DAY 9 – TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25: YAD VASHEM, THE “SHEPHELAH” – LOWLANDS OF JUDAH – GEZER, BETH SHEMESH, SOCOH, LACHISH
Today was a day with rain in the morning in Jerusalem, yet dry in the Shephelah to the west. Temps were in the high 50s – low 60s. It was another day of connecting with more biblical stories as well as modern Jewish history.
Our first visit was to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum and Memorial. The name for this museum comes from Isaiah 56:5. First, we visited the Valley of the Communities. Here with umbrellas in hand we walked through a maze of stones erected in memory of the many Jewish communities in Europe. Shlomo also shared his story of losing 12 family members in Vilna, Poland. Next, we walked through the Children’s Memorial in honor of the 1.5 million children who were killed. Finally, on our own we then walked through the museum. It is a solemn place.
About noon we drove to the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. Located along the Aijalon Valley, Gezer was first a Canaanite city before taken by Joshua (Josh. 12). Later, Solomon refortified the city (1 Kings 9). Among the ruins we saw the Canaanite fortification tower, wall, and gate (from Middle Bronze period). We also stood in the 6-chamber gate from Solomon’s time. We left the site by walking past the standing stones that were probably used by Canaanites for cultic purposes.
Located along the Sorek Valley, Beth Shemesh was our next site. Samson grew up in Zorah on the north side of the valley (Judges 13-16). He was married to a Philistine woman who lived only a few miles away in Timnah. We also read from 1 Samuel 6 about the Ark of the Covenant returning to this biblical city from the Philistines who captured it in Aphek (1 Sam. 4). Among the ruins we saw a few houses from the Israelite period and some Roman ruins. Across the road are the new excavations that have produced impressive artifacts.
“I loved the day again! I loved hearing Shlomo tell his Holocaust story. I also loved the off-the-beaten-path sites we saw. They were all Old Testament sites that came to life with Dr. John’s teaching!” -Tour Member-
Located along the Elah Valley, we walked half way up the site of Socoh. This is still an unexcavated site. Here we read from 1 Samuel 17. It was in the narrow part (gai is the Hebrew word that suggests this) of the valley where David killed Goliath. Armed with only a five stones yet with the confidence in God, God brought victory to David and the Israelites. What a great blessing to see where the battle possibly took place.
Our last stop of the day was Lachish. This was a Canaanite city taken by Joshua in 2 days (Joshua 10). Later, Rehoboam refortified the city for the purpose of defense (2 Chr. 11:9) At the end of the 8th century BC, the Assyrians took the city in 701 BC (Isaiah 36-37). The battle was so important to Sennacherib that he made a relief in Ninevah. It is now displayed in the British Museum. The siege ramp he built for his battering rams can still be seen today. Finally, the Babylonians would destroy the city for good. The famous Lachish Letters were found here in 1935. Lachish Letter #4 says the two last-standing cities in Judah were Azekah and Lachish (see Jeremiah 34:7). We walked up to the top of the site to see the 2 city gates, the palace, the the walls of Rehoboam.
We returned back to Jerusalem by driving up the Elah Valley. We enjoyed dinner together followed by an optional walk to the Promenade that gave us a great view of the Old City from the south.
DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 26: CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, SOUTHERN WALL EXCAVATIONS, WESTERN WALL, A FEW FREE HOURS, GARDEN TOMB