Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Day Seventeen: Samaria Field Study

Hiking up to Tel Balata (Ancient Shechem)
Today we started out by heading north from Jerusalem on the water ridge route up past Gibeah, past Shiloh, to Tel Balata, the ancient site of Shechem. We entered though the Western Gate and over to the main temple fortress. Here we discussed the Shechem's rich history. It was near Shechem that Abraham sacrificed to Yahweh when entering the land. It was near here that Jacob dug a well on his own land. It was at Shechem that Dinah was raped and her brothers Simeon and Levi slew every male in the city. Shechem sits at the base of Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal – the mountains of blessing and cursing in Joshua. Interestingly, the conquest of Shechem is not mentioned. Perhaps the city was "kin" to Israel. The women and children left by Simeon and Levi had been incorporated into the Jacob's entourage. Likely, many may have remained in the area. Food for thought … Anyhow, Joshua set up a memorial stone here at Shechem and later kings came here to be coronated by the standing stone next to the oak tree in Shechem. It is possible that this standing stone is the one down from the Temple Fortress. We jumped back on the bus and headed over to Jacob's well. Today, the well is under an Eastern Orthodox Church. This site is one of the more sure locations in the Holy Land. It was here that Jesus talked with the Samaritan women. While standing by Jacob's Well, we read the account from John 4. And yes, the well is VERY deep! (135 feet!) We were able to draw up a bucket and drink from the well of Jacob. It tasted … well, like water. :)

Sitting on the Walls of Samaria
Our next stop was at the city of Samaria. Omri and Ahab moved their capitol here from Tizrah. Although there is not much left here from Ahab, there are the remains of a temple to Augustus, a Roman Forum, and portions of the city wall. We wrapped back around and got a shot of the theater  We ate our pack lunch at an adjoining restaurant. While in this region of Palestinian control, we were the tourist attraction. This area does not get too many tourists. It was actually just recently that the Israeli government reopened the area to Shechem for non-residence. The whole region is rather trashy with LOTS of auto shops. Those who purchased items in the gift shop had their items wrapped in newspaper. The gentleman was very careful not to include any parts of the newspaper than contained scripture verses or the name of allah for fear that they could be thrown away or trampled upon.

Our next stop in this region was up to Mount Gerizim. Here we had an excellent overview of hills and valleys in the region. On our way up, we passed the site where the Samaritans continue to hold Passover. The Samaritans are descendents of foreign captives placed in the region by Assyria after the 722 BC captivity of Samaria. Over time, they intermingled with the lower Jewish class producing "a half breed" of Jews. The Samaritans only accept the Pentateuch as authoritative, and in their opinion, it was the Jews who strayed from the true worship of Yahweh. They had built a temple on Mount Gerizim to worship Yahweh, but it was destroyed by John Hycranus. This certainly did not help relations between the Jews and Samaritans. Today there are roughly 700 to 800 "purebred" Samaritans left. As the group has only married within, accepting no outsiders, they have a few Genetic problems and have just open up "citizenship" to outsiders. Tension still exists today between Jews and Samaritans.

Entering the park of Shiloh
Our final destination for the Historical Geography Class was at Shiloh. Here we hiked up to a saucer like overlook for a lecture on the city. The tabernacle was set up here in the days of Joshua up through the days of Eli. Hophni and Phineas took the Ark of the Covenant as a good luck charm against the Philistines. Instead, Hophni and Phineas were killed, and the ark taken. When word came back to Eli that the ark had been taken, he fell over backward, broke his neck, and died at the age of 98. The ark made its way back to Kiriath Jearim where it remained until David brought it up to Jerusalem. Additionally, it was here that the remaining 200 Benjamites took their wives at one of the feasts. We walked to the northern side of the ancient city where the location of the tabernacle may have been. There is cut down to the bedrock, roughly the size of what the tabernacle would have been. The cut fits the right pattern. The entrance would be toward the east and the Holy of Holies on the west side. When approaching I was somewhat hesitant to actually step into the tabernacle area. Although today it is just rocky stretch of ground, just the prospect of the tabernacle resting here for such a length of time, made me second guess stepping on such "holy ground." As I walked across toward the rough location of the Holy of Holies, the song came to mind, "We are Standing on Holy Ground." We then headed back to the bus and back to campus. It was a bittersweet drive. This chapter is closing and new one is about to begin. … But before that new chapter starts, we've got an exam to study for! ;)
Driving through Samaria

Look at the sheaves of grain ... reminds me of Joseph's Dream

City Wall of Shechem

The North West City Gate

Looking over the Tel of Shechem
The Temple Fortress and Mount Gerizim in the background

Looking over the Temple Fortress

The Large Standing stone may be the Memorial Stone set up by Joshua
but we can't say for sure. Reheboam came here to be crowned king as
well as several of the northern kings after the split. Shechem was the first
capital of the northern kingdom. It was later moved to Tizrah and finally
to the city of Samaria.

Looking up towards Mount Ebal - (recall the Mountains of Blessings and
Looking down into Shechem

Another Shot of Mount Gerizim

Being crowned king of Shechem ;)

Looking back toward the standing stone and the temple fortress

Approaching the East Gate

Standing at the threshold of the city 

And yes, we are in the State of Palestine

Tel Balata - Ancient Shechem

There are lots of auto stores and shops all over the place around here!

Arriving at Jacob's Well

Standing outside the Orthodox church that now sits
on top of Jacob's Well

Inside the Church

Paintings on the Ceiling 

Some fancy looking chairs! 

Looking toward the alter - the stairs to go down to Jacob's well is
directly ahead

Looking up into the dome

Looking back toward the entrance to the Church

Here's why this church is significant - Jacob's Well
Which is the location where Jesus met with the Samaritan
Women at the Well

The church didn't want any pictures taken downstairs as
they wanted to sell you their own, but I slipped this blurry
one in :)

That's a  problem ... 

Palistinian Children wanting a donatioc ... I guess for being children

Meat Market ... quite fresh by the looks of it! 

Roman Forum at Samaria

Not much left from the Omri dynasty, here are the remnants of a wall from
this era. 

Hiking to the top of the tel. 

Looking across from Samaria

Walking down to the theatre

Standing in the (Roman) Samarian Theater 

Outlook across the valley

Back to Forum

And that is a wine-skin ... 

Lunch Time

Driving through Samaria ... Very Similar to the Hills of Judah, but a bit more
open, larger valleys, etc.

Walking out to the top of Mount Gerizim

Byzantine Wall

Overlooking the Byzantine church

Standing on Mount Gerizim overlooking the valley below

Refugee Camp seen from Mount Gerizim

Byzantine Remains on Mount Gerizim

Arriving at Shiloh

Hiking to the top of Shiloh 

The saucer atop Shiloh ... we decided we need have a StarTrek tour of Israel
and visit all the saucers around the land ;)

Outlook to the west. It would have been in this direction that the ark left
Shiloh as good luck charm under Hophni and Phineas.

Walking to the north end of Shiloh where the tabernacle may have been.

Standing in-front of the location of the Tabernacle - the Holy of Holies would
have been somewhere back behind me within your site. 

Looking back toward the saucer on our way back to the

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