Hello my friends 🙂
I’m sorry it has taken so long for me to write this blog! I started one the other day but my draft has disappeared into space so here I go again! I have so much to share that I will surely miss so much, but that’s okay. The first thing I would like to tell you about is from last week, when we helped assemble food packages for Holocaust survivors. ICB gives 90 food packages each month to the survivors, with foods such as tinned tuna, tinned vegetables, spaghetti, pasta sauce, all sorts. The bags were huge by the end of the line! Each person ‘manned’ 2 or 3 foods, and the bag was passed along, and we put 1 or sometimes 2 of our foods in the bag and kept passing it. I was on the pickles and olives. It was interesting to learn that almost all of the Holocaust survivors are living right here in Netanya, and that they are especially vulnerable because they are all elderly, and they have very little trust for anybody because of what they have been through. Often their families have left them because they are too hard to deal with. So to help in the tiniest way was really awesome, and I hope I can come to understand the situation more. This is one reason for Jews to not like Christians…because Hitler was a “Christian”. So for Christians to be able to love the survivors in such a practical and gentle way (no preaching) is pretty special I think. The word ‘Christian’ is very scarcely used here. Jewish Christians call themselves ‘believers’ (in Yeshua- Jesus).
Okay so that’s good! That’s the first past done. Now, onto the field trip! What an INCREDIBLE time. It was so wonderful, that I need to urge you reading this, COME TO ISRAEL. You will not regret it! As much as I can explain my experiences, and show you photos, it will still only look like a pile of rocks to you, until you come here and see for yourself. I am seeing so many things for the first time, physically, and spiritually. So many of the things that I read over in the Bible, I now realize are actually vital to understanding the fullness of the Bible. So, where to start? At the beginning I suppose! Our field trip was for 2 nights, so this is gonna be a long blog so if you don’t have a cup of caffeinated tea in front of you, go get one and come back! 🙂
Stop #1 was at Gezer! Gezer is in the tribe of Ephraim, and it actually wraps right around the Tel (Tel means mountain/big hill so whenever I say Tel-something it means there is a hill involved). So we were standing in the tribe of Ephraim, looking out over the tribe of Dan…
(this is off Google because I’m a cheater)
We got a little stuck in the bus, so we had a bit of a hike up to the actual site. We walked through agricultural land, there was cotton all over the ground from a recent harvest, then we walked up past an olive grove (I now love olive groves but I ate one un-ripened olive just for the experience and I definitely regret doing that) and a vineyard. Okay so I think that if I try to tell you EVERYTHING, I will never finish this blog so I’m just gonna say the highlights. I must say that it is super cool to be walking along the path and find lots of pieces of broken pottery that are from Old Testament times…but pretty uncool that we aren’t allowed to bring any of it home with us! Okay, so Gezer. First we came to the remains of the Canaanite gate joined by the city wall, to a watchtower. Inside the gate, kinda going under it, is a water tunnel. Water tunnels are a very important part of all cities, because the survival of cities depends upon having water. If you have no water, everybody dies. If an enemy wants to destroy a city, one way is to take it’s water source. So, if the water is accessible from outside the city walls, that makes the city really vulnerable. On most sites we visited, understanding the water system was pretty vital. In this Canaanite city, there was a water tunnel. Here are a few pictures…
The next cool thing we came to was Solomon’s gate. Okay so in 1 Kings 3:1, Solomon marries Pharaoh’s daughter, and 1 Kings 9:16-17 says that Pharaoh gives the town of Gezer (which he had captured from the Canaanites) to his daughter and Solomon as a wedding gift which is a very nice present. So, this gate is called Solomon’s gate. Something I find cool are the gates to most fortresses and cities. Here is a picture to help me explain…
So the entrance is the far side. This whole structure is just the gate. So the walls that that are sticking out into the center would have had a gate across. Obviously, this has been destroyed since, and everything would have been much higher, this is just the foundations. So there would have been 3 gates within the actual gate, if that makes sense. Behind the gates, in the little hidey holes, would have been a guard. So, 3 gates, 6 guards, making it much harder for an enemy to enter through the gates. I feel like I haven’t explained this gate system very well but don’t know how I can explain better! Joined onto the gate were lots of other rooms, I don’t know what they were but here’s a photo. Remember that the structure nearest is the same gate as the photo above, maybe this gives you a better understanding of what I’m explaining. Also, Solomon was a good man and on the bottom left you can see a water trough for his friend’s horses, just inside the gate :)…
Okay so we kept walking for a while and then we came to a lookout, where we looked out over a valley. I’m gonna cheat and insert a part of my assignment into this blog to explain…“We sat on the south side of the Tel, and looked out to the West, to the tribe of Dan, where a part of Joshua 10 took place. The King of Jerusalem called together 4 other kings, hoping to destroy Gibeon, because of their alliance with Joshua. Gibeon sent word to Joshua, asking for help, and Joshua and his troops came and chased the enemies all the way down to Azekah and Makkedah, killing them as they went. On the road from Beth-horon, God killed many with a big hail storm, and after Joshua prayed for the sun to stand still, the sun DID stand still until all of the enemies were defeated. The valley that we were looking over was where the sun stood still.”
So it was cool. Here’s a photo of the valley:
So we got to envision Joshua and Gibeon chasing the enemies down over that hill and then they chased them out the right side of this photo. I think I’ll end this section here, but there is so much more I could tell you all! We saw an alter, some mandrakes, fifty million lizards, and some really awesome rocks.
STOP #2 (now you are realizing that I was serious about that cup of tea): BEERSHEBA. You will recognize that name, but in modern day it is called Be’er Sheva. If you read my last post you will know about how many Biblical sites have retained their names, or they have changed just slightly. Okay, Beersheba. What happened here? I’m going to cheat again and insert some assignment in here…”The main Biblical event to take place in Beersheba was Abraham’s peace treaty with Abimelech (Genesis 21:22-33) by a well. Abraham named the place ‘Beersheba’ because it means ‘well of the oath’. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree to mark his treaty with Abimelech, and then he worshipped the Lord there. The settlement of Beersheba is not likely to have belonged to Abraham because it was built after his time. Hezekiah, who ruled Judah from 715 BC to 687 BC, was a good king, who did what was right in the Lord’s sight. He destroyed all of the pagan idols and shrines, and we saw on our field trip, the storehouses which were built with the remains of the idols and shrines. Archeologists found a four-horned alter built into the walls of the storehouses.” So yes. Here is a photo of a replica of the alter which was found:
The tamarisk tree is also a notable feature. It excretes this crazy salty sap from it’s leaves- the leaves are like that of an evergreen. Apparently our group has a thing for eating trees- we ate some of this too, it was super salty. Anyway, moving on. There is a big excavated city in Beersheba which was very unlikely to be built by Abraham or to have existed in his time.
Something it would be good for you to understand is that on most of these sites, on the walls there is usually a “reconstruction line”, which is a slither of cement that was put in to show where the original wall was, and where they built onto, in order to give us a good idea of what it would have looked like. So I hope you can see the line in this photo…
This is the photo of the city gate, with a well outside (hmm…bad idea, right?). You can see where there is a trough for horses, camels, mules, all of those cool animals 🙂 The gate behind is where all important decisions would have been made. A few metres in, on the left, is another gate structure like Solomon’s gate- with the three smaller gates.
This is the town from up high- can you spot the gate from the photo above? It’s on the left, about 3/4 of the way up the side. So you can probably spot the 3-gate structure I was talking about too. Here is one of the trillion Israeli lizards. They are the best lizards I’ve ever seen!
Beersheba also has a water tunnel, which was built under Hezekiah’s rule (he didn’t live in Beersheba but it was within his kingdom, so he had this tunnel built). We actually got to walk through this tunnel. Very cool!
This is the walk down to the entrance of the water tunnel.
Inside the water tunnel!
Okay I will leave this here! Oh guys you have no idea how much I’m taming my writing!
STOP 3#: ADVAD in the Negev desert. This is probably my favorite spot of the whole field trip. It is stunningggggg. It’s a town on top of a Tel, and again, I will share some of my assignment on this place…(it’s easier than typing it all again!) “Avdat is a beautiful settlement atop a tel, which is situated on the ancient incense route. This would provide opportunity for the people of Avdat to provide services for passing camel caravans and other travelers. In about 300 BC, Nabateans occupied Avdat. Nabateans were a group of Arabs who transported goods such as incense, perfumes, silver, gold, textiles, spices, and medicinal plants to the port of Gaza, from Yemen and Saudi Arabia. In 106 AD, Nabatean King Rabell II passed away and Advat was taken over by the Roman Empire. It grew and prospered, but in 700 AD was destroyed by an earthquake, and was later abandoned.”
From the road, it looks very uninteresting but when you get up there it’s this incredibly beautiful, huge city with the most incredible history, with awesome insight into the time in which the city existed and functioned. The first thing we came to was a Roman watchtower. From that tower you can see SO far away! On all sides, you’d be an idiot to miss an approaching army, and there was probably an extra floor before the city was destroyed. These are taken on top of the watchtower (where you come up the stairs from the bottom story of the tower, and the view from one side)…
And these are an example that will hopefully give you an idea of what it is like to walk through the streets of this ancient city! Again, I don’t think you can’t really feel the wonder unless you’re here…
Okay! So now we move on. We went through the gate into this awesome fortress (I think it was a fortress, there are so many different words that I’m wrapping my head around).
These next photos are super cool too. So most cities would have 2 churches- one that people went to, and one that nobody did. Go figure. So, this is the one where people did go. It was within a monastery, and this is the chapel part. The marble part at the front is a replica, the real thing is in a museum.
This is the other chapel, called the Nabatean chapel. This is a baptistery, which is also a replica because the real thing is in a museum. You can see that there is a little round basin on the left, which would have been for babies, and in the centre, a cross-shaped one for adults, but do you think you could fit 2 people in there? Nope. Unless you were overly creative. So we would assume that in this time period, people were baptized without a priest or elder in the water with them.
Okay this next thing is again, SUPER COOL. Everything is so cool here! These are homes built into the side of the cliff. So cool! There are little doors between rooms. I would totally live in one of these.
That’s all I’ll say for Avdat. This was our last site for day #1 of our field trip (yes, that means I still have 2 days to tell you about, but that can be for another day I think). We stayed at a nearby field school, which was so crazy beautiful. It is situated on the cliffs of the Negev, so our backyard for a night was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen! Before tea, Kimberly and I went for a walk and saw the desert, went for a walk through the bush, saw our first Ya’elim and saw the graves of Ben and Paula Ben-Gurion (first Israeli president). We ate at the cafeteria there, and after tea I ventured outside by myself and sat on the edge of the desert and watched the starts and listened to the sounds. Someone gave me advice a long time ago to sometimes just stop and breathe. So I did. I was imagining what the children of Israel heard and felt as they were wondering when God would bring them into the promised land (where we were was just inside the Southern border of the promised land). It was beautiful. I met two Christian girls as I was sitting there, and they sat down and talked to a stranger. It was a good experience that opened my eyes to something I haven’t yet encountered here: defeat, hopelessness. One of the girls was from South Africa, and the other was Israeli, and they were both speaking about how they felt no hope for Israel, and one line I will roughly quote is “I’m sick of having to know where my closest bomb shelter is, and planning everything I do around where I can be near a bomb shelter”. And another…”When I look at a class of students and know that two in that class will die defending our country, how can I feel hope?” I am glad for knowing them, because from Christian people here in Israel, I have found that they have hope in God and in His plans for Israel. This encounter called me to prayer for those who have lost hope. So, people reading this, pray! Pray for the believers here, that God will restore their hope and strength and trust in Him. Pray that they will be the light and the salt in this country. It is difficult here, with only 2% of the population being believers in Christ. I know high school girls who are the only believers in their schools. I hope that this small insight from me can resound in your hearts and that you will pray for these people 🙂 Here are photos taken from the field school…
A few of us woke up early to watch the sunrise over the desert… here is a photo of me that Kimberly secretly took of me 🙂 I like it because it kinda a little bit shows how huge the desert is! Thanks Kimberly! Andd…the sunrise over the desert.
Oh, also, I made a lot of cat friends here. There are so many cats. It’s like, as soon as I make eye contact with the cats, they come to me. So, here are some cat friends I’d like you to meet…
Okay so I’m gonna leave this here, but in the next few days I will hopefully post the next part of our field trip, it will include donkeys, camels, Jerusalem, terrorism, more rocks, more alters, the holiest of holy places, Bedouins shepherds, and prickly pears. So get excited. If you made it this far, I salute you! Much love my friends, much love!