Israel Day 10: Herodium, Shepherd's Field, Hezekiah's Wall, Cardo

After a huge breakfast buffet, I grab my small Dixie cup of to-go coffee and head on the bus. Our first stop of the day is just 15km outside Jerusalem, the Herodian Fortress which was built in 23-21 BC.

Of course, these fortresses were built on top of the highest hills they could find, so that you could spot anyone coming into your land. A great defense position. 

We climb to the very top and look down at the valleys and imagine David being a shepherd, leading his flock through the land below us. Psalm 23 is read. When flash floods come into the land, the water rushes from the high mountains and down through the valleys. After the storm, there is still water, greener fields after the rain. Yuval shares a few insights with us about sheep and how they follow the shepherd at all times. They know no other way. Olive oil is also used to put on the nose and mouth of sheep to protect them from flies... and it is also used to anoint Kings.

From the top we can also view many Palestinian and Jewish settlements. It's interesting to see how close, yet how separate everything is. 

We climb down into the fortress and see some of the Roman baths (post Herod's time) and view live excavations of what is being uncovered even today. This fortress is MASSIVE. This shot will give you an idea...

Think about how in the world they got all the stones up on top of this hill. Crazy to think about. 

JT stole a clay shard from one of the piles from the excavation (shush, don't tell anyone). We then walk down through the water cisterns (seems like we've seen 10 or more of these... but what do you expect? It's the desert and there needs to be a way to store water) and we see more of the live excavation happening. Can you believe this is still so intact?

When we leave the site, we get on the bus and drive by a military station down below. There are tanks and what do you know, a soldier wants to hitch-hike on our bus back to Jerusalem. Get on soldier! We'll take you. (P.S. Hitch-hiking is very common in Israel)

Just before lunch, we go back to the Old City of Jerusalem and walk through the Jewish Quarter

It is basically a community/neighborhood within the old city that was demolished in the war in 1948 and to this day it is being brought back to life. There are more excavation happening throughout this area and you can see holes down various parts where there is the old wall around the temple mount and then modern day Jerusalem sitting on top. 

One of the culture shocks we experienced were large groups of 18-20 year old men/women walking around with AK47's. Odd, yet I felt totally safe. 

The rest of the day is a free day, so we decide to grab the best pizza in all of Israel (seriously, so good), do a bit of shopping in the markets, and then go back to the hotel. 

On our way back, I saw the cutest kitten in the whole world. I wanted to take her back to the hotel, give her a bath, and then take her home :) Too bad this picture will have to do. Just precious!

We're so beat and just need an afternoon of napping, blogging, photo editing, and then fill ourselves at dinner. Since our rest during the afternoon wasn't enough, we head to bed extra early (8:30) and watch an episode of the greatest show of all time: The West Wing