Saturday, July 20, 2013

NT Day 11: Judea, Samaria, and the Ends of the Earth

Driving through the Region of Samaria
Today is our last day in the field. It is hard to believe just how fast these five weeks have passed. We left this morning from Jerusalem, heading through Samaria to the New Testament site of Sychar. We began by stopping at Jacob's Well to review the story of Jesus and the Samaritan women at the well. The church is relatively new. Although construction had begun prior to World War I, it was left incomplete. Even in the 70's and 80's the church was open sky with only portions of pillars. In the late 1990's during the intifada, the church was completed in the Byzantine style. Once again, we peaked through the church and headed down to draw water from the 110 foot well. I brought my flashlight with me this time, so I had a chance look down into the well – and yes, it is very deep with very smooth sides. After a quick walk around the church, we headed up to the summit of Mount Gerazim. As it is the first Friday of Ramadan, security is extra tight. We were stopped on the way up for questioning before being allowed up on the mountain. He even called the bus driver out, and "reinforcements" came to check us out. After a quick walk through the bus, we were ushered on way. Apparently, they were under orders to check any bus coming in from Shechem. 

This is where the Samaritan community continues to celebrate Passover
on Mount Gerazim
Once at the Mount Gerazim National Park, we headed up to the Byzantine Chapel Fortress and lookout for a historical lecture on the Samaritans. It has given me a completely new perspective on Northern Israel and the Samaritan's claim to "authentic worship." We tend to look at the Israel through Judah's eyes, but from the eyes of the North, Judah does seem a bit "illegitimate." It was here near Shechem at the Oaks of Moreh that Abraham first settled in the land and built an alter to El. It was here that Jacob purchased land and dug a well. Joseph was Jacob's favorite son of his favorite wife. Out of the twelve sons, Joseph's bones were brought back to this region to be buried. Out of the twelve tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh were the strong ones. According to archeology, this area first began to develop cities. It was Ephraim and Mjanasseh who obeyed the command, subdued their land, and asked for more.  They were the leaders – even though the era of the Judges. Who is Judah? He is the youngest of the un-favored mother. When Samuel appointed a King, he appointed Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, the only full brother of Joseph. If anyone tribe could help bring unity between the tribes, Benjamin would be a good candidate. They were in a central location and close kin of the strong brother. However, Samuel anointed David as the next king from the youngest son of the un-favored mother who himself was the youngest in his family from the little backwater town of Bethlehem. Who is this imposter to infringe on the older brother? And the audacity to build a temple in Jerusalem and move the ark there!? It is here at Shechem and Mount Gerazim that the roots of the Patriarchs are laid. Jerusalem is nowhere mentioned in the Pentateuch. As soon as Solomon's reign had ended and Reheboam came to the throne, Ephraim rebelled with the northern tribes. After all, who is this Davidic line? They are the cultic separation from the true worship of the Lord. Even from the very beginning there have been hard feelings between the brothers with Benjamin caught in the middle. Jews later accused the Samaritans (named such as their capital later became Samaria) as being a "half-breed." Judah has done just as much intermarriage, but with Ezra and Nehemiah, a pure bloodline became important. The Samaritans tried to stop the Jews from building the second temple. In their mind, Judah was trying to reinstate their "cult." With Judah's exile, God had restored the land to them. … It is with this perspective that helps us to understand the Samaritan mindset. A good lesson to be taken from this is that if one fails, God will find another to accomplish his purpose – often someone weaker who has to really on Him.

Looking out over the Sea from Caesarea
From Mount Gerazim in Samaria, we began to make our way to the "uttermost parts of the earth" – all the way to the Caesarea on the coast. On our way, we were stopped at one of the West Bank checkpoints and had a dog brought out to sniff for bombs. All clear. :) Upon arriving at Caesarea, we headed over to the Roman theatre for a short lecture before watching a short video on the history of Caesarea. We were reminded afterward that all the national park videos have an anti-Arab, pro-Israeli twist and the reverse is true for those in the Palestinian region. We then headed over to the Herod's Palace for the last lecture at our last sight on this last day of this five-week study program. Here at Caesarea, Herod took a no name village and built a port with the modern Roman invention of underwater concrete. This moved a lot of traffic here rather than all the way to Tyre and Sidon. This was Herod's favorite place, and certainly the most "Roman" in the region. He named it Caesarea after Emperor Caesar Augustus. We prepared for our departure by launching from the book of Acts. It was here that Peter was called to first bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. It was here that Paul was imprisoned, waiting to catch his "free ride" to Rome. In less than forty-eight hours, I will be in the air for Roman Capitol. 
Driving up through Samaria

Terraced Farming

Example of a tower to keep a watch over fields or vineyards
 - particularly at harvest time.

Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal

Nablus (Ancient Shechem)

Church over Jacob's Well

Jacob's Well, Here Jesus met with the Samaritan Women

Flowers on the grounds of the church

The man dressed in white with the red cap is a Samaritan! The Samaritans
are divided into two communities - one south of Tel-Aviv
and the other one here on Mount Gerizim, each with 300 to 400 people. 

Overlooking the ruins on Mount Gerizim 

Looking down toward Mount Ebal on the left. Shechem
sits right between the mountains, just our of sight. 

This is what you call a fallen arch :)

Mansion on the far side - constructed to look like a Roman Temple.
Apparently the locals don't like him ...

Standing on Mount Gerizim, the mountain of blessings

By the way ... we don't have a blue bus today ... it's white. Caught me off guard
for a second ... "Where is our bus?!"
Getting close to the sea shore!

Aqueducts built by Herod the Great and expanded by Hadrian 

This is the Herodian side

Looking toward the palace at Caesarea

Approaching the Theatre

The amphitheater - still in use today!

The Amphitheater 

Dr. Wright standing in the vicinity where Paul was likely
kept and argued before King Agrippa

Waves crashing against the walkway ...

The Hippodrome 

Mosaic Floors at Caesarea

Southern Cardo before reaching the Crusader Walls

The Crusader Moat 

Looking out toward the direction where Herod's port would have branched
out into the sea

Anchors found in the sea

The many, many sea shells on sea shore

Looking back over Caesarea

The remains of the Byzantine Church - built over Herod's temple to Augustus 

Looking over mostly crusader remains - a few from the Roman period 

Looking out to the sea - Herod's port would have stretched beyond what
is currently visible

Face on a sarcophagus 

The Crusader Gate

Back in Jerusalem passing the "Gate of Jerusalem"

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