A Georgia Baptist Institution
|ISRAEL ONLINE JOURNAL|
by Tracy Batchelor, Assistant Director, Student Engagement & Success
Hello one more time from Israel! I promise this is (probably) my last travel update. Today's sites were interesting, and I'm grateful for another day of beautiful weather. It felt like a quick day because we returned to the hotel around 3 to freshen up before dinner and the airport. First thing this morning at the Israel Museum, we saw a smaller scale replica (that was still huge to me!) of first century Jerusalem. All around me, students were commenting about how this replica helped so many of our sites click into place proportionally in the city as it was during Jesus' time.
Also this morning we saw the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are located. (Remember a few days ago when I went to Quamran and saw the caves where they discovered the scrolls.) Also in the building with the Dead Sea Scrolls, we got to see the Aleppo Codex, which is the oldest surviving Masoretic text dating to the tenth century. Then, we walked through an eighth century tunnel under the City of David... aka Hezekiah's Tunnel that was carved to carry water from a spring to the city.
Well, I will close for now. I'm so grateful for our safe travel thus far, and please keep us in your prayers as we return home.
Day Ten Links
My Israel updates are almost over because our travels in the Holy Land are coming to a close. Tomorrow is still a full day of exploration and learning in Jerusalem, but we will then go to the airport at about 7:30 p.m. before our flight tomorrow night around 10.
In the half an hour before dinner tonight, many students are doing their preliminary packing... thinking through souvenir packing, what clothes aren't important enough to make the return flight, etc. After dinner tonight, many of us plan to explore the nearby shops for a few last-minute Israel momentos.
Today has been special and unique. It's almost unbelievable to me that I can say that about day 9. Each day has stood alone. Each site has been different. Today began with our group once again on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. We read scripture relevant to Palm Sunday. Dr. Wallace provided a very thought-provoking brief devotion. We prayed together. We sang "Amazing Grace," "Precious Lord," and "How Great is Our God." And for me, the line in "Amazing Grace" that goes "When we've been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise, than when we'd first begun", I couldn't help but have a rush of thoughts about all the historical / archeological moments in the past 8 days. I'm so energized by this rush, and hopeful that my realizations / connections continue when I return home.
Another element of the day brought additional light to the current country of Israel. I am not going to adequately describe it, so I'll admit that first. We toured the Israel Holocaust Museum. In the three hours our group walked through the exhibits, we wiped tears, prayed and considered such a tragedy. Oh, gosh. My words on that aren't ready yet. Ask me when I get back home.
It is still hard to believe that it is almost time to fly back. Perhaps I'll have a chance to email again tomorrow, but if not, please know that I'll let you know when we arrive safely in the U.S. (But I will try to drop a quick update to you tomorrow before we head to the airport!)
Day Nine Lnks
Ahh, it is nice to have an afternoon of relaxing. Well, not a whole afternoon, more like 3 hours before an early dinner and night touring of Jerusalem. Today was a full day of thoughts, connections and questions before even 3 p.m. Israel time. We walked the streets of the Old City and also stood at the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethesemane. When I return back to Rome, if not before, I hope to intensively read the scriptures that connect with the places I've travelled. Yes, we are doing that along (the students continue to request that Dr. Wallace read scripture relevant to many of the sites), and yes, I am doing that in my room in the evenings, but you can't just read it once and smile and feel connected. No, our vibrant scriptures now hold a new visual for me and I'm hungry to dive back in and think about each of the locations some more.
A realization that I had this afternoon on the Mount of Olives: Next Sunday is Easter Sunday. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. And today, I saw with my own eyes the eastern gate of the city wall, where the eastern gate of the city wall during Jesus' time was where he came into town on Palm Sunday. (You may have to reread that sentence multiple times because I admit its poor phrasing!!!) I just reflected on the timing of this trip... As Dr. Pearson told the group last night, the divine purpose of this experience for each of us... And as Easter Sunday draws closer, as the time of the year when we focus on so many of the well-known elements of Christ's death and resurrection, I am actually here.
Today, I walked where Jesus walked. We all did. There were stone steps leading to what excavations have proven as the home Caiphas the high priest. So as Jesus was taken there at the point of his arrest, and where Peter denied him, I was there standing on the first century road. When we print our photographs and put them in scrapbooks to share with our friends, those stones just look like steps... but when the context, the impact, the meaning, of those stones are shared, I hope that my experience in Israel brings to life so much more.
Well, enough reflections for now. It's time for dinner before night-time touring.
Day Eight Links
I get to send an early update today. We came back to the room a little early to rest for a little "Jerusalem at Night" excursion.
We saw the church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of St. Anne, Hezekiah’s Wall, the Byzantine “Cardo” (“Main Street”), the Church of All Nations, the Tomb of the Virgin . . . and several others . . . all before 3 p.m.
Just a quick note to let you know that our group has arrived safely in Jerusalem, and I have occasional email access once again throughout the remainder of our travels. We have done some amazing things in the past few days, including swimming in the Dead Sea, spelunking in caves, riding camels and sleeping in the desert. Our academic conversations continue to increase. Dr. Wallace cannot go to any site without multiple questions from many of us.
I wish I had time to share more details, but in all honesty, I'm very tired and need to get some rest before a full day of seeing and discussing the Old City tomorrow. (And for me, I must be sleepy if I don't want to type my heart out about this unbelievable experience.)
I hope all is well back home.
Day Seven Links
Today we climbed to the top of En Gedi, which overlooks the Dead Sea. The view was spectacular and well worth the hike up. You forget how tired you are when you look out over such beauty. It's just been one amazing site after another. It's hard to imagine there being so many great things to see in such a small area and each of us are more aware every day of how blessed we are to be able to experience so much in such a short time. It is truly overwhelming!
We took a cable car to the top of the Masada, which was a palace/fortress of Herod the Great and the site of the last stand by the Zealots in their rebellion against Rome. At this point in the trip I think we were all ready to ride up instead of walk!
We also visited the Israelite fortress of Arad. The awesome history of this place just really hits you every day.
Tonight is our much-anticipated Bedouin experience and I know I will be eager to get back to a computer to tell you all about it!
Day Six Links
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