Mount of Olives panorama

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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Museum of the Good Samaritan

This afternoon we took a brief family outing to the Good Samaritan Museum, which is modern mosaics museum built on the site of an earlier Byzantine and then Crusader church called "The Inn of the Good Samaritan."  It is on the road down, literally down, to Jericho, where early Christians liked to imagine the setting of the Jesus' Parable of the Good Samaritan.
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him . . . (Luke 10:30-33)
The idea behind the modern museum, which is found on the West Bank about halfway to Jericho not far from the Israeli settlement of Ma`ale Adummim, is to unite in museum the people involved in the story of the Good Samaritan: Christians (for Jesus, the narrator), Jews (the priest and the Levite), and Samaritans (for the kind, helpful fellow-traveler).  To that end, mosaics and some other artifacts from Christian churches and Jewish and Samaritan synagogues have been brought here for display.
Although using the parable as a unifying feature for the mosaics works, it has not been without controversy (read the fourth comment on this blog about the Good Samaritan Museum from an actual Samaritan).

A wooden roof, approximately in the form of the original basilica, has been built over the site of the original Byzantine church that was on this site.  The greater part of the mosaic floor of this church has been restored under this open-air skeleton basilica.  

Samuel and Rachel doing the hands-on mosaic activity

Samuel working on a Star of David mosaic

Rachel working on her mosaic
Then Samuel was ready for a break!
Other mosaics from various sites from throughout what used to be called "the Territories" (Gaza, Judea, and Samaria = Gaza and the West Bank) appear on the grounds, but the best ones are now housed in an old Ottoman-era building on the site, which has been renovated and expanded, the most important renovation being the addition of air conditioning!).  Here in addition to many mosaics were inscriptions and also photographs of sites, including some of the Samaritan holy site at Mt. Gerizim near modern-Nablus.  Since we are not able to travel freely to those areas of the West Bank, these displays are, unfortunately, as close as I am going to get to those places and people.

This interesting mosaic from a synagogue in Gaza actually portrayed David (rare in Jewish art). Jere dressed as a Byzantine emperor he plays his harp.

In this picture of a picture, Mount Gerizim (the mountain of blessing) is in the snow-covered foreground while Mount Ebal (the mountain of cursing) is in the background.
Samuel was actually a trooper for most of the visit.  We had noticed an ice cream freezer at the entrance to the National Park site, so he had a treat waiting for him if he was good.  And after being out in the heat for just a little while, he was glad to get into the air conditioned museum proper, where Elaine did a good job of explaining to him what mosaics were and helping him make a game of finding animals and other things in the mosaics.  

Elaine (seated on the bench out of the picture) explains to Samuel how mosaics were made

Samuel stayed interested for awhile, but then Dad KEPT reading inscriptions and looking at mosaics

So after a while, he had had enough!

Rachel thought it looked like a good idea. They were glad that the building was air conditioned.  I was glad we were alone in the museum!
After we left the museum grounds, I took some pictures of barren Judean Wilderness, which I might be able to use in future classes when I teach the Parable of the Good Samaritan. 

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