We woke up early to catch a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It was cool, with some small waves. In a word: peaceful. The boat itself was an old-style wooden boat - part of an attempt to put us in the mindset of what life would've been like just fishing out there. We even got a demonstration of how the hand-woven nets were thrown and retrieved.

Wooden Boat on the Sea of Galilee

Another boat full of tourists on the Sea of Galilee. It was almost identical to our own.

When we docked it was right next to a museum featuring a 2000 year old boat that had been recovered from the mud of the lake. The boat itself had been preserved and was on display. It was about what you would expect for an ancient canoe-like craft.

We then rendezvoused with the bus and traveled to the ruins of the city of Bet She'An. This was one of my favorite stops on the trip, as the city itself was huge (the only larger ruin I've seen personally is Pompeii), and a lot of the stone was still in fairly good condition. It would be very easy to spend hours and hours walking around just exploring and imagining what life would've been like in a city thousands of years ago.

Ruins of Bet She'An

There are many columns lining the stone streets of Bet She'An.

Bet She'An itself is notable because of the layers (notice the reoccurring theme in Israel's archaeology). It had been occupied by many different governments and civilizations, at one point Egyptian, Greek, and Roman. The Egyptian palace had been considered especially luxurious at the time because it was made out the most expensive building material possible: wood. This may sound crazy but wood used as lumber in Israel has to be imported, because none of the trees native to Israel (such as the olive) can be used for building large structures. This is for a variety of reasons, but it mostly comes down to size, porousness, and shape. So if you begin to consider the costs of hauling enough wood hundreds of miles to make a palace you begin to understand why it was something only the rich and powerful could've done.

Palace of Bet She'An

This is the palace on top of the hill of Bet She'An. It's a long hike to get up there, but the views and seeing the palace ruins are worth it.

Leaving Bet She'An we entered the West Bank. To do so we went through the first of several security checkpoints we would encounter throughout the trip. They usually consisted of a single guard just stepping on to the bus and confirming that we were a bunch of tourists. They were always armed though, and unsurprisingly, it seemed like the Uzi was the weapon of choice.

The West Bank

Most of the West Bank was uninhabited. For the most part it's a hilly, rocky, and arid region without much of a human presence.

We passed by Jericho, which in addition to the story about its walls has the distinction of claiming to be the oldest continuously inhabited city on the planet. Though the tour guide mentioned that this claim is probably an affectation, because although there is no official list for this metric, other cities such as Damascus and Luxor probably have better claims.

Then, rounding some hilly corners, we came into sight of a massive blue-green body of water hundreds of feet below us. My ears popped several times during our continuous descent below sea-level. We had arrived at the Dead Sea.