Our first day!
We started our day with anticipation, not knowing what God had in store. Our first stop was at an amazing Biblical experience at a site called Yad Hashmonah. It was a lovely garden like experience with examples of a biblical wine press, olive press, burial tomb, Mikveh (ritual bath), threshing floor, and so much more. It was a great way to start out our adventure, being grounded in so many areas we will experience later in our journey. We also learned how this place (the Biblical site of Kiriath Jearim) was the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant for 20 years.
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.
Our next stop took us to Beth Shemesh, an historic Tel that showed us the environment of, and overlooked the valley where Samson grew up and lived out so many of his stories. We got to descend into a giant underground cistern.
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.
We then journeyed to Beth Guvrin, a national park that showed us an incredible underground cave/cavern that served as a giant pigeon farm, and saw the impressive Bell caves.
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.
Our last stop took us to Azekah, a hill in the Shephela, which provided us a view overlooking the valley where David and Goliath fought their battles. We learned about and saw Biblical stories come to life—as we could actually picture where these famous events took place. After a stop by the creek where David picked up his five, smooth, stones. We headed for the beautiful Dead Sea, where we will be spending the next couple of days.
What an amazing (and exhausting) start to an amazing adventure here in Israel.
Thanks again for the prayers and following our journey.
Josh & Jeff
Azekah (Heb: עזקה, ʿazeqah) was a town in the Shephelah guarding the upper reaches of the Valley of Elah, about 26 km (16 mi) northwest of Hebron. The current tell (ruin) by that name has been identified with the biblical Azekah, dating back to the Canaanite period. According to Eusebius' Onomasticon, the name meant "white" in the Canaanite tongue. The tell is pear shaped with the tip pointing northward. Due to its location in the Elah Valley it functioned as one of the main Judahite border cities, sitting on the boundary between the lower and higher Shephelah. Although listed in Joshua 15:35 as being a city in the plain, it is actually partly in the hill country, partly in the plain.
Featured Upcoming Tour
GTI Signature Tour: Israel & Jordan
Septemer 5-17, 2020
Experience Israel & Jordan for 11 days in the context of biblical history and personal faith.
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