Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day Eight: Judah, Shephelah, Philistia Field Study

"The Jerusalem Gate" ... well at least the piece of it I could capture.
This is the "welcoming bridge" to Jerusalem
Well today, we began our three-day, two-night expedition through the southern land. We began by stopping along the Sorek Wadi system just west of Jerusalem for a hike. Here at the park, we hiked to down the Valley to a Roman Village. Here we had lecture on the produce and early way of life in Israel. Life was about survival, and mom was instrumental in the family's survival. She would measure the grain out to make sure that there would be enough to last through to the next season; she would make the clothing; and she would be the one to pass down family traditions, culture, and faith to her children. If one was not planting or harvesting, most of one's time was spent protecting your crop or trees from the birds and devouring insects. If your crop failed, you would probably starve in the coming year. In the Roman Village of Sataf we were able to walk around the grape vineyards, fig trees, and see the "foot method" of watering one's crops. Volunteers are permitted to come in and tend to the gardens. These people are often interested in growing their own food organically. While we were there several people were working on rebuilding a few of the walls and tending to the gardens.

Hiking on the Tel of Beit Shemesh
Upon leaving Sataf, we jumped back on the bus and headed further down the Sorek to into the valley and out to the the :border" country of biblical Israel. We stopped at the Tel of Beit Shemesh. From here one can look across the valley to Zorah (the hometown of Sampson) and just over another ridge, just out of sight would be Timnah – another significant city in the story of Sampson. Just up the hill across the valley is where the angel of the Lord appeared to Samson's parents. While a young man, he found a Philistine woman in Timnah that was "straight in his eye." She was "right" for him. Sampson was not good at following the Nazarite vow that he had been "born" into. He failed miserably. He drank wine, encountered dead bodies, was deceitful, loved foreign women, etc., etc.  In time, his parents conceded to the marriage of Sampson to this Timnite women. This meant that an "alliance" was in a sense being made. Here through his Timnite wife, Sampson lost his wager and stormed down the coast to ASHKALON to kill thirty Philistine men to pay his dues. Later when Samson returned to Timnah, he found his father-in-law had given his wife away to friend. This furiated Sampson to the point that he gathered three hundred foxes and set heir fgrain fields afire. The village would have just stacked the grain into Sheaves and was ready to to begin the chaffing process. Interestingly, here at Beit  Shemesh, a fox hole can be found among the ruins … Anyhow, this devastated the village for they can't just go to Wal-Mart to pick up more food. This was their food for the next year, and Sampson just destroyed it – they would not likely starve to death in the coming year. The village then approaches Sampson's father-in-law demanding to know why this has happened. When they found out that it is due to his giving away of his daughter a second time, they burn him and his daughter. Sampson fears for his life and flees into the Judean Hills near Hebron. Time does not allow for a full retelling of the story, but somewhere in this Sorek system lived Delilah – was she Israeli, Canaanite, or Philistine? The Scripture does not say. Perhaps she was a Canaanite from Beit Shemesh – the very place we are standing. Sampson may well have walked through this city.

Arriving at Lecture Site
Our next stop was along the ancient Diagonal Ridge Route at the Tel of Azekiah. Here we could overlook the Elah Valley. Somewhere along here the Philistines were camping against the Israelites. Down the valley would have been Saul and his men shaking in their boots at the presence of Goliath. Jesse had reason to be concerned about the outcome of this battle. If Israel lost, Bethlehem was just down road. When David slew Goliath, the Israelites would have chased the Philistines on either side of Azekaih to Ekron and Gath.
Next, we stopped at the Tel of Lachish. Whoever had control of Lachish could have control of the trade routes further to the south. This was a very important city in biblical days. Although initially established under the united monarchy, Reheboam was the king who greatly fortified the city. Lachish was became the second greatest city in Israel after Jerusalem. Almost a second "capitol." When Sennacherib stomped through Judah, he built a siege ramp to the city and took it. Remnants of the siege ramp are still visible today. Israel was never able to fully recover from Sennacherib's blow. Josiah tried, but was unsuccessful.  When the Babylonians came in the 6th Century BC, Jeremiah wrote that besides Jerusalem, only Lachish and Azekah were left. A letter found at Lachish written slightly after that of Jeremiah states that now only Lachish and Jerusalem were left for the fires of Azekah had gone out. ... Almost a "Lord of the Rings" feel. ;)
Our final stop was the Philistine city of Ashkelon on the coast. Here we were allowed to walk around the site or jump in the Mediterranean. I opted to look around and view the oldest gate in the world! With a few minutes remaining, I took a moment to walk along the shoreline and step in the water. It felt like it would have been great for swim :)

We ended the day by driving through the Negev to Arad where we stayed in a youth hostel for the night.

Looking across the Sorek Valley / Canyon, West of Jerusalem

Lecture time :) ... overlooking the Sorek Wadi System

Hiking down the Sorek to Sataf

Example of Terraced Farming at Sataf

Umm ... which way? Although most signs are in Hebrew, Arabic, and English;
some are only in Hebrew ...

Fig Tree

"Modern" Grape Vineyard. In Biblical times, Grapes rested more on the ground
unless the farmer propped it up with stones or allowed it to grow over a wall. 

Olives on an Olive Tree

Grapes on the Grapvines

One of the Springs at Sataf ... 

Back in the Spring is an enormous cave ... but I didn't end
up going all the way back. 

This is baldie ... apparently he is on the bottom of the pecking order.

Watering System at Sataf - Here it goes under ground. 

Waater is valuable - catch all you can.

Example of foot watering. The trough at the end would be filled with water. Then
just channel the water into the right veggie isle by blocking or unblocking
the entrance  with mud.

Gardening naturally and organically. 

Sataf - Roman Remains

Gardening in Sataf on the Sorek Wadi System

Nearing the Bottom of the Sorek

Me in the Sorek Valley

At the bottom of the Sorek

Back at the Top looking down into the Sorek Wadi System

Driving the Ridge along the Sorek

Approaching ... I don't remember what town ....

But there is a McDonald's Here!

Here we are looking in the direction of Timnah (the home of Sampson wife).
Timnah would be just around the ridge on the right. (At Beit Shemesh)

See that tree that is standing all by itself? That is Zorah - the hometown
of Sampson

Ouch! Watch out what you run into!

Remains at the Tel of Beit Shemesh. Some think there may have been an
Israelite Temple here ... whatever it was the people that moved in next
appear to have purposefully desecrated the area as much animal dung was
found in the next layer. 

Standing in the ancient city of Beit Shemesh ... possibly the home of
Delilah ... who knows?

Remains at Beit Shemesh

Heading back down the Tel of Beit Shemesh to the bus

Entering the Tel of Azeka

Looking down toward the Elah Valley - the Elah valley is actually around the
mountain directly ahead in the distant clearing toward the left side of the
picture. What is significant about the Elah Valley - that's where
David faced Golaith. The Philistines would have been encamped somewhere
along the hill ridge on the upper right. The Israelites on distant hills beyond the
Elah valley. The battle probably took place in the gai to the right of the Elah valley.
Just down this road is Bethlehem and Gibeah - the capital. 

Standing atop Azeka - When the Philistines fled before the Israelites,
they would have gone to either side of the hill I'm standing on. There is an
archaeology dig on the hill just behind me. This may be the first city listed
in chasing the Philistines.

View Along the Road

Quick Stop ... Here is a Roman Mile Marker - When
the Romans ask you to walk their baggage one mike, go with

First Cows I've seen in Israel (Getting Closer to the Coast)

Hey look at that straw bail! It's a giant rectangle. 

Random Ruins along the Road

Hiking up to the Tel of Lachish

What do you do when the sign says no passage? ... Just walk around it :)

The Gate of Lachish - this city only has one gate -
which serves as the "Dung Gate" with the sewage line. 

Overlooking the Tel of Lachish

Lecture Time ... Now where exactly are we?

You can see in all directions from here ... and from most tels for that matter.

Looking back toward the Gate of Lachish

Some Cool Plants ... Bummer, Vern left his flora and fauna
cards back at the college.

Overlooking Temple Site at Lachish

Better shot of the gate.

Standing in the gate of Lachish. 

Looking toward the remains of the siege ramp built by Sennacherib when
he took the city in 701 BC

Lachish from a distance ... the hill to the right is just the dump pile from the
archaeology excavations. Jeremiah states that Lachish, Azekah, and Jerusalem
were the only three walled cities left in the Babylonian siege. A letter was found
here following the fall of Azekah - the fires of Azekah have gone out. The
military unit now looks to Lachish for direction ... almost a "Lord of the
Rings" feel ;)

Approaching Ashkelon 

First view of the Mediterranean!

View of teh Mediterranean from the Tel of Ashkelon

The Oldest Gate in the World

Built by the Canaanites - predating the Philistine takeover

Remnants of the City Walls

Overlooking the Mediterranean.

View of the Mediterranean from the beach

And yes, I've now officially been "in" the Mediterranean :)

More remains at Ashkelon (a Philistine City)

Ashkelon is booming! Construction is everywhere.

And lots of Modern Art

We're in Israel!!!

Looking across a populated portion of the Negev

33 Miles to Arad

Youth Hostel in Arad

And this one got out of order ... this is more remains at

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