The Last Bit in Israel

The last field day was my third sick day in Israel. On one hand, I’m sad to have missed the last day. On the other, my body could not be willed out of bed. I spent the day sleeping, reading The Eye of the World, talking with my sister, and sleeping some more. There was a brief respite from sleep when I could hear demonstrations passing through the Jaffa Gate. I later found out this was the anniversary of the first day of the Six Day War. Had I more energy, I would have gone out to see who it was and why they were marching on the city.

The next day brought on the final exam of the Israel course. We were given a review of the Tel Aviv airport so we can get back to the States as easily as possible. Afterward, graduation time! Dr. Phillips gave us our certificates that proved our completion of the course one at a time. One of the Canadian pastors of the group gave us little pins of the Canadian flag as a good-bye present. The rest of the day was filled with jovial activities, lovely conversation, delicious food (courtesy of the Gloria Hotel), followed by a rousing game of spoons on the terrace of the hotel.

Saturday was filled with Jordan prep (aka laundry) and more rest. A few of us went into the Old City for some shopping. I assumed the role of personal shopping assistant as we went through shop after shop in the Christian Quarter.

The rest of the nigh was filled with last minute hugs and story-swapping with the folks that would not be joining us for the leg in Jordan…which was all but seven of us. Of course there were some more games to be played on the terrace—spoons and backgammon galore!

Unfortunately, Sunday greeted us with an early farewell from our friends heading back to North America. We all finished packing for Jordan and hung out over at JUC for a bit. After lunch, a few of us made our way to Shorashim Shop in the Jewish Quarter.

This shop is a unique fixture in the corner of the Jewish Square. Two brothers from Canada who happened to be Othodox Jews opened up this shop over twenty years ago to learn about commerce and small business in Israel; however, the mission of the shop quickly shifted to be a safe space for dialogue. The brothers welcome any questions about Judaism that you could have. One of the brothers showed us the “JUC Shuffle”–looking around at the painting for about five minutes but not really that interested until they muster up the courage to ask the shop owners the question that brought them there. Even though we were only there for about an hour, I learned how much I have yet to learn about Jews. We discussed the distribution of space to each gender along the Western Wall to how Jews and Christians look at Atonement Theory differently. The main thing I walked away with is that I don’t even have a basic understanding of what Jews belief let alone what they are looking for in a Messiah. I’m glad I’m taking Dr. Wilson’s Modern Jewish Culture class in the Fall!

Since it was our last night in Israel before Jordan, some that had not left for home yet had dinner with us at the Gloria. I’m going to miss Jerusalem!

 

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Amazonians and Hypocrites

The theme for today should have been, “Artistry.” The beauty from the mosaics, to the landscapes of God’s design, to the engineering of the theater, the hand of the Artist is everywhere.

Zippori (Sepphoris) developed how I suspect the Roman Empire wanted Jewish cities to develop—by slowly acclimating to the culture, caring more about their lives than religious conviction. Sepphoris embraced Hellenism in architecture, mosaics, etc.

I like the possible connection of Joseph (and possibly Jesus) working on the palatial structures in Sepphoris. Because the structure was a major building project for many years, it was likely that carpenters (which were stone masons in this region in antiquity) were brought in from surrounding towns. Nazareth was within a reasonable radius to commute to Sepphoris on a daily basis. Even though Sepphoris was not mentioned in the Gospels, this city can be considered as “Jesus’ backyard,” so understanding the culture, people, and land of Sepphoris is helpful in understanding the nuances of Jesus’ teaching. For instance, Jesus often used the image of “hypocrites.” That was the word used for “actor,” and Sepphoris was a major Hellenistic city. One of the major forms of entertainment was the theater, so hypocrite would be something that Jesus and his audience would be very familiar with.

I adored that they had a whole mosaic section on Amazon women. I’ve always had an affinity for strong, fit women, but the myth behind their name freaked me out a bit. “A” meaning “no” and “mazon” meaning “breast,” the myth says the Amazon women cut off their right breast to draw arrows better. This myth goes against what I loved about the Amazons: strong, curvy, empowered women who didn’t need to change who they were to be powerful forces. Despite the myths, the mosaics of them portrayed rather epic women (with both breasts)! Sepphoris really was a cultural center with a collage of Greco-Roman and Egyptian influence–as shown by the main mosaic floor with animals depicted from both those regions. After Zippori, we headed out to Mount Precipe where we remember where the people tried to push Jesus over the precipice.

At the Mount Precipice, I was kind of zoning out. After the lecture was over, three men from Nazareth came up to preach. My soul was rejuvenated and challenged by their testimonies. Do I try to drink from both Satan’s and God’s cup? Do I try to eat from both their tables? The men’s courage to preach without knowing where each of us are with Jesus is inspiring and convicting. I’m so happy I got to experience that.

We ended our inclusio day on Greco-Roman influence at Beth She’an. Throughout our visits to theaters, I have had the urge to sing “O Mio Babbino Caro.” I decided to stay behind after our group left and just let it out. Little did I know, an Italian group enter the theater when I started singing. Apparently, there were a few cameras and smartphones recording me. When I stopped singing, a man started singing back to me in Italian and we had some operatic banter—so fun! The space had beautiful acoustics. I only wish my voice was more in shape so my technique was better! The rest of Beth She’an was fairly hazy from the heat. Eating an almond covered magnum bar while leaning on the model of Beth She’an while watching the birds in the vines along the terrace was a rather glorious end to that day.

Now back to Jerusalem for a few days before I head out for Jordan for two weeks.

Originally written June 5, 2014.

Sailing on the Sea of Galilee

To leave Ein Gev and head towards the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee, we took a boat! It probably would have felt more “authentic” if it had been at night with the wind, giant waves, and darkness, but safety is good too. It took longer than I expected, but that may have been due to the angle we were going and the stop in the middle for some reflection courtesy of Dr. Mathewson.

The frustrations of not going to the bathroom for free at the museum or the following church clouded most of the enjoyment out of the sights at the first church we visited. I understand from an economic standpoint they could probably use the money, but it feels like it sucks the sanctity out of a site. It’s a constant reminder that people live here; it’s not just a place for tourist and pilgrim and enjoyment.

The Arbel Cliffs was everything I hoped it would be. I could sit on the cliff and stare off in the distance all day long if we didn’t have such busy days planned! It feels as though most places we visit have a fairly positive or neutral story associated with it along with a gory tale ending with lots of death. Arbel was no different. The horrors Herod committed are coming more alive with each day. No wonder the Jews yearned for a messiah to overthrow the political power with all the mass murdering Herod did. It’s unfortunate that Herod couldn’t commit his brilliant mind to something more positive (because dropping soldiers down in baskets is rather sharp.) To use Dr. Phillips’ comparison, Herod spent his life building his own kingdom while Jesus spent His life building the Kingdom. How often do I act like Herod and put all my energies towards my own selfish desires at the expense of others and God?

The rest of the day felt rather disjointed, but Capernaum was lovely. Again, it felt overly commercialized, but the chapel above the ruins was rather restorative for my soul. Like practically all the sights, I could spend all day meditating in that space.

Two things: I wish I knew Hebrew so I could get around Israel more easily, and I wish I knew Latin so I could read all the text inside churches. The carvings showing the various stages of Jesus’ life took my breathe away.

As always, God is the Great Provider—this time in the form of gluten free pita courtesy of the hotel staff at Nazareth. He is so good.

Originally written June 4, 2014.