Gary in the Mideast!
I (Gary) just got back from a tour along with Oreland Presbyterian, in which we began at Cairo and traced the entire route of the Exodus, through the Sinai, into Jordan, before visiting the main sites in Israel. This was my first time to visit any of these three countries, and I have pictures and memories that will take me months to unravel.
If I had to condense the trip down to a few striking places:
The “Garden Tomb” – This site might be the tomb where they buried Jesus. But since the evidence for it is very slim, I didn’t think I would enjoy it much. Was I wrong! In fact, the site is owned and run by a group of British Christians, and our guide gave us a beautiful, clear talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus for our salvation.
Capernaum – Definitely #1 for me was visiting the town on the sea of Galilee where Jesus had his headquarters. We saw where he preached in the synagogue, the house of Peter (left), and I stuck my foot in the sea, just down the block from Peter’s house at the site of the old fisherman’s pier. I teach the gospel of Mark regularly, and we always have a slide show on Capernaum and Galilee – now I can close my eyes and also describe it from memory.
St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai – Mount Sinai was breathtaking as such, but nestled in its foothills is this ancient site. It was 150 years ago that they discovered one of the oldest complete copies of the Bible, Codex Sinaiticus (AD 350), tucked away in its library. I have taught about the manuscript, and seen it many times in the British Museum, but finally saw where it was housed for centuries.
Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel – Not only a horrific story, but also incredible as a museum. They reminded us that it’s easy to fantasize that we would have done right by the Jews, “if only we had been in Europe in the ‘40s.” Probably not! I could hardly bear to walk through the Hall of Children, which leads you through in pitch darkness, showing pictures of the victims, and reading aloud continuously the names of the million and a half children killed. And speaking of children…
Arab Children – I met wonderful Egyptians, Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinian Arabs and Christians on my trip. A high point was at an outdoor café, where the owner’s niece and nephew (7 and 4 years old) invited me, “Come, sit and talk!” Her English was decent, and they were real firecrackers; Muslims, I believe, although I didn’t want to ask. After I delighted them with some Dad Magic, she said, “Now do this!” and started pumping her fist. “Ah, yes, I see!” I replied. Now, there is nothing worse than someone who has been on a tour coming home to bore you with his solution to the Mideast Crisis. But I believe that a world where two such vastly different people can enjoy a round of Rock-Paper-Scissors is a world of possibilities and hope.
Summing up – I have a slogan in Spanish that I look at often, which translates roughly as “The one who dares to teach must never stop learning.” Our trip (led by the wonderful America Israel Tours) was too intense to be a vacation, but as education it was second to none. For years to come, God willing, my teaching will be enriched by what I have seen.
Gary’s Blog this Month – I just visited the newly-identified Pool of Bethesda, John 5. Click to see “My Favorite 5 Recent Archaeological Finds.”
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