DAY 5 – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22: KINNERET CEMETERY, BETH SHEAN, SHILOH, JERICHO, DEAD SEA
Today was another sunny day. It was a bit warmer too as we drove south all day. High temps today were in the 70s.
At the southern end of there Sea of Galilee is a famous cemetery named the Kinneret. In this cemetery are buried many of the early Jewish pioneers of Israel from the late 19th century/early 20th century. One grave belongs to Rachel, a single Jewish woman from the Ukraine. She died in 1931. She is famous for her poems. Shlomo read a few and sang a them of them. He picture appears on the new 20 shekel bill today!
Driving south through the Jordan Valley we arrived at Beth Shean. This is a huge Roman city. It was one of the Decapolis cities, the only one on the western side of the Jordan River. Walking through the ruins we saw colonnaded Roman streets, a bathhouse, the agora (forum or marketer place), many mosaics, public latrenes, and a large theater. Some in the group hiked up 190 steps to the Old Testament tel of the city where the bodies of Saul and his three sons were hung on its walls (1 Samuel 31). The view of the Roman city from the top was incredible.
“It sort of made my heart sad in leaving the Galilee area this morning. But we saw some great sites today. My favorite was Shiloh. It was here where Samuel heard the voice of God and he responded, ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.’ It was a powerful moment for me.” -Tour Member-
Next, we continued south, driving uniquely through the Hill Country of Samaria. The Patriarchs traveled through this region (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob). Along the way we saw shepherds with the flocks. We finally arrived at Shiloh. It as here where the Tabernacle stood for about 305 years (the Talmud says 369 years). After climbing the tel and watching a short video, we read from 1 Samuel 3 (the call of Samuel by God), and Jeremiah 7. We walked down to the area where some believe the Tabernacle once stood before being destroyed by the Philistines (1 Sam. 4). Others feel the Tabernacle was located on top of the site.
Desert of Pareth
Boarding the bus, we continued southward past other biblical cities (Bethel, Gen 12, 28; Michmash, 1 Samuel 13-14) to the Desert of Pareth. Driving down into the deep canyon, we read from Jeremiah 13 about Jeremiah hiding a linen belt here. We stopped briefly to see the amazing flowers blooming in the desert (see Isaiah 35!). Really incredible!
Driving eastward now from here (see a few gazelles along the way!) to the southern end of the Jordan Valley, the tel of Old Testament Jericho was our next stop. After a quick bite (falafel), we climbed the tel. Looking east, we recalled the stories of Elijah/Elisha (2 Kings 2), Jesus baptism (John 1). Looking south we could see New Testament Jericho where Zacheaus and Bartimeaus lived. King Herod the Great died here too in his winter palace. We then focused on the story of Joshua 6. We saw the retaining walls at the southern end that supported a mud-rick wall on top. It was the mud-brick wall that came tumblin’ down when the shofars (rams horns) were blown. Once again, archaeology confirms the historicity of the Bible!
We ended the day by driving to the southern end of the Dead Sea. Before dinner, some enjoyed floating in the sea (others plan on floating tomorrow morning before breakfast). After dinner, we enjoyed a free evening.