Sunday, May 20, 2012

Holy Land Day 11- May 20 Sunday

It’s a Sunday on the road after a relaxing Saturday. The dean of the unnamed college brings a pillow on the bus. “Will she sit with you?” I ask him. “oh no!” he says and moves two women together so he can keep his seat to himself. We don’t know why the gal comes on the bus: she’s been dehydrated and ill. She arrives 20 minutes late and holds us up.

We read Ps. 125, our psalm of ascent for the day. I ask the dean of another AG institution if his faculty comes on these trips. “There is a scholarship available for them and students,” so the answer is, no, unless they pay for it. We’re grateful for NU’s egalitarian sharing of the privilege of being here.

Wildflowers - lots of nettles and blooms
We pass Migdal (Mary Magdalene from here), the mango capitol of Israel. We hope the fruit will be ripe before we leave! We’re headed to an important site of the first Jewish revolt against the Romans, Gamla. “You don’t find many reports of this revolt outside of Jewish literature,” says Ilan. “It reminds me of a flea biting an elephant. Other places were peaceful.”

We pass a strategic hill riddled with pumps in manmade caves. The pipes protrude 200 m from shore to draw water downward. 33% of Israel’s water comes from this “tap.” Israel also sells water to Jordan, according to their peace treaty.

When we arrive at the Golan Heights, Ilan warns us, “Do not cross fences or get off the path. There are a million landmines remaining on the Golan Heights.” Gamla on the Golan is a window into C1 – the village was destroyed by Romans during the C1 revolt and never rebuilt.  There are some question marks, but Josephus describes Gamla across from (or facing) Migdal, which is visible across the Sea of Galille.

On the trek down the hill, steep steps and rocks and pathway, Ilan asks someone to take up the rear to make sure no one is straggling. He refuses so Ilan and Mark (our group leader) guard the rear. It’s a steep walk down; people are pausing on the way up to gulp air and water.

Roman stone-thrower: ballista
When we get down to the village, we’re told the BC 100 synagogue is basalt block. It reflects the culture of Galilee with seats along the walls behind pillars – heart-shaped pillars are in the corners. The synagogues coexisted with the Jerusalem temple. It was customary to attend synagogue on the Sabbath, as Jesus did in Luke 4.

Jews need a quorum or menijan of 10 people to pray (male or female before Judaism was influenced by Islam).  Women and men sat together; women could read the Torah but not preach or teach. You stand to read the Torah on an elevated block, then could sit on the “seat of Moses” near the door to read the haftera or prophets. In Luke 4, it’s assumed that when Jesus stood to read that he was reading Torah; after that he sat down and may have been teaching. Sitting on the “seat of Moses” was an actual place, not an authoritative concept. The long line of teaching was valuable – you should do what Pharisees teach not copy how they live, said Jesus. Though you could skip through the prophetic scrolls, the Torah was read from start to finish every three years during Jesus’ era (read annually in synagogues today). The ritual pool or Mikvah is nearby. You wouldn’t get near the temple without weekly purification rites. Men and women used the same pool at different times of the week. Paul in Philippi mentions finding a place on the outskirts of town near water (ritual cleansing) that was a place of prayer.

Synagogues are community centers where strangers could lodge OR, as in Athens, near pagan places of worship as a religious center. There is food, celebration, marriage, bar mitzvah, … all happy and sad moments mean meals together. “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.” A Jewish saying.

Today, chant tunes change between Torah and prophet readings, but both are done standing by the cantor. Monday and Thursdays, parts of the Torah are read in preparation for the Sabbah. The Torah is divided into 7+1 parts, with blessings for each part.

The view across a Golan valley
from Gamla
It’s such a rugged climb down and a very steep hike back to the bus. Many have to stop. Water! We need water! W refills my water bottle partway as I feel myself overheating.

One of the gals retches by the side of the path from dehydration going back up. My white “heat-moustache” appears. I wish they’d give us more information on the bus and let us roam the site. Instead, we stop for lectures and have to hurry back to the bus for the next trip.

Tadpoles rest on the bottom of the waterpools where we next hike down. Uum El-Qanatir was noted for its softening process for linen and became wealthy. The synagogue, the pet project of the Minister of Religion (a rabbi recently killed by Palestinian terrorists in a Jerusalem hotel.) The Byzantine village (C4-7) was destroyed by an earthquake in January 749 AD. The little side pools are for whitening linen. Compared to the size of the village, the synagogue is impressive. It was rediscovered in 1884 by British diplomat Lawrence Oliphant who was trying to lay rail lines from Syria to Mecca. Bedouins took them here to the spring. 98% of the stones are still here.

36 synagogues were found in the Golan Heights, proving that Jews prospered here. Many sites have been declared National Heritage Centers to preserve them. In the NT, Phillip the Tetrarch was over the Golan. Rome divided Israel between Herod’s three sons.  Archelaus got Samaria, Idumea, and Judea. Antipas, who killed John the Baptist got Galilee and Perea (from Bet Shan to Jericho). There is some speculation if Herod the Great settled Jews from Babylon north of here as a buffer against pagans (Bashan in NT; Batanaea now). Caesarea Philippi was a pagan city that Jews would avoid. Although Jesus went near, there is no record he entered the city.

Umm El-Qanatir synagogue
Umm El-Qanatir is unique – the pieces of rock have been tagged and numbered and are being puzzled via computer to its original positions. The synagogue has made huge progress in the past year. Ilan is visibly moved by his first glance at a Jewish altar like those in the ancient mosaics. The synagogue is being restored so Jewish worshippers can once again meet here. The orientation of the Torah stage is Jerusalem. The Torah and ark are stored up stairs at the top, with arches and pillars above. The original octagonal floor tiles are in place. Snow-capped Mt. Hermon to the north is the highest point in Israel, visible from our perch.

We eat lunch at Katsrin (North). W and I have Shwarma (meat, cucumber, tomatoes, sauce… in pita) @ $9 each. Then it’s off to the Qatsrin Park and “Talmudic Experience”. The commercial winepress is like Avdat’s. Grapes were placed in the center vt. Ropes hang from the ceiling to steady the juicers – they trampled the grapes barefoot so they wouldn’t crush the seeds and make the wine bitter. Grape harvests are near September. The juice would run out into channels for collection and fermentation.

Crushing the olives to paste - an
animal would have been hitched to the
wooden post to turn the wheel, which
now rests on a metal support
We see olive presses as well. There were three pressings: after the olives were crushed to a paste, 1) virgin – firstfruits, sent to the temple in Jerusalem; 2) cooking; 3. light lamps with this dark, final pressing.

At the end of the C2, there was an explosion of Judean immigration from the south. They brought their olive technology with them and spread throughout the Ginesar (“Gardens of the princes” – not a known site.)

tekton – workers and carpenters – stone masons and architects of homes. We see ancient scaffolding and an upper room where a young married couple would live or Passover might be held. To repair the roof of mud and thatch damaged by winter rains, inhabitants would reroof by crushing a roof with a roller and lifting it up. Romans established the first tile factory in Jerusalem after 70AD, so the roofs in Jesus' time would have been reed, mud, thatch, etc.

The first room upon entry is a kitchen, complete with oven, millstone, and kitchen implements. A storage room for field tools like threshing sledges and winnowing forks lies beyond.  The main room of basalt rock would have been very warm, the place the family met and slept until hot seasons. Then the courtyard would have been used for cooking (an oven in the corner), sleeping, and meeting. It is covered with a reed roof, similar to what the friends of the paralytic would have moved to get him to Jesus in a crowded courtyard.

There’s a dovecote on the roof over the door; pigeons were eaten and used for mail.

Pillar at Qatsrin National Park
The streets are narrow and winding between hot stone walls. A courtyard at the end of the street might be shared by several families. We see a mezuzah or “doorpost” box where the shema “Hear Oh Israel…” would be bound. Phylacteries were worn on wrists and foreheads by men, unless they were working or ritually impure. In C1, there was no prayer shawl. “Always be thinking about and doing God’s commandment,” Jews were taught.

The synagogue is amazing. It's being restored and will soon be worship-ready. As Marc lectures, I sketch the stone pillar.

Our bus gets home before 5pm. The other bus goes to a fisherman’s museum where we’ll go tomorrow. We’re tired. Our tour guide Ilan is fading: he was up at night in hospital where a tourist was being revived with IVs and treatment for dehydration. “People, drink! drink! 5 liters a day or more,” he continues to admonish. Some of us pay attention.

W and I spring from the bus to the lobby to get on the internet. Finally.

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