The Good Samaria
Trip Start May 19, 2012
79Trip End Ongoing
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No rest for the weary/wicked, depending on your philosophy, but at any rate we were back on the bus at 7:00 after the past three days trekking in the southern regions (and after a brief morning workout by Nicholas), this time bussing it north through what the Old Testament calls Ephraim and Manasseh, what the New Testament calls Samaria, what the Israelis call the Territories, what Westerners call the West Bank, and what Palestinians call Palestine. Beautiful country, more agricultural, more fields because the valleys are broader and the mountains are less steep. My friends and I on this trip have decided that an apt name for this trip would be Wheaton in the Holy Lands: Proof that You Don't Know Your Old Testament; today was one of those days that really reinforced that. First stop of the day was at Shiloh, the place where Joshua divided most of the Promised Land among the tribes and the place where the Tabernacle was first semi-permanently anchored
From Tel Shiloh it was a short bus ride up the ridge route to modern day Nablus, the Shechem "and it's suburb Sychar" of the Bible, which is nestled between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Garazim. Lessons #2 and 3 I learned in You Don't Know Your OT Well Enough: Shechem was the first place God appeared to Abram in the Promised Land to give him a land promise and also the place where the split between the Northern and Southern kingdoms occurred after Solomon's reign. Just a couple details to keep in mind next time you read the account of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, in Sychar. Today's Shechem was a really interesting and really overgrown archaeological site smack in the middle of a Palestinian neighborhood, trading its wall and soldiers for a chicken-wire fence and relatively jovial gate guard. Frankly the site itself wasn't as interesting to me as its surroundings; an oldish Arab man and his sons called me over in broken English to the fence to inquire as to who we were and what we were doing there-apparently they don't get very many visitors to this particular area. I can't say this surprises me over much-this is the first time in 8 years my professor has been to these particular areas because Israeli-Palestinian relations were too strained in the area. That means that we were a good ways off the beaten path in a relatively conservative Muslim area, with all the pros and cons attendant unto that reality. Anyway, I chatted as much as one can with the man and snapped a photo with him, then walked back across the site to the bus where I found some of the guys holding their own in a parking-lot soccer game against some of the local middle school kids
That bus drive was a brief hop over to a church built over the probable site of Jacob's well from the John 4 story, identified as such since the 2nd century for what it's worth. They wanted to charge you money to drink from the well so that didn't happen, but I did get a bit in my hand to taste.
Interrupting news flash: this story was written in two parts. The previous half was written before I went out and had an awesome night on the town, this second half was written after. Just so you know. Back to your regularly scheduled program.
So after Sychar it was time to drive up to Samaria proper, that is, the capital city of the Northern Kingdom, the site of lunch, some pretty awesome ruins of a Herodian temple, the ruins of King Ahab's palace, and camel rides. I didn't ride the camel, poor guy looked worn out, but a lot of people did and I got pics, which is basically as good. Then it was time for a long drive back down the spine of the Central Mountain range to Jerusalem for a workout, dinner, and, eventually, a reception with the president of JUC. A: He's a pretty awesome guy. B: I had so much more desert than you did. C: No I'm not seriously considering it, but it would be sweet beyond words to come do a masters degree here.
And that was going to be pretty much it. Where I inserted my news flash it was about 9:35 and I was going to wrap things up, say g'nite, and go to sleep. Instead it's 11:50 and yours truly is fixing to be a tired puppy, but so worth it. So I'm sitting in the cafeteria writing this blog when Sally walks by and says there's a party going on at the Jaffa Gate, do I want to go? Of course I do. What didn't I expect to find? A party organized by Spinners (according to one of the participants, I'm not sure if that was a slang term or the official one), with about 200 people on exercise bikes in biking gear rocking out and riding to techno and huge projection screens panning the crowd. Think Golds Gym meets discotheque. Alas, you had to have paid to reserve a spot in advance so I didn't get to join in, but holy cow it was sweet. Then a couple of us didn't feel like going back on time so we moseyed over into the mall area and found a sweet coffee shop hang out with balconies overlooking the mall. Night well spent.
Immediate priority is to go get out my laundry, although it is already probably too late to keep my linen pants from being a wrinkled blob. So it goes. Tomorrow is a free day, and I'm rolling out at 7:20 to board a bus for Bethlehem, where we plan on meeting up with a Wheaton student who will take us to Hebron. I'm just excited to get back over to the West Bank, especially away from a big tourist group, especially with more flexibility. But second priority is getting myself to bed asap, because tomorrow morning is going to come way too early and I imagine I'll need most of my wits about me. So until then, peace and blessings.