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.