Day off of class in Jerusalem! Unfortunately...it's the Sabbath, which means that almost everything this closed until nightfall. The first day we were in the country, one of our professors Dr. Dallaire introduced us to Aroma. Aroma is this absurdly good coffee shop just outside the Jaffa gate, and its small chain of stores around Israel is the reason why Starbucks is nowhere to be found. (Though...I should note that there's a "Stars and Bucks" in Bethlehem near the Church of the Nativity, whose logo looks suspiciously familar...)
So, I'm having to be content with finishing up my blog posts in the comfort of the hotel room until our test this afternoon.
Yesterday, we explored the area of Samaria which is largely in the modern-day Palestinian West Bank. We saw many examples of vines, olive and fig trees on farmed terraces throughout the region, since there's very little "flat" land to farm. Ancient watchtowers dotted the landscape as the terraces rose up from the valleys.
We first visited the ancient site of Shiloh. As a sign of our group's determination (or Brian's sheer ability to keep a schedule) our large tour bus (freightliner) pulled up to the access
gate before the site was even open! The site was most interesting to me because an active archaeological excavation is currently underway here. In the excavation pits, the different historical layers were clearly evident, including an obvious layer of pottery sherds about halfway down the excavated limits.
In 1 Samuel ch. 4, the Israelites are losing a battle with the Philistines at Aphek, so the army sends word to bring the Ark of the Covenant (of Harrison Ford fame) to the battle site. As it happened, the Ark was being kept at the holy site of Shiloh. But, the Ark is captured at Aphek, and when Eli the priest was told at Shiloh that the Ark had been lost, Scripture says that he fell backwards and broke his neck, as he was "old and heavy." Since the Ark was in residence here for a period of time, the excavators are of course being very diligent in searching for any clear evidence of the Ark's presence. Though, as our professors have indicated to us, the team would likely settle for "less than certain" evidence in order to get the publicity machine going!
We also stopped at Mt Gerazim, which
was likely where the Samaritans worshipped YHWH instead of at Jerusalem. The view from the mountain over Shechem (modern day Nablus and Balatah) and the surrounding hills was extreme, and one could easily see the coastal cities from here. I'm still not sure how the bus driver wrapped that behemoth of a bus around the tight corners to get us up there, and the poor soul even had to back up a few hundred meters to find a turn!
I don't have much to say about Jacob's Well which is down in Balatah. Though apparently the site is generally accepted as authentic, once again I was a bit turned off by the Greek Orthodox ownership of the site. The large church has a stairwell which leads down to the well, but we had only a brief moment to see the well before a large group of Russian Gr. Orthodox pilgrims pushed in to hold a lengthy service around the well.
Easily for me, the highlight of the trip was being able to visit the Middle Bronze and Iron Age site of Shechem. This was the site which I did my undergraduate research on back at the University of
Evansville, and this was the first time I had the opportunity to actually visit the site. I'll spare you the ultra-nerdy details, but I took a lot (LOT) of pictures and was very happy as we pulled away.
Finally we visited the town of Samaria, but by this point the sun was beating down upon us and we began to bake. Actually the most intriguing remains here were from the Roman period, though a preserved wall from Omri's Palace in the OT is also present.
Enough insights - time to study for the test!
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