Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Shephelah, Yom Kippur, and Erev Sukkot

      The last two weeks has been a whirl wind.  I am continuing to soak up new information and feel as if I don't know where to hold more.  Its amazing and overwhelming at the same time.   The following is a brief synopsis of  the last fourteen days: last Wednesday (Oct 5) and today we went on two Shephelah trips.  The Shephelah, also known as the foothills, is the buffer zone between the hill country and the coastal plain.   We visited the Sorek, Elah, and Guvrin Valleys.  The Sorek Valley is where Samson spent much of his life and the Elah Valley is where David killed Goliath.  Within these Valleys we visited sites such as Beth Shemesh which is in the area that Samson killed many Philistines with just the jawbone of a donkey, Azekah where the Philistines encamped before the battle of David and Goliath, Tel Goded where we explored caves carved into chalk by the Jewish people during the 2nd Jewish Revolt to hide from the Romans, Maresha which may have been the hometown of the prophet Micah (Micah 1:1),  Lacish which Rehoboam fortified Sennacharib sieged and Joshua smote, Hirbet Qeiyafa which may be the site known as "two gates" (1 Sam 17:1),  Gath which is the home of Goliath, Caves of Adullam where David fled from Saul and hid (1Sam 22:1-4), and Gaza which was a Philistine city.  In between the two Wednesday we celebrated Yom Kippur, which is the Day of Atonement for Jewish people.  It is a solemn day centered around repentance.  Jewish custom is to fast (which we did as well) and remain home.  Due to their customs the freeways are empty accept for a few arab cars.  Because of this on friday night we went to the main highway and took pictures.  You can imagine it by thinking of what it would be like if Las Angeles closed the 5 freeway for a holiday, pretty crazy.  On Saturday we had men and women's bible study, prayed during the afternoon, fasted all day, and had huge dinners at the staffs houses.  Overall it was a great experience.  Tuesday (Oct 11)  we went into Jerusalem with our Jewish Thought and Culture teach, Ariel, to celebrate erev Sukkot.  Sukkot is the feast of booths and lasts for eight days.  It is a time of celebration, after repentance, and prayer for rain.  We went during the evening.  It was incredible.  The closest holiday I can compare it to is Christmas.  They have a Sukkot fair where they come to get palm branches and the etrog.  At the end of the night we went to the very Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.  It was a little scary as they are not welcome to visitors.  While walking the street I couldn't get over the sense of community they have.  I am very fascinated by their way of life and had lots of thoughts on my mind after.  On top of all that I had many classes,  papers, and a huge midterm.  I am definitely exhausted and am ready for one free day which won't happen till December 11 when we are done :)  Last thing before I get back to tons of homework, here are some verses that have made me think about my walk with God and life in general.  I hope they impact you as well in one way or another.  John 7: 17-18 "If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my authority.  The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood."  Proverbs 19:27 " Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge."   1 Corinthians 15:10 "But by the grace of God I am what I am..."  Just some words to think about.  I pray you all have a blessed week. 
The Sorek Valley behind us where Samson spent much of his life.

Samson killed 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:14-17)

I am on top of Azekah with the Elah Valley behind me.   The philistines encamped between Azekah and Socoth on the right side while the Israelites were encamped on the left side.  David killed Goliath in this valley (1 Sam 17).

Going into the cave at Tel Goded.  I still can't believe I did this and didn't get claustrophobic.  We were literally crawling on our bellies and then came to a huge room.  Once inside there were many tunnels branching off.  It was amazing. 

Before this picture we were in a bigger room and then squeezed through a tunnel and came into this room.   The tunnels were incredible and it was so fun to explore.  Sometimes we would get stuck and have to back out because of how skinny the tunnels got.  There are more pictures on facebook of guys from our group coming out of tunnels, im still not sure how they did it. 

I was definitely dirty afterwards but absolutely loved it and won't to go back and explore some more. 

This was an old stadium .  It was sobering in light of the fact that it was where Christians were martyred for there faith. 

This was at Hirbet Qeiyafa, the city of "two gates."  These girls are two of my really good friends here.  Rebecca, on the right gave us all nicknames.  Rebecca is Grasshopper, I am Sensei, and Kayla is Dragonfly.  Not sure how she came up with the names but we have fun with them. 

The Elah Valley

Erev Yom Kippur (The eve of the Day of Atonement)

It was really fun running up and down the main highway, usually it is packed with cars.

This is at the top of Gath.  From here you can see the four other  Philistine cities on the coast (Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza)  The ark of the covenant was taken to these cities when it was captured by the Philistines (1 Sam 5).

This is at the Caves of Adullam where David hid from Saul. 

My bus buddy for the day - Lydia (She is amazing)

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