Thursday, April 30, 2015

Israel // Day Six

Day Six was our last day by the Sea of Galilee (I could have stayed there forever). On this beautiful Sunday morning, we had a sunrise service by the Sea before our departure.

First stop: Gideon's Spring at En Harod. Here, God had Gideon narrow down his army to 300 men before leading the Israelites into a victory over tens of thousands of Midianites.

Beth Shean

This is one of the oldest cities in Israel. Here, the Philistines hung the bodies of Saul and his sons after defeating the Israelites on Mount Gilboa. It became a Greek city and was renamed Scythopolis. The Romans expanded the city and those are the ruins that can be seen now.

The theatre. Only one third of the seat remain - there would have been more rows going back even farther and higher.
*nerd moment* The seats were made of white stone to keep them cool while the people were sitting there. This was the warmest day so far, so we greatly appreciated this aspect of Roman architecture.

Roman toilets. There would have been running water underneath the seats to wash everything away and another channel full of moving water to wash your hands. Only men would have used these. Again, the white stone was used to keep them cool.

This is a reproduction of the Isaiah scroll from the Dead Sea scrolls. This find showed that Isaiah was written as one whole book, not divided up and written by different authors as some modern scholars believe it was.

These are the ruins of the Essene community called Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. This small community only housed 150 people at a time, and they were dedicated to studying the Scriptures and keeping themselves "pure" from the world (similar to monks and nuns). This little village is located in the mountains in the Rift/Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea.

This is called a mikveh, a ritual bath. In Judaism, cleansing yourself in a ritual bath shows the inner purity of your heart and allows you to participate in activities forbidden to those who are considered unclean by the Mosaic law.

This is the opening in the cave where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found. This hole was opened up after the discovery of the scrolls.

The Dead Sea! We did go swimming in it, but I didn't get any pictures of that. It was so cool. As soon as the water got past my knees, it was harder to keep my legs down, and once we started floating it was hard to stand up again.

The view from our hotel balcony.

Journal excerpt:

As several of us were talking last night, one of the girls spoke about how she had expected some sort of spiritual feeling to come to her, but it hadn't, and a lot of us felt the same way. It is so easy to think that some type of feeling will come just from being in "the land of the Bible". Later, our professor talked about how he had expected that the first time he came to Israel, but it didn't happen. He assured us that all we have seen and learned will blossom over time and have a lasting impact.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Israel // Day Five

A whole month, and I'm finally getting around to finishing my Israel posts now that finals and end of the semester assignments are over.

On this Saturday morning, a few of us decided to wake up to see the sun rise on the Sea of Galilee. Even though the mountains blocked most of the sunrise, it was still amazing to be there in the stillness of the morning have good conversations with some amazing people.

Another sunrise watcher offered to take a picture of us (I'm the second in from the left, in case you were wondering :).


This church is built near the most probably site for the story in Matthew 5 of Jesus sending the demons out of a possessed man and into a herd of pigs who then ran down the cliff into the Sea of Galilee. This side of the Sea of Galilee is known as "the other side" as it is where the pagans and Gentiles lived while the Jews lived on the opposite shore.

Our very own "wild man" who emerged from the cliffs while our professor read the story from the Bible.

In the Golan Heights there is a place called Gamla. This town housed a Jewish fortress during the Jewish rebellion in the first century. In 67 A.D. after a Roman siege of the town, over 5,000 Jews committed suicide rather than be conquered by their enemy. 

Near the borders of Lebanon and Syria is this abandoned outpost. It used to be used by the Syrians to run their secret intelligence forces. Today, It is a huge, empty building that is falling apart and covered with graffiti.


Some of us had been researching the city of Dan for an archaeology class project, so we were wicked excited to see it in person. This city is located at the very northern part of Israel. It was strategically important because anyone travelling between Egypt and Mesopotamia had to pass by Dan. This was also where King Jeroboam instituted golden calf worship after the kingdom of Israel divided into the north and the south.

The metal structure shows how large the altar at Dan probably was.

This stone base was where the king of the city would sit by the gate and administer justice.

This gate was one of my favorite things (I'm a nerd, I can't help it). This mudbrick gate is from the Middle Bronze II era which means that it was around in the 18th century B.C. 
In non-archaeologist terms, Abraham would have walked by this gate when he entered Canaan. 
Abraham. Walked. By. This. Gate.
That still makes me so excited. 

Banias/Caesarea Philippi

Banias was a center for the worship of Pan. The stream running by here flows into the Jordan River. It was here that Jesus, as told in Matthew 16:13-18, asked the disciples who people said He was, and Peter states, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."


Standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus telling the disciples to be like a city on a hill makes a lot of sense. A city on a hill here can be seen from all over, night and day. The lightly colored buildings are juxtaposed with the dark mountains, and at night the lights reflect over the whole lake. Everyone knows where a city on a hill is. When Jesus said that, He was saying that we need to live in such a way that gives light to people from all around, not just to people who are close by.