Monday, January 26, 2015

Israel: The Road to Jerusalem

The advice CC received from multiple online sources was that it would be safe to drive on a highway straight down to Jerusalem which runs by the Jordan River and is just slightly into the West Bank, but to gas up before you leave and don't stop. No side trips. No stopping for photo shoots. And that was exactly what we did and found to be good advice.  But in following this plan, there were several photographs that alluded me. I finally got right behind this military tank and got a picture.

I kept seeing flocks of sheep, something I see quite a bit in Turkey, but I never tire of them. I just kept missing good pictures, as we whizzed by in the car. Finally I put my camera on a mode that takes multiple shots one after another and just hung it out the window.

And then, finally! I got the shot I wanted.

On our way, CC pointed out Jericho. We thought of Caleb and Joshua. We wondered where they hid out and slept. We thought of Rahab, who had heard of the God of Israel.

We decided that if you are going to drive down a highway in the West Bank, tailing an Israeli tank might just be the best spot to do it.

And then we drew near to Jerusalem, and my Bible scholar husband told me this would have been the desert in which Jesus fasted for 40 days. The sun was setting, and I began to think of Him. From where did He get his water? Was He cold at night? How was He preparing for his soon-to-be encounter with Satan? Did He often consider the beauty of this Earth He had created or did He only see it as sin-ravaged? I could not take my eyes off of the desert hills.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Israel: Beth-shan

Our next stop that day, on the way from Galilee to Jerusalem, was Beth-shan. Beth-shan was a Canaanite city that resisted the attack of the Israelites. It was here that the bodies of Saul and his sons were hung for all to see.

Later, in 700BC, this city was deserted and empty until the Hellenistic period, when it was named Scythopolis, "city of the Scythians."

During the New Testament times, it was part of the Decapolis, with a hippodrome, a theater, and pagan temples.

 It later became a Christian city and was the seat of bishopry.

We hiked up and up and up to the top of a hill. This is from that vantage point.

We read that in this area excavators have found the remains of 18 levels of occupation. The most interesting to me was the Israelite fortress, dating back to 5 years after King Solomon's death. That means Benaiah would have been there.

These are the remains of that fortress.

 Upon my return from Israel, I have certainly read my Bible differently. Before, many times, place names were just given a quick glance by me. Not anymore!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Israel: Castle Exploration

On our drive to Jerusalem, after our baptisms, we stopped to see Belvoir Fortress, a crusader castle. We have seen a few castles here and there, this was the best preserved my kids had ever seen. We read that the Knights Hospitaller purchased the land from a French nobleman in 1168 and began to build the castle then. It was designed to stop the Muslim invasion of Jerusalem. It's Hebrew name means "Star of the Jordan."

The moat was so striking. We wondered at the drawbridge and talked about how it might have looked.

There were lots of nooks and crannies. Dungeons? For kids who didn't do their homework?

We found a spot to get into the dried-up moat.

And this was a hole from which an arrow could be shot, giving the knight protection. These arrow holes were placed in both the inner and outer fortress walls.

This is what they think it might have looked like at one time. The concentric design of this castle influenced castle design for many centuries later.

And from this vantage point, we could see Gilad Mountain (Gilead).

 We could also see the country of Jordan.

That little river snaking in the center of the picture is the Jordan River! It gets thin in spots.

My kids listed this among their favorites.  We are a Narnia and Lord of the Rings lovin' family, so it was fun to see and place and think about the past and who might have lived there.

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