Our first stop was the Decapolis. This region of the 10 cities is mentioned in the gospels as a place where Jesus went with his disciples. The capital of the Decapolis was Beit She'an. This place has had human habitation since 5000BC. The Egyptians held it until 12th century BC. It was held by the Philistines who lost it to King David in around 1000BC. The Israelites lost it to the Greeks in the 4th Century BC and they lost it to the Romans in 1st Century BC. The Romans built a beautiful city with the necessary theater, coloseum, and circus, or race track. On the top of the "tel", which reveals 18 layers of cities, the Romans built a temple aned did not bother to dig down into the lower levels. As others did, they simply built on top of the previous foundations.
Here are a few pictures from my visit.
|A view of the "tel" from the ruins of the 1st century Roman City. This is the city Jesus would have seen. The "tel" stands behind with the ruins of the Roman temple on top.|
|Rolman cities also had to have public baths which included gymnasiums, cold and hot water pools, dry and steam saunas, spas, and of course toilets. This is meeting room where men gathered before entering the various rooms of the baths.|
|1st Century Roman toilets. Men just sat n two stones and a flowing water trough below carried away waste.|
|Remains of one of the pools.|
|The sidewalks and views of the doorways of the shops along the main street. The sidewalks were covered in mosaics.|
|We climbed to the top of the "tel". This dead tree is not part of the site. It is the prop used for the crucifixion scene in the movie, "Jesus Christ Superstar", some of which was filmed here at this locationl|
|View of the main street of Beit She'an looking towards the "tel".|
Our next stop was the supposed site of Jesus' Baptism. Actually, the Isreali government has chosen a convenient site along the Jordan River and designated it a National Park. If there anything which challenged my faith and left me a bit disgusted, it was this location. My brother priests were joking, "All that's missing is Mickey and Minnie". The atmosphere they created is more like a carnival rather than the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of Baptism. It's the perfect example of what happens of when you let government get a hold of religion. Enough of this place.
Our next stop was the city of Jericho in Palestinian territory. Jericho is the longest inhabited place in the world - approximately 10,000 years. Jericho is mentioned many times in the Bible. Most notably, in the Old Testatment when Joshua conquered the city for the Israelites. And in the gospel when Jesus and his disciples go there before "Going up to Jerusalem".
|A 7000 year old tower of Jericho.|
|View of the modern city from the top of the ancient city wals.|
We next headed to the Dead Sea to go swimming. There are no pictures. I went in the water and left my camera in the bus. There are some pictures that some of the other priests took that they will send my via e-mail. I'll post them here when I get them. The water in the ocean is 4% salty, the Dead Sea is 33% salt. The water feels oily and you cannot sink. When you float on your back, about half of your body remains above the water. Its great fun. And so is the shower after to rinse off all that salt.
We left the Dead Sea and the Jericho area to "Go up to Jerusalem". The last time I did this drive, it was a terrible road, turning and twisting through the mountains and ravines. Today the road is a modern 4 lane interstate highway. It remains uncomplete, it is so new. We stopped in the city of Bethany where Jesus visited Martha, Mary and Lazarus. There is a church there marking the place where Lazarus was buried. WE celebrated Mass there. It is a simple Greek cross, that means the four arms of the cross are of equal length. A dome sits above the crossing of the nave and transept. Here are pictures of the beautiful mosaics in the end of each arm of the cross.
|Jesus teaching Martha, Mary and Lazarus, "I am the resurrection and the life."|
|Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb.|
|Mary washing the feet of Jesus at the home of Simon in Bethany.|
|Jesus saying to Martha that Mary has chosen the better part.|
Shalom from the city of Peace.