Friday, July 01, 2011

Holy Land Tour: Beit She'an and the Desert

As we left Yardenit and Galilee, the terrain became more arid. We stopped at Beit She'an, which has been a city from the time of Joshua and King David. In that day it was the entry to Israel and its largest and most important city. Before that, the area was ruled by the Egyptians and the Philistines.

The Romans were also there during the time of Christ. We saw the remains of this amphitheater that dates from 200 AD. Our guide told us that blood sports were held here and pointed to the lion cages underground that could be seen from where we were standing.

The ruins of the city that date from the time of King David were located outside of today's modern town. It is a vast archaeological site that we did not take the time to walk over. Our guide told us that the body of King Saul was hung from the walls of the city on the side of this mountain after his defeat by the Philistines. (1 Samuel 31: 8-13) David's lament for Saul and for Jonathan (How are the mighty fallen!) is recorded in 2 Samuel 1.

After a stop for lunch -- gotta love that falafel--the land quickly turned into bright, bleak and stark desert. As Dave pointed out, desert areas are the birthplaces of the world's great religions, so he asked the bus driver to go up one of the high desert hills and stop so we could get out and walk around.

My camera isn't good enough to show the perspective we had from the top of the peak, which was breath-taking. Dave recalled Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan and the days Jesus spent in the desert between his baptism and his ministry. It is a harsh, unforgiving land. How in the world could anyone live out here in ancient times?

But of course we read in the Bible that they did. Like the prophet Elijah who also fled to the desert to escape from his enemies and to seek God.  I began to hear the wonderful aria from Mendelssohn's Elijah, "If With All Your Hearts".

There would be more mental concerts in my head as we continued on our way to Bethleham and then into Jerusalem.


artbymj said...

From reading your posts, it feels like geography/geology of the land has more significance than I myself realized to the stories in the Bible. Am I wrong about that? Also, if I'm ever blessed to go on a trip to the Holy Land, you've given me a sense of how wonderful it is if one can be on a tour with people who can expand on what you are seeing with knowledge...but maybe more than knowledge, a sense of place? There must be a word for that, but I can't think of it.

Quotidian Grace said...

You're right that the geography of the place illuminates the stories in the Bible in ways you don't anticipate until you get there. That is one of the "take-aways" from the trip and I'm glad that my posts are revealing that.

Robin said...

One of our OT professors is an archeologist and emphasized that point - how important knowledge of the terrain is to a real understanding of the stories in the Bible.