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by Eliot
Rated: ASR · Article · War · #657340
Israel article
Visitors to the Mount of Olives making their ascent chance to see the massive bulk of the Israeli "chariot" tank being transported through the Kidron Valley on a military truck. On Tel Gerisa an international group of students keep their 5:00 AM vigil, newly awakened by the reverberations of sonic booms.

Days later, an F-14 Phantom fighter banks around a nearby summit, exposing its underbelly to a group of hikers on Mount Meron, and the sonic evidence heard in Judea becomes visible proof in Galilee.

Novice archaelogists, contemplating the basalt ruins at Chorazin, are reminded of Jesus' lament for that city as the helicopters overhead return from their mission in neighboring Lebanon. Sightseers at a fair in Ramat Gan come upon a display of captured Syrian tanks and artillery.

From Jerusalem to Jericho, in the hills of Samaria, along the Via Maris, young Jewish men and women of the Israeli Defense Forces keep cpmpany with their M16s. To visitors, students, hikers, archaeologists, sightseers, the message is clear: Israel is at war.

Nor is that message new in Israel. Hazor, the largest ancient excavated city in Israel, is a reminder of Joshua's northern campaign in the conquest of the Promised Land. Megiddo-- Solomon's fortress and the Armageddon of Revelation-- with its twenty superimposed cities, stands silent now for 2400 years, the last city resting on seventy feet of rubble.

The Herodium and Massada-- two of Herod the Great's fortifications-- dominate the topography of their regions as though their vigilance keeps peace within Israel's borders. The temple excavations in Jerusalem expose ruins where "not one stone is left on another."

The tendency to chronicle Israel's modern history in relation to the wars of'48,'56,'67 and '73 attests that war is a fact of life in Israel. History and architecture are described in terms of invasions--Roman, Byzantine, Arabic, Crusader, and Turkish. Archaeological strata are defined as "destruction levels."

The thirty student archaeologists, though guests of a nation at war, soon had any pre-trip anxieties soothed by the obvious security that surrounded them wherever they traveled. In fact, there were many days in which the day's news had a lower priority rating than yesterday's history. Living in the homeland of Jesus--however temporarily--made ancient history as important as current events.

For that reason the study tour itinerary was arranged so that both ends of the six-week experience were spent touring the war zones of another age-old conflict --the war against sin. Week one was spent in and around Jerusalem and week six in Galilee.

Ecce Home Hospice along the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem was home base for the first week. This unique hospice is built over the Lithostrotos, a stone pavement in the courtyard of the Fortress Antonio, where Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to death.

From this location it is an easy walk to the Temple Mount, site of the Western (or Wailing) Wall, the Temple excavations, and the Moslem Dome of the Rock, which occupies the former site of the Jewish Temple. Nearby in the Old City is the Church of St. Anne, a fine example of Crusader-era architecture, where those in the group who knew the Latin Agnus Dei took advantage of the excellent acoustics to acknowledge in song the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Next to this church is the Pool of Bethesda, the place of Christ's healing of the crippled man.

Across the Kidron Valley lies the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. Northeast of the Damascus Gate is Gordon's Calvary, a rocky hill which resembles a human skull. Adjacent to it is the Garden Tomb, a Roman-era tomb carved into the rock, rival to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the burial place of Christ.

Two miles east of Jerusalem is Bethany, five miles south is Bethlehem, fifteen miles northeast is Jericho. What seems like Bible history namedropping merely shows the close proximity of many Scriptural sites in a nation that would fit within the eastern section of Wisconsin bounded by Racine and Green Bay, Lake Michigan and Lake Winnebago.

During the final week, Tiberias, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, became home. Here were Jesus' homes at Nazareth and Capernaum; Cana, the city of his first miracle; and Mount Tabor, possible site of his transfiguration.

Post-Biblical sites also played prominently in the Galilee tour. At Caesarea could be found ruins from the Roman and Crusader periods--the Crusader wall and moat, a Roman amphitheater, and an inscription containing the name of Pontius Pilate. Here also were the cities of Safat, ancient mystical city of the Cabala; the Crusader castle of Belvoir; and Acco, the last stronghold of the Crusaders.

War and Tel Gerisa

The four weeks between the Judea tour and the Galilee tour were simply known as "the dig." The dig was a teaching excavation at Tel Gerisa in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, conducted as a cooperative venture through Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology. Participating with Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary were Tel Aviv University, Macquarie University (New South Wales, Australia), the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis and Duluth), the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California-Berkeley.

The excavation at Tel Gerisa is related to the earlier excavation at Tel Michal in which the seminary participated for two seasons in 1978 and 1980. As was the case for the two earlier summer quarters, this summer's participants represented both the teaching and preaching ministries, as well as laity and seminary students.

Tel Gerisa is located on the Sharon Plain, probably within the tribal territory of Dan, near the confluence of the Yankon and Ayalon Rivers. It belongs to a chain of once prosperous settlements that included Tel Michal and five other settlements of which only Tel Aphek can be historically identified.

Originally thought to be Gath-Rimmon, one of the cities given to the Danites in Joshua 19, because of its location near Joppa, current argument now disputes that claim. After two seasons of excavation in which Canaanite, Philistine and Israelite occupations have been uncovered, Tel Gerisa is still a city without a name.

What can be reported is that the city appears to have been established in the Early Bronze Age and reduced in size but fortified in the Middle Bronze Age. A thick layer of ash at the Early Iron Age level attests to destruction by war, perhaps David's war against the Philistines. Later occupation was much reduced, amounting to no more than a villa atop a strategic hill that was abandoned or destroyed during Pharaoh Shishak's campaign of 925 B.C.

The Voice of Peace

Minimal contact was kept with the outside world through The Voice of Peace, an English language news and radio station that broadcast "from somewhere in the Mediterranean." Though the station maintained an apolitical stance, the selection of music bore a humanitarian theme in obvious contrast to the news reports from Lebanon. Of far greater impact was the Voice of Peace that spoke daily through the Scriptures in our devotions and Sunday services conducted by our pastors on the dig. No other voice echoed in the history of the Holy Land or resonated by the findings of archaeology is persuasive. The song of the angels to the shepherds of Bethlehem does not hold out false hope for political peace. The message from Israel, from the Savior's own voice, is still, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

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