I have blogged about these sites before here, here, and here. As a result, I will not give a lot of additional background, except to mention what we sang, felt, and experienced at these sites and post a set of pictures so that the family and friends of this next group might be able to catch a glimpse or two of "their" students.
|Jared pointing out some features of the site|
|Looking at the remains of the palace across the wadi (not the greenhouse!)|
|My class at Herod's winter palace|
|These four missed the group pic because of some goats that got their attention, but Papa Hunts made sure they were not missed|
|Exploring the Herodian calidarium, or hot bath|
|Our Herodian Hot Tub pic!|
While I will not give a history of Tel es-Sultan, the archaeological mound containing the remnants of this "oldest [known] city" on earth, I will repost this diagram of the tell, as well as this link to its Wikipedia article. Jared Ludlow (a.k.a., J-Rowdy) did his usual thorough job leading the students through the archaeology of the site, and it fell to me to talk about various Old Testament passages that referred to it. I then did something that I have wanted to do but have not had the chance to do before: we actually sang "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" standing right there on the tell! It was only partly successful: I had printed the lyrics and the students sang with good spirits, but since I am only used to singing the baritone part with the Tab Choir, I failed them a few times on the melody part of one of the verses!
|Watching the Palestinian Authority's movie on Jericho|
|There's the movie! (such as it was)|
|Climbing up on the Jericho tell|
|Posing on the tell|
|Remains of the Neolithic Tower, perhaps the oldest surviving human structure|
|Singing "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" on site|
We then made a quick stop at Elisha's Spring. One of the reasons that Jericho has been inhabited for so long is because of its continuously flowing, ample spring. In fact, the only recorded time when the spring "went bad" is found in 2 Kings 2:19-22, when the prophet Elisha healed the waters. Most of the spring is not diverted through the water works of modern Jericho, but a token amount still flows, and our students sampled drinking from it and wading in its waters.
We then drove about one third of the way back to Jerusalem, pulling a ways off the highway and taking the access road to the gate that leads to the path down to the Monastery of St. George in the Wadi Kelt. The wadi leads from near Jerusalem down to Jericho and to the Jordan River through a deep valley. Our purpose of coming there, however, was not to see monastery or the wadi per se. Rather we talked from that point up and along the ridge for about half a kilometer, giving the students a feel for what the barren Judean Wilderness is like (though in the winter rainy season, we actually saw signs of a fair amount of sprouting green here and there).
|The monastery of St. George nestled into the wall of the Wadi Kelt|
|Some green signs of life after winter rains|
Stopping at one point, we read the story of the Temptation from Matthew 4:1-11, after which we talked about our own "wildernesses" and how we must also use them as opportunities to "be with God" even as Jesus did. After singing "To Nephi Seer of Olden Time (hymn 274, because of its reference to holding to the iron rod and that story's allusions to traveling through "a lone and dreary wilderness), I gave the students 10 minutes to sit quietly, reflecting, thinking, or praying. The silence was so heavy that it was tangible, palpable, giving us a feeling for why Jesus, and later thousands of monks, sought the solitude of this very place.
|Jared and I with our students at Wadi Kelt (I am in the middle, black shirt and leather jacket)|
|Reading the scriptures, singing together, and praying is what being pilgrims in the Holy Land is all about|