Peter Anderson '07
Hello and welcome to a brief photo journal of my trip to Israel in May and June of 2006! My name is Peter Anderson, and I traveled with a group of about twenty five students from Gordon College to take a three week class at Jerusalem University College (JUC) on the history and geography of the land of Israel. In the photo to the left, I am standing just outside my room at JUC; it was a beautiful campus, situated within a two minute walk of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. In the mornings we would often walk through the Old City, visiting historical sites like the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, or the Bethesda Pool. Afternoons were often spent in the classroom, preparing us for the sights of the next day by discussing the geographical components of the land and how they relate to the Bible.
While in Jerusalem, we had several afternoons to shop in the Old City. I was very unaccustomed to the "art" of bartering. The shopkeepers have many techniques to try and get you to buy their goods. "One hundred twenty shekels… but for you, my friend, only ninety-shekel! I give you good price… what is your budget?" Yes, bartering can get exhausting, but we did meet several shopkeepers who were not just looking for a sale. Many were very willing to answer questions and provide insight into what it meant for them to live in Israel today.
Hezekiah's Tunnel was one of the most amazing sights on our trip. Built in the late 700's BC in Jerusalem, the tunnel was constructed to bring water to a different part of the city in preparation for an Assyrian invasion. To complete the tunnel, which is a third of a mile long, workers began digging through bedrock at opposite ends, meeting in the middle (we still don't know how they did this!). We walked through the entire length of the tunnel; at points we were able to see the marks on the walls where the workers had dug through the bedrock. Our trek ended when we reached the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9).
When I think of wilderness, the first image that comes to mind is filled with tall trees, greenery, mountains, birds singing, and babbling brooks. But the wilderness of Israel is quite a different picture. This barren landscape, a place were one cannot depend on anyone or anything except God, was the "testing-ground of faith" for the nation of Israel. It is that place spoken of in Isaiah 40 where "every valley shall be raised up, every mountain hill made low; the rough ground shall be made level, the rugged places a plain" in preparation for the coming of the Lord. Honestly, I wanted to stay. I would have loved to pitch my Bedouin tent on the side of a deep wadi and lay back, looking up at the stars and listening quietly in the cool night for the still small voice of God.
Several days of our trip were spent in northern Israel, where we stayed on a kibbutz (a gated community) on the Sea of Galilee. On the day we arrived the weather was especially warm, and a few of us jumped right into the water. I later wrote in my journal: "The waves seemed to come twice as fast as what would be called "normal"…. This got me thinking: what would the Sea of Galilee be like in a windstorm, much like that experienced by the disciples when Jesus calmed the water? Certainly, with the right conditions, a medium sized fishing vessel could be easily capsized. The fears of the disciples are rightly understood." (May 22, 2006)
After spending time in Jerusalem and the northern part of Israel, we traveled south to the Negev (dry country). While we were here, Dr. Phillips told us about the remarkable features of one of God's creatures: the camel. Camels have translucent eyelids to keep out dust; flat, broad feet to keep them from sinking into the sand; and long legs to keep their body away from the hot desert floor. Camels can go for two weeks without water, and when a camel is "empty" it can drink up to twenty five gallons of water! Remember when Abraham's servant encounters Rebekah in Genesis 24? The servant knows Rebekah is to be the wife of Isaac because she says "I'll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking" (Gen 24:19). Clearly, this was a monumental task!
Here Erin and Thea are overlooking what is called the Machtesh Ramon (giant crater) in southern Israel. This is the largest of three such craters in Israel. Standing on the edge of such a massive geological formation caused me to think about the problem this obstacle posed for those in Bible times. Is one to go around it? Or through it?
Water was (and is) a precious commodity in Israel. Obviously, wherever people are present, water must be present as well. Thus, many of the sites that we visited contained elaborately constructed cisterns or wells used to gather water (as this one in Beer Sheva). This dependency upon water is clearly related in Scripture: in Jeremiah 31, the Lord provides for Israel through a promise to "lead them beside streams of water" (v.9); and Jesus says, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:37-38).
The Bell Caves in Bet Guvrin were a truly spectacular sight. First built in the fourth century BC, the caves were used to harvest limestone for building material. Some of the caves were also used as storehouses or even places of worship in later centuries. The caves were near Moreshah, home of the prophet Micah.
Today we swam in the Dead Sea, an experience unlike any that I have ever had before. "Effortless floating" is the only way to describe it; maybe like swimming in Jell-O that hasn't quite solidified. I just floated to the surface. I could even float with rocks on my chest! Many weary travelers must have must have been sorely disappointed upon reaching the "refreshing" waters of the Dead Sea (the water has a 30-35% salt content). But even if you can't take a drink, the minerals in the water are good for your skin. (excerpts from May 31, 2006)
I hope, through viewing this photo journal, that you have been able to grasp a picture of the Land of Israel and gain a deeper interest in its profound connection to the Bible. The trip was an unforgettable experience. Someday I would like to go back again. Until then, may we all continue to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6).