Sunday, May 13, 2012
Day 3 - May 13 Ps. 121
Early rise this morning: 6:15, after a lightly interrupted sleep. It's Mother's Day back home. We went to sleep at 9pm, so we're getting plenty of sleep.
The three kids along on the trip, Lukas, Jordon, and Elly are good kids. We get row 2 behind them again on the bus after a relatively smooth loading process. Breakfast buffet included marble cake and good baking. Purple blossoms have blown from the trees, coloring the walks a curbs.
Today we're going through the Desert of Zinn and the Desert of Parim. Israel has three massive erosion craters, with Maktesh Ramon the largest. We'll seee it on our way to Eilat, the southernmost Israeli city.
Near Qabir Sir we see a sign, "Beware of Camels near the Road." Shepherd and their flocks are out in the fields.
En = Spring. We are heading to En Abdat in the Wilderness of Zin. Numbers 20 talks about Mribah, as Moses traveled between oases. During the periodic rain, porous rock collects water. Apparently shepherds know where to find water - when Moses truck the rock, he would have gotten the credit. By speaking to the rock to release water, God would have gotten the glory. Mark emphasizes that God is sanctified by his actions or our obedience. By claiming credit, Moses lost his chance to enter the Promised Land.
At the spring, we climb a series of steep staircases or rocks and ladders to get to the top of a cliff. I'm quite weak from the flu last week and have to rest a few times. It's quite a climb even for those in good shape. At the top? A great view... and a parking lot where the bus drives to get us. I sketch the waterfall that cascades down the cliffs into reservoir pools.
We can see the Transjordon where the Edomites lived until the Babylonian captivity in BC586 and the destruction of the temple. Edomites, descendents of Esau, became the Idumeans from which came Herod the Great. The Nabateans moved in to the vacuum they left - they were desert people with a language related to ARabian. East of the Transjordan they had been nomads, but they became more sedentary, building cities like Avdat (after their King Abodus III). Avdat was a waystation along the trade route they controlled.
We stop at Avdat, crossroads of the Negev and the crumbled fortress of the Nabateans. Like in so many ruins, one civilization built upon another. The cliff iis riddled with caves, cool protection for families from the hot sun. Roman blocks lie tumbled off the walls, and Byzantine arches rise above the rubble, ruiins on ruins. The Romans extended to the Lemus Line (limit line of the Roman Empire - this area through the transjordan was a wall against the Parthean enemy to the east. There are Roman forts throughout the area.
When rains come, water in the valley funneled into aquaducts. Flash floods provided water for agriculture in terrace farms, like the one visible from Oboda. We step into a stone room that held a commercial winepress, about 19'X19 This "gat" had a hole in the center, where wine ran down after pressing to a collection pit. Four modern AirForce helicopters fly overhead, and during the day we hear jets buzz by too high for vision.
Constantine brought the Byzantine empire. Two churches in the fort allowed the mass converted "Christians" of the empire to worship. The forced conversion launched the Desert Movement, a counterculture of suffering to be Christian. This self-imposed suffering led to aestetic lifestyles. Round pillars of Southern Nabatean church supported a roof of 40'X80. Vandels destroyed and spray-painted the hilltop in 2009 and reconstruction is underway. One of the workers says he's been working steadily at rebuilding the archeology for the past 20 years. Mark points out that the vestibule was open to anyone who wanted to listen to the sermon, but only converted believers could pass the iconostosis (alta) to have communion.
Q&A: Sacrifice - most Old Testament sacrifices had nothing to do with sin. Rituals of thanksgiving, peace, heave offerings continued into early Jewish Chrstendom. Christians went to the temple and participated in the sacrifices until the temple was destroyed by Romans in 70 AD. The New Testament community of saints would have understood themselves to be a community of the spiritual temple. (Hezekiah and Josiah centralized temple worship in Jerusalem. Synagogue riturals centered around prayer, not sacrifices.)
Regarding sacred spaces: the religion or time changed, but sacred space remains. Solomon built his temple on a cultic site of a threshing floor. Romans later built a shrine on the temple site, Byzantines had their church there, and Muslims built the Dome of the Rock and Alaksa Mosque - all on the same site in Jerusalem.
In the first century, women were permitted to participate in synaguogues, including reading from the Torach. They did not preach. When Judaisim came under Islamic influence, women and men were separated.
We climb down the fortress hill via steps. Partway down, we traverse through tunneled houses, large caverns where people lived. We're 17 minutes from lunch, but some people can't wait so we stop for 10 minutes to potty.
Lunch is meat schwarma - a warm bread wrapped around meat, veges and fries. An army bus pulls up. Along the road, Elan points out the tank training valleys where the troops are headed for specialized training. When they complete their tank training as driver, gunner, or loader, the soldier will retain their specialty in active and reserve duty. The training ranges on the sandy hills include emty block houses where soldiers learn to invade homes.
We cross the Machtesh erosian crater. Tectonic movements have shifted the sandstone. The colorful rock is red, purple, and black where iron has rusted on contact with air. The crater undermines the limestone cliffs above, which tumble into a valley that is 40kmX10km. We have to stop the bus so four guys can jump out beside the road to pee. They face away from the bus but create an indelible memory of an embarrassing moment.
Dozens of tanks are on the sandy hills as we pass the tank training ranges. Through the grunts train on these hills, Elan says the commanders are trained elsewhere.
It is a two-hour bus ride to the coastal city of Eilat on the Red Sea. From the beach of the Coral Nature Preserve Park, we can see Jordan across the Red Sea to the left and three smoke stacks in Saudi Arabia on the right. Further south a few miles, Egypt stretches its way to the Israeli border.
We swim for over an hour above corals and fish. The nice thing about an all-inclusive tour is that we don't feel obligated to nickel-and-dime decisions. The snorkels and masks are included with the admission to the Coral Preserve. We shower the salt off our suits and bodies before drying in the shade of palm fronts, looking out to sea.
Supper at 7pm at the hotel a few miles away is amazing. The salad bar includes several kinds of olives, corn with dill, red cabbage (2 kinds), a variety of greens and peppers, and several other salads. The main course includes rice, cabbage rolls, roasted potatoes, and three or four kinds of meat and fish. An amazing feast again.
We head upstairs to the lecture at 8pm.
Posted by http://peacefulones.blogspot.com