Sunday, July 4, 2010

Summing Up, Roll Tide, and More to Come

I spent some of my free time Saturday doing a few things that I was not able to do earlier. We were actually a day late getting here, so I missed out on a few things. So on this day I started at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This Church is shared by 7 different Christian denominations. The main two are the Catholics and the Greek Orthodox. This church supposedly is built on the site of Calvary and the burial place of Jesus. I went by myself and this was one of the most disappointing things that I did while I was here. You almost have to do this, but it is a frustrating experience. You must push through the crowds and almost be rude or you will get run over while trying to see this site. They have so obscured these sites that archeologists cannot tell whether these sites date to the proper time. I was never more frustrated in Israel than I was here. Give me Jericho at 110 degrees anytime over this. Anyway, here are some pictures the first is the outside of tomb, the second is the supposed resting place, and the third is the supposed site of Calvary. Most people actually believe this to be the actual site, but the Garden Tomb experience for me preserved the atmosphere and authenticity. Once again, He is not there, He is Risen, and He is risen indeed.

Later that day, I had some time so I went with some friends to the grave of Oskar Schindler. If you do not know who this is you can Google him. I was expecting some grand display, but we actually found his grave by luck. It was not set apart from any of the other graves except for the rocks that people place over the top. This man gave his wealth to save some Jews in WWII and felt remorse for not giving more. I want to give it all to tell others about Jesus. My prayer is to finish the race used up completely by the Lord. Here is a picture of his grave.

Also that day I went shopping in the Old City and finished buying some gifts for my family. As I was walking through I came across this store. ROLL TIDE. The shop owner has a brother attending the University of Alabama and they had Tide stickers inside the store as well. I took pictures of this, I think you should be able to make out the stickers in the second picture. I almost cried when I saw this.

Thanks to everyone who read my blog. My course officially came to a close on Friday. In case any of you forgot, I was taking an actual class with tests, prework, and reflection reports. I finished the last of the work on Friday. It has been difficult since my plane does not fly out until Monday night, meaning I will not see my family until Tuesday morning, hopefully.

I am probably done blogging from here, but as I continue to decompress over the next few weeks I plan to continue blogging about my experience. I have been incredibly blessed to be here and I hope in some small ways I have shared this blessing with you. Please pray that I have a safe and uneventful trip home. I miss my family terribly. Being away from them has helped me see what a tremendous blessing they are to me.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Thinking About What I Want to Forget

This day was different from the others. We started the day at the Yad Vashem Memorial site. This a place dedicated to remembering the holocaust victims from WWII. This was a difficult experience for me. For really the first time, I realized how weakly the Church, especially in Europe, responded to this outrage against humanity. I was also forced to consider the impact of this on the children. Having children of my own, this impacted me deeply. I only took a few pictures. The one below is a picture of one of the train cars used to transport the Jews.

Next we went on to the Jerusalem Museum where they have assembled a large model of the 2nd Temple Jerusalem. This model is based on the best archeological evidence available. We also were able to look at a few of the Qumran documents that were on display. I was not able to take pictures of these documents, but here is an image of what many believe the Temple looked like in the days of Herod.

Later we went to Shiloh, where the Tabernacle was kept prior to the Ark's capture by the Philistines and the subsequent destruction of the Tabernacle. Below is the place that some believe held the Tabernacle.

Lastly we ended the day at the Garden Tomb site. This is a site that some believe was actually the site of Jesus' death and burial. This is based on a skull that some see in the rocks on the side of the cliff and the tomb that was excavated . Archeologists are dubious on this clain, but this site captures what I believe is the essence of the site, unlike the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I must say this was a pretty cool experience.

The gentlemen who gave us a tour of this site was passionate for Christ. He was talking about the tomb and the potential for this being the burial place of Jesus, he stopped and reminded us all that the big deal about the tomb is that Jesus is no longer there. He is risen. He is risen indeed.

Blessings - DC

Nazareth to Scythopolis

We started this day at Sephorris. This was a city that was being built by Herod Antipas at the time when Jesus was a boy to young man. Scholars have speculated that he and his father would have worked on this city. It is filled with beautiful mosaics. It is an opulent city that combined Greco-Roman culture with Hebrew culture. It was a tremendous symbol of the Hebrew people of the day living in two world views. The picture below is of one of the mosaics and it depicts a centaur. It is interesting to consider that Jesus may have worked here.

Next we drove through Nazareth. Frankly there is not much to see in an antiquity site. Archaeologists and scholars alike believe this town was no bigger than 300 people. They barely left a mark. It was situated in a little bit of a hole. It would have been unnecessarily hot because of this position as it would not have gotten the sea breeze. However, they needed to live close to a meager water source. We did go up onto a nearby cliff where the story of the people of Nazareth trying to throw Jesus off a cliff might have happened. The picture of me is as close as I would get to the cliff. This cliff also overlooks the Jezereel Valley where most of the battle involving Barack and Deborah took place. The mound behind me is the Hill of Moreh. Nazareth now is a fairly big town.

One of the last places we went was Beth Shean also called Scythopolis. Scythopolis was the only city of the Decapolis west of the Jordan River. It was Greco-Roman in construction. This was our last stop on the 4 day trip to Galilee and I got a little silly. There was a communal latrine on this site and I could not resist this picture. Also there was a theater where I proceeded to dance my way across the stage while singing I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady. I did not realize that there was a tour guide leading a tour in the seats until after, I had done this. This was my first and only obnoxious American moment.

After here we drove back to Jerusalem. It felt odd coming back to the Old City after being in Galilee. We truly went from the country to the city.

Blessings - DC

The Cliffs of Arbel (Ooohhh)

I must start with this last part of the day first. The Cliffs of Arbel weighed on me like a ton of bricks this entire day. You see, I am reallllly afraid of heights and there was a hike down the cliffs along a trail then back up them again on another side. The Cliffs of Arbel factor into the Jewish mindset around the time Herod was securing his kingdom with the full approval of Rome. Jewish rebels lived in caves that were completely inaccessible to others. Herod wanted to root them out so he lowered his troops in baskets holding long hooks to pull the people out and then drop them down the cliff. Herod did give these people a chance to surrender with no consequences and some did. There is a story of that one man would not let his family surrender, he preferred to kill them instead and then commit suicide. This is all recounted for us by Josephus. Why is this important? This event took place about 30 years prior to Jesus birth and about 10 miles from his home. The Cliffs are situated along the Sea of Galilee. This story would have been legend and goes to the mindset of the people in and around the area that Jesus grew up.

I was ready not to do the hike, I felt good physically but was terrified. One of my friends here shamed me into doing it and I am glad he did. Below are a few pictures. There was a steep, scary descent and ascent, but I was able to push through my fears and do it. There is something to be said for not letting fear get you down. I am glad I did it. After this particular hike, I had a surge of energy that has served even to this moment now. I feel great again. By the way the temperature was over 107 this day.

Me trying to smile.

The way down

Part of the way back up.

We started the day on a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. We got a demonstration on 1st Century fishing methods in the Sea. It was a great feeling to cross this Sea that Jesus crossed so many times. Below is a picture from the boat looking towards the modern and ancient city of Tiberius.

We stopped at a museum where they kept a fishing boat that was dated to the early 1st Century. This would have been the exact type of boat that Jesus crossed the Sea in. Below is a picture.

We went to some other sites this day. We saw Capernaum where Jesus based his ministry. This site had been excavated by a Church and they believe they found Peter's house here. The pictures of this did not come out well. We also went to Tahbga where Jesus is said to have multiplied the fish and bread and we went to the Mt of Beatitudes where they believe Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Churches had taken over these areas for better or worse. They were neat places, but they did not preserve the natural site. Anyway that is all for now.

Blessings - DC

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hazor, Dan, and Plowshares

We started this day at Hazor, which is an exciting location. This is where archeology confirms a Biblical account. We are told that Joshua burned the city of Hazor and there is evidence to this fact. In the picture below, I am squatting next to basalt tiles that are cracked. Basalt is formed by volcanic activity and only cracks under extreme heat. This cracking is dated to the same time that Joshua is said to have burned the city. Interesting. Hazor was also an important city on the trade routes and encompassed an area of 200 acres. There were many pagan worship sites found here and there is no doubt that the destruction of those sites was complete.

We later went on to Dan, which is where the Danites settled after they were not able to control the Philistines in their allotted space. There is a powerful spring at Dan that helps feed the Jordan River. We had to hike up to the location and it was beautiful. Dan was one of the 2 sites that Jeroboam built his unauthorized temples when the Nation split in two. This temple complex had become a place of syncronistic worship. YHWH was honored with Baal. This tribe of Dan was out of its place and out of its religion. Over and over again I see how the Israelite people did not follow God as the should. They combined the religion of the land with the one true faith. I wonder what our religions of the land are. What do we combine with the true faith? Anyway food for thought.

We then went to Ceasarea Phillip, the Golan Heights, and stopped at a little place called Qazrin. There are no Biblical things that happened here. However, they had excavated and recreated the living space of the 1st Century here. Below is a plowshare that in times of battle would be beaten into a sword. The condition of your plowshare would tell others a lot about your situation. Anyway here is a picture.

I forgot to mention on my last post that we were staying on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee every night. We were able to swim in the evening when we returned from these long hot days. On this night we got to see the sunset and it was beautiful. Here is a picture of me and the sunset. I would like to say I was thinking about deep theological things, mostly I was just missing my wife.

Blessings - DC

We Were Off Again

After a couple days break and some more recovery from Herod's Revenge, we were of again for a 4 day trip into the region of Galilee with a few stop overs along the way. The first was at Ceasarea (Maritima) along the Mediterranean Sea. Once again this city is testimony to Herod's building prowess. He built this city and an artificial harbor. It had the finest in Roman planning with a large palace that had a pool that jutted out into the sea. The pictures below show this. I am standing at the outer edge of what was once the pool, and second is a picture looking back into the coast. This city is where Paul was kept after he was seized at Jerusalem (Acts 23:23). This is where he left from to appeal his way to Rome. For the power hungry people of the 1st Century, Ceasarea was their link to Rome. The city also had a theater and a hippodrome both located adjacent to Herod's palace. Herod also built a temple to Augustus here to reinforce his relationship with Rome and advocate the Imperial Cult that was surfacing at the time. Paul references this cult directly and indirectly several times.

Next we went to Mt Carmel. There is a monastery on the highest point of the mountain where they believe the event in 1 Kings 18:19-40 took place. Below is view of the Jezereel Valley from the mountain. From this spot you could see the Mediterranean Sea as well, thus we got a breeze coming off of the Sea. The picture below is pointing towards Megiddo which I will write about next.

Last on this day we went to Megiddo. This is the city that guarded the major path from the Philistine Coast into the Jezereel Valley. Every major power in the area wanted control of this city as a means of controlling trade. This is the place where Josiah meet his early end and it is the place that many believe is referenced in Rev 16:16. Har Meggido is the Hill or Mount of Megiddo and when it is put into Greek many transliterate it into Armageddon. Any way, food for thought. Below is a picture of a Solomonic large 6 chambered gate. Solomon reinforced this city because of its importance in trade routes and in protecting the Israelite people. Also elders would meet at the city gates like this one to discuss political and legal issues. Consider Prov 31.

Blessings - DC