Clarity!

I know I just posted a few days ago, but so much has happened that I just need to tell you all about it! Geez, God is showing up in so many huge ways! I have never felt more driven or purposeful in my life. It’s like He’s giving me purpose, giving me HIS dreams. I am so excited about this! 


To start out, I went with a group of other students to Succat Hillel (a part of International House of Prayer) across the valley two nights ago. Let’s just say, I had no idea what I was getting into! I thought it was going to be a normal worship and sermon deal, but it ended up being a charismatic healing service. I have never been around that before! The worship to begin with was fantastic! People had no inhibitions, and were just worshiping God with their whole heart. It was so amazing to watch people dance because of the joy of the Lord in their hearts. People were just letting go and allowing the Spirit to move within them. It was amazing, I’m telling you! I was able to just praise God freely and let my emotions show! I have such respect for that kind of worship, although I don’t know if it would be where I would go every week. It was just a great way to let my joy of the Lord come out and praise Him. 


After that, things got interesting. The pastor started talking about his healing school that he is the head of in Bethel, California, and the people that he had healed. I mean, I started getting really critical. I guess that’s just my nature because everything he was saying was unfamiliar to me. Then he called people up to say words of knowledge, and people said things like their back was hurting or their eyes felt like they were twitching, and then the pastor would turn to the congregation and ask who had that problem. Then people with that problem would stand up and he would ask them if they felt better, and a lot of them said they did. That’s when I got really critical. I mean, were these people faking? Were they truly healed? How am I supposed to know? I really didn’t like the way the pastor went about it, but who am I to tell the Holy Spirit what He can do? After that service, I went back to campus reeling. I could not get it out of my head. Maybe it’s just because it’s so new of a concept, but I had no idea what to feel about it. I mean, the disciples were given the same Spirit as us, and if they healed people, can we? Or is that only for them? But yet, God does amazing things, beyond our comprehension, and we can’t even begin to say that we know. I believe that God can work through things like words of knowledge, but we cannot take any responsibility for the healing, because it is the Holy Spirit working through us. Since I was so confused about the subject, I turned to a few of my friends to see what their takes was on it. And one view that I really appreciated was that we have to look at those services with discernment, because God can use them to teach us and to work through. But we have to look for what is Biblical, and what is not, and ask God for discernment to figure out what He wants us to get from it. We cannot discredit that the Spirit dwells within us and moves and still works. So that’s why I can’t just say that those people weren’t healed, because who am I to say what the Spirit does? However, this is not the kind of church I think I will attend. It really opened my eyes, though, which I appreciate. Being open minded is one big lesson I’m taking from living here. 


Being from America, I think we are so engrossed in our American paradigms and beliefs that we look at every other sect of Christianity, like the Eastern Church or even the Charismatic as lower than us, or even heretical. But I think I have learned that there is so much more to Christianity than the contemporary church of America. There are so many lessons we can take from these other churches. I mean, there’s definitely issues with both, but we can learn from them how to worship without inhibitions, or how to worship through tradition. I know that I will be coming back with a different perspective on what the church really is and our mission as Christ followers. 


Then today a group of us went to visit a lawyer named Calev Meyers, a Messianic Jew who is part of the biggest law firm in Israel. He has helped get the prostitution bill into the Knesset (Israeli government) and he works for the discriminated religious population and also for human rights. This guy was so profound! He spoke truth into many of the issues that I have been struggling with. He spoke of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, which is something that I knew nothing about before coming here, but after living here I’m not sure what to do with it. He spoke that he is not pro – Palestine or pro – Israel, but he is looking to bring dignity to all people here. He said that the best solution he can think of is to have the Palestinian Authority start to attack itself from within, with righteous Palestinians challenging it, trying to bring around social reform. Because most of the injustice of the Palestinians is from the Palestinian Authority itself. Calev is working on challenging the Israeli government and the religious radicals in order to bring social reform to Israel. By each side turning within and not to each other, we could have reconciliation in the future. This is the first solution that I’ve heard that actually has promise. 


He also spoke of why he is so passionate about human rights. He said that Jesus came and brought dignity to people. Jesus came into a time where the sanctity of life was almost non – existent. Men were torn by lions in front of crowds, babies were thrown away like garbage, and women were treated as property, even in the Jewish realm. Jesus showed that the sanctify of life is important, and that women should be treated with love. Jesus sat down with Mary and Martha and shared Scripture with them. He was bringing dignity to their lives! And that’s what Calev is trying to do with his work. He’s trying to bring the Kingdom to the people here, helping to remove them from social injustices and show them their worth in God. And this REALLY spoke to me. I’ve always been passionate about human rights, and I want to be a counselor and work with abused children, trafficked childen, broken families, etc. And listening to him made me so inspired! He is making such a difference, and so can I! Even now, in college and broke, I can still make an impact. I really want to get involved with this when I get back, maybe just by raising awareness at my college about persecution in the Middle East or the Palestinian conflict. I just am so joyous at this moment, I can barely contain it! God is showing me His purpose, and it’s so much bigger than I could even imagine! I hope someday I can use my counseling practice to work with injustice issues and serve an international purpose. I can’t wait to see what plans God has for me…I’m only getting a glimpse! 


On a sad note, soccer has been canceled. The girls have been complaining and giving lots of excuses to not come to practice, so yesterday it was a bit cold and rainy and a lot of the girls had complained to the principal. He was tired of it, and he told them if they didn’t show up to practice he would cancel soccer. So Ian and I get there, and only one girl showed up. So Terry (the principal) stuck to his word and canceled soccer. It’s a bit frustrating because I’ve spent so much time investing in it, but I have to trust that God is in control and hopefully something redemptive can come out of it. Now I have other opportunities to help the school in other ways, and I’m going to throw myself into that and serve where I can. 


Well, three blog posts in three days! I hope you have enjoyed them! I just had to write about this, it’s been taking over my brain waves for the past few days. I just thank God for the clarity I’ve gotten this week, and the reassurance of His love. He is amazing.


Cheers, 
Liz

Galilee: Part 2

The third day began at Hazor, a city north of the Sea of Galilee located in the Huleh Basin. This was a very critical city in ancient times and even today. It was considered the greatest among equals (of the Canaanite kings) and is the largest archaeological tel in Israel. The Bible story that we focused on was the story in Joshua 11. This was when the King of Hazor called together the other Canaanite kings in the area (since he was the head) and asked them to help him ambush Joshua and the Israelites. The kings met at Mt. Hermon (which we got to see, all covered in snow) and then headed to Mt. Meron (highest mountain in Israel) where they planned to ambush Joshua when he took Hazor. However, God intervened and delivered the kings into Joshua’s hands, and he ambushed the ambusher. The site itself was huge and very interesting, and it had one of the three six – chambered Solomonic gates found in Israel (the other ones are in Megiddo and Gezer). 


Ancient Mud Brick Arch

After Hazor we traveled on to Dan, which is located at the top of the Huleh Basin, north of Hazor. Dan first shows up in Genesis 14 when Abraham went as far as Dan in his travels. This place was the top of the Basin, which served as an international ground that was full of conflict throughout the years. In ancient times, it was the Hittites and the Arameans pushing through there to get to Israel. In modern times (even back in the 1960’s) it was the Syrians who tried to come through there, but instead of chariot warfare it was tank warfare. At the site we got to see a mud brick arch that dates back to the time of the patriarchs (middle bronze age) which proves that the Romans were not the ones to invent the arch! The site was beautiful, full of vegetation, almost felt like we were walking through a jungle (although I’ve never been to a real jungle). The spring at Dan is the most powerful headwater spring to the Jordan River, with about 2,000 gallons a minute! 

Caesarea Phillippi 

Then we went to Caesarea Philippi (or Banias) and got to see a bit of New Testament history, which was great because we have focused so much on the Old Testament. This place was where Jesus came and where Peter acknowledged Jesus as the living God. It was also a place full of pagan worship, with the pagans worshiping the god Pan in the cave and some of the temples were built for worship of the emperor. When Jesus asked who He was, He was declaring that He was not the pagan gods or Caesar, but the true living God, the Messiah amongst rampant idol worship. We had a great time climbing up onto some of the capitals there and then we got a chance to go for a hike. We went beside the spring (that comes out beneath the cave) for about an hour, and got to enjoy the wildflowers and vegetation along the trail. At the end we stopped by the waterfall and enjoyed the powerful mist that it created! 

Mt. Hermon

We ended the day on the edge of an extinct volcanic cone looking into Syria. I don’t know about you, but when I heard I would be standing on a volcano I pictured Lord of the Rings, open gaping hole volcano. But it was more just like a mountain with a cone – looking top. That was a bit disappointing, but it was awesome to be able to look into Syria and get an idea of what the land north of Israel looks like. 


By the time we got back to Ein Gev Resort, it was already dark and the sunset had come and gone. However, we were determined to swim in the water, and since we hadn’t had a chance thus far, we were going in despite the darkness and the cold air. So we put on our swimsuits and waded in, and boy, was it cold! It more of a numbing cold, so when we were in for a while it wasn’t as bad. A few people went in waist deep and went out, but Amber, Anna and I had a blast just running around in the water and being goofy. It definitely felt great to let loose a bit and then enjoy a hot shower later! The food at the resort was fantastic! And the dessert was amazing, I have missed dessert so much! We get it very rarely, so getting cake and brownies made everything better. 

Our boat!

We woke up the next day and said goodbye to our resort, a bit sad, but I knew that the rest of the day was going to be great. We started the day off going on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, which was fantastic! I found myself leaning over the side, feeling the breeze against my face and just enjoying being out on the water. I was able to imagine Jesus out on the boat with His disciples, and the story that ensued. I could see in my head the waves crashing against the boat and the wind whistling in my ear. And I could imagine how terrifying it would be in such a small boat in that kind of storm. That was really cool. And just being out on a boat felt great, and it was an awesome start to the day. 

Synagogue at Capernaum

The next stop to Capernaum was my favorite stop the entire trip. There was just something special about the site. Jesus spent a lot of time here, and to see the place where He might have stayed and to see the area where His disciples would have been when He called them…WOW. We got a lot of background information on Capernaum, such as it was a huge fishing industry for the lake and had great agricultural area. It was also had a deep Roman footprint, with Roman buildings and at the time, Roman soldiers stationed there. The Sea of Galilee was just a clashing of mindsets and cultures, and this is where Jesus did most of His ministry. It’s way different than the provincial area of Nazareth where he grew up. Dr. Wright read Matthew 4 to us, the story of the calling of the disciples, while we were all sitting on rocks gazing out at the Sea. You could tell that it was a powerful moment for everyone, because we could see it, feel it, imagine it! To know that Jesus walked along this shore, that the disciples were catching fish right here. Then we got some time to just sit quietly and reflect, and that was perfect. I was able to read the passage against and praise Jesus in my heart, praising Him for all that He is, and was, and is to come. I prayed that I would have faith like those disciples, and that I would live my life as a disciple for Christ, giving up everything that I have to follow Him. It was a bit of a turning point for me. I decided that materials don’t matter to me, serving God does. Nothing in my life matters as much as He does, and my life needs to reflect that. My career choice needs to reflect that, my words need to reflect that, everything does. I’m not going to do this half way, just letting myself be complacent and do enough to make it to heaven. I want to service Jesus and His Kingdom, putting Him first. 


Our stop for lunch was at Chorazim, where Jesus writes in Matthew 11:20 that it was one of the three places that He did most of His miracles, yet they did not repent. That is the only mention of Chorazim in the Bible, which surprised me that He did most of His miracles there, yet it wasn’t mentioned. Anyways, the site was really interesting, with a 5th century Byzantine synagogue, complete with an image of Medusa inscribed on the rock. Now that threw us for a loop! Not sure what the explanation of that is, but I’m sure it’s a good one! We ate our last bus lunch of the semester (sad day!) and explored the site a bit before we headed for our last stop. 


The final stop of the trip was the Cliffs of Arbel, where we were able to talk on the top about our trip and the view, and then we got to climb down the cliffs to the bottom where our bus was located. This was definitely awesome, because I am a daredevil, and I have been itching to do some climbing! Granted, there were handholds and a trail, but it satisfied my desire for a bit. Then we got to go climb up into some caves and explore, which I loved! Two weeks before that one of the short term students had actually found a Roman coin in one of the coins, so that gave us all motivation to look for some! Unfortunately, we weren’t that blessed, but it was still great to explore them anyways. 


On the bus ride home, I was sitting next to one of my friends and was just reflecting on the past few days and the impact it had on me. This whole experience has changed me, molded me, and shaped me into a different person. I see things differently, I experience things differently, and I think about things way differently. I see it as when I’ve grown up, I’ve kinda lived in a box. An American box, a Vogt family box, a homeschool box, etc. Everything I am has been shaped by that box, but coming here allowed me to step out of that box and see who I am without all that. When everything is unfamiliar, when all that I know is stripped away, what is left? And that’s what I’m figuring out. I’m realizing who I am without all that is familiar, without all that has shaped me in the past. I’m finding out that there are a lot of traits that I’ve had that I don’t want anymore, and I’ve purposely gone out of my way to put myself in situations that will change that. For example, I’m a really impatient person. But I’ve been waiting for everyone else to eat before me so that I have to be patient and let others go first. But I’m also realizing that I’m losing a lot of my American paradigms that I came with. I see the Middle East differently, the church differently, my faith differently, etc. A wise woman that spoke said that living in the Middle East is like getting every American paradigm you have shaken up and thrown onto the ground, then trying to pick up the pieces. And believe me, it’s not easy! What do I want to come back to America with? What do I want for my life when I go home? Is all this change going to go to waste, or will it last? These are all thoughts that have been occupying my mind. God has really been working with me, and I can’t wait to see what else He has in store with me. My heart is full of such joy as I grow closer to Him everyday and my passion for Him and His Word grows each day. 

Coral Reef Reserve

On another note, two friends and I went to Eilat right after this trip for 2 1/2 days because we only had one class last week. Eilat is a resort town at the southern tip of Israel, right on the Red Sea. It was very Americanized, with a lot of casinos and resorts and many many MANY tourists walking around. We stayed in a hostel and actually got a room to ourselves, which was great! We went out to the coral reef reserve and got to go snorkeling on the coral reef (which is the 2nd best in the world!!). We got to see jelly fish, barracuda, eels, and so many beautiful fish! They were so bright that I didn’t even think they were real!! It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had, one that will go down in my memory book for awhile. That night we got to go out on the town and eat at a cute little sandwich bar, where we met these paratroopers who just got out of the army. It was cool to chat with them for awhile, and then we went to see the Hunger Games…8 hours before it came out in the US! Talk about a win! The next day we went to the beach and laid out and then went shopping at the mall (I walked in and was like…’THIS FEELS LIKE HOME’) before taking the 4 hour bus back to Jerusalem. 


The next day was our student activity day (let’s just say, by this time I was exhausted — going on 6 full days of nonstop activity) at Gan Hoshlosha, in the Galilee area. It’s a beautiful park (rated in top 20 in the world) with natural hot springs that are used for pools. It was great to finally be in fresh water and to enjoy time as a group without the worry of notes. A few of the guys ended up throwing us into the water by having us step on their hands and then pushing up. I was the smallest, so I got lots of air and was able to do back flips, which was awesome! We also got to grill out, which also made me feel miss home. Hamburgers and hot dogs, yes! 

Me getting thrown!



I got to watch the KU game last night, which was so good! I can’t even describe how happy it made me to watch some basketball. It’s been killing me to not be able to watch March Madness, and even though the game froze about every 10 seconds and the quality was so bad we could barely even see the ball, it was so worth it to see my Jayhawks win! Ugh, ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK! 


Well, that’s it for now. I’ll post pictures when I can, but 4 hours of blog writing is enough for one day! I hope everything is well in America, I’m a bit isolated over here so I have no idea what’s even going on. Going back is going to be a culture shock, that’s for sure! 


Love you all! 
Liz

Galilee: Part 1

Oh boy, the thought of writing this blog has been looming the past few days because so much has happened over the past 2 weeks and I’m really not sure where to start. God has been showing up in huge ways, and I can’t even begin to describe how joyous I am to be seeing God in an entirely new light. Not only have I seen where my Savior grew up, but I have seen the place where He spent most of His adult ministry and did many of His miracles. Over those four days I spent in Galilee I really felt like I could feel and see Jesus, not only in a figurative sense but also in a literal sense, because I could sit on a rock in an area that He had been and try to imagine what it was like in His time. There were many moments where I sat there, pondering the enormity of the place that I was standing on, and somehow trying to wrap my head around what that means for me in my life. Let’s just say it’s been a reflective few weeks! 


I think I’m going to split this field study into two blogs, the first two days on the first blog and the second two days and my trip to Eilat on the second blog. That way I can tell you all more about what happened in detail, rather than just a brief overview. Well, here goes. 

The port is in the background.

Our first stop was to Caesarea, a port city located on the Mediterranean Sea (more specifically on the Sharon Plain) that was build up by Herod. As I’ve said before, Herod is a genius. There were already ports at Dor and Acco, but Herod wanted a port that was more Jerusalem oriented rather than Galilee oriented, and he also wanted land that he could make Caesar friendly, with no previous ties to other people groups. The issue with Caesarea is that it was a swampy wasteland, not fit for any port. But Herod, just being himself, tried to one – up the Creator by building there anyway. He took this wasteland and turned it into the most used port in the time of the New Testament, and also brought to it many archaeological innovations never seen before. Herod actually had men dive underneath the water with pillars and cement them underwater in order to keep the debris from the current from getting in. I mean, who would’ve thought they had underwater cement back then, or who would’ve thought that it was even possible? Good ol’ Herod did, that’s for sure! In relation to Biblical stories, Paul was held in Herod’s pretorium (located behind the palace) for 2 years by Felix. 

Aqueduct at Caesarea



Our second stop was to an overlook on top of Mt. Carmel. Here we had a fantastic view of the Jezreel Valley before us, with looks to Mt. Tabor, Mt. Gilboa, and Mt. Moreh, all which have Biblical stories attached to them. Up here we discussed when Elijah build an altar where we were standing (maybe not exactly, but general area) in order to prove the power of YHWH (God’s personal name) in direct contrast to the pagan worshipers who were expecting Baal to light their altar. God showed up in a big way that day, and it was amazing to know that this all happened right where we were standing, and that Elijah saw the same view we did, experiencing God’s blessings on the valley beneath and the mountains on the horizon line. 


After lunch, we headed to the Tel of Megiddo, a very important ancient city located at the neck of the Megiddo pass, which led into the Jezreel Valley. It is the only city that had a complete view of the Jezreel Valley, and it also was the shortest route into the Valley, giving it an advantage to the other Valley cities. Pharoah Thutmose III spoke of it, saying that taking it would be like taking a thousand cities, because having Megiddo is having control of the Valley. King Josiah had control of Megiddo after the Assyrian’s lost it, but he ended up dying at the hands of Pharoah Nicho there, his dying breath taken in Jerusalem. 


Our last stop of the first day was to Jezreel, another Valley city. This city serves as the backdoor into the valley, and was an important city to King Ahab, the son of King Omri. Ahab wanted access to all the people groups he had made treaties with (Phoenicia, Judah, etc.), and Jezreel served as the middle point of his kingdom. Ahab most likely felt at home in Jezreel, since it was very similar to his hometown. However, Jezreel became a site that symbolized the decay and corruption of Israel, complete with King Jehu killing King Jorim and Jezebel in this Valley. 


That night we stayed in Nazareth at the St. Gabriel Hotel, which was a great break from campus! A group of us watched MegaMind (great movie!) and got to relax and not worry about homework for a bit. The food was also pretty good, and the stay was a good one except for the power going out at one point after dinner. But I got to room with Amber for the night, and it was great to have the room to ourselves for the night, minus two roommates. 

Theatre at Sepphoris

The next morning we began our journey at Sepphoris, or Zippori in Hebrew. This is a city located right off the International Route, therefore was a home to many different groups of people. Here we saw a Roman theatre, a Jewish synagogue full of mosaics, a Crusader tower, and a Roman villa. At this place we talked a lot about whether or not we could tell if the place was more Greek or Jewish, a problem we have with many places in Galilee. It came down to a question that Dr. Wright asked: ‘Well how Jewish was Jesus? How Greek was Jesus?’ Do we really know the answer to that? Yes and no. We know that Jesus was a kosher – keeping rabbi, but He also spoke Greek, and He had many opportunities for interaction with Hellenists. Even in the synagogue, the middle mosaic was of a zodiac, surrounded by four corners of the Jewish agricultural calender. Does that mean that there was syncretism here? Or were the Jews there so hellenized that it didn’t even matter? The explanation Dr. Wright gave is that this could be Torah, because the images in the Zodiac are of moon and sun, with a man in the middle who could be Elijah. It was an interesting take on it because my first thought was to jump to conclusions and talk about how terrible these Jews were doing at keeping Torah. But then someone brought up how a lot of our churches have Christmas trees in there during Christmas, but do they really know that the Christmas tree is a pagan symbol? Or remember when guitars in church was considered secular? Things change, and we can’t just assume that the ancient culture was any different. This place definitely pushed my ideas and worldview a bit, which was great. It was also a cool place because it was most likely that Jesus worked with Joseph here, rebuilding the city after the Romans burned it down because of the Jewish nationalists. I couldn’t believe that Jesus might’ve helped build some of the ruins I was looking at…WOW! 

Nazareth Ridge

My favorite part of the day, and one of my favorite parts of the entire trip was our time on the Nazareth Ridge. This is where Jesus would have grown up, where He could’ve played as a kid with his friends or came out to pray. We sat on the top of the cliff and looked out into the valley, just like He would have. Jesus had this view of the Valley, where so many of the Old Testament stories had taken place. He could see the story of Barak and Deborah, the stories of Elijah and Elisha, the stories of Saul and Jonathan. This was a provincial area, content in its own customs and cultures and a bit of a backwater town. Jesus did not perform most of His ministry here for a reason, and Dr. Wright alluded that He needed to move out into a more international area that facilitated the spread of the gospel. However, this was where Jesus was brought up. I just couldn’t get over that fact. I stared out into the Valley, feeling the wind in my face, and just let myself be enveloped by the joy of the Lord. I could feel His love and mercy, His fondness of the land before me, and His grace that He washed over us. It was a powerful moment, to say the least. I have never felt so at ease, so peaceful. It’s like Jesus was reassuring me that He has my best interests at heart, and I just need to let go and let God. He has my future in His hand, and all I have to do is follow Him and He will lead me. What a great reassurance that I will treasure. 


Side note: When we were walking back to the bus, Hermana (one of the graduate students and a major role model for us young’uns) walked over to find out what this big balloon was that we had seen. Ian and I followed her, and we walked over to where these three men had their trunk open and a computer in the back. It turned out they were hired by the Israeli government to use their camera (attached to the string of the balloon) to keep everyone safe and keep an eye on what was going on due to the terrorist threats on the event. They were just using an off brand Xbox controller to move it around, and we could see the whole ridge! It was really cool. 

Communal potties!

Our last stop was to Beth – Shean (New Testament Scythopolis), an amazing site packed full of Roman ruins. There was the Tel, with an ancient temple on top. Then there were the Cardo, with Roman pillars lining the sides, an ampitheater, a hippodrome, Roman communal toilets (where everyone would poop and talk), and tons of pillars and intricate capitals strewn along the ground. I loved this place because there was so much to it and we really got a sense for what a Roman Decapolis city looked like. It was one of those times where I really felt like I was walking through history. 

Sunset over Sea of Galilee

That night we got to stay at Ein Gev, in these cute little ‘cottages’. Seriously, it felt like a vacation! I got to be with my best two girl friends, and we hungout and watched movies as a group and got to spend quality time together. It was awesome to be right on the beach and see the sunset over the Sea of Galilee, which was incredible! That night I felt like I was walking on air, just high on what I had seen/felt that day, and just the joy from being able to be on a little vacation break. 


I have really come to love the two verses in Psalm 26 that say, ‘Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.’ Isn’t that great?


That’s the first two days. More to come! 
Shalom, 
Liz

Lightbulbs

Whew. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind! Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve last updated, this has been my first chance to sit down and write. So much has happened since my last update. Not only has it been my birthday this week, I’ve also been able to spend time with my church who is on a 10 day tour here and spend 3 days on a field study to Judah, Philistia, the Negev and the Dead Sea. This past week and a half have been the best I’ve had since I got here. I have learned so much about myself and God and I’ve had a chance to express it to a few people, which has in effect made the changes more apparent to me. I love seeing how God is molding me and shaping me while I’m here. 


I’m going to start out with the field study. Since it was 3 days long and there were many more stops than usual, I’m just going to briefly touch on all of them and only give details to the ones that really hit me the most. The first day we were off to Judah and the Shephelah. While we all excited for our first overnight trip, the weather was terrible. It was cold, rainy and windy, and that combination makes being outside all day not very pleasant. However, I was determined to not let it put a damper on my day. Our first stop was to the tel of Beth Shemesh, where we talked about Samson and all his stories that happened in the area that we were in. Our next stop was to a lookout of the Elah Valley, where we got to talk about the Phillistines battle with Saul and their different tactics they would have used. There’s two opposing ideas about where the Philistines would have camped, and debating them was my favorite part of that site. 

Anna & I at Lachish

My favorite part of that day was when we visited Lachish. This was a battle that we had talked about in my Old Testament class last semester, and being familiar with it definitely added to the experience. For those of you not familiar with the story, King Hezekiah had fortified the city of Lachish when he was expanding outward to gain more resources in a time where he thought he was not under threat (Sargon of the Assyrians had just died). However, to his dismay Sargon’s son Sennacherib was more powerful than even his father had been, and he began to conquer Hezekiah’s cities. We find out from the letters found inside the gate that they could not see the signal fires of Azekah anymore, which means that Azekah had fell and they were next. The Assyrians did a siege, therefore starving them out and while they did that they built a ramp in order to get up to the city. The Assyrians did eventually take the city, and the battle became Sennacherib’s pride and joy. He had an entire room in one of his palaces made to depict the battle. Knowing this background, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to see where the Assyrians would have built the ramp and the view that the people in the city would have had of the army below them. It was one of those places where I just could not even begin to imagine what it would have been like to be stuck on top of a city and look down at the brutality of the Assyrians. It would have been one of those moments where you put your hands in the air and trust that God had a plan. 

Mediterranean Sea

Our last stop of the day was to Ashkelon, which is right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It has stopped raining, so we were able to spend a good 45 minutes there just enjoying being by the sea. A lot of us walked a ways down the beach and climbed on some of the rocks of the cliff. This wasn’t an educational stop, it was just a place for us to wind down after the day and enjoy the view. 


We stayed the two nights at the Arad Youth Hostel. It was like a hotel, just with two sets of bunk beds. The showers were the best ones we had all had since we got here, and we would take at least 2 showers a day! The food was okay, but they served the same thing both dinners, so it was a little disappointing. All in all though, the hostel was much nicer than the ones we had stayed in the UK, and it was cool to be off campus for awhile and spend time together. It was almost like a vacation!

Tel of Beer Sheba

On the second day we started out at the Tel of Arad, but it was the windiest day yet and being on top of the tel was so cold. This place had a temple on top, with an altar (which I got to be sacrificed on) and there had been remains of two standing stones. Those stones have led archaelogists to believe that the temple had been a place of worship that had been mixed with pagan worship. Next we went to the Tel of BeerSheba, which was definitely a cool place. It was very elaborate, with us being able to see the remnants of the city itself and the houses. There we talked a lot about Abraham, and how he would have made diplomatic relationships called a dimorphic relationship with some of the city states on his way through this area. Being a traveling clan, they would need resources in case of a famine, and the city states needed protection out on the frontier. This is why it makes sense that Abraham was allowed to build a well here because without that relationship he would not have gotten the permission. 

Zin Wadi

Our last stop of that day was my favorite part. We did a hike in the Zin Wadi, which was absolutely beautiful. We were walking at the bottom of the canyon and there was actually water running! The last part of the hike you actually have to climb up ladders to get up the cliff face, and it’s the coolest hike we’ve done since we’ve been here. When we got to the top we had a fantastic view of the wadi below us and it was a great ending to our day. 


The last day was definitely the best! It was 70 degrees and sunny, and we went to Masada, then swam in the Dead Sea and the waterfalls of Ein Gedi, and finished the day at Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found). Masada was just awesome! We hiked up the side of it and the weather just made the surroundings incredible! When we got to the top we could see the Dead Sea in the distance and the Negev desert behind us. I really loved the teaching on Masada because the story is so powerful! It’s about a group of Jewish zealots who holed up on Masada and were the last ones to fall to Rome. They ended up committing mass suicide so that they would not be taken into captivity by the Romans. That story just resonated with me, and I found myself dwelling on it for a while afterwards. 

Waterfall at Ein Gedi

Next we drove down to the Dead Sea and we all changed into our swimsuits and hopped in. However, getting into the Dead Sea was not fun! There was no beach, just rocks and then salt deposits which were so sharp! But once we got in we were all laughing and having a good time. We just couldn’t believe we were actually floating in the Dead Sea! After a while though it started to get in our eyes, and then you can’t see for a few minutes, so we ventured out of the sea and back up to by the bus where Dr. Wright was grilling us hotdogs for lunch. Finally an American meal! After lunch we went and swam in the waterfalls at Ein Gedi, which was awesome! The water was refreshing, and we were able to clown around and have a good time. Finally we went to Qumran and got to learn about the Dead Sea Scrolls. I knew a lot of this already from my class last semester, but it was still cool to see where the scrolls were found. 


And then we came home! Driving back and seeing Jerusalem in the distance was so cool! It really felt like we were coming home. It’s crazy that seeing the Dome of the Rock can feel like home to me. I am so blessed! 

Dead Sea

Well, this was birthday week. I have been counting down to this week since I arrived! My birthday was definitely the best one I’ve ever had. Amber gave me gifts the night before, so it was already off to a great start! I had a test in the morning, but I felt really good about it so that started off my day great. Then a few of us walked around the Old City and then visited an Ethiopian Church. After lunch I laid out in the sun on the roof, it was definitely the most beautiful day we have had yet. Then I had class outside (another plus of great weather) and after class I went to go skype Jenni. However, my friends came and put a hat over my head and carried me into a room where a bunch of JUC people turned on the lights and screamed surprise. They then gave me a cupcake with a candle on it and say happy birthday and we all got to enjoy some treats from a Jewish bakery. After that I finally got to skype Jenni, which was great because I have missed her! It’s the first time we haven’t spent our birthday together, which was pretty sad. But at least I had people here to make me feel so special and loved! 


That night I got to meet up with Josh and Sara (my youth pastor and his wife) and Michael Holcomb (a friend from church) and Amber and I took them into the Old City and showed them around. Then we ate dinner at an American restaurant in the New City and were able to just catch up on our lives. It was so surreal seeing them here! I’m so used to not recognizing anyone, and then there they were! That night was just great, and I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with them. I think they could definitely tell that I have changed for the better, and it was great to see that my hard work at getting over my bad habits/attitudes is paying off! 


I’ve had a lot of time to reflect this week, and I’ve come to a big conclusion. I don’t want to plan my life anymore! Before I left I could tell you my plan for the rest of my life. I knew when I wanted to be engaged, married, have kids, live, etc. But the thing is: why should I put my life in a box? By planning my life, I’m telling God that I know better than He does what my life should be. But that’s so not true! God’s plans are always better than my plans, and from now on I’m letting life come to me. I’ll get engaged when I get engaged, no need to to plan it out to the day. And I also want to be open to the idea of maybe living in a different country for a few years. I know that I love traveling, and I have a heart for the people in this area. So I’m seriously going to consider moving somewhere after I graduate and spending time in a different country and culture. Yep, so that was a big lightbulb. There’s been more, but this one kinda is the overarching theme of them all. I just want God to be in control of my life, not me. 


Soccer has been going great! The girls have been very motivated and I’ve started to look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays when I get to coach! They are already improving, and it’s so great to see that they get better each practice. 


Well, that’s it for now. There’s so much more I could write about, but that would take ages to get all those thoughts onto here. I hope everything is going well back home and I can’t wait to see all of you in a few months. I’ve tried to upload pictures twice and my internet has died in the middle each time, so I will see if I can post some pictures when I have good internet. If not, they’re always on Facebook.


Shalom, 
Liz

Maktesh Ramon – biggest erosion crater in the world






Coming down Masada






Qumran – cave #4