Saturday, September 22, 2007

File this under Non-fiction

I have to be honest, I didn’t feel the same anticipation I once felt at the beginning of the IBEX weekly excursion. If history is an ocean, I’m up to my eyes in facts and inundated with the salty smell of the sea. But, during a stop on our fieldtrip Wednesday, I was pulled out of my daze from overexposure to history as we approached Bethlehem. During the ascent to Bethlehem, I was whisked back to childhood memories of a swaddling infant laying in a wooden manger, surrounded by family, shepherds and beast alike all waiting upon the Messiah. I even started singing, "O, Little Town of Bethlehem" conjuring up childhood memories of Nativity re-enactments with boys dressed as shepherds and wise men, and i remember the awkward realization that playing the part of Joseph means you have to hold Mary's hand, or at least that's what the old women in the church made my brother do for their pictures. (i considered the casting of Joseph for boys who don't care about cooties.) BUT Bethlehem is not and was never a landscape worthy of my childhood imagination or the flannelgraph embellishments at church. As far as i could see, Bethlehem was a dirty, poorly-constructed middle eastern town fighting through a thin facade of peace and modernity to grab at every passing tourist dollar-just like Jerusalem and Jericho. I realized i have been lied to. Whimsical notions of a picturesque Bethlehem flew in my mind like a pigeon with it's wings pinned down. People in a fairy tale don't need salvation-these people do. I was paralyzed upon realizing God took the form of man among real real real men. Bethlehem is real. Jesus came as an infant to people this city, not to a fairy-tale setting, but to a real city.

Friday, September 14, 2007

HERE LOCUST, LOCUST, LOCUST... (look at the size of this bugga')

Look at the size of this bugga'. some kind of grasshopper. check out the fully equipped stinger there in the first picture. He doesn't play, succa's he doesn't play around. Would you want to pet a business bug like this? i think not. He's straight up gangsa'.

The land of Benjamin

A group of young intrepid explorers dawned a new day with the exploration of the central Benjamin plateau. We left Kiriat-Jaarim at the break of dawn with buggers in our eyes and bushy tails. Our first stop consisted of a curbside excursion of the Aijalon valley. After a quick ride north, our next stop at Lower Beth Horon was not much longer, but here we had a view of the Aijalon valley where you could see the scriptural allotment borders for the tribes of Dan, Benjamin and Ephraim. After another quick ride to the Upper Beth Horon Summit, we surveyed the vibrant green Shephelah hills rolling down to the wide, fertile Mediterranean coastal plane, a distance of 10-15 miles. Here we reviewed the Israelite account where Joshua is deceived into a treaty with the Gibeonites (Joshua 5:4). Because of this treaty, the king of Jerusalem was nonplussed. He did not want the Israelites to threaten his mountain plateau, and this alliance threatened the stability of his power. For their treachery, he made plans to attack Gibeon, and the inhabitants of the city sent word to Joshua calling for assistance. Joshua and his warriors hiked all night from Gilgal and attacked the King of Jerusalem there and pursued him all the way down to the coast by the Beth Horon ridge route. The Lord caused the sun and the moon to stand still that day, and also caused hail to fall from the sky to kill Israel’s enemies, but not Israel! (Joshua 10:6) We traveled on the route Joshua and his men chased the enemy down nearly 3500 years ago. Not only did God give Joshua victory here, but He also gave Samuel, Saul, and David power to drive the Philistines down this ridge on three separate occasions by the Beth Horon ridge route. This ridge is Israel’s western gate to the international coastal highway. In his heyday, King Solomon erected three separate fortifications along this route at Gezer, Lower Beth Horon, and Upper Beth Horon because it is the most important road from the coast to Jerusalem. We then went to the modern site of Nebe Samwil, or Prophet Samuel, which is his traditional burial site. Although this is not the correct site, it is a high fortified place near Gibeon, like the one where Solomon petitions God for wisdom (I Chronicles I:I-I3) This place is Jerusalem’s guard for the upper Sorek valley. From there, we went to Hussein’s unfinished palace at Gibeah which is the Biblical site of the Gibeah town square and King Saul’s palace. Here, we talked about the Levite in Judges 19:1-30 who stops during his travels to rest for the night in the town square with his concubine and is offered a place to stay by an old Ephraimite man. The Benjamite men of the city approach the house and ask that the man be handed over to them according to their corrupt desires. Instead of the male visitor, the men hand over a virgin daughter and the concubine, of which the later is raped and killed. This incites a civil war because the other eleven tribes pursue the immoral tribe of Benjamin and kill many of it’s populace until only 600 men remain. From there we traveled to Mikmash by the Ephraim ridge to the pass at Mikmash, south of Geba. I Samuel 13:18ff records Jonathan’s victory when he climbed up the great cliff and slew the Philistines. Isaiah 10:28-32 records a geographically significant passage where it lists the towns along the Way of the Patriarchs according to modern day findings. This relevant passage proves the Biblical accounts with historical accuracy never seen before. From here on out, we explored the eastern or Jericho slope down to the Jordan rift valley. It is characterized by very rocky soil, prickly underbrush and hot conditions. Jericho is the oldest city on the face of the earth, standing for 4000 years, even though the Hasmonean/Roman cite is much younger. We had the opportunity to explore Jericho’s Tel for about an hour in the mid-afternoon sun. I swear, it felt like 150 degrees on that dirt pile, but it was worth it because I took home about 6 peaces of rim pottery shards, and a large, 4” handle of a clay pot. Archeologists use these shards to date the strata of the Tel. We then went into the modern city of Jericho for some refreshments and shade as everyone had run out of water. After a Tony Blair sighting and a couple quick camel rides, we piled back on to the Bus and headed up the Ascent of Adomiim. This ridge leads up the Wadi Quilt to Jerusalem and is the primary means of transportation from the eastern side. It is a dangerous road precariously perched on the bank of cliffs and steep ravines, yet it has been used as a highway for centuries. Stopping among the crags and rocks, Bill Schlagel read a portion of Isaiah 40:3, “Make straight the way of the Lord… every mountain shall be made low, and every valley shall be exalted.” When Christ does return, it will be with great power and authority, and it is not a stretch to think he will level these hills and come to Jerusalem in a flat plane in all his glory.

(the man, the myth, the legend, Bill Schlagel. Don't hate him because you ain't him)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

So, after two weeks of Israel, i would say the dominating factor, AND the surprising caveat about living on the Moshav is the food. A completely Kosher kitchen spells weight loss: N-O-T--E-A-T-I-N-G. So, today on my trip into Jerusalem for shabbat, i teamed up with a couple students, and 3 american film makers and found a non-Kosher pizza place. HOW GLORIOUS! There are some well kept personal revelations about love, life and happiness, and one of them is non-Kosher pizza: Bacon, Spicy Italian Sausage and Pepperoni covered with lots and lots of CHEESE! PTL for meat smashed with cheese! His grace is new every day!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

For more pics/vids of our trip, check out the ibex homepage! here's a preview. marinade in it's glory!
p.s. i have to make a disclaimer, i meant to say it descends 12.5 inches not feet.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Jerusalem: 3000 years old.

A busy Sunday morning and the streets of Jerusalem were a buzz with excitement-quite to my surprise. I expected the usual American “Easy like Sunday morning” to be a world-wide feeling. It’s all I’ve ever known. The foreign buzz is due to the fact we made our way through the Jewish quarter first—an area that respects Sunday as the first day of the week, the workweek that is. The Jewish quarter of Jerusalem has a high level of archeological excavation, much higher than the other three, because it is the newest quarter, only dating back to 1960-70’s. This has allowed many modern archeological digs before the buildings went up. Here I came upon a section of the ruins from the old wall built during the reign of King Hezekiah around 560 B.C. It was exposed below me, in a 30’ wide chasm 20’ deep, separating modern streets. Having stood 12’ wide by 26-30’ high, it was build around the western hill to the Jaffa gate, and then took a 90 degree turn due east back to the previously fortified temple mount. Incredible. King Hezekiah built this wall with great haste in preparation for a siege by Sennacherib, King of Persia according to the Biblical account in 2 Chronicles 32:1-5. The wall was built with such great haste that the Israelites tore down newly built homes in order to make way for the wall itself. I then proceeded south on Kardo street. An ancient road built North, South by the Romans (300-500 A.D.) lined by a grand colonnade and shops on both sides. Found on this street is the oldest map of Jerusalem. Found in Mibda, it dates back to 550 A.D. and is made entirely out of mosaic tiles.

Continuing on, we passed through the Zion gate on the south-western side of Jerusalem. The name of the gate is literally, “To point” and implies God’s pointing to Jerusalem as His city. Isaiah 60:18 says, “You will call your walls salvation and your gates praise.” The prophet is believed to be talking directly about the gate here. This prophecy has not held true, because Jerusalem has been torn by war as part of God’s judgment on Israel. While we paused at the gate, we noted the scar-like pelting of bullets on the wall, and as the future met the past, a group of Israeli soldiers passed by the gate in front of us indicative of constant turmoil since Isaiah’s days.

Next stop, church of the Dormition (late 1800’s), this is the featured land mark of the western hill. The traditional site for the last supper is here, and below is the tomb of David-neither of which are verifiable, but they serve as historical tokens to the past. On a doctrinal note, the last supper intended to help the Jews understand that Jesus was the symbolic promised Passover lamb. In fact, he was saying take this bread and this cup “in remembrance of me” fulfilling the Passover, because I am the lamb that is slain! (Luke 22:7-20)

We then passed through a catholic cemetery overlooking the Hinnom valley, past some ritual baths, and to the City of David. Here we found the Step Stone Structure. It is the largest remnant of Israeli architecture, built in the late bronze era. Further down the eastern hill, Hezekiah built the water gate as a protection for the Gihon spring. We then proceeded to Warren’s shaft, which is a deep hole which could have been used by the Philistines before David’s reign to get to the Gihon spring at the bottom, mentioned in 2 Chronicles 2:30. I then went down to Hezekiah’s tunnel which was built in order to sustain Sennacherib’s second siege to hide the water source from him. Amazement grips everyone who sees it, because there is no explanation for this ancient engineering feat. Over 1700’ long and only descending 12.5” it carries water through twists and turns from the Gihon spring to the pool of Siloam inside the city. It is an engineering marvel defying explanation.

We then continued outside the city to the well of Rogon at the intersection of the Hinnom and Kidron valleys in a small Arab town. The well is significant because Solomon was anointed there, but I didn’t hear much about it because I was busy keeping the Arabian kids away from the rest of our group. We then hiked back up the valley in order to survey some Roman style graves on the side of the hill just in time to have the Islamic evening call of prayer echoing over our heads a signal to head home. My Jerusalem journey was done for the day.