December 2009


We’ve been doing quite a bit with Brooke the last few days. Well, mostly I’ve been doing a lot with Brooke and Brandon has been playing “Mr. Mom”. He’s been so gracious to stay home with Joanna during the day so Brooke and I can explore around Jerusalem. (He’s been working nights, 6-midnight, painting at JUC. Yes, he get’s a gold star for the week.)

Brooke and I have been to the Old City, the Mount of Olives, the Shuk, the Israel Museum and today we went shopping. Tomorrow we’re off to Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum). I’ve been wanting to go for quite some time as I’ve heard it’s even better (if better is the way to describe it) than the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

Here are a couple pics from our time thus far…

At the Israel Museum

Dome of the Rock Dessert

In the middle of November I had the opportunity to travel to the country of Jordan for 4 days.  Although there aren’t as many Biblical events that happened there compared to what happened in the country of Israel, it was still a very important area and it played an important role within the Biblical narrative. 

At the height of the Roman Empire, during the first century, a number of cities were established in Jordan.  These cities were known as the Decapolis cities.  These cities were very pagan in nature.  Inhabitants would worship a number of different gods and they were typically a center for theater, education, entertainment, and politics.  Each city had similar characteristics; however the layout and  size varied.  A good comparison would be the major cities in the US: NY, Miami, Chicago, Dallas etc.  Each city has a sports stadium, a theater, schools, parks etc., but they don’t all have the same layout.

On our trip we went to 4 of these cities (Philadelphia, Gadara, Gerash, and Pella).  Here are a number of pictures from these very impressive cities.       

All Decapolis cities are known for their paved roads, theaters, hippodromes, and columns. 

Gadara is especially known for their black basalt columns.  None of the other cities posses something like this. 

Philadelphia is known for its huge temple dedicated to Zeus.  As you can see I am significantly smaller than the columns in the temple.  It is also known for its large theater.  At this site we were able to spend time at a museum that had a number of ancient artifacts from the past 3000 years. 

Our next stop was the city of Gerash.  This is my favorite Decapolis city.  They call it the city of 1000 columns, but as you will see from my pictures the city has significantly more than a 1000 columns.  I like to compare it to the Minnesota slogan “a land of 10,000 lakes”.  I really like this city not only for its columns but also because of its hippodrome and its large theaters that are really fun to sing in.

As you can see, every street throughout the city is lined with columns.  It is really impressive.

These are just a few of the pictures that I took at these impressive Decapolis cities.  I didn’t show you any pictures from the city of Pella, because it was severely damaged by an earthquake in 572.

On the third day, I went to Petra, a Nabatean city.  It was a very impressive city back in the day.  The Nabateans were known for their ability to collect water.  Petra is located in the southern part of Jordan.  They get very little rainfall there and the Nabateans created ways to collect every drop.  In addition to their ability to catch water, they are also known for their graves.  They created huge burial chambers for themselves.  Here are a couple of impressive chambers. 

FYI this actual tomb was featured in the final Indiana Jones Movie.  In the movie Indiana Jones goes far into the tomb, but that’s not how it actually is.

This is picture is of the “monastery.”  In order to get to the monastery you need to climb 975+ stairs and walk a good distance to get to the top.  I was with a bunch of younger guys who didn’t know how to pace themselves.  Let’s just say I was huffing and puffing when I got to the top. 🙂  An average person with good knees, a strong back, and a positive attitude usually takes about an hour.  My group got there in 35 minutes. 

In order to fully appreciate these pictures it is very important that you look at how small the people are.  The doorway into this is huge.  In order to get inside it takes a lot of work. 

Here are some of my friends.  See how small they are!

Here are some other tombs that are located throughout the city. 

We spent 7 hours at Petra.  It was a full day of hiking and taking in the sites. 

After Petra we headed north.  We stop at the Edomite capital of Bozrah.  There wasn’t much to see at all and it was cold, but I can say that I was there.  If you are interested, read Obadiah.  It references the Edomites.

The final stop on this field study and our last stop of the entire semester was at the top of Mount Nebo.  Mount Nebo is the place of Moses’ death and the place where Moses saw the Promised Land.  Check out Dt. 34.  This is a picture of what Moses saw when looking towards the present location of Jerusalem.

When it was all said and done, I was able to travel on both sides of the Jordan River and see a number of Biblical sites.  I have shown you a very small sampling of my pictures.  If you are studying the Bible and have any questions dealing with the land please feel free to send them my way.  I would be more than willing to provide answers for you and send you some pictures. 

I will be posting soon regarding my trip to Egypt.  It might take me awhile as I have close to 1000 pictures to sort through. 🙂

This morning we met up with a group of friends at 9:30 to walk to Bethlehem. It’s about 3 miles to the checkpoint from our apartment. Then another mile or two to Manger Square. Along the way we saw a “Christmas” parade. There were 20+ “bands” lined up in the parade. No floats. No tractors. Nadda. Just these crazy bands that had people of all ages. We never found out if they were from schools, towns or family groups, but they were all packed together on narrow streets playing bagpipes and drums. Little kids in matching suits would march behind them.

After the parade we went to the Church of the Nativity, the location traditionally marked as the place of Jesus’ birth.

Then we walked another mile or so to The Shepherd’s Fields. This is just one of the many places claiming to be the spot where the angels appeared to the shepherds. There is a cave there that looks a bit more authentic than the Catholic church.

Here’s a few facts about the nativity story that may be different from what you learned in Sunday School.
– Mary may not have been 9 months pregnant when they were still traveling. Scripture actually says, “and while she was there, the time came for her to give birth” (Lk 2:6). Could it be that they traveled earlier in her pregnancy and were in Bethlehem for some time (days, weeks, months) before she went into labor? Why do we always think that she was going into labor the minute she arrived in Bethlehem?
– The word for inn is actually the word used for the guestroom of any family home. Mary and Joseph most likely would have stayed with relatives in a family home for the census. Chances are there were too many family members staying at that same home so Mary and Joseph bunked in the family stable. Maybe they weren’t the only ones sleeping there.
– The “stable” is more likely a cave where livestock were kept and would be very near the family home. When the Huizenga’s vacationed to Minnesota years ago and the cabin was too full. Some cousins would sleep in the bunk house and others would sleep on mattresses in the back of the pickups. Family was always nearby but people just needed places to sleep. Maybe Mary and Joseph weren’t so alone after all.

One thing is certain, Mary and Joseph walked A LONG way and over lots of BIG hills. Whether she was 6 months pregnant or 9 months pregnant it would have been quite the journey. We only walked a small piece of it today and by the end we were all looking for the bus, even if it looked a bit unreliable!

All in all it was a good day. And tomorrow is Christmas! Merry Christmas everyone!

After a little delay in Amsterdam due to snow, Brooke is here. Brandon met her at the airport at 4 am and they were back here by 5. We “slept in” as long as Joanna would let us (7am) and have a relaxing day planned. Translation: it’s 9:45 and I’m still in my pjs. 🙂

Brooke is on her way. She’ll get here at 2:30 am tonight. Brandon is planning to meet her at the airport. We’re so glad she’ll be with us for Christmas. It’s been rather difficult being away from family while they celebrate. We’ll be packing lots in while she’s here, including a 3 day trip to the Sea of Galilee! Can’t wait.

The Galilee trip included a boat ride on the Sea! It was a great experience to be on the Sea of Galilee.  I wished we could have been on the sea longer, but we had a full day ahead so we had to keep going.  This is the boat we rode and view of the shore from the middle of the sea.

After our boat ride we went to Capernaum, the home base for Jesus’s ministry.  This location helped me gain great insight into the life of Jesus Christ.  It was interesting to hear what scholars thought about what Jesus did from the age of 12 to the age of 30.  Scripture doesn’t say anything regarding his actions, but based upon the Hebrew language and knowledge of the land and the culture scholars believe Jesus did ministry and served the town as a construction know it all.  A Jack-of-All-Trades you might say.  

 After going to Capernaum we spent some time climbing Mount Arbel.  This is the tallest “mountain” around the Sea of Galilee.  It was a long steep climb, but the view at the top was totally worth it. Some scholars believe that when Jesus would go to a secluded place to pray he might have climbed to the top of Mount Arbel. 

 After resting for the night we started on the way home and visited the cities of Zappori, Nazareth, and Kursi, and then we visited one of my favorite cities… Beth Shan. 

 Beth Shan is a Roman city that was that flourishing during the first century AD. This city was an important city throughout history as its location provided security and accessibility to other major highways.  This also made it a major military target and it was conquered a number of times by different empires.  (This is the same place we took Kelly’s parents when they visited.)

Before we left for home, Dr. Wright encouraged all of us to make sure we went to the water closet before we got on the bus as Beth Shan is a two-hour drive to Jerusalem.  So my friends and I made sure to listen.  Good thing we had some reading material along.  🙂

That concludes my trip to Galilee.  I will be posting some picture from my trip to the country of Jordan soon.

My semester is finally over. My tests are completed, my papers have been turned in, and I am done traveling for a while. Over the course of this past semester I have been to 3 different countries; used 6 modes of transportation (plane, train, bus, camel, boat, horse and buggy); went to places where Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Paul, David, Solomon, Herod the Great, Saul, Elijah, and the 12 disciples wer;, swam in the Mediterranean, Dead, and the Red Seas; wrote a number of papers; and to top it all off I only got sick once. 🙂

It is now time for me to share some pictures and stories of my adventures.  In October I had the opportunity to go to Galilee for 4 days.  We started the trip by going to Caesarea, a Roman port city along the Mediterranean Sea.  The city is known for its great amphitheater, one of Herod the Great’s palaces, the place of Paul’s imprisonment, and a place of ministry for the disciple Peter. This is a picture of the theater.

Here I am standing on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea next to Herod the Great’s palace.  

After Caesarea we spent some at the ancient cities of Megiddo and Hazor and eventually went to the top of Mt. Carmel (the sight of Elijah and the fire from heaven). This is a picture of the plain at the top of the mountain where the sacrifices were made.

After my time on Mt. Carmel we went to the ancient city of Caesarea Philippi.  It  was there that Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church.”  

Tomorrow I will post some pictures from around the Sea of Galilee.

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