One Does Not Simply Walk Into Jerusalem

Trip Start May 19, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Jerusalem University College
What I did
Tel es Sultan
Nevi Samwil
Tel Gezer

Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Saturday, May 26, 2012

Better, better.  So to my faithful public "which is significantly larger than I expected, to be totally honest; y'all be awesome" I apologize for not posting yesterday.  It isn't actually because of the busy, exhausting day we had yesterday, although that would have been a good excuse.  Truth is when I tried writing all the internet in the building was down all night.  Those of you with a romantic streak should choose to believe this is because of the Shabat Shalom, or quieting of the Sabbath, which starts at sunset on Friday and will be going until sunset tonight.  More on that later.  Those of you of a more incisive nature will note that this blog is being written during that window, which probably means it was nothing more than the internet box being fluky.

So the day started off super early again, rolling out in the bus at 7:00.  We made it to the Wadi Qelt in the Judean Wilderness around 8:00, and walked out far enough to get isolated as a group and discuss the geography before us.  For those of you who have been to the Badlands, it was like that, only badder.  When we were eventually turned loose to go explore I went straight down the edge of a canyon to the very bottom, to a natural arch I had seen carved by water runoff, close to an old aqueduct that services Jericho in the valley below.  I am, to this hour, kicking myself for not taking the extra 5 minutes it would have required to climb up the opposite side up to this aqueduct to take a drink, but I was on a tight schedule; had to be back on the bus in an hour.  Further kicking is still ongoing for sticking to this schedule because I chose to bypass a Bedouin camp tucked into a draw near this arch, although this may have simply been common sense kicking in.  Then it was a climb back up and out that illustrated very neatly how important it is to find a ridge route and stick to it when you're on foot, just in case, you know, you wanted to plot the road systems of the ancient world through mountainous terrain "which is what we're doing in class".  I find myself dissatisfied with trying to get at in words what this hike was like, so perhaps pictures will say it better.

From the Wadi Quelt we continued the drive down to Jericho, using very much the same route that the traveler in the parable of the Good Samaritan would have used, passing below sea level in the process.  For those of you who didn't know, Jericho is situated about 750 feet below the Mediterranean, tucked into the rift valley.  For those of you who didn't know part 2, Jericho is also the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, with remains of a stone tower being dated to approximately 8000 BC.  I'm not sure exactly what Europeans were doing with themselves in 8000 BC, but I think it mostly involved clubs and grunting.  Yes we visited the site of Tel es Sultan, or the old city of Jericho, and yes Nicholas the History major geeked out a little bit, but I kept it mostly to myself.  Seriously, 10000 years ago guys.  I'm not sure the human brain is really geared to work in terms of tens of thousands of years of habitation, but there is a spring on this location that has made it possible for people to set up a little oasis of life in the middle of what is otherwise unforgiving wilderness that becomes something of a pressure cooker during the summer months.

Ogling accomplished, we ate lunch and began the ascent back out of the Jordan River Valley along a route which made Hillary, my seat buddy, confess her faith in Muhammad "the bus driver, for the record, but if you chose to ignore this aside then you can choose to believe what you will".  We made it up eventually to Michmash, the site of some pretty intense heroics by Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14, and up further to Nevi Samwil, the traditional site of the tomb of the prophet Samuel.  This is significant because it is at 2980 feet above sea level; we climbed nearly 4000 feet in a horizontal stretch of approximately 15 miles.  Nevi Samwil was especially interesting to me because you could stand on the site of an old Crusader stable, modern mosque, and modern synagogue, face north, and simultaneously see across the Jordan river to the Jordanian mountains on your right and could make out the Mediterranean Sea on the left.  Maybe this is just me, but when I think of Israel, the site of so many important historical and theological events, you don't think of a nation you can stand on a tall spot and see across on a clearish day.

From Nevi Samwil we bussed it down to the Mediterranean plain and stopped at the site of Tel Gezer, the remains of a city that lay at the entrance to the most viable attack route on Jerusalem from the coastal highways.  One of the Pharaohs gave it to King Solomon as a wedding present when he married his daughter to him in an alliance pact; should I have such a dowry.  Then it was back on the bus along the Tel Aviv highway into Jerusalem.  It was interesting rolling into the city around 5:45 as Shabbat Shalom descended; all the stores we passed in the city were closed up, and traffic was pretty heavy as people returned from wherever they were to their homes in preparation for the Sabbath.  After dinner, I took a quick walk into the Old City, expecting everything to be closed in this, the most traditional of areas in Jerusalem, but no such thing.  Tourism stops for no Biblical commandment.  It was actually somewhat sad in my opinion, the contrast between the average Jew in the modern city observing the Sabbath and the epicenter of the Jewish faith remaining open to pander to our shekels.  I suppose it makes it a little better that most of the shop owners are Muslim, so they don't really have the obligation, but Friday is also supposed to be their holy day.  At any rate, I got to play body guard through the Old City as night fell and capitalism rolled on.

Then it was time for game night, during which a pretty tired Nicholas chose rather to work on his class journal and observe the game of fish bowl and thus promptly dozed off.  I then woke up, discovered the internet wasn't working, and decided that I thus had an excellent excuse to go to bed a little early, and the rest, as they say, is history.

For the sake of consistency, I'll lay out this blog as if I'd written it yesterday and say that Saturday is a mostly free day, with our only sure obligation being class from 9:45 to 12:30.  Other than that, things are expected to revolve mostly around studying and taking advantage of the day of rest, considering A:  not much is open on the Sabbath that isn't made of tourist and B: I'm scheduled to go spend a night locked in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher tonight.  Yeah, you heard that right.  I'm pretty pumped.  Shabat Shalom.
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