Wednesday, June 8, 2011

With Apologies for Not Posting

We just got back yesterday from a four day swing through Galilee and I'm going to be really busy the next few days so I'll post when I can.  In the mean time check out Jamey O'Connor's vlog for a different perspective on the trip.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

If Only Every Class Was This Easy

We got back last night from a three day trip through the Shephelah and the Negeb.  I honestly barely remember anything from the first two days because they consisted of alot of similar looking ruins and landscape.  However the I do remember one thing from the second day worth telling and a couple from the last day.

We finished the second day by looking into Maktesh Ramon the largest erosion crater in the world.
 I honestly prefer the "Don't molest the animals" signs found in US National Parks.
I would add more photos of the crater but they all look the same after awhile.

Yesterday we started our last 11 hour field study of the week by visiting Masada which is where the Jewish rebels made their last stand against the Romans in the late first century.  Contrary to popular belief it is likely that the Jews did not commit mass suicide to stick it to the Romans.  That is because honorable suicide is forbidden by the law and the rebels were religious zealots and archaeologists found an interior siege ramp built after the main one suggesting that the rebels were massacred.  The sight was constructed as a palace fortress by Herod the Great and contains impressive features such as a million gallon cistern to trap the 1 inch of rain that falls on the sight each year.  That doesn't sound like alot but 1 inch times half a mile times a quarter of a mile is alot of rain.

 Staying hydrated is key.
 The cistern
 A view from the siege ramp side.

The Snake Path on the Dead Sea side.  I instantly regretted not taking the cable car down.
Masada provided a great view of the Dead Sea which is where the field study more or less turned into a field trip.  We were given the opportunity to "swim" in the Dead Sea.  Even I can float in the Dead Sea which is 35% mineral content compared to Great Salt Lakes 17% and the ocean's 7%.  The water feels kind of oily on the skin but leaves your skin feeling very soft.  It was wonderful except for some slightly uncomfortable burning in the backdoor area.

After the Dead Sea we then headed to the En Gedi springs which according to modern tourist tradition David visited when he was fleeing from Saul as mentioned in 1 Samuel 24.  As the name suggests the springs are home to wild Ibex but there are also these little critters known as rock hyraxes.  So after a brief intro we were then allowed to climb up and swim in the springs which featured some nice waterfalls.

 The Dead Sea as seen from Ein Gedi

En Gedi was followed up by a brief visit to Qumran which is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  We then headed back to Jerusalem where we had to get out and walk 30 minutes to campus because the roads were blocked for some two day national holiday.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Herodian and Bethlehem

Last Thursday we started the day off by going to the top of the Mount of Olives.  From there one can see the entirety of the Old City, Jordan, the land of Benjamin, Herodian and Bethlehem.  The land is much smaller than I ever thought it was.  Israel is roughly the size of New Jersey though it is much nicer.

From the top of the Mount of Olives we walked down to the bottom of the Kidron Valley and then up to Jerusalem.  Along the way there were churches and monuments remembering certain events during the crucifixion narrative.  There are multiple sites that claim they are the place that Jesus did this or Jesus did that.  The closest we got to actually being at one of the spots was the Garden of Gethsemane.  While it is most likely not the real garden some of the olive trees are 2,000 years old, at least that is what the people there claim, so they were at least hanging around in the general area that Jesus was betrayed.  The church at the sight was really cool; it had really dark alabaster stained glass so that it looks and feels like night time inside.

Next we drove over to Herodian which was the sight of one of Herod's many palaces in Judea.  Herod went all out and spared no expense in constructing it.  The palace also served as a fort and as his tomb.  It is built right into a hill and featured the latest technology just developed in Rome.  It had a Roman bath, an aqueduct bringing in water from the surrounding hills just to fill his pool while the rest of the area was desperate for water, and in an interior garden.  When he was about to die Herod ordered that the chief priests of the Jews be imprisoned and upon his death killed so that the mourning at his death would be sincere even if it was not for him.  When he died the priests were set free and his coffin was smashed shortly after being put in his tomb.  Obviously no one liked this guy.  It probably had something to do with the fact that he was crazy.

After Herodian when we went to Bethlehem which is behind one of the seperation walls dividing the Palestinians from the rest of Israel.  While we were there we went to the Church of the Nativity and Bethlehem Bible College.  The church was cool and not suprisingly had a barn feel to it.  There was also an adjoining church commenorating St Jerome translating the Bible into Latin.  The sight of the birth is in a small cave under the chapel and features a bunch of ikons of Mary theotokos.  Next to the church was the Bethlehem Peace Center which had nativity scenes from around the world.  Feature below is the Ausrtralians take which was definitely the most contextualized and yes Jesus was every ethnicity you could think of.

At Bethlehem Bible College we listened to one of the professors speak about the plight of the Palestinian church.  He made the point that the Palestininian church faces extinction not because of Muslim persecution but because of people leaving to find a better life than under Israeli "occupation" as he put it.  While he made good points about the hardships being faced by the Palestinians he danced around the wrong they have done.  He also failed to mention how the Palestinians leadership had let them down.  Then again the Israelis have their one sided stories too.

 The outside of the church.
 The remains of Herodian.
 Oh that door doesn't look bad.
 Trust me it isn't the kiddy entrance.

 I lit the nearest candle.
 The birthplace
Shortly after being born Jesus popped out of the Bible and told Jerome what to write.


Saturday, May 28, 2011


The college we are staying at and take classes through is Jerusalem University College.  The title University College is used in most countries outside of the US to refer to schools that only offer graduate degrees.  It is also Wheaton's and a number of other school's campus in Israel.  In fact there are three other schools, Cedarville, Covenant, and Fresno Pacific, going through a similar intensive three week program at the same time as us.

The school was originally built and founded as an Anglican school for Arab boys in the 1850's.  The property is stilled owned by the Anglican Church and JUC pays them rent. Campus is located just outside of the Zion Gate of the Old City on modern Mount Zion.  Abutting the property is Hinnom Valley which is also known as Gehennah the valley that Christ used as a metaphor for hell.  As the folks at the Greek Orthodox seminary next door like to jokes, "The Protestants are sliding into hell."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dome of the Rock, Southern Wall, and Bethseda

The rock in the Dome of the Rock is the stone that Muhammad supposedly ascended from and it is also the stone that they claim that Abraham was going to sacrifice Ishmael on, that is because they claim the promise through Ishmael and not Isaac.  After the Muslims captured the city they built the Dome over the sight of church which had been built over the sight of a Roman temple to Jupiter which had been built over Harod's temple which was built over the sight of the 2nd temple which was built over the sight of Solomon's temple.  We only got to stay for about 40 minutes because all non Muslims had to leave during the 2:30 prayers.  The mosque is truly breathtaking and is something to behold irregardless of your religious convictions.

After the Dome of the Rock we went over to the Southern Wall excavation sight.  The stones were quite impressive.  The view from the processional stairs was great.  They were the same stairs that Christ would have given some of his discourses and parables and also where Paul would have been educated.  Matthew 23 takes on a much clearer meaning when read at those steps.  For from there one can see the tombs on the Mount of Olives and the hills surrounding the temple help to enrich the metaphor of the mother hen because they make Jerusalem look like a egg in a nest.

The final stop of the day was the Pool of Bethesda.  The site is ran by and is being excavated by a group of French Roman Catholic monks called the White Fathers. It is not only the site of the healing of man lame since birth but also according to tradition the site of Mary's childhood home.  There is also a Crusader church there dedicated to St. Anne mother of Mary there too.  The church is architecturally perfect except for a couple deliberate imperfections to make the church a portrait of humans.  It also has a seven second echo which makes it great for singing and since we are a group from Wheaton College we sang a couple of Protestant hymns while we were in it.

The pool is in two halves one of which is excavated the other is underneath the the other buildings on the White Father's campus.  It is about 100 feet deep and near where the Roman garrison would have been.  There is a much shallower pool that was built by the Romans for pagan healing practices.  It is in those pools that Christ would have most likely put the man.  The story can be found in John 5.

 Trying to look disintrested

 The long stone is 250 tons
 The processional stairs are behind me.
 Anne with a young Mary.

Trust me on this one it reads, "The grave of Amos a deacon of the church of the sheep."  Bethesda was used to water sheep and there used to be a Byzantine Church next to it.
 The outside of St Anne's
The pagan pools


If people think junior highs have cat problems Jerusalem is on a whole other level.  There are cats everywhere and hardly any dogs because they are viewed by the Arab community as unclean.  JUC has two cats and their names are Dopey and Mr. Orange.

 Cats in the Muslim quarter just out side of the Temple Mount
Cats hanging out in the Pool of Bethesda

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hezekiah's Tunnel

In time I will write about the Old City in general but I have not been to all of it yet.  However, we did go to Hezekiah's tunnel today which was pretty neat and there are some pictures below.  The tale of King Hezekiah is the most told story in the OT except for the Creation account which is just littered throughout.  It is located at the bottom of the City of David which is the sight of the first settlement in Jerusalem before the expansions made under Solomon et al.  The COD is located between the Kidron and Central valleys and is ringed by much larger hills.  Due to that fact Jerusalem is either described as protected or vulnerable.  Enemies are either kept away by the hills and valleys or they use the high ground to attack from the easily accessible north.

The tunnel was dug by Hezekiah in preparation for the inevitable siege by the Assyrians.  It is about 1/5 of a mile long, narrow, ranges in height from around 3.5 feet to about 18 feet, and the drop in elevation is about 1 foot.  The water at its deepest came up just above my ankles which was not the case for everyone.  Yes, I spent a good amount of time hunched over. 

 He got claustrophobic and left before he even went in/
 Jeremiah looks pumped to be here but I have no idea what is going on in the back.
 Carl here is only 5'9''.

Some authentic graffiti from Hezekiah's day.