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Week 19 Thursday: Belvoir Fortress, Bethlehem: Church of the Nativity, and Herodion

Thank you for reading about my class trip to Egypt-Israel/Palestine!  I am fundraising to pay for the trip so if you would like to learn more about that please click here.

We used 3 categories for everything we saw to distinguish how plausible it was that something actually happened in a particular location.

Categories

1.    Category 1:  There is archeological proof that this is logically the place where “it” occurred.

2.    Category 2:  Somewhere in between Category 1 and Category 3.

3.    Category 3:  Tradition states that this is where “it” took place.  However, there is no archeological proof and usually there is 20 more feet of dirt on top of the location then there was during Jesus’ time (or whatever time we talking about).

Thursday

Thursday morning we set out bright and early to Jerusalem.

Belvoir Fortress

Belvoir Fortress is a fortress that was built during the Crusades by the Crusaders (makes sense).  It was really nice to see and talk about a different time in history and learn a bit about the Crusaders.  Furthermore, the view was spectacular and it was on our way to Jerusalem from the Sea of Galilee.

View from Belvoir Fortress with me in the way:
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Arch at Belvoir Fortress:
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Who were the Crusaders:
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Bethlehem

We arrived to Jerusalem…and drove right through it to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.  As we met right outside the church there was a protest going on across the street over the war in Gaza at the Bethlehem Peace Center.

Protest in Bethlehem:
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We then went inside the Church of the Nativity.  The door to get in is very short, therefore, it is called “the door of humility” because one must bow to go through it.  However, we were told the main purpose was most likely so that a person could not just ride in on a horse.  Honestly, I did not know the history of this church when we entered.  After we entered, a priest came up to our guide and we were asked to leave for 30 minutes for being loud.  I could feel that there was a lot of tension in the church. This is when we learned that the church is split right down the middle with the Greek Orthodox owning one half and the other half belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church.  Apparently, there are set rules about who can go where and the priest get in fist fights every now and again when the other side thinks someone has crossed the line.  It is a very tense place.  We went down and saw the star which is the traditional site where Jesus was born.  This is a category 3.  We were told that it is basically impossible for this to be the site where Christ was actually born.  However, it was still very powerful to be in the spot where so many people come and pray and believe that Christ was born.  After we left, I felt stressed because of the stressful environment and it took me a while to calm down.  I was really sad about how the supposed place of Jesus’ birth had become a place of such conflict.

Video of traditional place where Jesus was born and where the manger was:

Picture of Traditional place where Jesus was born (the star marks the spot):
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Herodion

Herodion is a palace fortress that King Herod the Great built for himself.  Just 2 years ago, the Tomb of Herod was found here which is really interesting.  The tunnel system was incredible and once again I was completely blown away by how much attention was paid to architecture back then.

Herodion

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We then headed back to Jerusalem to the place we would be staying for the next several nights.  From Herodion one can see all of Bethlehem and Jerusalem side by side.  Jerusalem and Bethlehem are separated by a wall, but the cities are conjoined.  I thought there would be some distance between them, but they are practically one city it appears.

Welp, that’s all for now.  I’ll finish the rest of the trip later this week.  Have a great day!

Week 19 Tuesday: Hazor, Caesarea Philippi, Syria, Kursi, and the Jordan

Tuesday

Tel Hazor

Tel Hazor is another Biblical Tel (hill) like Tel Megiddo.  Hazor was one of the most important Canaanite cities and the archeological remains are the biggest and best in Israel.  Hazor is old!  You can find references to it in Joshua 11:1-5, 11:10-13, Judges 4, 1 Kings 9:15, and II Kings 15:29.  It is amazing reading these verses now with a much more concrete idea of where and what they are talking about!  Previously, I just skimmed over these city names because I had no idea where they were, but now they’re real.  So, that is quite a blessing!  This is a category 1.

Oil Press at Hazor
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Sign about Oil Press
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Caesarea Philippi

We journeyed to Golan Heigths (our first occupied territory) so that we could see Caesarea Philippi which is where the ruins of the Temple of Pan are located.

Temple of Pan at Caesarea Philippi
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Caesarea Philippi is where Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is, Matthew 16:13, Mark 8:27, & Luke 9:18.  This is also where Jesus healed the woman (from Paneas) who had been bleeding for 12 years: Luke: 8:43, Mark 5:23, & Matthew 9:20.  This is a category 1.

We then walked an amazing hiking trail.  I honestly thought I was in the flint hills of Oklahoma or Arkansas on a hiking trail.  I had to pinch myself because it didn’t feel like the Israel my mind had formed.  Our hike ended at the Paneas spring which is one of three contributers to the Jordan River.  This is also when we saw a lot of signs for Lebanon and were only miles from Lebanon I believe.

Paneas Spring – 1 of 3 sources of the Jordan River
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We then drove farther northwest until we were at the border crossing to Syria.  We stopped and could see out into Syria for miles.  It was pretty cold so everyone got off the bus and then right back in.  I was the last one back in the bus because I really wanted to just go step in Syria to say hi, but that didn’t happen.  It was really interesting because we could take pictures of Syria, but we could not turn around and take pictures of all of the Israel military defense satellites and such  on the hill behind us.

Picture of Golan Heights and Syria border (the little town in the middle of the pic is the border)
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Kursi

We then went to Kursi National Park which is the traditional place where Jesus healed the 2 demon possessed men and the demons go into nearby pigs who drive them into the Sea of Galilee where they drown: Matthew 8:28-34.  That’s a lot of possible bacon…

Kursi National Park
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Jordan River

Our final stop of the day was the Jordan River which is the river in which Jesus was baptized by John: Matthew 3:5-6, Mark 1:5, Luke 3:3, and John 1:28.  The traditional place where Jesus was baptized is actually in Bethabara, Jordan.  So, we didn’t go there; however, the place where we were is a very popular place to come and be baptized in the Jordan as well.  I believe it is much easier to come to this spot in Israel then the spot in Jordan.  There were pictures of Benny Henn and John Haggee baptizing people there.  There were also plenty of people in the baptismal pool next to us getting baptized.  We were all loud and screaming because the water was cold on our feet…imagine being dunked in it.  Any who, it was very weird.  It was a very holy place, but had been turned into six flags over Jesus…

Video of me in the Jordan:

Me in the Jordan:
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They have Mark 1:9-11 in hundreds of languages all over the Jordan Baptism Tourist Stop
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My 3 studied languages: Latin, Greek, Hebrew
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Week 19 Monday: Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Sermon on the Mount/Plain, Feeding of the 5,000/4,000, and Mountaintop View

Hello from Jerusalem!  I am trying to write down everything that we are seeing and experiencing, but there’s a lot.  So, I decided to break it down by day.  You can click on words in blue to get more information from Wikipedia if you’d like. Thanks for reading.

We used 3 categories for everything we saw to distinguish how plausible it was that something actually happened in a particular location.

Categories

1.    Category 1:  There is archeological proof that this is logically the place where “it” occurred.

2.    Category 2:  Somewhere in between Category 1 and Category 3.

3.    Category 3:  Tradition states that this is where “it” took place.  However, there is no archeological proof and usually there is 20 more feet of dirt on top of the location then there was during Jesus’ time (or whatever time we talking about).

Monday

Monday morning, we got up bright and early and took the bus to the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  There we read John 21 where Jesus comes to the disciples after the resurrection, sees that they can’t catch any fish, tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, and then fish galore.  If you haven’t read John 21 recently…you should, it’s interesting to say the least.

Me with a hand in the Sea of Galilee
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Seminary group on the shores of the Sea of Galilee
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Next, we went to Capernaum.  Matthew 4:13 tells us that when Jesus found out that John had been arrested, he left “Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea.” This is where Jesus heals the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12 which is every Austin Seminary students favorite pericope because we spend our entire Greek exegesis course on this pericope.  So, when our guide asked if anyone knew Mark 2:1-12 everyone moaned “yes” and had grumpy faces.  It was surreal to see Peter’s house where the story I spent hours studying took place.  Over Peter’s house there is now a beautiful Catholic church with a opening in the middle so you can see Peter’s house.  This is a category 2 I believe.

Peter’s house
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We then went to a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church that was in walking distance from Peter’s house.

Next, we went to the traditional place where the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5 took place.  This is a category 3 site, but we were told that it probably occurred a stone throw from where we were.  However, this raises an interesting question because in Luke 6 it is the Sermon on the Plain.  Where we were was definitely not a plain…  It could just be that Jesus preached it twice with different words at different places.  Well, there’s only one thing to do…put it into my God question box.

Sermon on the Mount Video:

From there we went to Korazim which was a city that Jesus condemns in Matthew 11:20 along with Capernaum and Bethsaida.  Apparently, it worked…because none of those cities exist anymore.  Seriously, what could be worse for a city than Jesus condemning it?

We had lunch at a fish place which served fish like Kenya, head and eyes included.  I scarfed mine down because that’s what I lived off of for 2 weeks when I was on Mfangano Island, but I’m not sure everybody liked it.

We then traveled to the Church of the Multiplication (every math teacher’s dream) located at Tabgha.  This is traditionally where Jesus fed the 5,000 (not counting women and children).  Under the Table there is limestone sticking upon which tradition says the baskets were placed.  Here is where the famous mosaic of the 2 fish and 5 loves is located right in front of the limestone beforementioned.  This is a category 3 I believe.

Limestone and Mosaic
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Across the Sea is another site where Jesus fed the 4,000 (not counting women and children) with 7 loaves and “some fish” in Matthew 15 and Mark 8.  We did not go there because 4,000 isn’t as impressive as 5,000…and because it was on the other side of the Sea.

We concluded the day with a mountaintop view of the Sea of Galilee.  From there we also saw Magdala which is the town in which Mary Magdaline was traditionally born and raised.

Video of Mountaintop view of the Sea of Galilee:

(For those reading who were on the trip please correct or comment with your thoughts.  Thanks)

Week 19 Sunday: Leaving Cairo, Caesarea, Tel Megiddo, and Sea of Galilee

Hello from Jerusalem!  I am trying to write down everything that we are seeing and experiencing, but there’s a lot.  So, I decided to break it down by day.  You can click on words in blue to get more information from Wikipedia if you’d like. Thanks for reading.

Sunday

Sunday morning we woke up at 4 AM in Cairo so we could be at the airport extra early to fly to Tel Aviv, Israel.  It is very different traveling with 31 other people than by myself, but our group is full of incredible people so it was actually easier to get through everything with the group than it would have been by myself.  It also helped to have the travel agent take all our passports and check us in as one instead of 32.  They took my swiss army knife (even though it was in my checked bag)…which means no more opening pop in Kenya or Speghettios cans…no bueno.  Any who, we left Cairo and arrived in Israel. The airport in Tel Aviv is one of the nicest airports I have ever been in (and I’ve been in a lot of airports).  We met our guide, Peter, and we were off to the Sea of Galilee where we would stay for the next several days.  However, we had made such good time we decided to stop and see some sights.

My first impressions of Israel were formed by their airport (which as I said was amazing) and then by the wall which they are building to separate Israel from the West Bank.  Israel is not a very large country so we saw the wall many times as we were driving. It seems to me that walls haven’t worked out so well throughout history…and it was just sad to see people building walls to separate themselves.

Any who…

We used 3 categories for everything we saw to distinguish how plausible it was that something actually happened in a particular location.

Categories

1.    Category 1:  There is archeological proof that this is logically the place where “it” occurred.

2.    Category 2:  Somewhere in between Category 1 and Category 3.

3.    Category 3:  Tradition states that this is where “it” took place.  However, there is no archeological proof and usually there is 20 more feet of dirt on top of the location then there was during Jesus’ time (or whatever time we are talking about).

Our first stop was Caesarea Maritima where we saw the double Roman aqueduct of Caesarea and the Amphitheater of Caesarea.

Aqueduct of Caesarea:
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Amphitheater of Caesarea: (Check out the line of Nigerians at the lower left)
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The coolest part architecturally was that Caesarea had a protected harbor which was one of the engineering marvels of its time.

Me looking out at the Mediterrean Sea where the Harbor of Caesarea used to be:
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In Christian history, Caesarea is where the only secular record of Pontius Pilate was found.  Furthermore, it is believed that Peter started the church in Caesarea and that Paul was imprisoned here and wrote his letters from prison.  I believe that the Biblical bo-jazz is a category 2.  So, that’s pretty slick.
We then journey to Tel Megiddo (Tel is Hebrew for “hill” or “mound”).  Tel Megiddo is a city that was inhabited from 7000 BC to 586 BC and is where the word Armageddon comes from.  It is the place that Revelation is referring to when it speaks of Armageddon (good way to start the tour).  The city was located at a major crossroads and was therefore, a very important place strategically.  As our professor described it, one army would be traveling one way and another the other way.  They would meet at the crossroads and then fight.

The most interesting architectural aspect of Tel Megiddo was that they dug a tunnel to their water source.  Their water source was outside the city walls.  So, when they were under attack they couldn’t get H2O.  Therefore, they dug this tunnel through limestone (?) to the water and then closed off the other end.  I wouldn’t want to attempt this today with our technology, so to do it back then is beyond amazing.

A Panorama video of Tel Megiddo:

Jesus’ manger – An example of what Jesus’ manger looked like at the stable of Megiddo:
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We then drove through Tiberius to the place we were staying right on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  The first time I got up to leave the hotel room, I walked out and looked at the Sea of Galilee and was dumbfounded.  This continued for the next 4 days we stayed there.  Thus concludes Sunday…

(For those reading who were on the trip please correct or comment with your thoughts.  Thanks)

Week 18: Memphis, Pyramids, Camels, Copticness, & Such

Hello from the Sea of Galilee in Israel! I will write more about my experience in Israel later, but for now I want to tell you all about my time in Egypt.

Wednesday

The other 31 people in our group arrived very early in the morning after experiencing a nice unexpected 12-hour layover in Germany. Yep, that’s no fun. So, they spent the morning trying to sleep. When they had rested, I got to see everyone which was really nice. When Andy (our Professor) introduced me to the group everyone cheered and I felt all warm and fuzzy inside and missed seminary and the community there. Furthermore, my seminary neighbor, Mary-Elizabeth, brought me some things I wanted from the States and asked everyone else on the trip to bring me essentials from the States (M&Ms, Reeses, and Head & Shoulders). So, it was good to see everyone on multiple levels. We then met our tour guide, Heba, and traveled to the city of Memphis.   Memphis has mostly been covered by another city being built on top of it repeatedly, but they do have an open air museum with a sphinx and a Statue of Ramses II (questionably) which was used in the 10 Commandments movie.

Statue of Ramses II at Memphis:
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Afterwards, we went and visited the Step Pyramid (Pyramid of Djoser) and another Pyramid (Tomb of King Titi) which looks just like a sand hill, but we all went inside of it and it had incredibly beautiful hieroglyphics everywhere.  Who’d a thunk it?

Tomb of King Titi:
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Step Pyramid and I:
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Thursday

Thursday morning we headed to the Giza pyramids bright and early which are right by our hotel. The Pyramids are different than I thought they would be because the Great Pyramid is not in the middle, but is the bigger one on a side.

A short video standing on the Great Pyramid:

Isaac and I standing on the Great Pyramid:
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The Pyramid in the middle was just built on higher ground and still has its shell at the tip top. It’s actually amusing because the middle Pyramid was built by the Great Pyramid builder’s son.  So, rather than build a bigger pyramid than his dad he just built it on higher ground.  The Giza Pyramids were very impressive and something I have wanted to see since the 6th grade and thought I would have to wait until I was retired to see, but the opportunity arose at 25.  Take that world!

The group drove to get a good view of all 3 which was also where we all had a camel ride which was amazing.

A view of the 3: (the Great is on the left)
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A view of the 3 with me:
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When a camel stands up it is very awkward and unusual. My camel’s name was Bartholomew or that was what I called him. It was very surreal to see all 32 of us riding along on camels with the Giza Pyramids in the background.

A video of the camel ride:

A picture of me and Bartholomew:
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Then we all went to see a boat that was buried with the Pharaoh of the Great Pyramid (Great idea!). My seminary neighbor, Mary-Elizabeth, and I left early because we were the only ones that wanted to go inside the Giza Pyramids. So, we got to go inside the middle Pyramid. I found that walking backwards down the very short passage was easier and less strenuous on my back so that ‘s what I did. We went down for a while then level for a while and then up for a while. Then we arrived in the tomb which was unreal.

Video of inside Pyramid:

It was very humid. On our way out I was walking down the short passage and once we came to a place where I could stand up, so I did and there was a very long line of Asians who laughed at me each one in turn as I passed them because I am too tall to be walking around in Pyramids.

We then drove to the other side of town to see a Mosque, called the Citadel.

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Afterward, we had lunch at a boat on the Nile and the meal was very nice. We finally made our way to the Egyptian Museum. I was very excited about this because I distinctly remember in 6th grade learning about Egyptian History.  Even more precisely I remember how captivated I was with the discovery of King Tut’s Tomb. I remember staring at the large picture of King Tut’s face in our textbooks.

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So, when I actually got to see the 28 pound solid gold mask of King Tut and saw my reflection in the protective glass I could visualize the 6th grade me staring at the picture of it at my desk in Broken Arrow, OK. It was a surreal moment.

While at the museum, we also went to see the Mummies. The coolest was Ramses II. It was really crazy to see this 5,000 year old Pharaoh with hair, finger nails, and skin. He was very well preserved, lived to be possibly 100, and had 80 or so children or so the legend goes. Thursday was a very full day.

Pic of Ramses mummy.

Friday

Friday, we drove north halfway to Alexandria to visit a Coptic monastery in Wadi Natrun. We had a very interesting monk show us around who had a wizard beard. He was very knowledgeable and shared his views with us about the Coptic church and theology. It was a good visit.

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Saturday

Saturday, we journeyed to Coptic Cairo, the Ben Ezra Synagogue, which is tradition ridden with Biblical history. The tradition is that this location is one of the possibilities of where Moses was found by Pharaoh’s daughter on River Nile, also where Jeremiah came when he was exiled, and where the exiled Holy Family came when Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt with Jesus because Herod was killing everyone 2 and under. So, it is traditionally a very historic place. When I say “traditionally” it means that there is no archaeological proof, but it is believed/this is an option where it might have happened.

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We then visited the Presbterian seminary in Cairo, the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo (ETSC).  An APTS graduate is working at the seminary and we were invited over to meet with other seminarians.  It was a good last night in Cairo and it was nice to interact with other seminary students from another country.

Goodbye Egypt!
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