Last field study report…

Hey guys.  Sorry I didn’t have this up last night.  Got super busy since we got back to JUC a little later than usual.  Test today, leaving late tomorrow night/early Sunday morning.  Excited to be home!  Enjoy the last post!

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Today went by fast, as every day this week has.  Today was also our last field study…sad day.  We went to a few really cool places today:  Capernaum, the Cliffs of Arbel, and Caesarea.  But, instead of reflecting on those three places themselves, I thought I would take this last impression report to write my impression of my trip to Israel as a whole.

This trip has been amazing.  I can remember arriving to JUC like it was yesterday.  We all walked up the hill to campus marveling at how old the walls of the Old City must be thinking they were easily from Jesus’ time when the ones we were looking at were actually from the Turkish long after Herod built his walls.  I remember going to sleep the first night—we were told the rooms would be rather cold, but they were actually incredibly warm.  Sleeping the first night was difficult as we were still on Indiana time and the noises coming from the city were louder than what I put up with back home as I am trying to sleep—this lead to me listening to my iPod every night as I go to sleep.  I remember doing the “Jerusalem Approaches” part of our trip and realizing that every possible holy location anyone would care about has a church built on top of it—I could list examples, but that would be too much work…I have a test to study for.

One of the things I will remember most about this trip is that if you find anything interesting while walking around on a site, a piece of pottery, a cool looking rock, anything of the sort, it’s probably Byzantine…freakin’ Byzantines…building churches and leaving all their trash for us tourists to pick up hundreds of years later.

Another thing that I found kind of funny while living here in Israel, and specifically Jerusalem is that littering is normal and accepted around here.  There were so many times while walking around the city that I wanted to throw my trash down on the ground and make it clear that I wasn’t littering, but that I was simply “engaging with the culture.”  Another funny thing about the fact that littering is culturally acceptable in Jerusalem is that my girlfriend, Susie Roth, has been in Singapore all J-Term, and in Singapore, you get caned (beat over the butt or back with a wooden cane) if you spit, chew gum, or litter.  I find that contrast pretty funny.

A lot of us have been talking about what our favorite parts of the trip have been and there are so many great sites that could easily be called the best.  I have had a hard time nailing down my favorite sites or hikes.  But if I think about it really hard, I think I can narrow all of the awesome things we have seen to a favorite site and a favorite hike.  We did a lot of sightseeing and hiking at various places the past three weeks, but if I had to choose a favorite site, it would have to be everything about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Maybe it’s because it was only like our third day here, and I was still fascinated by everything we were seeing, but out of all of the sites we saw, it was the one that made my faith seem the most real.  The church is built on Golgatha, the place where Jesus was crucified, as well as the most likely place of Jesus’ burial.  This really rocked my religious world back in that first week.  No other holy site came close.  The only other place we went that fascinated me almost as much was the Herodian (or Herodium), the palace Herod built by take the top half off of one mountain and putting it on another—that blew my mind.  But nothing beat seeing the crack in the rock at Golgatha that was probably from the earthquake that shook the land after Jesus died on the cross.

Now, for my favorite hike.  We did a lot of hiking on this trip, we hiked all around the Judean Highlands (the land near Jerusalem), the Negev (the desert south of Jerusalem), and the Galilee (the area around the Sea of Galilee north of Jerusalem).  But, when it came down to choosing my favorite hike, it had to be between our hikes at two different cliffs:  the Cliffs of Arbel (our hike today) and our hike at the Wadi Zin (or Nahal Zin) last week in the Negev.  I finally decided that my favorite hike was our hike at the Wadi Zin last week in the Negev.  It was a really hard decision, but I ended up choosing it over the hike today because I liked the view of the hike in the Negev better.  Today our view was just a few cliffs and a little village down below.  But, as we were hiking up the Wadi Zin, we were looking down on an awesome canyon and a pretty cool spring running down through the middle of the canyon—definitely one of the coolest parts about this trip.

I ought to bring this report to a close because I have a final exam to be studying for.  I wish I could write more.  This trip has been amazing, and I have loved it so much.  It has giving me a context for the Bible and my faith overall that is priceless.  I am so thankful that I was able to go on this trip, and I strongly encourage anyone who has the time and money to do a similar trip.  It has been an amazing experience that will forever change the way I understand God’s Word and the Christian faith as a whole.

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Hope you enjoyed my last field study report!  I will probably post again tomorrow because I will be bored out of my mind.  I leave late tomorrow night!  Crazy!

Be well.

-Chris

Galilee Day 3

Today was awesome.  I hope yours was good too!  Tomorrow is our last day in the field.  I am excited to be home in four-ish days!  Enjoy reading!

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Today was great, and like yesterday, it absolutely flew by.  It was a day loaded with a bunch of cool little sites and lookouts.  My day started at 5:15 this morning with devos and prayer out next to the Sea of Galilee as it did yesterday.  It was an awesome way to start today—our second to last day of field studies!  Sad!  But, I would be lying if I weren’t excited to come home to see friends and family, and eat food that isn’t kosher.  A few of the stops included in today’s field study were:  a boat ride out on the Sea of Galilee, Kursi-Gergese, a view point overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Qasrin, and Korazim.  It was a loaded day that yielded some pretty cool insights.

My favorite part of the day was definitely taking a boat out onto the Sea of Galilee early this morning at about 7:45.  It was super cool.  We all got on a little wooden motorboat and enjoyed our ride out into the middle of the lake.  When we got out to somewhere in the middle of the lake, our teacher told us about many things regarding the lake.  She explained the many different kinds of nets used by the fishermen back in Jesus’ day.  One of the nets she described is called a “trammel net.”  A trammel net is three nets sewn together.  What a fisherman would do was, he would throw it out into the water at night before going to bed, and in the morning, he would come down and check it for fish.  The net would sit out all night and trap fish of all kinds by snagging their gills.  Because of how long the fish were struggling in the net (and the immense number of fish it may be holding) this type of net needed mending almost daily.  Mark 1:19-20, part of the passage where Jesus is calling the first disciples, says, “And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.”  Our teacher told us that this was probably a trammel net; one of the huge nets that often needed mending.  I thought that was pretty cool!  Later while we were sitting out on the boat, our teacher explained that fishermen were often thought of as shady or sneaky.  You see, back in Jesus’ day, the area of Galilee was controlled by Rome, and there were many political districts with their borders around the Sea.  If traders or travelers in general crossed these borders, they had to pay a tax for leaving one area and entering another.  However, bodies of water were hard to patrol.  So, a lot of fishermen would travel or trade their fish simply by traveling by boat from one side of Galilee to the other.  This would be crucial when the fishermen needed to sell some non-kosher fish in the Decapolis (a political region that was entirely Gentile) as the region of Galilee was almost 100% Jewish.

My second favorite part of the day was Qasrin.  Qasrin is home to the best reconstruction of a fourth century A.D. Jewish village in the country.  The part of this stop that makes it my favorite is something we learned about Jewish culture.  We learned that when a man was betrothed (or engaged) to a woman, before he could marry her, he had to build a room onto his parents’ house that would be their room for when they finally got married.  The person that had the final say as to if the betrothed man had completed this task was his father.  When the father said so, the boy could finally go to the house of his soon-to-be wife and take her to be officially married.  The whole time the son was building this extra room; the wife-to-be was expected to be waiting for her man to arrive at her house.  This Jewish custom really helped me understand a couple of texts from the Gospels regarding the idea that the church is Jesus’ bride and he is the groom.  John 14:2-3 says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”  Doesn’t that make more sense now?  Hearing about that Jewish custom definitely helped clarify that passage for me.  It also helped clarify this verse:  Mark 13:32 says, “But concerning that day or hour [when Jesus will return to us], no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  Isn’t that awesome?  When a groom wants to return to his wife, he does not decide when he does so, only his father knows when the son will return.  Cool huh?  I thought so.

That was a short summary of what I thought was really cool in our field study today.  I can’t wait for tomorrow.  We are supposed to have some pretty cool stops.  It’s kind of a bummer that tomorrow is our last day in the field, but I am definitely excited to come home.

 

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Hope you enjoyed reading!

Be well.

-Chris

 

Galilee Day 2

Hey guys!  Today went by super fast!  I hope you enjoy the blog post!

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I think today went by faster than any day has this entire trip.  It feels like I just woke up 12 minutes ago, when it was actually about 12 hours ago!  I cannot believe how fast this day flew by.  I woke up at 5:30 this morning to go pray and do devos out on the beach on the Sea of Galilee (I won’t get to say this many more times in my life).  It was awesome.  I sat on the beach on the east side of the Sea of Galilee and looked at Tiberias, a city across the sea on the west side.  It was such a beautiful morning.  Our bus left at 7:30 and we were on our way!  We made many stops today including the Jordan River, Hazor, Dan, Caesarea Philippi, and Ben Tal.  It was a loaded day and a great one!

Our entire trip today was focused on exploring the area north and east of the Sea of Galilee, near Israel’s border’s with Lebanon and Syria.  One of the best parts of the day was our lesson and discussion on justice at the ancient city of Dan.

One of the things we discussed while sitting in the city gate to the ancient city of Dan was how justice was viewed in Biblical times compared to how justice is view in our time.  Our teacher told us that justice used to be a means to establish equilibrium, not a means to get retribution.  A text that a teacher used to illustrate this point was Deuteronomy 22:28-29.  It says, “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her.  He may not divorce her all of his days.”  This may seem rather absurd to us.  So wait, this young girl is raped, and “justice” is that she must be married to her attacker for the rest of her life?!  How on earth is that just!?  Here is the thing:  if a woman is not a virgin and is not married, she will most likely never be married, and in fact, will just be ignored.  And, because there is no welfare or anything like that, if a woman doesn’t have any children, particularly a son, she will most likely not be cared for in her old age.  So, it is actually rather just to make the rapist marry the woman so that she may cared for the rest of her life…even if it is by someone that once violated her.  That is an example of how justice used to be seen as a means of establishing equilibrium rather than exacting revenge.  Crazy huh?  It makes sense to me, regardless of how absurd it may sound.

Second to our discussion of justice at the ancient city of Dan, my favorite part of the day was the time we spent at Ben Tal, a dormant volcano near the modern-day Syrian border in the north and east of Israel.  As we stood atop this volcano (the first volcano I have ever stood on, by the way) many cool things were discussed.  The first really cool thing that our teacher taught us was that Jesus’ transfiguration probably took place on the top of Mt. Hermon, a snow-capped mountain to our west.  It was just really cool to look out from Ben Tal and envision what it must have been like when Jesus went up to the top of Mt. Hermon for the transfiguration.  That was just a really cool image for me as I stood on Ben Tal.  Another really cool thing our teacher told us was that we could see the road to Damascus, the road where Paul most likely had his vision.  Acts 9:3 says, “Now as he [Saul] went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.”  The road we could see to the north of Ben Tal is the last road to Damascus from Israel and there were no cities in Paul’s day from where we were standing to Damascus, so the road we were looking at would have been the road Paul took on his way to Damascus when he “saw the light.”  How sweet is that!?  Our teacher also told us, and I had never heard this, but Paul was the first disciple to ever leave Israel.  She told us that this event, Paul going to Damascus, was the first real Gospel-spreading event, taking the Good News of Jesus Christ outside the borders of Israel.  That was so cool to think about:  seeing Paul walking along the road below us, seeing the light, and continuing on his way, blind, to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today was pretty awesome.  Again, I just can’t believe how quickly it went.  Tomorrow is our second to last field study!  Sad!  But, I’m sure it’ll be a great day.

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Hope you enjoyed it!  I’ll be writing tomorrow!  Hard to believe I’ll be home in like five days!

Be well.

-Chris