After the Ecumenical trip left, I started my sabbatical study leave. My goal was to go on a deep dive into places and stories of the Bible that I have never been able to explore in Israel due to the needs of the group trips.
The first thing I ddi was to explore the walls of Jerusalem. I was able to walk nearly around the city on the high walls built 500 years ago. It was rainy, but still amazing to get to look over the whole city. Then I walked to the Via Delarosa without any hurry. I have walked it several times, but always with a time schedule and always trying to count people in the group. Instead, I was able to quietly and simply think about the suffering of Jesus. I visited the oldest Archeology museum in the country, The Rockefeller Archaeological Museum. It is old, but has so many rich treasures. The quarries under the city were enormous and amazing and were just across the street from the museum.
The next day, the wall tour was completed. Then a new museu, the Tower of David museum, which tells the history of Jerusalem. The highlight of the day was going to the archaeology wet sifting project. Begun about 10 years ago, it has produced numerous important finds. Using volunteers, each bucket of archaeology gravel is washed and sorted. It has become the new standard in archeology. The material we were sorting came from the area of the Western Wall. In it we found, pottery, glass and bones. Othes found mosaic tiles. We all searched for hobnails from the boots of soldiers, but found none. The real holy grail were coins, but we did not find any either. They showed us examples of both which had been found recently. It was still an incredible experience. We ended the day at the Bible Lands Museum, another first for me.
The next day, a private guide took us north. Some of the same problems from Jesus day still remain and while I have been on the road, I have never had time to look and explore. We stopped at Bethel, the place were Jacob slept and saw a vision of the ladder. I just preached about it and to stand in that place was amazing. It was a beautiful hill, its strategic importance was clear. God was there and still meets us in places like that. We traveled to Shechem and looked over toward the altar of Joshua. We drove back to Shilo. The ruins were amazing. The interpretation excellent. I was a little overwhelmed.
It is the story of Samuel that I most closely connect with in the scripture. My mother lost a full term baby girl before I was born from complications during childbirth. I almost broke her completely. I was the child after that tragedy. When I was born the doctor told my mother I might not live through the night, I had to have two blood transfusions in the first 24 hours. My mother and father both were praying separately. My father worried that my mother might not ever recover emotionally If I died. My mother begged God to let me live. She dedicated my life to God. She raised me in the church with a deep seriousness. When I committed myself to the ministry, she told me the story of my birth for the first time. While standing in Shilo, I was thinking about Hanna, her desperate prayer and the child she gave to God. It was very powerful.
We drove North to Nazareth stopping first at the Mediterranean Sea to examine a Roman aqueduct that provided water to Caesarea and most likely for both Paul and Peter when they were in that city. We spent time at the Nazareth Village museum which is built on an ancient vineyard from the time of Jesus and only about 5 minutes walk from where he grew up, The next day we hiked over ten miles on the trail that led from Nazareth to Capernaum. Much of the trail was quiet and isolated and beautiful. It was a hard and rewarding hike.
Today we went to explore the location of Herod's first major victory on the top of Mt Arbel and one of the things that lead him to power. Then we visited Tel Dan the signature city defining the northern limit of the Holy Land. We ended the day on the slopes of Mt Hermon marveling in its snow.
It has been great learning so far and many more thngs to come. Keep pryaing and I will see you soon.