Day 3 we were up early, this time with our packed luggage since it was moving day. After breakfast it was time to board the bus where we had morning devotions and sang hymns along the way.
First stop today was Beit She’an National Park. Here, excavations discovered the ruins of at least 15 Roman and Byzantine cities layered on top of one another, estimated at 4,000-6,000 B.C. It is believed the population here was around 40,000 to 70,000 during the first and second centuries.
David’s mentor, King Saul and three of Saul’s sons were hung here on the city wall at the hands of the Philistines. It is thought that Jesus may have visited this area on his way to pilgrimages in Jerusalem.
Mike, our guide, told us the area would be crowded today because 50 busloads of Indonesians were also visiting. As we neared the 7,000 seat Roman amphitheater built at the end of the 2nd century, we heard loud music and singing.
We were surprised to see a large gathering of Indonesians singing and praising Jesus. I recorded part of it with my phone. Tap the picture below to see video.
Later while exploring more of the area behind the amphitheater, we heard them singing “How Great Thou Art”. Just beautiful. It is these unexpected encounters that are so special! Tap the picture below to see video.
In 749 the city was completely destroyed by a powerful earthquake.
We began to see a distinct change in the topography from fertile valleys to desert as we made our way to the Dead Sea.
Next was Jericho where we spent quite a bit of time today. At 1,300 feet below sea level Jericho is the lowest city in the world. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of more than 20 successive settlements in Jericho, the first of which dates back 11,000 years.
With city walls built ten thousand years ago, it is the oldest city on earth. We could see some of the remains of the walls of Jericho. The ancient settlement was surrounded by a massive stone wall over 12 FT high and 6 FT wide at the base, inside of which stood a stone tower, over 28 FT high. The excavated tower in 1930, here is the oldest human structure in the world to date (Stone Age 8,000 B.C.).
From Jericho we could see Mount Nebo and the area where God showed Moses the Promised Land and Joshua brought the Israelites into the Promised Land. Jericho was the first Canaanite city they encountered.
Mount of Temptation, is a northwest mountain over the town of Jericho, where Jesus went off to pray and was tempted by the devil.
During our eight days in Israel we were kept so busy we were not given many opportunities for shopping, but we did visit a shop here where they were selling spiced nuts and fresh dates. They had special mud bath lotions from the Dead Sea that are supposed to make you look twenty years younger. One clerk rubbed some on our arms to try it out. He then used a magnet to easily remove it. Of course there were plenty of Dead Sea beauty products to purchase. I passed.
We had lunch in Jericho and then everyone was given an opportunity to ride a camel. Five dollars for a three minute ride around the parking lot. Bill and I had both ridden a camel before so we passed this time. I felt sorry for the one poor camel who had to give rides to two bus loads of people. Our camel in Missouri had stairs to get on/off the camel while this camel laid down and got up for each rider. Our guide said the camel was well cared for by his owner and was taken to the vet for checkups. Sadly he didn’t look that healthy to us.
We stopped at Zacchaeus’ Sycamore Tree. Whether this is the exact tree Zacchaeus climbed is not known, but tests have shown that this tree is over 2,000 years old and stands in the same setting as the Biblical sycamore tree.
Luke 19:1-10 tells how Jesus entered Jericho and encountered Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector. Jesus stayed at Zacchaeus’ home to the dismay of his followers who saw Zacchaeus as a sinner. Zacchaeus then offered half his possessions as a gift to the poor and to compensate anyone he had cheated by four times the amount of money. The story is another example of Jesus reaching out to a sinner and offering salvation.
Next up: Day 3 Part 2 Valley of the Shadow of Death, the Dead Sea Scrolls and floating in the Dead Sea