Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jericho and the Judean Wilderness (Su12)

The day after we got back from Turkey, we were back at it, taking a part-day field trip into the West Bank, where we explored sites in and around Jericho and then at Wadi Qelt, where we commemorated Jesus' Forty Days in the Wilderness. See details and background of Monday's sites in last semester's post.

Herod's Winter Palace

After Jared had familiarized the students with the site and its remains, I read from Josephus about the death of Herod here.  Then, reflecting on how the great monuments and legacy of powerful ancient kings now lay in ruins, we sang the Kipling poem "God of Our Fathers, Know of Old," which is set in our hymnbook.

Jared Ludlow teaching the archaeology of the site

In the bath in Herod's Palace
After the set pic, some of the students decided to "make a whirlpool"

The Sycamore Tree at Jericho

This old sycamore tree was not there at the time of Jesus, but it is where we usually recall the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19:1-10.  Usually we simply stop the bus and look at the tree through the windows because the local street vendors are unusually aggressive.  But this was my last time coming to Jericho, plus I thought that it would be more effective reading the story under the tree.

Under the sycamore tree with my students
Despite our efforts to avoid the local vendors, one soon had me dressed in a keffiyeh

Tel es-Sultan

The site of Old Testament Jericho is a tel of 23 levels.  It is a little hard to imagine what Bronze Age Jericho must have looked like, we still ended our formal visit with a rendition of "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho."

Elisha's Spring

Wadi Qelt
Our last stop was at Wadi Qelt on our way back to Jerusalem.  A deep seasonal river bed, a deep ravine actually, Wadi Qelt leads from the Jerusalem area down to Herod's Winter Palace north of Jericho, and then on to the Jordan River.  At a particularly barren area of the wadi in the Judean Wilderness lies the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. George.  
Near the gates leading down to St. George's, we led our students on a half kilometer hike along the rocky, hot, desert ridge, giving them an idea of what it must have been like for Jesus to be there for 40 days.  After reviewing the account of the temptations from all three Synoptic gospels, we talked about what it teaches us about Christ and ourselves and then sang "More Holiness Give Me."  We then took 10 minutes of quiet time for prayer and reflection.

Singing "More Holiness Give Me"

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