Friday, August 8, 2008

Those crafty Philistines!

.הפלשתים הערמומים האלה

So as is evident by the past several posts, Jessica has finally arrived! I'm extremely happy that she's here, and I'm excited about finally getting truly settled in to our year together. Already, we've done some grocery shopping that has enriched my food selection and are exploring new parts of the city together (not always entirely intentionally!). A side bonus: As the past few days have been busier than usual for me, it's been nice to know that the blog was still being updated daily. Between the two of us, we're going to strive to post an average of one post a day. Let's hope we can stick to that!

I want to start by recapping the interesting trip the HUC class took yesterday. (Sadly, Jessica was at ulpan and therefore couldn't join us). Our goal was to explore parts of the history of the Philistines, a people most probably descended from the same stock as the Mycenean that expanded to the Middle East around the same time that the ancient Hebrews were entering the fray. We visited Tel Gat, which was one of the five major Philistine cities. Gat was located on the top of a huge hill, and from the summit we could see from the hills of Judea to the lower regions westward. There was hardly any "civilization" where we were standing, so it was actually easier than usual for me to visualize how the land might have looked 3200 years ago. Also evident was the extremely high vantage point that the citizens of Gat would have had, so it was clear why the place was chosen.

Next we went to the British Forest, from which we were able to overlook the valley where the bible recounts the story of David and Goliath (who was from Gat!). Although of course I've heard the tale before, and although I've read the biblical account, hearing the story and following the Hebrew and looking at the geographic region discussed made the story seem so much more real to me. Of course, I believe that the story is legendary, but that doesn't make it any less real, and watching the grass in the land where it is described made me able to actually visualize it happening. This is the first time I've been able to really connect a biblical story to a location in Israel, and I thought it was eye-opening and moving; so I certainly hope it isn't the last!

Then, we went to Ashkelon, which was another major Philistine city. Here, however, we spent most of the time (about one hour) having a blast at the beach. The water was warm, the sand was smooth, and my sunscreen was functional. I had a great time! On the way out, we saw a 3800-year-old arched gateway (mostly intact), which some believe to be the oldest arch in the world. (Note that it used to be believed that the Romans were the first to make use the above-ground arch, but clearly this isn't true as this arch predates the Romans' by about 1500-2000 years.)

Overall, yesterday's 9-hour trip was amazing (and obviously I haven't recounted every detail of it). This is exactly what I had envisioned when we were told that HUC was piloting a new biblical history course that would combine history lectures with trips to the places being discussed. I learned a lot about the Philistines and had the opportunity to walk where they had once walked. I don't know if this is theologically significant to me (not yet, at least), but it was definitely way cool.

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