroughfare through the Middle East, but so are a lot of other hill tops in the valley.

22: Bet She'arim | After Megiddo, we tried to find these burial caves, and got lost. Frustrated, Grammy and Grampy continued on to Nazareth with Jessica and Ryan, traveled through horrible traffic but managed to find their way there. The rest of us decided to go home and call it a day. | However, we found the park within a few minutes and decided to go. It was well worth it. Jared really loved going through the caves that were open and seeing the sarcophagi. There were quite a lot of them, even some caves that we could go inside and see the burial sites. He had fun making faces, pretending to be scared by the burial tombs. He is quite the ham.

23: One day after church we took Randall to the old city, Yafo. We had gone there previously and discovered it was just a few minutes away from our church building. It is a very beautiful old city, with some of the ancient steps still showing. It is also where Simon the Tanner lived when Peter came to visit him after Christ's death and where he had his vision of the unholy animals. I just really loved the quaint streets, You could really sense what an ancient city would have been like when the Savior was here. The picture with Jessica looks like it could be the courtyard where Peter prayed and received his vision. One can imagine, right!

25: The port of Yafo was also where Jonah tried to run away from God, not wanting to go to Nineveh. Jared really liked all of the boats at the harbor and thought it would pretty cool to go sailing on them. I agree, though I don't think I'd like to have the same outcome as Jonah did. I think I'll try a different port.

26: Our first trip to Jerusalem Grammy and Grampy had been to Jerusalem a couple of times and she wanted me to have the opportunity to go without Emma. So one Sunday morning Grampy took the rest of us to Jerusalem. It was a great long, busy, eventful day. We tried to go to the Garden Tomb, first, but it was closed because that is the Catholic's day of worship. We went to many significant places within Jerusalem, namely the Western Wall, the Pools of Bethesda, the Via De Lo Rosa, the house where Mary, Jesus' mother, supposedly was born and lived, and the place where Christ was condemned to die by Pilate. We then left the old city and went to the City of David. This was the original city that David built when he moved his capital to Jerusalem. The highlight of this tour are the underground tunnels. Hezekiah's tunnel is quite long, in the complete dark and in water. Ryan really wanted to go. I had to back out at the last minute and he wasn't pleased at all. We caught up with the rest of them in the smaller tunnel and continued on to the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus had healed a blind man.

27: Garden Tomb | Via dolorosa | Entrance at Damascus Gate | Markets on the streets of Jerusalem

29: Above: The Western Wall Opposite page: Courtyard of flagellation Next page: City of David and Pool of Siloam - where Christ healed the man blind from birth

30: The city of David was where King David established his capital. It is outside the current walls of old Jerusalem. It was pretty cool to walk around where King David ruled. I love the history here. It is simply amazing.

31: Here is where Christ healed the man blind from birth. It's only been partially uncovered. Just so cool to be where he was.

32: First day of school - August16th, 2011 So not only did we move to a completely different country, but I sent my big kids off to school for the first time. The were both pretty excited, not knowing what was in store for them. Ryan had his school uniform shirts already but Jessica's were all the wrong size, so we changed at school. We walked there that morning, as became a and they both couldn't stop talking about what they thought school would be like. I had my own feelings on the matter, but I kept them to myself. I wanted them to be excited about going. But I knew I was going to miss them and I was going to miss being involved in their education, knowing what they were learning and learning along with them.

33: Ryan went to 4B. His teacher was Mrs. Connie Griffin. He was ready to start school off with a bang. He went right in like he knew what he was doing and just took off with school from day one. Each day would have its own ups and down, but Ryan fared them well and became a very focused and determined student. He joined the chorus and participated in Math Olympiads, at the suggestion of his teacher, seeing that his math skills were beyond a 4th grader. | Jessica was in 2B. Her teacher was Mrs. Karyn Denniss. I wished that she was moved up to third grade for her academics, but she was already such a young second grader I knew she'd be more comfortable with kids her own age. She was a little more apprehensive about going to school, but she became quite a good friend to everyone and was even chosen to be her classes student council representative.

34: Back at home we did our best to keep busy until our shipment of things came. Jared wasn't accepted into WBAIS this year because his birthday was too late (that was just a big mess that bugged me for a while) so we stayed home and played with the few toys we had. He also helped Grammy make Jessica's birthday cake. He even got to go on an all day excursion with Grammy and Grampy to Nazareth village. Emma just did her best to entertain herself, scooting around the floors and emptying her diaper bag. Jared would build block towers for her to knock over. Nothing like lazy days!

35: Jessica's birthday crept on us. Our shipment came in the day before her birthday so we were busy getting that taken care of. At school, they do a circle time for the birthday kid and I was asked if I wanted to bring in drinks and treats for the class. Huh? I made some cookies and bought some others and brought a few drinks. Later I would see Jessica bring home goodie bags from other kids' birthday celebrations. Goodness, was mine lame. Good thing I was first. Jessica was happy I brought the treats to school, and I was there to hear all of the comments people said about her. I thought it was so great that the kids had some very nice things to say about her after only 3 days in school. She was quite the little social butterfly in school, always there to help other kids and to be a teacher's helper. At home we just had pancakes for dinner and a small little celebration. Grammy did her best to follow the Hebrew directions for her cake, and it turned out fabulously. My Jessica is 7! This girl just keeps getting sweeter. She still loves to play house. She loves to give lots of hugs and kisses. She'll play mom to Emma whenever she's given the chance. She loves to read books and to dress up. All in all a wonderful big girl.

36: On Jessica's birthday, we decided to visit the Sea of Galilee. We went to church at the Tiberius branch, which was very small, and then headed out on our adventures. We first saw the town of Magdela, where Mary of Magdeleen was from. It was closed, so we just took some pictures by the side of the road. We then tried to find the Mount of Beatitudes, but it was closed at that particular time and would reopen later. So we tried to ride a boat on the Sea of Galilee and was told if we went right away, a boat was leaving with a few people. So we got on the boat and realized we didn't have enough cash in shekels. The people said we could pay them after the ride. However, a group from India wanted the boat for a tour and didn't want us on the boat with them. So we got off and tried to wait for another boat, but it just wasn't to be.

37: Emma was the biggest trooper of all. She was jostled back and forth in her stroller. She was taken in and out of cars and carried places she didn't care a bit about. Her naps were disrupted and her eating schedule was almost forgotten about. Three big cheers for Emma and her amazingly easy going disposition.

39: After those disappointments, we went to St. Peter's church. We quietly walked through the grounds and found a great beach access point behind the church. So of course we all wanted to put our feet in , since it was a hot day. We probably spent at least 30 minutes just playing in the sea and letting the little fish eat our toes. On the way to the car, Ryan saw a cave up the hill (he is always on the look out for caves) and wanted to hike up it. I took him and the other kids up the hill. It was a fun little cave. We then continued up the hill and found a great overlook to the Sea. We later found out that this was at the bottom of the Mount of Beatitudes, so we did get there after all!

40: One spot we were able to thoroughly enjoy while at the Sea of Galilee was Capernum, the town where Simon Peter lived. It was quite a marvelous town. They built a cathedral over the spot where they believe Simon Peter's house was. There is also a marvelous synagogue that was built for them by the Romans. At the synagogue, Christ cast out a demon, healed the servant of a centurion (who probably build the synagogue for them because of that kindness), and gave the sermon about the bread of life. A beautiful town on the edge of the sea, just perfect for fishing and for fishermen.

42: We tried to find Elijah's cave and Mount Carmel National Park. We ended up finding this incredible hike. The stairs were first and we thought that was bad. At the top of the stairs was a great cave that we could explore inside. After the cave, we continued on the trail, which was simply markings painted on rocks. It was quite an intense hike and may parents were quite impressed by my kids hiking skills, and by the fact that I could carry Emma the entire time.

44: There is a little place within Nazareth that has tried to reproduce what life as like when Jesus lived in Nazareth. They have an olive press, a synagogue, a house, a carpenter's shed, a woman's workplace, among other things that would have been around during His life. I was a really fun place to visit. Jared had already been there with Grammy and Grampy, so he enjoyed describing everything to Ryan and Jessica. The kids really liked climbing the very old olive trees (around 600 years old), riding the donkey, going inside a tomb, pretending to make wine, using the screwdriver, and watching the women spin wool. It was really a great place to visit. | Nazareth Village

47: After Nazareth Village, we found Mary's well. This well is more than 2000 years old. The guide says that this could have very well been the well that Mary used, since Nazareth was such a small community back then and this well was in the middle of the ancient city. And since Mary could have drawn water here, then Jesus could have also been here. All speculation, but still fascinating. Nazareth was quite the hilly town. One could imagine Jesus playing in these hills. And the trip to the wedding in Cana would have been quite an excursion. Above is Mount Tabor, or the Mount of Transfiguration, where Jesus took his apostles and was transifigured before the. It was quite a drive up there. And unfortunatley we could not explore a lot. But the view was really beautiful. This is also the place where Abraham came to give his tithing to Melchezidek.

48: Apollonia A quaint, beautiful Crusader city right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was really a picturesque place to build a fortress. The kids loved running around the fortress and running up the gangplank. The moat is still in tact. You can really see how the fortress could have looked if it was complete.

50: Our second trip to Jerusalem District conference was held at the BYU center in Jerusalem. So I tried to capitalize on this by turning it into a day at Jerusalem. First things first, we went to the Garden Tomb. Unfortunately, everyone else thought it was a great time to visit too. It was pretty crowded, but it was a great place to visit. The kids loved going inside the tomb and seeing how it was laid out. It was hard to see the hill as the place where Jesus was crucified, but who knows, maybe it was. We then went into the city to do the one and only thing Randall cared about, getting BYU Jerusalem t-shirts for everyone. We then went to conference and walked around during the long break. It is a very pretty campus and I'm still sad I didn't get to go while at BYU. Afterwards we tried to find Orson Hyde park, but got terribly lost and ended up climbing all the way up the Mount of Olives. It was very steep and our car stalled a couple of times. Quite nerve racking. It was a beautiful view, but after that, everyone was done and we just went home a little annoyed and frustrated. Hopefully our next trip will be better.

52: The view of the Old City is quite beautiful from BYU Jerusalem. They also had some great reproductions of old oil presses.

53: More pictures of the Old City from the top of Mount of Olives. Another oil press, and a cool camel walking by.

54: Ryan had a swim meet at school. He did the back stroke, the freestyle, and a relay. He medaled in each, but I swear he swam twice as far as any other swimmer, given the fact that he hasn't learned to swim straight yet. The school had swimming for PE for about a month and the kids each took swim lessons after school twice a week. They both improved a great deal, and I was glad they could swim so much.

55: Even Jared improved in his swimming. The AIS pool is open for families, so I took advantage of this and got him swimming. In Texas, just before we moved here, he wouldn't even let go of the side. Cousin Megan would show Jessica and Jared how to swim without holding on. Soon after we started swimming here, Jared became brave and started swimming for real. Jessica also jumped leaps and bounds in her swimming ability.

56: Alexander stream - another great beach. This one had a fresh water stream that was perfect for Emma. She could play in the swallow water without getting salt water in her eyes. All was well, until someone came by and told us the water was pretty disgusting. So much for that.

60: We were able to get back to this structure garden with a working camera. Even though the children look happy, it was actually a very trying trip in the beginning. But finally we ended on a happy note and had fun exploring all of the wonderful, yet strange, structures.

62: Because his birthday is late, Jared was not admitted into AIS. We were told about a local Hebrew Gan that had an English speaking girl from Ireland attending. I still didn't like the idea of him being gone all day, 6 days a week, but I also knew he wouldn't enjoy staying home with just me and Emma and trying to do school. He needed other kids if we were going to live here this long. So, reluctantly, I let him go. He has loved his little school. We walk most mornings. He always tries to beat Elizabeth there. He and Elizabeth became great friends. And through it all I hope he remembers the Hebrew he learns. His teachers are very loving and affectionate and he really likes them. I still miss him terribly, but I know he has fun.

63: Because it is a Hebrew school, they do a lot of lessons centered around the Jewish culture. Every Friday is Shabbat day where they light candles and have a mock Shabbat dinner. They also celebrate the holidays in style. The first holiday was Rosh HaShana, the New Year. He was given a little plate of Rosh HaShana symbols. A shofar to ring in the new year, as well as sweets to make it a sweet new year (apples and honey, honey cakes, pomegranate, and chocolate). This has to be one of my favorite things about living here; learning about the culture and being immersed in it.

64: And through everything, life still goes on. Jessica tries to be a mother to Emma whenever she is allowed, though Emma usually ends up crying soon after. Even though the kids are away from each other all day, they still enjoy playing with each other. However, sometimes I think there is more fighting than normal because they are not around each other as often. Every day is a new normal.

66: Yom Kippur | The holiest day of the year for the Jews. But for nonreligious Jews it is a day when no cars drive and you can be on the streets. The kids thought this was a wonderful thing to do. We were able to go on the busy streets without worrying about cars. Randall took the boys on a pretty far excursion. Us girls stayed a little closer to home.

67: Ganei Yehosua This little gem of a park is in Tel Aviv. I really wanted to go here because they have bikes to rent and great sculptures to explore. Well, all the bike rentals were close because it was the eve of Yom Kippur. And the park was huge, so we all got tired pretty quickly.

68: Yet another great beach. One can kindof understand why they got sick of beaches after a while. This one was by Mikmoret beach. It was a great beach to explore, walk along the rocks at low tide, and climb the cliffs. The cliffs were beautiful at sunset. We also walked all the way around the far rock above and a little beyond. Jessica was done before we started the trek, but Ryan wanted to go miles farther. I guess nobody was happy that day, but it is still a a wonderful beach.

69: Emma had her first birthday. Unfortunately she woke up sick that morning and was completely off kilter the entire day. I tried for the cake anyways. I was quite proud of it. However, Emma could have cared less about the cake. She pushed it away and wouldn't entertain even a bit. She did seem much more interested in her toys, as did the rest of the kids.

70: We took a wonderful trip up to Rosh HaNikra. It is less than a mile from the Lebanese border. It was a beautiful trip. There are natural grottoes in the cave. It was really fun to watch the water churn and spray all around. We even got a little wet, too. Definitely a great trip.

72: Akko | On the way home from Rosh HaNikra, we stopped at this ancient city of Akko, or Acre after the Greeks conquered it. This little city was conquered many times by many different countries. It was the last city the Crusaders held before they completely left Israel. It was the city Alexander the Great started his conquering of Mesopotamia. I loved this little city. All around it are ruins of the Crusader city. It was complete with tunnels, latrines, a courtyard, grand halls, etc. I fell in love with its beauty and history.

74: Mini Israel This is an outdoor museum where there are many exhibits displaying significant places in Israel, all in miniature. It was really quite a neat little place. It was fun to walk around some places that we had been to and see some places that we will be going to, all below us.

75: Afrikef This was a fun monkey park. We weren't sure if we would see any monkeys at first, but soon there were monkeys all around. We really fell in love with the Albino monkey, Joey. He was making faces at us and playing with us across the moat. Then there was a place where we got to walk among the monkeys. There were a bunch of mommy monkeys with baby monkeys on their backs. It was very cute. Randall really liked those monkeys the most.

76: We took a day for the zoo. It was a great little zoo. Unfortunately I lost my pictures and these were the only ones Randall had. There was a great safari on the way into and out of the zoo. They had Rhino, ostriches, zebras, lhippos, ions, giraffes, and gazelles all outside. The ostriches were not shy about coming up to the car. Inside the zoo they had some great monkey exhibits and a wonderful giraffe exhibit. We also got to ride on these camels for a short trip. The camels behaved very well for us. | Tel Aviv Zoo

77: Jared turns five | Jared was very excited to turn five. We thought we would have a small get together with some friends to celebrate both his and Emma's. Thankfully Emma was feeling better and ate the cake like a good girl this time. Jared was just happy to have Elizabeth there. He didn't care to have anyone else over.

78: Succot | Succot is the holiday that celebrates the Israelites traveling in the desert, living in tents. You are suppose to build a succot so that you can see the stars through the roof. If you follow the tradition strictly, you are supposed live in the tent for the 10 days of the holiday. Most people simply eat in their succot. Ryan and Jessica wanted to build their own succot. So they did their best with our backyard. It was fun for a day or two.

79: We like to walk along the boardwalk and try to catch the sunset over the beach. This particular day was a bad day to catch the sunset, but we enjoyed running along and getting to this park. Along the way they have these funny sculptures. Just another crazy thing about this city.

80: Gangaroo This was simply a wonderful place to visit. Walking among kangaroos was simply fun. And there was no hesitation about letting them feed the kangaroos as much as possible. There were other Australian animals as well. We wondered if the koalas were simply stuffed as they didn't move at all. The big bird is a casawary. The parrot was really fun to watch as it kept trying to open the door with either its beak or its foot. There was also a maze and a little playground where Randall spun the kids so fast they were dizzy for quite some time. Lots of fun!

82: Gan HaSlosha A beautiful warm water springs in the middle of the desert. However, on the day we came out, the air outside wasn't warm enough to enjoy swimming in these three warm water pools. And with our children not being exactly water safe, it was a little more stressful than enjoyable. But it was beautiful. It was fun to have the fish nibble at our feet. The waterfalls were fun. Hopefully we'll go back when it is warmer outside.

84: Happy Halloween

86: A beautiful sunset outside my front door. The only bad thing about this is that I had to be awake very early to see it. I never miss seeing the beautiful sunsets here, especially over the water. Absolutely breathtaking.

87: Sometimes we're able to just take a break and play at the park. This one is close to our house. The weather is so wonderful in the fall. It's hard to stay inside at all.

88: For Thanksgiving, the second grade put on a play. Jessica was very very excited to participate. She didn't want to leave earlier for our trip so she could participate. No biggie. We all attended her play and she did a wonderful job. No one really had a major part, but it was all fun. The kids really do enjoy all the performances that the school puts on.

89: We started our Masada trip by stopping at the Good Samaritan's Inn. Even though it was simply a fable, the inn that was discovered here dates back to Christ's time. It lies directly on the path from Jerusalem to Jericho, the path the traveler would have taken. Basically it has been turned into a museum for Samaritan mosaics. I have to say, it is quite a difference leaving Jerusalem and traveling down to Jericho. Jerusalem is green and lush. When you leave, it is immediately dry and barren. There were many Bedouin people living along the streets in the desert. Such an impoverished life. The kids thought it would be great to live like that, being able to play hide-and-seek among the desert hills. I love it when the kids would rather live in destitute than in the nice life we have given them.

90: Like I said, nothing but desert the second you leave Jerusalem. Right off the freeway, this camel was sitting around waiting to be ridden. Its owner was on the other side praying.

91: The Jordan River - this is the supposed place where Jesus was baptized. It is also the place where they say the Israelites crossed the river to conquer Israel. The river was pretty disgusting. Jessica had second thoughts about being baptized here. Also, the area was completely covered in mine fields. A little scary there. The other side of the river is the country Jordan. Strange how close it was.

92: Qumran - the place where they found the Dead Sea scrolls. The people who lived there were very strict about their rules. They bathed regularly, read the scriptures multiple times a day, and wrote in their scriptures. They went into the desert to get away from the secular life of Jerusalem. This was common practice, to go into the desert to cleanse oneself. The people who lived here say that John the Baptist spent some time with them. And as every place we visit, there is drama. There was a great hiking area up to some of the more remote caves. Ryan really wanted to go, but the sign stated that it was a very extreme hike and you would have to repel down and have many liters of water with you. After we told Ryan no, the rest of the visit was a big hassle. Go figure.

94: The Masada Hostel, Masada right behind it, and the Marlstones right outside the hostel.

96: We hiked up to Masada very early in the morning. We woke up at 4:50 and finally started hiking at 5:30. The kids were great hikers, for the most part. We pushed them pretty hard in order to get up there for the sunrise. We got up there in 45 minutes and we had to wait for the sunrise. Ryan, of course, wanted to be off on his own exploring. Since we didn't want him off on his own, he was pretty ornery the rest of the time up there. Yet more drama. But after all was said and done, the kids remember Masada fondly and want to go back. And Randall was most disappointed in the sunrise.

101: I love the views in the desert. Very peaceful and calm. Some highlights were the big swimming pool, the huge cistern where they made dirt clouds, Herod's northern palace (though the stairs were very intimidating, the food storage rooms, and the idea of how in the world they got all of their supplies up there. It really is in the middle of nowhere and quite a way to get up.

103: Ein Gedi - where King David hid from Saul and cut Saul's coat to let him know that he meant him no harm. We were quite annoyed that when we were there, hundreds of school children were also there. And it was too cold to really play in the water. But it was an absolutely beautiful place. We saw some little gopher like animals among the rocks. The waterfall were very pretty. It was quite amazing to find such an oasis in the middle of the desert. We definitely hope to get back here and enjoy it without so many other people.

105: The view of the Dead Sea from Ein Gedi. I really really love the views of the desert. Simply breath-taking.

106: OUr trip to the Dead Sea wasn't as exciting as we had hoped. The day was overcast and cold and the water was freezing. But since we didn't think we'd get back, we braved the cold. I thought it was really awesome. The other kids took some cajoling. Jessica only did it to get two ice creams. Jared just couldn't, and Ryan took the plunge willingly. Even Randall got in on the action. Quite the experience.

108: Happy Thanksgiving | Since we were traveling during Thanksgiving, we ate out at McDonald's. Not quite a turkey feast, but at least we were eating together. And it wass just about as expensive as a regular Thanksgiving dinner would have been.

110: Before we left Masada, the kids wanted to take Randall to the Marlstones. Jared wanted to follow the path we didn't get to finish the day before, so he and I took a separate path and Randall took the high road with the other kids. We got a little separated at the end, but all went well. The kids loved climbing all around the structures and seeing how high they could get.

112: We left Masada going south. We wanted to try to see some salt caves on the way to the camel rides. We didn't see any salt caves, but we did see Lot's wife. Sodom mountains are all made of salt. The rock structure in the middle of the picture is called Lot's wife, who turned back towards Sodom and was turned into a pillar of salt. I have to say, it's hard to imagine any great civilization existing out around here.

113: It was a really fun experience to ride camels in the desert. Trying to find someone to get us on the camels was an adventure in itself. We had to walk quite a way away from the camp in order to mount them, which we didn't understand why, and then we got going. | We had fun imagining we were the Nephites leaving Jerusalem, or Abraham traveling around the desert. It wasn't very comfortable and the kids asked why anyone would choose to travel by camel. Our trip took us up a hill, we took a break for 10 minutes and then went back down. Our guide entertained himself with his cell phone the whole time. Not very authentic, but we all enjoyed it just fine.

117: I love going to the beach in the winter. I think my kids (except for Emma) are sick of it, but I don't care. I want to go to the beach as much as possible. Jared's latest thing is building Masada on top of himself. I don't know why but he just loves Masada.

118: Christmas was interesting this year. We forgot our tree, but found this little one for about $30. We also found some advent calendars that the kids enjoyed having (notice Jared's socks, please. He loved these new socks and always wore them hiked all the way up). There were no houses with lights, no radio stations playing Christmas music, no stores decorated. It was Christmas in our home and no where else. Thankfully the school had a nice little celebration and that helped a lot. It was still a very nice holiday.

119: We kept our cookie making tradition alive by inviting the Carey's over. It was fun to decorate with some new toppings, as well as use some of the familiar ones my parents sent up.

120: At the end of the year, Jessica's Jazz class put on a little presentation. She had a really fun time and even had the chance to choreograph a dance. The second grade was also given the task of performing a dance for the Hockey Marathon. Jessica was totally excited, and was even front and center for it. Ryan got to close out the year with a big showing in the Elementary School's winter showcase. He was given the part of the Abominable Snowman. He was hilarious and wonderful. He got a lot of laughs. Unfortunately his costume gave him problems and he was constantly adjusting his sleeve.

122: The kids had a 2 1/2 week break from school for Christmas. The grandparents came a couple of days before hand. Of course Grandma brought her goody bag and the kids were very excited. We also started eating the food Grammy sent up. We play the dreidel game a lot, since it was also Chanukah. Jared brought home his Chanukiah from school and was very excited about lighting it up every night. Emma really enjoyed the candy canes, and we found the Tel Aviv Carmel market, which was a hit for everyone. We walked along the beach, gathering seashells for Grandma. We even got to celebrate her birthday with her. It was so fun to have all the kids home and family here for Christmas.

124: Christmas had its ups and downs, as always. The candy canes were a hit. Randall appreciated his Max Brenner's paraphernalia. Grandma made everyone fort bags that they loved. Ryan got an iPod, which he couldn't live without all of a sudden. We did get to go caroling, though we had to brave it through a rainstorm. Another great Christmas, and this time with extra family!

126: The day after Christmas we took a trip to Bethlehem. It was quite an ordeal to find our guide, Mohommed. He is actually a member of the church and gave us quite a cultural experience about Palestine and Israel. Our first stop was the Shepherd's Field. Every knows this isn't the exact field, but it is an old field. They have some great paintings and nativities, as well as some fun caves that are really old. After the field, we went to an olive wood warehouse. Not the best quality, but very nice and very inexpensive. Wish I had bought more.

128: In trying to find our guide, we did find Rachel's Tomb. It appears that she died in Bethlehem and Jacob buried her there. It had a very nice painting to show what it probably looked like back them. After the olive wood warehouse, we went to Manger Square. Since it was Christmas time, they had a beautiful tree. Then we went to the best falafel stand in the world! Actually, it was pretty good. Then we went to the Church of the Nativity. I guess it wasn't too busy. We got in and out within 1/2 hour. It wasn't anything special, but now we've been there.

130: Mohammed also took us to St. George's cathedral, which he says is older than the Church of the Nativity, and older than Christ. It was a nice chapel. St. George was known as the dragon slayer, as you can see by the painting behind Randall. The kids really liked being able to light incense.

131: We also got to see Solomon's Pools, which he constructed in order to bring water from Hebron to Jerusalem. They were absolutely massive, and still work to this day. However, because some children have died in them, they have been closed off. Above are some pools that the locals use today. The large picture is a beautiful picturesque scene. Here I saw a little 4 year-old boy leading a donkey with his dad riding along. I thought it was simply hilarious.

132: The last thing we did in Bethlehem was take a trip to Hebron to see the tomb of the Patriarchs. It was something, but nothing really amazing. They did have it separated between Muslims and Jews. That was a bit extreme, I thought. The girls had to put hooded cloaks on. The actual tombs are many feet below the ground, but they had elaborate coverings on top. It was a cold day and we walked through an interesting street to get there (note the fire to warm our hands). After we went through the tomb, we went to a little store to buy some Palestinian glass - really some pottery. Very nice and very inexpensive, my favorite things.

133: Since the kids were on break and this was the grandparents only visit here, we wanted to make the most of it and visit a lot of places. However, there was Emma and the grandparents got sick. So we modified things a bit. We did a trip every other day and spent the other days close to home. This worked really well. We got some beach days, a day at the market, and lots of time to hang out and strengthened relationships. Emma really warmed up to Grandpa a lot, and even let Grandma hold her hand. I call that a big success.

134: I love the Galilee area. So amazingly beautiful. I could sit at Capernaum and just look out at the view. One can completely imagine all the miracles that happened along these shores. Just so peaceful and calm. We also finally got on a boat. It was a slow ride and nothing amazing, but it was still worth the trip. The view all around was so stunning.

136: The Garden of Gethsemane. For how crowded it was, it sure was peaceful

137: We finally did find the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden. Unfortunately, no before we took a wrong turn and started hiking up a big hill. Grandpa was done after that, but the rest of us persevered. It was a very nice garden, quite uncrowded, and huge. You could walk around the paths among the trees and feel the peace there. And it had a great view of the city. It is so neat to be in this area where you know Jesus was. These may not be the specific trees, but this is the area and these trees were around when He was. Just a great place to be.

139: The Rampart's Walk This is something that I had wanted to do, to walk along the walls of Jerusalem. It was fun. I didn't expect so many ups and downs. But it was fun to see the outposts and the city from up high. The kids liked it too.

140: After we had already walked too much for some, we decided to walk to Caiaphus' house and the last supper room. We realized we didn't have any money with us, so we couldn't get into Caiaphus' house. We did get to the Last Supper room, which was uneventful but we went nonetheless. The statue is of King David, as this was right by his tomb. Below is the courtyard with Peter supposedly denied knowing Christ.

141: We went to the Western Wall again. Ryan and Jared were very excited to get kippas again. We then went into the city which got very crowded very quickly. It was actually pretty scary trying to keep track of the kids. Randall wanted to get more shirts. The kids had to have their own as well. We do love the T-shirt guy.

142: This time the Garden Tomb was very quite and empty. It had a very different feeling to it. We could sit and enjoy the silence and imagine what could have happened there. It truly is a peaceful place.

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  • By: Lori K.
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  • Title: israel
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  • Started: about 5 years ago
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