Monthly Archives: September 2012

Visiting Mount Gerizim

Today we rented a car that could be driven in the West Bank and drove north to Nablus (site of ancient Shechem) and Mount Gerizim, the home of the Samaritans. Samaritans believe the temple was to be built on Mount Gerizim rather than Jerusalem. They think Abraham offered Isaac on the mountain. They accept only the first five books (the Pentateuch) of the Old Testament.

The blessings and curses of the Mosaic Law were to be read on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal once the children of Israel crossed into the promised land.

“It shall come about, when the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal.” (Deuteronomy 11:29 NAU) cf. Joshua 8:33-35.

It is fairly easy to get to the new archaeological park except for a few bad places in the road in the modern Samaritan village of Kiryat Luza.

Rather than deal with the archaeological information, I thought I would share a couple of photos of some places of significant to the Samaritans. These are within the park.

The first photo shows what according to Samaritan tradition is the altar on which Abraham was commanded to offer Isaac (Genesis 22:1-3). Remember that the Samaritans believe that this is Mount Moriah.

Altar of Isaac on Mt. Gerizim (Samaritan View). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Samaritan tradition identifies this rock as the Altar of Isaac where Abraham began to offer Isaac. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows what the Samaritans call the “Twelve Stones.” Samaritans says that the Israelites built the altar they were commanded to built when they crossed the Jordan (Deuteronomy 27:4).

The Twelve Stones, according to Samaritan tradition. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Twelve Stones, according to Samaritan tradition. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For more information about the archaeological park and the Samaritans see here. The park is under the direction of the Judea and Samaria Civil Administration and the (or of the) Israel Nature and Park Authority.

If you have an interest in the historical information about the temples on Mount Gerizim, check this article by Yitzhak Magen, the recent excavator, here. An attractive brochure is available at the entrance to the park with text by Magen. It is a pleasure to see a brochure written by a knowledgeable person.

Let the New Year begin

This evening at sundown the New Year began according to the Jewish calendar. Today is known as Rosh HaShanna — the head or first of the year.

Late this afternoon I went to the Western Wall to observe some of the festivities of the beginning of the New Year.

The Western Wall on Rosh HaShanna. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Western Wall on Rosh HaShanna. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Finally, when the sun went down just a few minutes after 7 p.m., the new year had arrived to the sound of chanting and dancing.

The Western Wall at the beginning of Rosh HaShanna. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Western Wall at the beginning of Rosh HaShanna. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Now in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall also have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. It will be to you a day for blowing trumpets. (Numbers 29:1 NAU)

Blow the trumpet at the new moon, At the full moon, on our feast day.
(Psalm 81:3 NAU)

We expect to hear the blowing of shophars during the next couple of days.

No work is to be done this day. Our hotel was again filled with Jews celebrating the New Year. The head waiter told me there were approximately 900 served in the dining room this evening.

Modern Jews no longer follow the commands of the following verses in Number 29 requiring the offering of a burnt offering, a grain offering, a drink offering, etc.

The horn or trumpet under consideration is the shophar or ram’s horn. For more about the ram’s horn, see here.

Sabbath in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is an interesting city for many reasons. At the moment I will limit myself to some cultural reasons. Friday evening and Saturday our hotel was filled with Jews who are “observing” Shabat (Sabbath). Instead of preparing food in advance at home, many register in a local hotel and let someone else prepare everything.

But when I went to East Jerusalem I saw kids on the way to/from school, shops open, and people moving about doing their shopping. If they took a weekly holiday, it was Friday.

When I walked from Damascus Gate to Jaffa Gate and Zion Gate, I found all of the Moslem and Christian shops open and bustling with activity. Many Christian shops will be closed Sunday.

Colorful shop in the Moslem Quarter of Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Colorful shop in the Moslem Quarter of Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

During the day I visited Damascus Gate, Zedekiah’s Cave (Solmon’s Quarry), the Russian Excavations, Jaffa Gate area, the roof of the Petra Hotel to see Hezekiah’s Pool, the Armenian Cathedral of St. James, “Mount Zion”, and maybe a few other places I don’t recall.

We get Fox News at our hotel. Several times we have seen reports about the anti-American riots and demonstrations in 21 countries including Israel (Tel Aviv and East Jerusalem). I am not saying it did not happen somewhere, but I was out all day and saw on indication of any such unrest. Perhaps the cameras had already left by the time I got out!

The Shephelah and the Coastal Plain

Today was an easy day of travel, but an extremely important one.We left Jerusalem headed for the Shephelah (lowland; Deuteronomy 1:7). We made a brief stop at Beth-shemesh where the ark of the covenant was returned from the Philistines to Israel (1 Samuel 6). This was also the territory of Samson (Zorah and Esthaol (Judges 13).

We drove through the Valley of Elah (1 Samuel 17) and called attention to the sites located in the area (Socoh, Azekah, and Khirbet Qeiyafa). We made a stops at Tel Goded, Maresha, Tel Burna, Lachish, and Tell es-Safi/Gath for photographs.

Our final stop was at Joppa (Yaffo). This is the site we intended to begin with, but our flight was delayed leaving New York and we were not able to go there on the first day of the tour. The photo below is of the fishing port and lighthouse at Old Joppa.

The fishing port and lighthouse at Old Joppa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The fishing port and lighthouse at Old Joppa. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Joppa is located in the Plain of Sharon and served as the seaport for Jerusalem which is about 35 miles away. The city is now called Jaffa, or Yafo. Joppa was a walled town as early as the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III (1490-1435 B.C.) who mentions Joppa in his town lists.

Here are a few of the biblical highlights for Joppa.

  • Joppa was assigned to the tribe of Dan, but was not controlled by the Israelites till the time of David (Joshua 19:46).
  • Hiram of Tyre floated cedar from Lebanon to Joppa for Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 2:16).
  • Jonah sought a ship for Tarshish at Joppa to avoid going to Nineveh (Jonah 1:3).
  • Cedars from Lebanon again were floated to Joppa for the rebuilding of the temple (520-516 B.C.; Ezra 3:7). The port of the city is behind St. Peter’s Church.
  • Tabitha (Dorcas) lived in Joppa. When she died the disciples sent for Peter who was a Lydda. He came to Joppa and raised Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42). (Acts 10:6).
  • Peter stayed many days in Joppa with Simon the tanner (Acts 9:43). His house was by the sea (Acts 10:6). A house near the port is shown as the house of Simon, but there is no way to know this with certainty.
  • Peter received the housetop vision and learned that he was to go to Caesarea to preach the gospel to the Gentiles at the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10:23).

Benjamin plateau, Israel Museum, and the Garden Tomb

This morning we went out to Nebi Samwil [prophet Samuel], a site suggested as the location of Mizpah by some scholars. Others suggest Tell en-Nasbeh, a mound located at Al Bira in the West Bank. (See Jeffrey Zorn, “Mizpah: Newly Discovered Stratum Reveals Judah’s Other Capital.” BAR 23:05 (Sep/Oct 1997).

  • Samuel, the last judge of Israel, called all of the people of Israel to Mizpah and judged them (1 Samuel 7:5-6).
  • Samuel also anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel at Mizpah (1 Samuel 10:1).
  • Mizpah became the headquarters of Gedaliah as governor of Judah after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem  (2 Kings 25:23).

From the hill, we were able to look north to the Benjamin plateau. Both King Saul and Saul of Tarsus (Paul) were from the tribe of Benjamin. El Jib, the tell of Gibeon, is also visible from Nebi Samwil.

Some new excavations were underway under the direction of the National Parks Authority. We were told that Hasmonean ruins has been excavated, and there was some evidence from the Persian and Babylonian periods.

Excavations at Nebi Samwil - Sept. 13, 2012. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Excavations at Nebi Samwil – Sept. 13, 2012. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After Nebi Samwil we went to the Israel Museum campus for a visit of the Second Temple Model, the Shrine of the Book, and the Israel Museum. This is the first time I have been in the Museum since photos (without flash) have been allowed.

I will share one photo that I am pleased to have in my collection. It shows a bronze bull, dating to the 12th century B.C., found in the Samaria region.

Bronze Bull from Samaria Region - Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bronze Bull from Samaria Region – Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This bull, and others those that have been found at Ashkelon and Hazor, remind us of the calf at Sinai (Exodus 32:24) and the calves set up by Jeroboam at Dan and Bethel (2 Kings 10:29).

The information posted with the statuette says,

Canaanite in inspiration, it attests to Israelite adoption of Canaanite motif. For the Israelites it may have symbolized God, or the pedestal of an unseen God.

Thank you, Israel Museum, for allowing photos.

In the late afternoon we visited The Garden Tomb. While this tomb is clearly not the tomb of Jesus, it provides a good illustration in a natural setting — far different from the Holy Sepulcher.

Visiting the Old City of Jerusalem

We left the hotel this morning at 7:15 in order to be at the security line going to the Temple Mount platform as soon as it opened. After that visit we followed the traditional Via Dolorosa. After a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre we went to the Jewish Quarter to see the Broad Wall, the Burnt House (from A.D. 70), and the Herodian Mansion (or perhaps the house of priests).

We came down to the Western Wall Plaza to visit the Western Wall, then the Davidson Center excavations.

This photo of the Western Wall and Temple Mount platform was made from the southwest. You can see a portion of the Western Wall, the Mughrabi (temporary) Bridge, and the Dome of the Rock (where the biblical Temple once stood).

Temple Mount in Jerusalem from the SW. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Temple Mount in Jerusalem from the SW. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

On the right side of the photo, in the distance, can be seen the hill between Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives. I think this is where the Augusta Victoria Hospital is located.

It was a full day.

Visiting the Jordan River

Israel has opened access to the Jordan River at the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus.

Bible students enjoy visiting this site for several reasons.

  • Ancient Israel crossed the Jordan to enter the promised land (Joshua 3).
  • Elijah and Elisha crossed the river (2 Kings 2).
  • John baptized in the Jordan (Matthew 3:6ff.; Mark 1:5-9; John 1:28; 10:40).
  • Jesus was baptized in the Jordan (Matthew 3:13).
  • Naaman dipped in the Jordan at a site further north (2 Kings 5).

We were able to visit the site this morning.

The Jordan River at the site of the baptism of Jesus. View south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jordan River at the site of the baptism of Jesus. View south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We also visited Masada, Qumran, and Jericho.

The traditional group photo

On each tour we try to have at least one group photo made as a souvenir of the tour. Today our photo was made on Mount of Olives with Jerusalem in the background. Three tour members were absent for the photo.

Click on the image for a photo large enough to identify your friends who may be on the tour.

Jenkins Israel 2012 Group Photo from Mount of Olives.

Israel 2012 tour group photo from the Mount of Olives.

The following tour members are posting more photos and information. I encourage you to take a look.

Steven Braman — Braman’s Wanderings
http://bramanswanderings.wordpress.com

Barry Britnell — Exploring Bible Lands
http://exploringbiblelands.com

Trent and Rebekah
http://www.trentandrebekah.com

Jacob’s Well — from Jacob to Jesus

Jesus came to Sychar, a city of Samaria, near the piece of land Jacob had owned (John 4:5; Genesis 33:19). The territory was apportioned to the descendants of Joseph, and Joseph was buried there at Shechem (Joshua 24:32). It was a place of great historic importance.

We are not able to speak with certainty regarding the location of Sychar. Some scholars associate the site with Shechem; others think it should be identified with the village of Askar which is located a short distance north. The traditional Jacob’s Well is located at Shechem in the valley between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. The modern town of Nablus now fills this valley.

André Parrot says,

“Of all the ‘holy places’ of Palestine, none has more reason to be considered authentic than Jacob’s well. Indeed, there is no reason why its authenticity should be questioned” (Land of Christ 65).

Parrot describes the water as “cool and pleasant-tasting…drawn from a depth of 128 feet.” I have drunk the water several times, but in the past couple of decades my guides have advised against it due to pollution in the area.

The Samaritan woman said, “the well is deep” (John 4:11). Parrot reports the well is 128 feet deep. Murphy-O’Connor says it is 22.5 meters deep (about 74 feet). McGarvey cites several measurements mentioned in 19th century writers and reminds us that the well became filled with stones cast in by travelers trying to hear how long it would take a stone to hit the bottom (Lands of the Bible 283). He reports that the well was often dry.

There are numerous springs in the area of Shechem. Jacob, as a late-comer to the region, might have found it necessary to dig a well to assure water for his family and cattle.

A church was erected over the well about A.D. 380. The Crusaders built another church on the site in the 12th century. The property came under the control of the Greek Orthodox church in 1860. By the end of the 19th century the Greeks began a new church, but construction was halted during World War I. The new building was completed in 2007. This photo shows the towers and dome of the church today.

New Greek Orthodox Church covering Jacob's Well. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

New Greek Orthodox Church covering Jacob’s Well. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

It has been difficult for groups to visit Jacob’s Well in recent years due to the situation in Nablus and the West Bank. Today we were able to visit the church and make photos.

Jacob's Well. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jacob’s Well. in a Greek Orthodox Setting. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We had a nice day visiting Beth Shean, Spring of Harod (it was dry); Jezreel, Samaria, as well as Jacob’s Well.

Around the Sea of Galilee

Our great little hotel in Tiberias, the Ron Beach, has its own boarding dock. I was delighted when I learned that the water level was high enough that this could be done. This morning we stepped out of our rooms and walked a few yards to boarded our boat for a ride on the Sea of Galilee.

We board our boat from the Ron Beach Hotel in Tiberias. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We board our boat from the Ron Beach Hotel in Tiberias. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After an orientation from the Sea, we visited major sites around the Sea of Galilee. These included the Roman Boat, Magdala (we actually entered the site, but were not allowed to make photos of the new excavations; it is not ready for tourist yet), Chorzain, Capernaum, the Mount of Beatitudes, the Cove of the Sower, Bethsaida/Geshur, Kursi, and a view of Hippos.

At Capernaum I waited with patience until I was able to get this photo of the interior of the 4th century (reconstructed) synagogue without a tourist in attendance. Not easy, I can tell you.

Interior of the Capernaum Synagogue. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Interior of the Capernaum Synagogue. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

To my knowledge everyone in our group is well and enjoying this wonderful educational and spiritual experience.