Friday, July 19, 2013

NT Day 10: Golan Heights

Dolmens - very ancient standing stones on the Golan Heights. We're not 
sure what they were used for or even how theses enormous stones were 
moved. Archaeologists have suggested one's like these are burial markers. 
Others have been deemed cultic (which is the fall back answer for,
we're not sure)
This morning we said goodbye to the Sea of Galilee and headed up north to the upper Golan. Along the way, we stopped to take in the view of the land of the Rephiem and Og, King of Bashan. The land here is very rough and tough, making the people correspondingly rough. The people here were very independent. Often revolts were bred here – even up to modern times. Our ultimate destination was at Gamla – the final stand of Jewish independence in the 66/67 AD revolt. After an excellent lecture on Josephus and the battle that took place here, we discovered that this is actually not Gamala, but Solyma. Though we cannot say for sure, there is a near identical place up the wadi into Syria. At present excavations have not and probably will not be done anytime soon. Regardless, Solyma was one of the cities that rebelled against Rome. What ultimately happened at Gamala also happened here – sieges and all. Either way, for our hike we will pretend the site is Gamala. Today, the park encompasses a modern Syrian village evacuated in 1967 as well a vulture sanctuary and the tel we call Gamala.

Political independence was a huge issue; both in the first century era as well as the modern day. Often as American westerners, we take our freedom for granted. We may get upset with the latest election, but here we are talking near slavery under the various ruling empires. This fed the desire for a political messiah - someone to restore the kingdom, restore their livelihood and resources. Remember that the local population may be paying as much as 80%!

From Gamala, we headed back south, setting our face toward Jerusalem, but like Jesus, our route to Jerusalem will take us through Jericho and over the Mount of Olives. At Jericho, we hiked out to Herod's Palace. From here, we could see Herod's fort in the hills. Herod's palace, in typical Herodian style, was elegant to the last detail. Elegant bathhouses, aqueducts, round walls, and even a bridge across the wadi – all testify to Herod's brilliance. Our final destination was atop the Mount of Olives. From here, we reminisced on Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem. 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. Whereas David fled Jerusalem weeping and returned rejoicing centuries before, Jesus returns to Jerusalem weeping. Just down the hill, 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, but praise the Lord. He stayed and took our place!

The Dolmens dot the country side

The Syrian village remains from 1967 at "Gamala"

Lecture on the inter-testament period here in the Galilee/Golan Region.
Although this place is labeled Gamala - the last Jewish stand in the North,
more recent evidence points to a place further north in the wadi into Syria as
the actual location. However, this city too had the same fate as Gamala

Josephus describes Gamala like a Camel's Hump

Olive Press

Today there are three, make that four attractions at Gamala: the Syrian
Village from 1967, the ancient city of 'Gamala,' the vulture sanctuary, and ... 

The Waterfall ... 

Way back there at the end of the canyon ... don't think I'll have time to hike
to the top of Gamala and get back to the waterfall in time

Going  Arab style for this hike ;)

Looking up the wadi canyon


The synagogue at Gamala

Looking back toward the water fall

Looking down toward the rift valley

Lots of Climbing :)

Lunch Time

Driving down the rift valley to Jericho

Overlooking Herod's Palace in Jericho

Looking up the mountain toward Herod's Lookout Fort - Herod even had
fresh water baths build up there!

The base of the bridge that used to span the wadi

Dr. Wright explaining it's construction

Looking into one of the colonnaded porches 

Although the actual tile stones are long gone, the molding still retains the
shape of the elaborate tile. According to the findings, they would have been
brightly colored - similar to those used in the flooring of the Temple Mount

The walls would have been covered in plaster and frescoes (painted)

The far room of the bathhouse 

Local Palestinian kids giving us a show

Fresh squeezed Orange Juice - waiting at the bus for return

Goat Crossing

Last Glimpse of the Dead Sea before I leave the country 

Last Glimpse of the Judean Wilderness ... 

The Augusta Victoria on the Mount of Olives

Looking over the Mount of Olives toward the Old City

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