Monday, June 17, 2013

Day Five: Jerusalem Approaches Field Study

Climbing around in a first century tomb
Wow! What an incredible day! We began bright and early again by meeting up at the bus just down from Jaffa Gate. We began by driving around the Old City and up to the Mount of Olives range to get an overlook of the city and region. From here one has an excellent northern view of Jerusalem. It is from this direction that most of the enemies of Jerusalem would have invaded. One can even see Nebi Samwil – the overlook we were at yesterday over Gibeon and the Central Benjamin Plateau. Down below the lookout we sat in a first century tomb. The tables in the middle are the preparation benches where the body would be prepared for burial. It would have been on something like this that Christ's body would have been lain until the women had time to prepare his body properly. Once prepared the body would be placed into the kokh shooting off to the sides. Here the body would lie for the next year. Once nature took its course and flesh had decayed, the bones would be collected and placed in an ossuary – a box just long enough to hold the femur bone. The box would then be added to the rest of the family boxes. However, in Old Testament times, the bones would have been taken and added to the same pit as his ancestors. Hence the phrase, "Gathered to His Fathers." Interestingly, one can see the migration from a collective family unit to being more individualistic through the Israel's burial practices.

When I started taking pictures up to my camera eroded and stated, "Internal Memory Full." It hit me in that moment that I had left my memory card in my computer from the night before … and my extra one was in my computer bag! Oh no!!! Thankfully, while at the tomb site, I was able to ask around to see if anyone had an extra one that I could borrow for the day. Thankfully, a lady in our group by the name Kendra had an extra one that I could use for the day. Praise the Lord! I did not miss too many photo opportunities.
We jumped back on the bus and headed just a bit farther down to Mount Scopus. From here, one can see both the regions of Cenomanian Limestone and the Senonian Chalk. One can also see the Ascent of Adumimm – the way toward Jericho (which is only 15 miles away); as well as Anathoth (Jeremiah's hometown), and a possible site for Nob. These small cities just beyond Jerusalem may be referred to as "the daughters of Jerusalem." They are entirely dependent upon the capital city for their resources and survival. When an enemy approaches, their only hope is Jerusalem. … This soil type (limestone vs. chalk) drastically alters the land. One is "good" for farming, the other only for grazing sheep. Here we discussed the danger of shepherds. If a shepherd were to drive his sheep through the farmers land, it would devastate the crop in a matter of minutes. If you are a farmer, you do not want to upset the local shepherds. More than this, you want to work out an agreement with the shepherd (and the shepherd wants to work out a deal with you). The farmer needs milk, wool, and meat; and the shepherd needs fruit, veggies, and grain for bread. The shepherd wants to be able to have more locations to graze his sheep, and the farmer wants his field fertilized AFTER harvest. Although two different lifestyles and potential enemies, the farmer and the shepherd develop a symbiotic relationship.

Next, we headed a bit further over to the Mount of Olives proper. Here we discussed David's flee from his son Absalom. When Absalom pronounced himself king, David was forced to flee into the wilderness with his 600 men, weeping as he went. David would have fled through the "saddle" of the Mount of Olives. Essentially this is a dip in the mountain that makes it easier to transverse. We then walked down the Mount of Olives to the Dominus Flevit Church, commemorating the tears of Christ as He wept upon approaching Jerusalem. As David left Jerusalem weeping, now Christ was returning to Jerusalem, weeping over the city. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, and weeps now over her coming destruction and loss of life. Death was not a part of the original creation. At the end of the week, Christ too would die, but He arose to Life! - a restoration of the original creation. He could still eat and drink, but could also walk through walls. How amazing it will be when we shall be like Him in the resurrection with our glorified bodies! No more death. No more weeping. But in the mean time, it is right and proper to weep over death … Jesus did.
A bit further down we came to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations. In the garden are supposedly the same olive trees that Jesus may have walked amongst. This may be correct to a degree, however when the Romans burned Jerusalem in 70 AD, they cut down all of the trees in the area for kindling. However, from the stumps, new shoots would have emerged and begun again. These olive trees are defiantly ancient by the looks of them. As olive trees grow, they expand outward and become hollow in the middle. Vern stated that is was likely that when Jesus came here to pray, he and his disciples may have found a place under ground as it would have been quite cold that time of year. Here Jesus was sitting at a crossroad. When Jesus prayed, "Lord, take this cup from me," the route to the wilderness that David had fled centuries was just up the mountain. It would have been quite easy to just slip away at this moment and all the pain that was to come could be avoided. Just do as David did and run away. … Vern also elaborated on the necessity of Judas. Remember this was Passover time – the population of Jerusalem had more than doubled. How are you going to identify one young Jewish man among the thousands? Especially at night by candlelight. … Once inside the church, it is perpetually nighttime. With the windows made of alabaster, the ceiling lightly decorated with gold, the chapel is made to be a constant reminder of Christ's prayerful agony. Across the street is a clear view of the Eastern Gate. It has long since been walled up. According to a JUC student years ago who fell in a hole near the gate, there is a second gate underneath the present gate. Whether it is true or not, Muslims are said to have placed their graves in front of the Eastern Gate to prevent the Jewish Messiah from entering when He returns, as his or her dead body would defile anyone attempting to walk through.

We stopped for lunch at the UN Park just outside Jerusalem. Here we could get another clear view of Jerusalem and the surrounding topography including the Dead Sea. Here we discussed the importance of David moving the capitol from Hebron to Jerusalem. Not only is Jerusalem better situated for trade and access to the rest of the country, but moving the capital into the tribe of Benjamin is both an act of peace and respect for the former king as well a political move to keep his eye on Saul's remaining family.
After gather up lunch, we headed to the Herodium to get better acquainted with Herod the Great. Here, Herod once again defied nature by building his own mountain. Herod built a grand structure with tall tower to overlook the surrounding land. From atop the structure one can see for miles in every direction. In order to make the structure appear even larger, he had the hill next to the fortress shaved off and added to his own. Here Herod built his mausoleum and planned his exit. Apart of the structure included a theater with private, shaded stairs leading down from the fortress. However, upon his death, he ordered this and other structures to be filled in with dirt so that his mausoleum alone would be the attraction. Herod died a miserable death. According to Josephus:

"But now Herod’s distemper greatly increased upon him after a severe manner, and this by God’s judgment upon him for his sins: for a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly as it augmented his pains inwardly; for it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating, which he could not avoid to supply with one sort of food or other. His entrails were also exulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, farther, his privy member was putrified, and produced worms; and when he sat upright he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. It was said by those who pretended to divine, and who were endowed with wisdom to foretell such things, that God inflicted this punishment on the king on account of his great impiety…" (Josephus Antiquities, 17.168-170)

The Herodium is View!
Herod wanted to be sure that people mourned at this death, so he had many Jewish leaders rounded up and held. Upon the announcement of his death, they were all to be put to death. If people were not going to mourn for him, at least they would be morning with his departure. Thankfully, his men did not follow through on this final order and released them after Herod's death. Sometime later the fortress fell into the hands of the Jews, and they converted it into a synagogue with ritual baths and additional tunnels dug.
Next, we were off to Bethlehem! As Bethlehem is in a 100% Palestinian zone, I had doubts as to whether or nor we would be able to make it there. Upon arriving, we began by overlooking the Shepherd's fields and then proceeded up to the Church of the Nativity. The church dates back to the 300's under Constantine but was largely rebuilt by Justinian in the mid 600's, making it the oldest church in Israel. Next door, St. Jerome stayed in a cave and translated much of the Latin Vulgate. Today there is a chapel built in his honor. Vern added a small twist to our western understanding of the nativity story. In Hebrew the word translated "inn" actually means "guestroom." Since Joseph was traveling back to Jerusalem for the census, there was probably a family house located there in Bethlehem. When the scripture states that there was no room for them in the "guestroom." It probably means both that there was not room for Mary to give there with all the guests but also; the guestroom would not be the appropriate place. Mary and Joseph are now among family. Although Joseph's family may not understand what has happened, they are not going to turn family out where Mary would likely die giving birth. Rather, the women would have taken Mary into the side-room, storage-room, etc. It was this room, often a cave, where the household would bring the animals in for the winter; thus the manger being present. Perhaps not as alone and rejected as we are accustomed, but what a beautiful picture of Christ being born amongst family: still lowly, but within community among family. Upon entering the Church of the Nativity, one is greeted with smell of incense, the glittering of gold and silver from the front of the church, but almost an ancient elaborate but simple entrance. Large aged pillars stand to either side with bits of dark mosaics lining the upper walls. Much of the artistry within the church is very old and has turned almost black over the centuries. Coming from America where three hundred seems ancient, here three hundred is nothing. I am continuously reminded of a conversation I had with Shushan while in Ukraine. She was saying how Berdyansk is roughly two hundred years old. To the locals, what is in Berdyansk? It is only two hundred years old … it has no history! That is older than most of the states in the US! However, here everything is "ancient;" everything has a story. I took a moment to talk to our bus driver while waiting lunch. He grew up within the Old City and his family has been here since the 5th Century!! And I thought my family had been in America for a long time: close to 350 years. That's nothing in comparison to fourteen hundred plus years. We then discussed briefly the brevity of America and the present political situation (and by the way, they do NOT like Obama over here. Neither did they like Bush, but Obama is MUCH worse).
Anyhow, back in Bethlehem … after standing in line for most of our available time, I was able to "touch" the bedrock in the cave in which Jesus was born. Similar to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, everything has been covered over, except for a small spot one can reach down and touch. As disheartening this may be at first, with two thousand years of history, the only way to preserve a site is to build something significant on it. After departing the cave of the nativity, I attempted to find Jerome's cave but just missed it. I went down the left side of the church. Apparently the stairs to the cave were on the right! Oh well, I think we will be back in Bethlehem for the Jesus and His Times course. I will know where to look then. :)

Arriving at Ramat Rachel
On this already packed but amazing day, we made one more stop on our way back to the college. Just outside Jerusalem to the southwest is a place called Ramat Rachel (Rachel's Heights). Contrary to the name, it has nothing to do with Rachel. Actually, archaeologists really have no idea what this site was used for. From hints left in the remains, it appears to have been a royal palace of sorts … and quite significant at that. It may have been built near Hezekiah or Jehoiakim's era.  Some headstones have been found that are quite similar to an iconic Grecian column. This has led many to speculate that the origins of the iconic column have their roots here in Palestine, perhaps with the Phoenicians. After all, they gave us the alphabet too! One may ask why the Bible does not mention such an important sight so close to Jerusalem? Remember the purpose of the Scripture. It is not a history or geography book. It is a book written to communicate the specific message of our redemption. However, along the way when the Bible does mention people, places, and things; it has been proven correct time and time again. Before leaving Ramat Rachel, we took a moment to look over the Rephiam Emek and look for a souvenir piece of Byzantine pottery. This emek would have been the breadbasket of ancient Jerusalem. What do the Philistines do when they want to draw David out to fight? They begin destroying the grain fields – the food source for the coming year. … Next to the archaeology site there was a large mound of pottery shards – free for the taking. So yes, I have a broken piece of pottery that predates just about anything in the USA!
A Kokh - After preparation this is where the body would be lain to
decompose before being placed in an ossuary. 

Here is an example of a first century tomb. This would something similar to
the tomb Christ's body would have been placed.

Overlook of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives Range

Overlooking the Wilderness from Mt. Scopus (part of the greater Mount of
Olives Range) Way in the distance one can make out where we had hiked a
couple days before.

The hill in the front would have been roughly the location of Anathoth,
the hometown of Jeremiah.

To our right you can make out the steeple of the Augusta Victoria - this
may have been the ancient site of Nob.

Here we're zoomed in a bit overlooking the Ascent of Adummim

Here's as close as I'll probably be getting to Anathoth

From the Mount of Olives proper one has an amazing view of the Old City!

Graves on the Mount of Olives

Lots of Graves on the Mount of Olives.

Dome of the Rock ... its actually quite sad to see it there. Once the home
of the Jewish Temple, now 

Ah! This man jumped in the picture with me! I know he's going to ask for
donation now! ... Yep, he wanted me to ride his donkey - a good price,
"just for me" :)

The owner of the camel was complaining that everyone
was too scared to ride his camel ... no, I just think they
don't want to pay the fee ;)

Looking toward the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives

Walking toward the Dominus Flevit Church - the church of tears

Stopping to look at some ossuaries on the way

Looking toward Temple Mount from the grounds of the
Dominus Flevit Church

You can see the Eastern Gate on the right.

Gold Domes of the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene

Looking around the Dominus Flevit Church

Dominus Flevit Church - The Church commemorating
Jesus coming over the Mount of Olives, weeping for

Mount of Olives - Graves ... Awaiting the Resurrection

Some flowers walking further down the mountain

Entering the Garden of Gethsemane ... specifically the
Church of All Nations

Some very old Olive Trees ... roughly dating to the era of Christ

The windows are made from Alabaster

Here is America's Ceiling Panel in the Church of All Nations :)

Looking toward the Front Ceiling ... the one of the direct
front turned out a bit blurry :(

Outside the Church of All Nations - this church commemorates
the night Jesus prayed in the Garden

Front of the Church

Got a song stuck in my head ... "I will meet you ... I will
meet you ... Just inside the Eastern Gate over there ...
I will meet you ... I will meet you ... I will meet you in the
morning over there!"

Here's where we were the other day (the archaeology park near the Temple

Looking toward Jerusalem from the UN Park ... aka "the tower of evil"

Nice overlook from the UN Park

I see the Dead Sea from here! See how high the plateau of Moab rises ...

Notice the Security Wall separating the West Bank. Its been both good
and bad. Depends which side of the wall you're on. Israel says it has cut
down on terrorist activity ... I think  I heard something like 80% ... but the wall
has cut right between field and houses separating families - now making sometimes
nearly impossible to see each other. It has also hurt the economy of such places
as Jericho, Bethlehem, and the like. Locals used to go to Bethlehem to get much of
their produce, but now it's not worth the hassle.

UN Vehicles

Israeli Settlements in the West Bank. 

Notice the terraced farming. In many areas farming is still done with animals
as it is quite difficult to maneuver a tractor on the side of a mountain. - Just
can't fit in some of those small places.

If you can't read that sign it says "The road leads to Area 'A' Under
The Palestinian Authority. The Entrance For All Israeli Citizen's is
Forbidden, Dangerous To Your Lives And Against Israeli Law." ... Don't
worry we are American Tourists ... that's the magic word to get through security :)

English or Hebrew? ... or Chinese?

Reproduction of Herod's Mausoleum

Remains of the Herodium built by Herod the Great

Reconstruction of what the site would have originally looked like. 

Overlook from the Herodium

The Great Tower at the Herodium. Herod would
have had gardens in the central area. 

Another overlook toward ... I think that was Tekoa - hometown of Amos

Again, we can see the Dead Sea ... we'll get there soon enough ... 

Vern giving a lecture on top of the Herodium

At the Herodium

The walls would once have been covered in plaster and painted ... here's just
a remnant left.

Only surviving dome built by Herod. He was the first to
introduce them to the area.

Just outside the domed room

Okay this is just to show you my dorky hat so I don't fry by balding head ;)

Tunnels under the Herodium ... many additional tunnels were added by Jews
after Herod's death. Very smooth inside.

I believe this was a cistern on one point.... water is precious.
And how did they get water up here? ... Isn't it nice being
King? ... lots of hands

Looking down on the excavation of the theater.  Herod ordered it to be filled
in with dirt after his death so that his grave would be the prominent attraction
attesting to his greatness. Talk about egocentric! 

The Herodium from a distance. Herod had the hill to the left shaved off to
make his hill look bigger.

Entering Bethlehem

Entering the Custodiae Terra Santctae - the Church commemorating the
angel's appearance to the Shepherds.

Lecture Time!

Overlooking the Shepherd's fields

Shepherd's Fields

Random home ... Bethlehem was expecting a ton of tourism for the year
2000 Christmas and invested much money into improvements, hotels, and the like.
However, the Oslo Peace Accords put Bethlehem in
Palestinian control. Tourism stopped almost immediately. Bethlehem has not
been able to make a recover since.

Town of Bethlehem - old city would be on the left and in the "horseshoe"
of the mountain.


Church of the Nativity

The door to the Church of the Nativity is directly behind me.

And yes, you must duck to enter. Originally built such
to keep men from riding their horses into the church. It
now acts a symbolism of humility. 

Church of the Nativity ... most of what we see is Justinian in origin (600's AD)

Ancient Pillars worn by pilgrims. 

Mosaics under the floors

It's pretty decked out ... 

And there is tons of incense all over the chapel

Ancient remains of the mosaics

Artwork over the right wing door toward the cave. 

Standing in line to see the cave. 

They sang beautifully ... though I have no idea what was
said ;)

Painted Columns near the front of the chruch

Descending into the Cave

Whoa! There is a definite heat wave coming out of there!

Above the bedrock location

One must kneel to touch the stone ... just like the Church of the Holy Seplechar. 

Here you can touch the only original visible stone in the cave.

St. Jerome's Courtyard - Jerome translated the Bible into
Latin here in Bethlehem. 

Church of St. Jerome. - I just missed the stairs to the
cave ... bummer. I think we'll be back later.

Entrance to Jerome's Church/Cave

Walking back to bus through Bethlehem

And it just wouldn't be complete without Kentucky Fried Chicken :)

City of Bethlehem 

Apparently someone doesn't like the wall ... hide the
camera's at the check point or they will get taken away!

Iconian style beginning to develop here.

Lecture Time at Ramat Rachel

Take good notes ... there's a test on Monday

Overlook of the Rephaim Emek - the breadbasket of Jerusalem

Digging for Byzantine Pottery to take home.

Overlook from Ramat Rachel

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