It was still raining quite a bit in the north of the country yesterday, but we enjoyed some good visits. The morning was clear for the visit to Beth Shean (Beth-shan). We approached the overlook of the Jezreel Valley from Jezreel in a light drizzle.
From that spot one gets a view of Jezreel Valley, Mount Gilboa, the Hill of Moreh, and the spring below Jezreel. We discussed Gideon and the Midianites, the Ahab and Jezebel and their deaths, Naboth’s Vineyard, Elijah and the prophets of Baal, the coming of Jehu. What a great visual backdrop this provided!
We were able to travel along the central mountain range through Samaria. This is not always possible when traveling in the country. The road up to the Hill of Samaria is in bad repair (what a shame), but our driver was able to negotiate the ruts and get us to the top.
I have eaten several times before at the Samaria Restaurant in Sebastia. It is located across from the Roman agora of ancient Samaria. The owner, Mahmud Ghazal is a pleasant person. He studied at the University of Alabama, with a degree from UAB. If you are able to go to Samaria I suggest you try this restaurant, and then visit his shop.
There is a nice wall exhibit in the restaurant showing some of the antiques from the area – from the not too distant past. Take a look.
Most of these antiques have to do with agricultural practices that were common in Bible times. On the right you have a wooden plow with a metal plow point. On the left is a threshing sledge. On the right you see two winnowing forks and a sickle. I don’t have the time to list biblical references for all of these items. Many of them we have discussed before on this blog.
The rain let up long enough for us to have a good visit of the archaeological ruins of ancient Samaria.
We also stopped at Jacob’s Well, drove up on Mount Gerizim for a view of the area below. Then we continued to our hotel in Jerusalem.
Rain was forecast for Jerusalem today, so we went through the Wilderness of Judea and drove along the Dead Sea to Masada. There were large crowds at Masada. Some of them probably had the same idea we did and changed their plan to be in a dry place for the day.
Hopefully the skies will be clear tomorrow. We are having a great learning experience, and a great time, anyway.
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Tom, thanks for you comments. You always provide some additional, helpful info. Our bus is one of the larger ones. Last year the driver drove through the village to go up, but used the road to go down. There were some narrow places moving through the village.
Steve, the Spring of Harod was closed with no sign indicating why. I guess it might have been that the low area in the park might have been flooded due to the heavy rains.
What a wonderful journey and it continues…..Your knowledge is amazing Ferrell – the group couldn’t have a better guide/teacher!
One more comment: There is plenty to see in the town of Sebastiya itself, a very quick walk down from the expanse of the ancient forum: the Crusader cathedral-cum-mosque and the ancient tombs that lie below; remains of a Roman mausoleum (read its story!); much on-going archaeology and restoration, especially of Byzantine and medieval structures (one of them houses a small B&B) — and more. These projects are being carried out largely by the PA, with help from the Italians, the Jericho-based Mosaic Center, and the Franciscans’ support arm, ATS-ProTerraSancta.
By the way, the John the Baptist connection sometimes claimed for the town is almost surely incorrect — but still very old, probably the legacy of Byzantine pilgrims (and their guides?) who got their “Herods” mixed up!
For more, see: http://www.greenprophet.com/2011/01/sebastia-tourism/
Mahmud Ghazal is indeed a great fellow. His family’s story parallels that of so many other Palestinians, with many post-’48 ties to the USA and other places.
I presume you were in a large bus which could not negotiate the narrow, twist-y streets of the adjacent town of Sebastiya, which are in good shape and the preferred route. The road you were on, the site’s main access road of years past, was essentially destroyed by IDF tanks during the Second Intifada: The Palestinians cannot repair it because it (and the park) lie in “Area C” — full Israeli control, per Oslo; and, the Israelis, for their own reasons, have chosen not to fix it. The park itself, as you know, is very much in limbo these days, unprotected and under-visited. As you say, what a shame.
Thanks for the memories of a great meal. I second the recommendation. Did you get to see the Spring of Harod? I am sure there is a lot more water there than there was last September.