Thursday, February 22, 2007
We have a trip to Galilee planned in about a month to visit a ton of New Testament sites, but because of our inability to visit certain places in the West Bank, Hebron, Beth-el, and Ai, we were able to go to the North for two days and visit non-New Testament sites, such as Mt. Carmel (site of the showdown between Elijah and the priests of Baal), the Castle of Nimrod, and the Golan Heights. Quite a few of the sites are near the Lebanese and Syrian borders.
I've never seen so much green! The Galilee is in the Jordan Rift Valley, just like Jericho, and while in Jericho things grew well as long as you irrigated, here you can't stop the "circle of life" from spinning. Galilee is also below sea level. Compared to the south, it is sparsely populated. It's surprising that arid areas like Be'er Sheba would be settled more rapidly than Tiberias, because there seems to be space for all. Apparently the property prices had something to do with keeping the area free from many settlements-- well, that and the fact that before the 1967 war the Syrian border used to be right on the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee.
If there is one thing about Galilee, however, it's the peace. Many of the students just got off the bus, took a beach chair down to the edge of the water, and spent time with their thoughts. What's amazing is that I wouldn't doubt that Christ walked right along that very place that I was sitting and reading about the scriptures. I can see why Christ loved the Galilee.
Well, there are a lot of OT sites that we visited. One thing that some people don't know is that Armageddon actually comes from two words: Har, which means Mount, and Megiddo, which is the name of a tel that we visited. So the anglicized phrase, "The battle of Armageddon" means the battle of Mount Megiddo. In ancient times, it was said that taking Megiddo was like taking 100 cities. The Israelites themselves didn't conquer Megiddo until the reign of King David, at least 250 years after coming into the promised land. It controls all traffic going north and south through the plain area, so it makes sense that it would be the place of "the final showdown," shall we say.
Even though we saw many cool sites like the Golan Heights (two girls and a professor accidentally went into Syria, barely. For some reason the road wasn't patrolled at the time), and the tribal home of Dan, our favorite site was Nimrod's Fortress. The fortress was built by crusaders and added-onto by Muslims. It sits high on a mountain top and is everything someone would want a medieval fortress to be. We found areas that look just like a scene out of "The Swan Princess" and deep, dark stairways where the unprepared use their cellphones to light the next step and you weren't sure if the bats would be offended by your intrusion (actually, we didn't see any bats, but they're supposed to be there). The fortress would have been nearly impossible to take, but it seems to be a playground for college students now :).
BTW, the picture that I included is a panoramic shot of the Valley of Jezreel, the valley just below Mount Megiddo where the armies of the earth are supposed to gather for the battle. Be sure to click on it so you can see it bigger. If you want to see it even bigger you'll have to save it to your computer. Keep in mind that this is a 180-degree panorama. It just shows you that there really is room for all out there...
Till next time then,