Day 10 – Sunday, May 14: Yad Vashem, Israel Museum, the ‘Shephelah” (Lowlands): Gezer, Beth Shemesh, Azekah
Today began with a very solemn visit to Israel’s Holocaust Museum & Memorial and ended with a fun and inspiring visit of the Elah Valley where David defeated Goliath and the Philistines. The weather was once again perfect, with sunny skies and high temps in the 70s. Our morning jackets were quickly shed as it warmed up.
Our first stop in the morning required us to drive to West Jerusalem. Here we visited the Israel’s Holocaust Museum & Memorial. It is called Yad Vashem, named after a verse in Isaiah 56:5 that mentions the “memorial and a name.” We first visited the Valley of the Communities. Here we heard the personal story from Shlomo about his family during this tragic event. He lost 12 family members in Vilna, Poland (pictured). We then walked through the Children’s Memorial and the museum itself. It was a somber experience recalling the horrors of the Holocaust and the loss of six million Jews.
Just a short distance away (still in Western Jerusalem) is the Israel Museum. First, we saw 1:50 scale model of 2nd Temple Jerusalem. Next, we went through the Shrine of the Book where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed. Finally, we saw some of the “highlight artifacts” in the archaeological museum that relate to the Bible.
In the afternoon, we descended west to the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. Our first stop was Tel Gezer. Located on the Aijalon Valley, this was both a Canaanite and Israelite city, full of walls, towers, and gates. We saw the replica of the “Gezer Calendar.” We also read from Ecclesiastes 3 about the “seasons of life.” From the observation mound we saw the Aijalon Valley mentioned in Joshua 10. Among the Middle Bronze ruins many of us used the new steel stairway down to the bottom of the water system (175 steps down). This water system was originally used by Canaanites. We then left these Canaanite ruins and continued to the Israelite (Iron Age) area to see ancient house structures and a chambered gate dating to Solomon (1 Kings 9). Walking back to the bus we saw the Canaanite high place and standing stones.
“Today was a day of emotion (this morning at Yad Vashem) and inspiration (this afternoon while seeing where David fought Goliath). We have also been blessed with perfect weather today. We capped off the day with a beautiful walk after dinner to the Promenade.”
From here we continued south to visit the site of Beth Shemesh. Located along the Sorek Valley, Beth Shemesh was a prominent Israelite town known for their many water cisterns. Across the valley is Zorah, the hometown of Samson (Judges 13-16). Further west down the valley was the Philistine city of Timnah where Samson’s first wife was from (only 3.5 miles away). We also read the narrative of 1 Samuel 6 about the Ark of the Covenant being returned to Israel by the Philistines living in Ekron. We could see the story unfold right before our very eyes! The battle between Amaziah and Joash also took place here (2 Chronicles 25).
Continuing south, we climbed the site of Tel Socoh. This ancient city located along the heart of the Elah Valley has been not excavated, yet mentioned in the story of 1 Samuel 17 (the Philistines camped on the ride between Azekah and Socoh). It was in the narrow part of the valley where David battled Goliath. David faced the battle with this giant in the confidence of the Lord! We can face our battles with the same confidence!
We returned back to the Hill Country of Judah by taking a unique two-land road back to Jerusalem and our hotel. Following dinner, we enjoyed another optional walk (the Promenade).