Metaphors brought to life!
Our second day in the Holy land began with a huge breakfast buffet and another day of unseasonably warm weather. We then headed out to Yad Hashmona, which is a complex built by Finnish Christians to honor seven Finnish Jews who died in Auchwitz. We toured the grounds that included a Biblical garden planted on a hillside that replicates agriculture in ancient times and saw firsthand how grapes are farmed, stored, and made into wine. We also saw a replica of an olive oil press and a threshing floor for wheat. Terry taught from Isaiah 5 and the grape metaphors used to represent those with faith and those who wander came to life.
The Biblical Village on the slope of Yad HaShmonah provides visitors with hands-on exposure to the manners and customs of the ancient Israelites. The garden includes olive trees and press, grape vines and several winepresses, wheat field and threshing floor, watchtower, Bedouin tents, ancient Galilean synagogue, and a burial cave. All have been constructed according to the best archaeological knowledge of ancient life.
Next we headed to Bet Shemesh, which is first mentioned in the Bible in Joshua. We climbed lots and lots of stairs to the top of the Tel (hill). Then we climbed down into what was an actual water cistern that serviced the city in Bible days; it was large enough to supply the water to the inhabitants for a full year! Terry's lesson came from Jeremiah 2:11, which describes the vast difference between cistern water and living water.
A border city between Judah and Dan, Beth Shemesh was given to the Levites. Beth Shemesh was the most important Israelite city in the Sorek Valley as it watched both east-west traffic through the Sorek Valley and north-south traffic along the “Diagonal Route.” Recent excavations have shown a thriving city here from the Middle Bronze Age through the Iron II period.
Next on the agenda was a trip to Tel Azekah. This is another very high Tel that overlooks the Valley of Elah where David, as a young shepherd boy, killed the mighty Philistine Goliath with a rock and slingshot. We've all heard this story since we were children and seeing where it actually happened was surreal!
Tel Azekah and Elah Valley
The Brook Elah is famous for the five stones it contributed to the young slinger, David. Some surmise that David chose five stones instead of the one needed in case he needed to face Goliath’s four brothers.
Lunch was another delightful picnic and then we headed to Maresha where we again climbed down into a fascinating excavated underground system of a Biblical era settlement. While the excavation on this Tel remains ongoing, one second was open and we went down three levels (about 75 feet) and saw ancient stairs, pigeon breeding stations, authentic wine and olive presses, and another incredible water cistern. People were obviously lots shorter in those days because ceilings, and especially doorways, kept us all bending over while walking and bumping many of our heads. :-)
After all that touring we settled in for a 90 minute ride to our beautiful hotel at the Dead Sea. Dinner was outstanding and we all look forward to our next adventures tomorrow!
Beth Guvrin (Maresha)
Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park is a national park in central Israel, 13 kilometers from Kiryat Gat, encompassing the ruins of Maresha, one of the important towns of Judah during the time of the First Temple, and Beit Guvrin, an important town in the Roman era, when it was known as Eleutheropolis.
Archaeological artifacts unearthed at the site include a large Jewish cemetery, a Roman-Byzantine amphitheater, a Byzantine church, public baths, mosaics and burial caves.
The first question I'm receiving from family back home goes something like this -- "So, is it what you expected?" I have to admit -- I really didn't know what to expect. A visit to the Holy Land was never really something on my bucket list. I'm not sure why not. My wife had an interest in coming, so we decided to make the pilgrimage before we got any older.
Today's tour led us through several sites where many of the dwellings were constructed underground. The amount of work required to carve out large spaces below the surface makes my back hurt. We discovered a fairly common practice was to build a columbarium. I know -- me neither -- it means a place to raise pigeons. In these large underground chambers, the people carved out hundreds of little cubby-holes in the walls for pigeons to roost. In a dangerous and inhospitable land, God provided a way for people to have meat and eggs and fertilizer -- each a blessing for one of their many needs.
I doubt those people expected God would provide for them through these pesky little birds. It made me think how often I expect - even demand - God must meet my needs in a very specific way. Somehow I have already solved the problem for Him and find myself waiting impatiently for Him to catch up with my plans.
Perhaps God desires to meet my needs in a very unexpected way. Perhaps He has something even better than I can imagine. Perhaps I should exercise more faith and allow God to provide as He chooses. Father --- Give me faith to allow you to meet my needs -- Your way. Yes -- Give me peace as you provide pigeons.