Thursday, November 22, 2012

Galilee Day 1: Beth-Shean, Nazareth, and the Sea

Yesterday was amazing but long. I went to bed at 11:20 and was woken up by the call to prayer at 4:45. Enough said?

Nope. Of course not, you say. We need details! I know it--so here we go.

Departure time was 6:30, which meant a hasty breakfast and last minute paper-printing rush for me. I managed to shower, finish packing, get food in my stomach, print off everything my grade depended upon, and pick up my phone from security--all in a little over an hour. Special thanks to Laurann, who hauled my suitcase upstairs for me so I could do other things. She's an angel--that's all.

We drove a couple hours to Beth-Shean, during which I did a little homework but mostly slept (aka, crashed). I woke up a little before we got there--just in time to finish my field trip readings. Lucky me! The trip was amazing, though. It was more of one of my favorite things in  Israel  (or anywhere, really)--wandering among amazing ancient ruins. Beth Shean was once a Roman city (called Scythopolis), so it had pretty much every Roman necessity--gymnasium (with calderium, frigidarium, tepidarium, sports courtyard, and ancient latrines if you would believe it), theatre, cardo, public fountain, mosaics, columns, and so on. We toured through the lower city, then hiked to the top of the tel that overlooked it (and actually housed a city before the Romans moved in). There we read about the deaths of Saul and Jonathan in battle with the Philistines, as this was the place where their bodies were displayed afterwards. We also made a quick reference to the Decapolis (the ten great Roman cities in the middle east) from Jesus' time as well. The scriptures mention him coming into the coasts of the Decapolis, so it may well be that he visited there. We were then let loose for free time. I took some pictures of me and other people with the view, then went off and found a quiet spot near the edge of the tel, where I read again about Saul and Jonathan and watched a huge flock of geese soar and circle together in the early morning sky. Neil (a friend who was actually in my Arabic class last semester) found me, got my camera from me, and took some great pictures of me sitting there. We explored the top of the tel together, including the replicas of ancient Egyptian inscriptions found there about which we both got excited. We hooked up with another group on the way down and went in and out of other JC packs below the tel. We got some great pictures of Neil posing like an Egyptian pharoh and pretending to be crushed beneath a fallen column.

After a relaxing little tram ride back to the bus, we were shipped off to Nazareth. It doesn't look anything now like it did in Jesus' day, but it's not a bad looking town and still has the thriving bustle and beat of a place well lived in. We visited three churches there--the Synagogue Church (an old crusader place said to be built over a 1st century synagogue where Jesus might have gone to church), the Church of the Ascension (where Mary traditionally was visited by the angel) and the Church of St. Joseph. The former was fairly unadorned, but not Ascension and Joseph. The Church of the Ascension had big courtyard lined on all sides with framed pictures of the virgin Mary and baby Jesus. Each church was beautiful, but in its own unique way. St. Joseph's was probably my favorite. Pretty, but not too overtly so.

After that we made our last stop--Mount Arbal, a high hill and set of cliffs overlooking the Galilee area. The view was unbelievable. It was our first real look at the Sea of Galilee (besides a little side view of the far tip from the bus--something like: What is that? That's water, isn't it? That's water! Is that it? Brother Schade, is that the Sea of Galilee? It is?!? Look, everyone--that's it!). Anyway--Mt. Arbal was our first real view, and it was spectacular. The setting sun glistened on the water and bathed the hills and fields below with golden light. Brother Schade gave us a few thoughts and oriented us to the landscape some, then asked us how long we wanted to stay. Someone said twenty minutes, and we all agreed. Forty-five minutes later we finally got on the bus. Thanks, Brother Schade, for being so patient. The time was well spent, though. We got some great pictures, and even better we all had time to ponder about the landscape and about what we hoped to accomplish while we are here. I talked to my friend Kayla for a time as well and we shared our thoughts (I have thus far found great benefit in asking other people what they are thinking about). It was peaceful and beautiful up there, and I think we were all regretted our departure when the time came.

We arrived at Ein Gev around around 5:00--too late to see the sun set, but just in time to see the beautiful pink and gold clouds still hanging over the lake. We had a quick security briefing before dinner so that we would know where the bomb shelter was if we needed it, though no one expects that we will. Dinner was fantastic and included chocolate cake at the end, which of course made me very happy indeed (I am my father's daughter--what can I say?). I made a valiant effort to finish my New Testament homework, but I was exhausted still from my lack of sleep, so I gave it up after about halfway. I went to bed at 9 o'clock--the earliest I've done in a very long time. Sleep was a beautiful thing--with the breeze blowing outside and a bit of the window showing through the curtains so I could fall asleep beneath the stars shining down on the sea of Galilee.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rachel- This sounds like a fun day on the way to Galilee. Beth Shean sounds very interesting. I don't remember going there, but I probably did. Those ancient Roman ruins are fascinating places to visit. Dad and I visited an ancient Roman villa in England and I assume Ephesus was Roman in origin as well. I do remember visiting Nazareth. That was memorable for me. I'm glad you are safely arrived in Galilee. Enjoy the next 2 weeks there! love, mom