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Sunday, June 22, 2014

shopping and falafel

Sunday we had a mini-weekend.  Shopping and falafel.  That's all you need to make it a good one.

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Don't we look clean and well-rested?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

nature hike and a Bible story

Look, clouds!

After our 10,000 degree day, this was a welcome sight.  Perfect for a day hiking through the hill country.

happy, happy
Olive trees, fig trees, almond trees, pomegranate trees, grape vines, flowers, bushes, grass, lizards, springs, farming - best hike yet.  We spent all morning hiking, climbing, learning and playing.

After the most beautiful hike ever, we got to visit these amazing bell caves!  How incredible are these?

Smoothie vending machine.  Brilliant. 

The morning was so refreshing since we've spent the past several days in some intense heat, packing a million sites into a day.  Switching gears for a while was a much needed change of pace.  After lunch, we headed to the archaeological site of Shaaraim, a city dating to David's time where we could have a good view of where David and Goliath battled.

Tomorrow we get the day off.  I'm planning on sleeping in, shopping, and taking it easy.  Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


My oh my, my calves are going to be rock-hard after this trip.  The hike to every site is uphill both ways.  And it is HOT.  Triple-digit-training-for-the-Bearathon hot.  Black-interior-in-your-car-in-Texas-summer hot.  Think of the hottest weather you've been in... yeah, it's hotter than that.

First stop, Nebi Samwil.  This hilltop is the ((traditional)) site of the prophet Samuel's tomb, and currently hosts a synagogue/mosque combo, in peace.  Pretty neat.

That terraced hill is where Gibeon of Bible times was located.


Next we ventured a bit further from Jerusalem to the location of biblical Shiloh.  If you need a refresher from your Sunday school and Bible bowl days, Shiloh is where the tabernacle was located when the Israelites came into the promised land.  Crazy to see the ruins of where the Ark of the Covenant was housed.

exploring Shiloh
uphill trek
Carly and me, being olives, in an olive press
awkward family photo.  also, please note that you can like ancient Shiloh on Facebook.

On to Jericho!  I had never seen an oasis in real life, and it was striking to see all these palm trees and greenery growing up out of the surrounding wilderness.

and more wilderness...
BOOM.  Oasis.
Photo-Sean taking photos.  The bottom portion of that wall he's photographing is about 9,000 years old.  Not an exaggeration.
This portion of the site was a tower dating to 7,500 BCE.  That's 9,500 years old.  This tower goes all the way back to the time of Abraham.  CRAZY OLD.

Ok, so you know the story of Jericho - God says march around it for seven days, the last one blow trumpets and make noise, and the walls fall down?  Now, if you're taking down a wall in a more typical fashion, you would expect the wall to fall in towards the city (think battering rams, etc).  Well get this, the ((terrible)) picture below shows the wall falling outward.  Outward.  Which is not typical.  The way taking a city with trumpets is not typical.
Hard to tell because this picture isn't very good.  But it was 105 degrees (not exaggerating) so we're lucky I snapped one at all.

To wrap up the day, we headed back into the wilderness to get better acquainted with it.  This hike was maybe one of my favorites because it was so different.  The wilderness is 60 miles by 12 miles of land that doesn't sustain agriculture, and it is striking.  Pictures can't do it justice.  It's like looking at the Grand Canyon, or Niagara Falls, or the northern lights, or something.

David wrote Psalm 23 out here, while he was tending his sheep.  It changes things when green pastures and still waters must be found in the wilderness.  What faith David had to be confident in the Lord's provision when he was looking out at this barren landscape.  How beautiful.  How convicting.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

churches, churches everywhere

No way to start the day but with a tomb, right?  We got to see/climb/explore this 1st century tomb - same kind in which Jesus would have been laid.  In Jesus' time, the body of the deceased would be prepared on those benches in the middle, then slid into one of the cubbyholes.  Life and death were a family affair, so your relatives would be in the other cubbyholes.  Which is actually kind of wonderful - forever with all your family members.  Community in life and death.  Much cozier and a lot less morbid.  Is it weird to call a tomb cozy?  Maybe so.

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So there are lots of places in Israel that are very special to us Christians (but I bet you already knew that).  And when the place is special, Christians like to build a church.  Particularly those Byzantine Christians.  Particularly Constantine's mom.  So. Many. Byzantine. Churches.  If it wasn't a Byzantine church, there were remnants of the former Byzantine church under the current church.

Some of these memory churches, like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which I've already shared, are in the correct location.  Others, well... they're in the "traditional" location.  Either way, we visited a ton of churches, and remembered the stories they commemorate.  I've heard these stories all my life, but there is no experience like being on site. Or on the "traditional" site.  Close enough.


In case the day wasn't full enough, we also went to the Herodium, Herod the Great's palace/fortress complex outside of Jerusalem.  Let me tell you, the man could build a palace.  He moved half of one hill to the top of another because that hill just wasn't tall enough for his palace on it's own.  The Herodium had a huge swimming pool with an island, a banquet hall, a bathhouse, a huge courtyard for entertaining - luxurious and ostentatious.

I'm going to have to buy some earplugs so all this knowledge doesn't leak out of my ears.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Old Testament Jerusalem

And we're off again.  There is so much to see in this beautiful city, and the first day we barely scratched the surface.  Day 2 was about seeing Jerusalem again, this time through the lens of the Old Testament.  It's amazing to walk some of the same paths as the first day here, and yet see totally different stories.  We don't see this kind of layering in America, since our nation is so young.  In Israel, the history runs deep, not just of the nation of Israel, but of the other nations that conquered, destroyed, and rebuilt.

Western Wall:

How cute is this little class?

City of David:

Part of King David's Palace.  So surreal to see places that before were just settings in Bible stories.  It really brings into perspective that these people were real people, too, not just characters.
Hezekiah's Tunnel - King Hezekiah built an undergourn tunnel from the walled city to the spring and water resevoir, which were outside the fortified city.  We waded through it.
chacos.  best decision ever.
Look at our short selves touching the ceiling

To top off the day, we checked out the lights festival all around the city.  After getting lost in strolling through the markets, we arrived at Damascus gate, which was being used as a projection screen.  We then followed the trail around the outside of the city back to our hotel and checked out the installations along the way.  Who doesn't love a good festival?

Stay tuned!