Our first stop on today’s journey was at the lookout of Tayelet. This was just outside of Jerusalem and we could look out and get a very good sense of the Topography from here. It was beautiful. Since it was Sabbath there were barely any cars on the road and it was so quiet. The most interesting part of this stop for me was when Brian pointed out something that looked like a telephone pole with a wire coming off of it, like we would see in America. However, this was not a telephone pole but a wire that goes around the entire city indicating the city limits. This way people will know when they’ve left the city so that they do not break any Sabbath laws. I had never heard of something like this before and thought it was so cool.
Anyways, our first real site visit was the Herodium. I went to this site during the previous class and it was still just as interesting. This time we discussed some more of the modern politics, given the recent events. Brian made a very interesting analogy, with respects to the Palestinians that I really appreciated. He said to imagine that we were living in a city that came under communist control. We hate communism and so we want to break off and have our own government, however, when we accomplish that, we suffer a huge economic crisis and the standard of living goes way down. What do we do as a community in this case? We can either live under a government we despise or govern ourselves in poverty? The only other option is to try to remove the communist government entirely and reestablish a government of our own. I had never heard something like this. I know I won’t be forgetting it.
Our next stop was the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This church is incredibly ornate. I believe it is a Greek Orthodox Church that shares the grotto where Jesus was born with the Catholic and Armenian churches. The icons that cover the church made me really uncomfortable. I believe that God meets people where they are, and I believe that He meets them in this kind of worship, but it just feels wrong to me. I’m not pushing any judgement. This is just a simple, humble opinion made by an undergraduate chemistry major. Anyways, before we went into the church, Brian read the story of the Nativity and discussed how Joseph was a righteous man because he was going to divorce her quietly. In the Bible, adultery is any sexual relations between a man and a married or betrothed woman. Since Mary was betrothed to Joseph, this would have been considered adultery.
Instead of putting her in a criminal case according to Jewish Law, by divorcing her quietly, Joseph would have made it an issue of morality. We also discussed why it is that scholars believe Jesus would not have been born in December, but would have actually been born as early in the year as May. The Bible says that the angel finds shepherds in the fields with their sheep. Farmers would not have allowed the sheep to be grazing in the field between fall and spring, since that is when the rain falls and the crops are growing. The sheep would have been in the fields during the summer when there is no rain, where they can eat the leftover crops and fertilize the fields for the next season. Therefore, Jesus would have most likely been born in the summer.
Our final stop today was at the Israel Museum. The Shrine of the Book was incredible and the archeology wing of the museum was so interesting, especially since we were following Brian around. One of the coolest exhibits in the archeology museum, was the metal amulets with the priestly benedictions engraved on them. These are the oldest pieces of scripture we have been able to find, dating back to the 600 B.C. This was absolutely incredible to see right up close and in person. This trip has been so amazing!