Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Trip of a Lifetime! (Day 5)

Tuesday, May 3rd

Today we went to see the less likely, but more beautiful site in Israel claiming to be the site of Jesus' baptism.  This is more like what the Jordan we saw yesterday would have looked like during Christ's time.
People come from all over the world to be baptized here.

Next we traveled to Ein Harod.  On our way we had a great view of Mount Gilboa.  It is on the southeastern side of the Jezreel Valley.  King Saul felt forced to commit suicide on these slopes when facing certain defeat by the Philistines.  In light of Saul and Jonathan's deaths, David cursed the mountain: "O mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain, nor fields that yield offerings" (2 Sam 1:21). 
 At the foot of Mount Gilboa we reached Ein (the spring of) Harod.  Judges 7 describes Gideon's actions in thinning his army out.  He brought the men to the spring and sorted them on the basis of how they drank from the water.  Today the swimming pool sits just in front of the cave where the spring emerges.

"Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people who were with him, rose up early, and camped beside the well of Harod; so that the army of the Midianites were on their north side, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley." (Judges 7:1)

"So he brought down the people to the water; and the Lord said to Gideon, Every one who laps the water with his tongue, like a dog laps, him shall you set by himself; likewise every one who bows down upon his knees to drink.  And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men; but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water." (Judges 7:16-17)

From Ein Harod we drove to Nazareth.  The picture below is of the beautiful countryside as we drove.  For some reason I always imagined Israel as just desert, but most of it is so lush and beautiful!  It is brimming with agriculture.  They grow everything here!

Nazareth was the home of the Savior for most of his life.  When we got to Nazareth we were able to visit a recreation of the village of Nazareth as it was 2,000 years ago.  The site of the recreated Nazareth village (located in present-day Nazareth) is located on the last remaining tract of virgin farmland, just 1/3 mile from where Jesus grew up!  Nazareth Village was opened after much research, and recreates the way of life as it was in Nazareth at the time of the Roman Empire, and shows life as Jesus would have experienced it.  

While there, we were able to learn about ancient agricultural techniques, how buildings were constructed, what people wore, how they ate, and much more.  There were a group of actors who played the roles of historical characters and wore authentic clothing, so that we could experience first-hand how life was in the 1st century.

This was our guide.  In this picture he is showing us an ancient wine press that was uncovered on this site.  He is standing in the area where the wine was pressed as people trod on the grapes, then there was a little crack in the rocks where the wine would run down to be collected.

I had to take a picture of these beautiful hollyhocks.  They grow wild all over Israel.  We saw so many flowers growing along the sides of roads and everywhere else we looked.  It is such a beautiful country!

This man was playing the part of a shepherd...
Our guide talked with us about the analogy of the sheep versus the goats as we stood watching these playful goats getting in trouble, knocking each other around...while the sheep just calmly grazed.

Matthew 25:31-46 gives the parable of the sheep and the goats.  A talk in the December 1985 Ensign entitled Thoughts on the Good Shepherd explains, 

"Nearly all flocks in the Middle East have sheep and goats, as was the case in Jesus’ time. Both are used—the hair of the goats is useful for many practical purposes, and cheese and yogurt are made from the milk. But sheep and goats are very different and do not graze very well together. Shepherds usually prefer the sheep, since goats get into all sorts of trouble. They climb steep, hazardous slopes and often browse while standing on tree branches. Sheep are gentle, walk slowly, and usually obey. This is not so with wandering goats."

The point of Jesus' parable about sheep and goats is to teach us to be more like the sheep, and less like the goats. 

Olive oil was an extremely important part of Ancient Jewish culture.  Olive oil was used as a cooking oil, food, lighting, fuel, soap making, religious ceremonies and medicinal use.  Its production was one of the major sources of income in the Holy Land over thousands of years, including modern times when the olive oil is an essential ingredient in Middle East cuisine.

The olive oil production process was based on two major steps: The first step required crushing the olives using a crushing stone, and collecting them into a basket. The second step was done on another installation: the basket was pressed with force, extracting the oil out of the crushed olives and collecting the juice into a storing vat.

This is an ancient rolling stone olive press that would have been used in the first part of the process mentioned above.  A donkey would be tied to the horizontal wood handle of the press and would pull the stone around, crushing the olives underneath it.  The crushed olives would then be collected into a basket and then further processed by the oil process in the second picture below.

In order to get  "virgin oil," the crushed olives were not taken to the press (usually the next step) but were gathered and placed in a large container.  Then hot water was poured over the crushed olives.  The mixture was stirred and the oil separated from the meat of the olive and would float.  The oil was then skimmed off by hand.  Virgin oil is clear and free of impurities.

Second grade oil (which was more common and was usually used for lamps) was produced by pressing the pulp.  This was done in a press beam olive press.  To prepare for the olive press, the crushed olives were scooped up and collected into round baskets called "mash sacks" to be taken to the olive press.

This press beam olive press was used in the second part of the process.  The mash sacks were placed towards the front of the beam under a round pressing board.  Large stones were used to weigh down the beam pressing upon the mash sacks.  The oil would drain into collecting bowls. 

This couple demonstrated ancient techniques of weaving and carpentry.

He showed how they would drill with this tool.  By moving his right hand back and forth it would spin the vertical would piece which had a metal pin on the bottom.  As it spun it would make a neat little hole.

In this recreation of an ancient synagogue, John Lund gave a wonderful talk on how well Jesus' mother Mary knew the scriptures.

As we left the Nazareth Village we each received our own oil lamp.  We gave one to each of our four children when we returned home, and talked about the significance of oil lamps in the scriptures - namely the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).  It is so important to be prepared!  We also talked about not hiding a candle under a bushel, but putting it on a candlestick for all to see (Matthew 5:15).  We can all be examples of what Christ would do.  We can share our talents with those around us who may need us.

From the Nazareth Village we drove to Mount Carmel.  In Biblical times the heights of the Carmel mountains were considered the seat of Baal, one of the main gods worshipped by the Canaanite peoples of the region.  When the Jewish people turned to wickedness and started following Baal, the prophet Elijah punished them by causing a drought to come upon the land.  Then the famous mountaintop confrontation took place on Carmel between the prophet Elijah and 450 priests of Baal.

Calling upon the people to return from evil and follow the one true God, Elijah challenged the priests to have Baal himself ignite their altar.  They failed, and Elijah built an altar of his own, had twelve barrels of water poured over it, and then called on God to ignite it.  God did so, as it is recorded, "Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench". (1 Kings 18:38)

From Mount Carmel we had an amazing panaromic view of the Jezreel Valley...

On the horizon, in the center, you can see the airforce base.

That evening, when we got back to our hotel on the shore of the Sea of Galilee we had the amazing opportunity to take a boat out onto the lake.  It was amazing to me to be where Jesus actually walked on the water!  Right here!  Every day we were there I couldn't believe the amazing things we were seeing.

This was our view from the boat, looking back at our hotel.  When we got out on the Sea of Galilee we were able to hear a wonderful fireside given by Dr. John Lund.  A couple of the points he talked about that I loved included,

1) Faith is not believing Heavenly Father will do what we ask.  It is believing in Him enough to put our will in line with His - learning what he wants us to do (what his will is), then following it, having faith that we are doing the right thing.

2) Faith is partial knowledge - having courage to do the Lord's will - getting in tune with what the Lord wants done.

I became very emotional as we sat and listened to John Lund talk about our Savior.  I could feel the Spirit as I realized exactly where I was and what had taken place there.  Jesus was here!  What a beautiful, humbling day!

This was our boat...
The Sea of Galilee has many names.  In his gospel, John refers to it as the Sea of Tiberias (also the name of the town our hotel was in).  Although called a sea, it is actually a freshwater inland lake.  Eight miles wide and thirteen miles long, it is fed by the Jordan River that runs in from the north.

Fish have been caught here since the dawn of time, and most of the villages along the shores drew their livelihoods from this occupation.  It is no wonder that the men Jesus chose as his disciples were fishermen, or that fishing references appear in many of the parables through which he taught.

The Sea of Galilee is relatively shallow, just 200 feet at its greatest depth.  A shallow lake is "whipped up" by wind more rapidly than deep water, where energy is more readily absorbed.  The Sea of Galilee is small, and these winds may descend directly to the center of the lake with violent results.  When the contrasting air masses meet, a storm can arise quickly and without warning.  Small boats caught out on the sea are in immediate danger.

Very little has changed for the fishermen who cast their nets into the Sea of Galilee.  They brave the same storms as the one the gospels say Jesus calmed (Matthew 8:23-26).

The next two pictures are of the view of the Sea of Galilee from our hotel room...

No comments: