This week we finished up our trip in Galilee. It was really awesome! On Sunday we took a field trip to the Jezreel Valley. The first place we went was Mount Tabor, which is a possible place where the transfiguration of Christ, Peter, James, and John took place. It may not be the most likely spot that this happened though because they were a lot closer to a larger mountain in the north called Mt. Hermon. So they could have gone to the south to Mt. Tabor, but they were a lot closer to Mt. Hermon in Caesarea Philippi. On top of Mt. Tabor was an awesome Catholic church that was part of a modern-day monastery complex. We saw real-live monks and nuns up there, which was kind of weird. The church was very pretty and was surrounded by ruins from the monastery that was there during the Byzantine era. There was a really good view of the Jezreel Valley from the top of Mt. Tabor. The church itself was really beautiful. It had three chapels in it: one for Christ, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, just like how it says in Matthew 17 that there were three tabernacles on top of the Mount of Transfiguration. After visiting Mt. Tabor, we went to Megiddo. Megiddo is a huge tell that has about twenty occupation layers. However one of the most notable things there is a six-chambered gate from the time of Solomon. This gate matches other gates found in Hazor and Gezer, just like it says in the Old Testament that Solomon made these his chariot cities. On the same spot in many of the occupation layers, the people there built temples to different gods. Many of the layers have ruins of sanctuaries that were built to Canannite gods. I saw the closest thing I’ll ever see in real life to the rameumptom. There was this big circle of round stones where they know people would offer sacrifices and worship different gods, and it was called the “high place.” It was really interesting. We also saw horse stables there from Solomon’s time and the supposed spot where King Josiah died at the hand of the Egyptian King Neccho II. Megiddo is where people think that the end of the world battle is going to take place since the word Armageddon is similar to Har-Megiddo, which just means Mount Megiddo. A battle will take place at the Lord’s second coming, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be at Megiddo. The scriptures only say the word Armageddon once in Revelation, and after learning more about the second coming, the battle is more of a figurative thing it seems. The battle represents the Lord fighting for the righteous against the wicked, not necessarily one group of people fighting another group of people. Anyway, after that, we went to a cave complex called Beth-Shearim. The famous Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was buried there because it was one of the places that the Rabbis made their headquarters after they fled during the Bar Kokba Revolt in 132 AD from Jerusalem. (Basically these guys were the old Sanhedrin and made their way around Israel until they finally settled in Tiberias.) There were a lot of tombs at this place, and it was neat to walk around and see all of them because they were all a little different. That night we came back and ate dinner, and after dinner, we had a big bonfire on a grassy area by the Sea. We had s’mores, which were delicious!
On Monday, we had another free day to just swim and relax after we had class in the morning. It was fun to just play in the water some more and have a little bit of a reprieve.
Tuesday was awesome as well. We went to the upper part of the Galilee, north of where the Jordan River feeds into the Sea of Galilee. First we went to Hazor (pronounced hot-sore). Hazor is one of the largest archaeological sites in the Holy Land. It was a huge city just like Beth-She’an and Megiddo, but spread out over a larger area than both of those cites. It was also one of Solomon’s chariot cities like Megiddo. They found the same six-chambered Solomonic gates there as they found in Megiddo. There was a group excavating when we got there, and one of the lead excavators is a guy that got his bachelors at BYU and got a PhD from Harvard. He showed us around the site and told us all about what they were doing. It was cool to meet somebody else that was from BYU. Probably the coolest thing there was the fortress that was left over from defending against the Assyrians in 732 BC. A lot of the site was just residential areas and some public buildings. After that, we went to Tel-Dan clear up in Northern Israel. It was really green there, and there were a lot of springs there that formed the Dan River, which feeds into the Jordan River. The two most important things about Tel-Dan are that it was the northern border of the kingdom of Israel and under the united monarchy. It was also a place where Jeroboam set up a new religious center after the Kingdom of Israel split in two after Solomon. We saw the remains of the altar, and they had a model there of how big the altar might have been. There were also ruins there of the temple that he built that was patterned after Solomon’s temple. We had a good time pretending to sacrifice each other on the altar. Haha! From the altar/temple area, we could see Lebanon. At Tel-Dan, there was also a part that was much older with a gate complex where it is possible that Abraham could have been to when he had to go after Lot in Genesis 14. After that we went to Caesarea Philippi. It was originally a place where a waterfall flowed out of a cave. Canaanites built a shrine to the god Pan here. Eventually the cave collapsed, and the waterfall didn’t look like a waterfall anymore. Eventually, Herod the Great’s son Herod Philip (the one who was originally married to Herodias) built his palace there. So that’s why it’s called Caesarea Philippi. There Christ promised Peter the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16). We didn’t spend very long there. After that, we went to do something really cool. We went to a castle built by crusaders and then built up by the Mamluk Muslim dynasty. It was called Nimrod’s castle after the mighty hunter Nimrod in the Bible. It was really fun to explore such a well-preserved castle. There were some cool look-out points at the top of it of northern Israel. After that, we went to a look-out point called Har-Bental where we could see Syria. We could see Damascus in the distance, and we could see the road to Damascus where Paul saw Christ in vision. That was cool to see that. Paul is one of my favorite heroes from the scriptures, so it was neat to be close to where he was when he saw the Savior.
On Wednesday, we went to Chorazin, which is one of the cities that Christ cursed alongside Bethsaida and Capernaum. The coolest thing about Capernaum is that there is a synagogue there from the third century. And in the synagogue, excavators found a “seat of Moses.” Christ uses the Seat of Moses to teach a people about hypocrisy in Matthew 23: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” He wanted people to know that they should not follow the example of the scribes and Pharisees because they did not set good examples for the people when they sat on their judgment seat in the synagogues. Pretty cool right? I thought so. We talked a lot about object lessons that Christ gave there such as the motes and beams, and the candles that give light in the house. It was really neat to be there because we know Christ was there since he cursed the city. After Chorazin, we went to Sepphoris. The Pharisees moved there at one point, and they finished writing down the Mishna (their oral law of the Law of Moses) there in about 200 AD. It was a Roman city, and we saw some neat mosaics there. There was one of the Nile River and there was one in a house that had the “Mona Lisa of Galilee” in it. There was also a synagogue there from around Christ’s time. He may have visited there. It was really interesting. The last place we went that day was the city of Akko. It’s on the coast, and it has one of the best-preserved crusader castles there. We went and took a tour of the castle and talked a lot about the crusaders, which we haven’t really talked much about this semester, even though we’ve seen a lot of ruins from this semester. This fortress was so well preserved because the Muslims came and just built stuff on top of it rather than knocking it down. It was a really fun field trip, and we got to see a lot of neat things. That evening, we had another bonfire, and we had a testimony meeting with just the students. It went for about 2 hours, and not even everyone got up. It was a really neat experience to have a testimony meeting by the Sea of Galilee just with the students. It was very comfortable, and I feel like everyone was able to be personal with their testimonies because we all know each other really well and have spent lots of time with each other.
Thursday we went to Mt. Carmel, where Elijah defeated the priests of Baal. We acted out Elijah calling fire down from heaven, and we visited the church that is there to commemorate Elijah. That story is so much more meaningful to me after studying the history of the Bible and knowing some more background information about Baal. It helps put the story in a lot better context. After Mt. Carmel, we visited the Ba’hai Gardens. So there’s this religion out there called the Ba’hai faith that I’d never heard of. They believe that all prophets are from God and that all religions are true and will lead people to God. It’s really interesting. They have these gardens that are like their version of Temple Square. Haifa is where their headquarters are, even though they have about 7 million members in 200 countries. So I guess they are pretty popular. The gardens were very pretty, and they overlook the Haifa bay, one of Israel’s main shipping ports. After we went to the gardens, we went to a cemetery in Haifa where some members of the church are buried. They were members from the early days of missionary work in Israel before Israel was a country and missionaries were allowed here. I thought about my mom and how much she likes going to cemeteries. It was neat that we got to go there the day after Pioneer Day because those people were pioneers in their own way. After the cemetery, we went to a place where Herod the Great had built aqueducts to carry water into the city of Caesarea. They were right by the sea, so we played in the water for a while and looked at the aqueducts. Then we visited Caesarea and talked about Paul being taken there before Herod Agrippa. It was really neat to be where Paul was and know that he had sailed out of the port at Caesarea to go to Rome. Caesarea was also cool because part of the man-made harbor from Herod’s time is still leftover, even though the city was conquered by a lot of other peoples later on. There were some neat ruins there that we explored. After that, we came back to the Jerusalem Center after being away for ten days. I loved being in Galilee. It was really fun to see so many things and be in so many places where Christ was. It was a really great trip. I learned a ton, and I had a lot of fun.
On Friday we had class. It was nice to be back at the JC and not eating kosher food anymore. I went out to the city in the afternoon and did the Via Dolorosa walk. These monks guided us on a street in the Old City called the Via Dolorosa. They go through all the Stations of the Cross. There are fourteen stations, and they tell you what happens at each one, like Jesus fell here, and someone carried his cross here, etc. You end at the Church of the Holy Seplechre, and the last station is the seplechre where Jesus was resurrected from in the Orthodox tradition.
Today at church was awesome because during Relief Society, the Elders Quorum came in and gave each sister a flower, and they told us how much they appreciated us. It was so cute and nice. It’s been an awesome week. :-)