16 March, 2013

Shephelah: Round One

This was the best trip to date, no doubt. The Shephelah region in Israel is one of my favorite parts of the country. It's green, lush, and beautiful. I loved every moment of it. Known as the lowlands, you descend into the Shephelah from the Hill Country of Judah (where I live). It's awesome to see with your eyes the places that the Old Testament describes so intricately. 
This is at our first stop: Beth-Shemesh. From here, we can see the site of Zorah, which is significant because it is between Zorah and Eshtaol that the story of Samson begins (find this account in Judges 13). This is where he is buried too. Another cool thing... the Ark of the Covenant also passed through this city.

Naturally, I found a friend :)

Basically, Samson's entire life took place in the Shephelah. The account found in Judges is seriously an amazing story. Studying the events of his life mean so much more to me now that I can recall a specific site in my mind and be able to picture what it might have looked like when Samson killed a lion with his bare hands or when he slew one thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.. which is documented below.. :)

Valiant Samson, dead Philistines :)

Then we got some freetime to play with the donkey jawbones on our own..hahah

K but really. I held a real jawbone of a donkey, the same thing that Samson used to KILL ONE THOUSAND PEOPLE. It wasn't because he was some ferocious superhuman or he had a powerful weapon (a jawbone, folks..really), but the spirit of the Lord came upon him and enabled him to rise to victory. The moment Samson lost track of the Lord, his strength was taken away from him. Never ever ever ever forget (though I often do) that your successes, winnings, and any good thing COME FROM THE LORD. Without him, we lose. This is seen in Scripture over and over and over.

Black shirt crew :)

So we continued to make our way south and ended up at Azekah. Between this city and Socoh is where the Philistines were encamped when David went to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17). It is very likely that Goliath's defeat was able to be seen from where we were standing at Azekah. 

We stopped at Tel Goded (which may be Marashet Gath, the hometown of the prophet Micah). We have been in a good amount of caves, tunnels, and the like here.. but the ones found here are like none we've experienced before. The caves here date back to 132 AD and were carved by those fleeing during the second Jewish revolt.

As you can see, we had to enter through a small tunnel. We literally crawled our way into a giant cave which had other tight tunnels going every direction, even up..which you can see below :)

Yaaa we weren't so sure about this... haha. Most of the tunnels are very narrow and short.. you crawl on your belly and just kinda scoot through. A claustrophobic's nightmare.

We had the option of exiting the cave through theeee smallest tunnel. I said no thank you :) hahah. but most of us were brave and did it!!

Hahah. I think I completed all the tunnel crawling I ever want to do in my life. Checked that off the bucket list

She did it!!!!! YAY!

Once we made it to Beth-Guvrin, we headed straight for the ancient Roman amphitheater. We have seen a few excavations of old amphitheaters but none this well preserved. As Bill was explaining the history here, he reminded us what used to take place in this arenas--the death of Christians. There's a verryyy good chance believers were killed right on this very ground because of there faith. Real stuff. It took me a moment to process that.

Re-enacting a fight.. Bryant vs. Daniel

Becky vs. Princess

It was an excellent place to dead lift fellow humans :)

Hahahahaha sooo good

On the bus again.. headed to Lachish!

Lachish.. or what remains of it. King Sennacherib of Assyria conquered this city during his episode of "I'm going to eat up every place in Judah I can." In fact, remains of the siege ramp that his army built is still there to this day.

Some epic well. You fall in, you die :O

Annnddd so we made it to our last stop..my favorite part of the day. The sun was just starting to set so it was magic hour and everything looked beautiful.

Welcome to the Elah Valley

Almond blossoms everywhere

The Elah Valley is where David fought and killed Goliath. We walked past a wheat field to the brook where David would have picked up five smooth stones to use in his sling to defeat the giant.

Bill picked up a smooth stone and showed us how to properly use the sling :)

And of course, we had to reenact David vs. Goliath. Meet Goliath
and the Philistines

David bout to kill the giant. hahaha it was great

Our Kansas kids are wheat farmers.. :)

Best way to wrap up a month busy with classes and stuff. We had the wonderful privilege of going to Shephelah again a second time, and I'll get those pictures up next :)