Sunday, January 14, 2007
Reflections on the Holy Land, Part 1
I have recently returned from a ten day trip to the Holy Land and I have a lot on my mind. I plan to write a series of posts on my experience asking questions along the way. First let me begin by giving a brief recap of my trip.
The trip was one that I put together rather hastily within about three weeks. I applied for a development grant from NPU to go to Israel for academic development in the areas of geography and archaeology and I had a short window in which to use the funds--given our pregnancy.
I spent four nights three days in Jerusalem, three nights two days in Galilee and one night two days in Dead Sea region primarily in the area of Ein Gedi.
While I was in Jerusalem I attached myself to the Jerusalem University College located on Mount Zion. Dr. Paul Wright, the director of JUC, hosted me and helped me organize my trip. I am very impressed by JUC. Their location is amazing and their faculty boasts of experts in the fields of archaeology, historical geography, and rabbinics, just to name a few. Figures like Anson Rainey, recently authored The Sacred Bridge, have been teaching courses at the college for nearly 40 years. I join in for a few days on their intensive geography class. We took two walks around Jerusalem including Jewish and Christian Quarter, the City of David as well as surveyed several approaches to Jerusalem, such as the Mt of Olives, Mt Scopus, and Bethlehem.
After a few days in Jerusalem, I rented a car and drove north toward Galilee. My goal for this section of the trip was to get a sense of the Galilee that Jesus and his disciples transversed over the period of his mission. On the way, I drove west through Tel Aviv up the coastal plain toward Acre (Ptolemais) stopping in Caesarea. I visited on a windy, rainy day, but it took nothing from the power of the place that was visited by Peter, several times by Paul and the home of Eusebius and Rabbi Judah haNassi.
I spent a few hours there before continuing to head north and east through upper Galilee. What impressed upon me most was how moutainness the region is. Jesus walked the length and breadth of this most rugged of regions.
Getting to my hotel on the Sea of Galilee after dark, the following two days I visited sites such as Gamala, Sepphoris, Banyas (Caesarea Phillipi), Mt Hermon, Nazareth, Capernaum, Chorazin, Bethsaida, Mt. Tabor and Tiberias. I think the most interesting aspect of this part of the trip was to read Josephus' War as visited places like Gamala. This was true of my visit to Masada as well. In addition, I visited the Mount of Beatitudes, the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, the Church of the Primacy of St Peter and the so-called "Jesus Boat" at Kibbutz Ginosar.
The last two days of the trip I headed down to the Dead Sea region. I did some hiking on the cliffs around Qumran, visited Masada and, most excitingly, I joined in on a dig at Ein Gedi on my last day.
The trip was productive and formative for me.
Posted by Joel Willitts at 7:10 AM