A twelve-meter wristwatch

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Jaffa's clock tower is a landmark. It is located in the middle of Jefet street where it has measured minutes since 1903. At that time Jaffa was a hoppin' spot and Tel Aviv was little more than a sandy strip.

Civic contributions by both Arabs and Jews made the construction of the clock possible. 

Today this neighborhood of old Yafo (Jaffa) sees many tourists, both foreign and local. It is a good place to find a lunch, an ATM, or to browse the nearby flea market. 

The road pictured here runs to the mound of the ancient city.


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Bible Land Explorers who desire a more intimate view to the landscape featured in the gospels should consider walking across Galilee on the Jesus Trail, January 8-16, 2019. Vehicle support is provided and will return the group each night to a hotel. Contact me directly at markziese@gmail.com if interested. The trip is priced from New York at $2,588 and will be limited in size. See itinerary here.

Whacked by the great cane of pharaoh

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A story of the taking of Joppa is recorded on Papyrus Harris 500 in the British Museum. It was likely written at the end of the second millennium BC and the story goes like this:

During the reign of Thutmose III (mid-15th c BC), the city of Joppa rebelled against Egypt. This prompted the journey of Djehuti, an Egyptian representative, to Joppa. With him was an army and the "great cane" (some kind of magical stick) of the Pharaoh. 

Rather than attack the city directly, Djehuti managed to arrange a private drinking meeting in the field with the leader of Joppa. When everyone was sufficiently inebriated, Djehuti showed off the "great cane." Then he whacked Joppa's leader over the head with it!

Djehuti proceeded to sneak 600 soldiers hidden in sealed sacks inside the city gate. Once inside, the soldiers jumped out and captured the rebellious city.

Reading this I can't help but think of tale of the Trojan Horse. Such stories of intrigue and stealth are popular to this day.

Pictured here is Area A of Joppa's tell. This area produced one of the largest assemblages of Egyptian pottery found in the Heartland.  The gate structure here has been recreated and marked with the royal symbols of Ramesses II ("the Great").

See the fuller story of the cane whacking here.


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Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience of your own. I promise no one will whack you over the head while cruising aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. See the link here for details. We'll be visiting the ports of Rome, Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. 

Frightening sea stories here

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When thinking about frightening sea-stories Joppa (Jaffa, Yafo), Israel, may not be the first spot that comes to mind. Certainly it looks tranquil in this picture of fishermen on the seawall (with modern Tel Aviv in the distance). 

But consider these three stories.

1. Most folk know what happened to the prophet Jonah. Do you realize that his adventure began with a disobedient descent from here? He went down to Joppa. Then he went down into a ship. Eventually he went down into the deep drink. There, the big fish turned out to be his submarine rescuer. Catch Jonah 1 here.

2. A terrible sea-story about Joppa is found in 2 Maccabees 12 (see the text here). According to this account from the intertestamental period, tension between the Jews and their neighbors came to a head. The people of Joppa asked their Jewish neighbors to go sailing with them. Since all the Jews of the town were invited, they did not suspect it was a cruel plot. Once at sea, the Jews were thrown overboard. A total of 200 people drowned. Just so you know, 2 Maccabees is full of such awfulness.

3. The Roman army invaded the Heartland in AD 67 to quell a Jewish revolt. Under the leadership of Vespasian, the Romans captured Joppa and put the pirates who were hiding in its ruins to flight. Because the pirates had no place to go by foot, they fled by boats into the sea. This turned out to be their undoing. Due to Joppa's rocky shore and a "black north wind" the Jewish rebels were judged by God himself. The terrible wind smashed their boats against each other and ground them to bits. Those that survived were driven on the rocks. 4,200 people perished, some by the sea, some by the rocks, some by the Romans, and some by their own hands (as rebels seem to be rather fond of suicide according to Josephus). See the text of his Jewish War III.9.3 here.

See some of our other posts about Joppa here and here.


After this article, you may not be interested in a Mediterranean experience of your own! But just in case, know that you are welcome to join Mark and Vicki and other Bible Land Explorers for a cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. See the link here for details. We'll be visiting the ports of Rome, Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. 

 

 

 

A smelly old port

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The harbor at old Jaffa (Joppa or Yafo) looks and smells like every other maritime waypoint. What makes this place different is its antiquity. The hill behind the waterfront is actually a ruin-mound or tell. It suggests that this Mediterranean hub has been in use since the Middle Bronze Age, nearly 4,000 years ago. Some even claim that Jaffa is the oldest port in the world and link its name to a notable sailor by the name of Yaphet (Japheth), one of the sons of Noah! 

A more reasonable etymology connects the name of the place to the Hebrew jaffeh or "beautiful."

A rocky ridge extending into the sea created a natural deepwater to the west and north of the tell. Nearby freshwater sources offered strategic value for human habitation. This combination made Jaffa the best option for a seaport along the eastern Mediterranean coast between Dor and Ashkelon.


Interested in a Mediterranean port experience of your own? Join Mark and Vicki and other Bible Land Explorers for a cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. See the link here for details. We'll be visiting the ports of Rome, Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. Hope you will join us for this maritime adventure!

Rest house and pest house

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I spent my day off nosing around the port of old Jaffa (Yafo), Israel. I stumbled across the Armenian Convent of Saint Nicholas. This was not surprising. St Nick is often considered a patron saint of sailors; it is appropriate to find him in a port. The structure served as a place of worship, and, at one time, a rest house for Armenian pilgrims arriving in the Heartland by ship.

What was a surprise is learning about how the convent served as a hospital for the pestilent-struck soldiers of Napoléon's Armée d'Orient (1798-1801). In fact, the courtyard of this structure was famously depicted by Antoine-Jean Gros in his 1804 painting Bonaparte visitant les pestiférés de Jaffa or "Bonaparte Visits the Plague Stricken in Jaffa." See more on this famous work of art in the Louvre here. Don't miss the bit about how Gros portrayed Napoléon as a type of Christ, touching the wounds of the sick!

The irony here is that Napoléon was also accused of poisoning those who were unable to join the retreat. Look here. 

See our post on the church of St Peter above the port here or check out our Christmas visit with Saint Nicholas in Palestine here


Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. See the link here for details.

St Nicholas Street

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The summer sun plays on the limestone buildings in downtown Beit Jala. Palestine. Water and oil plays on those street pavers too. In the rainy season they can be slick. Word to the wise: take the stairs.

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer YongLan Ye.


Bible Land Explorers who desire a more intimate view to the landscape featured in the gospels should consider walking across Galilee on the Jesus Trail, January 8-16, 2019. Vehicle support is provided and will return the group each night to a hotel. Contact me directly at markziese@gmail.com if interested. The trip is priced from New York at $2,588 and will be limited in size. See itinerary here.

Camel kiss

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The famous "kissing camel" from Tell es-Sultan (ancient Jericho) is at it again. This time he got Sonia!

Of course, there are many other reasons to visit Tell es-Sultan. The archaeological remains and biblical connections are fantastic. The fruit is always tasty. The coffee is a knockout. Tax-free shopping is a plus. And the kebab is a memory-maker.

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer Rachel Waldstein.


Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. See the link here for details.

On the Sea of Galilee

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A day on the water is a day well spent. A day on the Sea of Galilee is a day well spent in Israel-Palestine.

Despite its enormous reputation, the Sea of Galilee is quite small. At its widest it measures thirteen by eight miles. Some would call that a lake.

Those who refer to it in antiquity use labels like yam (Heb) or thalassa (Gk) "sea," limne (Gk) "lake," or bahr (Arab) "body of water." 

Biblical labels include Lake Kinneret (after its shape, like a "harp"?), the Sea of Ginosar (after the name of the plain on its northwest corner), Lake Tiberias (after the name of the primary town in the region), or the Sea of Galilee (after the mountainous region to the west).


Intrepid travelers who desire a more intimate view to the landscape featured in the gospels should consider walking across Galilee on the Jesus Trail, January 8-16, 2019. Vehicle support is provided and will return the group each night to a hotel. Contact me directly at markziese@gmail.com if interested. The trip is priced from New York at $2,588 and will be limited in size. See itinerary here.

About here somewhere

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Bible Land Explorers Joy and Sonia help me fix our location.

The summer haze makes flying by visual flight rules (VFR) difficult. The map helps. We are standing on top of the Masada mesa with the Dead Sea Basin hiding behind us (you'll just have to take my word for it).

The site of Masada plays a rich role in the history of the region. Herod the Great (the "Baby-killer" of the Christmas story) built a wondrous fortress-palace here. 

Joy and Sonia are part of a study-group from the Cumberland Community Church in Smyrna, Georgia.


Intrepid travelers who desire a more intimate view to the landscape of the gospels should consider walking across Galilee on the Jesus Trail, January 8-16, 2019. Vehicle support is provided and will return the group each night to the hotel. Contact me directly at markziese@gmail.com if interested. The trip is priced from New York at $2,588. See itinerary here.

A Nazarene James

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Inside the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel, one finds a parade of nations. Contributions of mosaic art cast the image of the Madonna and child in personalized and nationalized ways. The Japanese Mary wears a kimono. The Chilean Jesus is portrayed with dark skin with snowy mountains in the background. It is quite interesting.

Yesterday I studied the contribution of Spain. I saw Mary holding a child. Above Mary was a banner with the words, TU ERES EL HONOR DE NUESTRO PUEBLO, "You are the honor of our people." No surprises there.

But below the Madonna were details I previously overlooked. On the column beneath the Madonna was the cross of St James, or the "Santiago Cross." The connection between this Madonna on a pillar and the Spanish church at Zaragoza is huge (read more about it here).

Beside the pillar is a kneeling figure sporting a brown robe. He has a cockle shell pinned to his chest and in his hands is a hooked walking staff. On the hook dangles the familiar water gourd. It is St James the Greater, the patron saint of Spain, depicted as the pilgrim.

With our 500-mile trek across Spain just around the corner, I am excited to learn more about these symbols of identity. Some have been around me regularly; I just wasn't looking for them.

The more you look the more you see.


Intrepid travelers who desire a more intimate view to the landscape featured in the gospels should consider walking across Galilee on the Jesus Trail, January 8-16, 2019. Vehicle support is provided and will return the group each night to a hotel. Contact me directly at markziese@gmail.com. The trip is priced from New York at $2,588. See itinerary here.

A North African favorite

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Foodie specialists suggest that shakshuka originated in North Africa. It was brought to Israel/Palestine and adopted as a local favorite.

Shakshuka varieties are as endless as its' cooks but a a few things are basic. Essential is a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, garlic and other spices. This "mixture" (which is one meaning of shakshuka in Arabic) is heated in olive oil in a iron pan. When hot, eggs are broken into the top of the mix and the egg whites carefully stirred in. The yolks are left intact and poached like soft gold nuggets. 

Shakshuka should be eaten with fresh bread as a sop.

Served straight from the fire, spicy shakshuka is the best breakfast in Israel. Or lunch. Or dinner.

If you want to try it in your own kitchen, watch the video here.


Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. Onboard lectures will focus on Paul's fourth missionary journey. See the link here for details.

Mind the gap

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We're on the move again. 

We've said goodbye to a fine group from Cumberland Community Church in Smyrna, Georgia. 

I had one day to catch my breath.

Now we say hello to Brian Johnson and a new crew from North Danvers Mennonite Church in Danvers, Illinois.

The summer heat has arrived in the Heartland. Remember to bring your hat. Glad you are following. Mind the gap!


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The Books and More Library in Amman, Jordan, is a unique work. The library offers public checkout of materials in English and Arabic, summer and winter camps, playdays, storytimes, and other activities in the heart of this vibrant capital. Founders Harvey and Nancy Bacus are visionaries who are worthy of your support. Read about them here or visit the Books and More website here

Belly bumps

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The Church of the Visitation helps us remember the place where Mary met Elizabeth. That church overlooks the village of Ein Kerem, Israel, and that meeting is recorded in Luke 1:39-56 (see here).

At the sound of Mary's voice the unborn child (who would become John the Baptist) was stirred. As for Mary, she responded to the moment in song. That song is remembered as "the Magnificat" and is named after the first word of the song in the Latin Vulgate. It pulls at threads from the Old Testament such as the Song of Hannah (see here). Mary's words create "belly bumps" both within and across the Testaments, tracing the ongoing work of God amid the People of God.

The sculpture pictured above stands in the courtyard outside the Church of the Visitation. Translations of the Magnificat in many different languages are posted on the wall behind it.

This place has been venerated by pilgrims for more than a thousand years. Modern structures mask earlier Byzantine remains.


Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. Onboard lectures will focus on Paul's fourth missionary journey. See the link here for details.

 

 

 

Vanitas motif

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This statue of Saint Jerome (Hieronymus in Latin) stands on a pedestal near the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine. In life (AD 347-420) Jerome spent many years here, dwelling in the cave where Jesus was born. In that cave he prayed, mentored others, wrote letters, and translated Scripture.

Jerome is often pictured with a human skull nearby. Is this because translation work will kill you? No. It is a vanitas motif: an artistic element suggesting that the things of this world are temporary at best. Death is a inevitable reality that the living must take to heart. It is a common motif in classical presentations of Jerome.

Behind his statue is the façade of the Church of Saint Catherine. This building serves the Catholic parish in Bethlehem.

This photograph was taken by Bible Land Explorer YongLan Ye.


Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. Onboard lectures will focus on Paul's fourth missionary journey. See the link here for details.

Some call them cute

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All the dromedary camels used for human transport at Kfar HaNokdim (near Arad, Israel) are female. Why don't they use the males? According to one camel handler because they "are just mean and batshit crazy."

Interesting.

Our handler has a remarkable grip on the English language.


Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. See the link here for details.

 

 

Suspended!

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The Dead Sea basin is unlike any place on earth. For starters, the surface of the body of water rings in at 1,400 below sea level. That is almost five times deeper than the floor of California's famous Death Valley. The depth of the sea drops down an additional thousand feet; the ancients believed it to be bottomless.

Add to these "low down" features the content of the seawater itself. The Dead Sea has a salinity of nearly 34%, nearly nine times that of the world's oceans. That is particularly impressive when you consider that the water is denser than the human body. Don't know how to swim? No problem. The water itself will hold you up!

Rachel gives it a go here. A little Dead Sea mud adds youth and character as well!

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer YongLan Yee.


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Interested in visiting Israel/Palestine at a deeply discounted price? Pastors, professors, and their spouses are invited to participate in a unique experience for less than $1,500. Join us on January 8-15, 2019 for a rich engagement that introduces leaders to the potential and pitfalls of group travel in this exciting part of the world. Contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Toilet humor

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From the looks on these three faces someone is about to get in trouble.

These very public toilets were found in the ruins of Scythopolis (Beth She'an), Israel, just outside the theater area. Beth She'an was a leading city of the Decapolis, a league of Gentile cities mentioned in the New Testament.

I can't remember any details of the conversation captured here but it likely involved flatulence, circumcision, or sponge-sticks. Possibly all three.

Photo by YoungLan Ye.


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Interested in visiting Israel/Palestine at a deeply discounted price? Pastors, professors, and their spouses are invited to participate in a unique experience for less than $1,500. Join us on January 8-15, 2019 for a rich engagement that introduces leaders to the potential and pitfalls of group travel in this exciting part of the world. Contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

On Nazareth's streets

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Members of Cumberland Community Church (Smyrna, Georgia) have left the building! Our 2018 Israel/Palestine Study-Tour explores the hometown of Jesus. Highlights include the Church of the Annunciation, Mary's Well, and the mill that has served the agricultural needs of the local population for more than a century. 

Nazareth's old market continues to experience revitalization. It is a maze of Ottoman-era buildings saturated by the smell of coffee and the sound of calls to prayer.


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Interested in visiting Israel/Palestine at a deeply discounted price? Pastors, professors, and their spouses are invited to participate in a unique experience for less than $1,500. Join us on January 8-15, 2019 for a rich engagement that introduces leaders to the potential and pitfalls of group travel in this exciting part of the world.

How to say welcome

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Nothing says "welcome" in a Bedouin culture like coffee. Yesterday we experienced a little Arab hospitality by riding camels, sleeping in a desert tent, and drinking coffee prepared over an open fire.

I met a new friend too. Here, Abu Raamses, a real Bedouin sheikh, talks about how life in the southern desert of Israel has changed since he was a boy.


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Interested in visiting Israel/Palestine at a deeply discounted price? Pastors, professors, and their spouses are invited to participate in a unique experience for less than $1,500. Join us on January 8-15, 2019 for a rich engagement that introduces leaders to the potential and pitfalls of group travel in this exciting part of the world.

Total silence

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Rarely can you can walk down the middle of the street in East Jerusalem and not hear a sound; no wheels screeching, horns honking, kids crying, or people shouting.

The Islamic month of Ramadan has come. The canon-shot announced the end of a day. In that moment fasting turned to feasting. Give it an hour and everyone will be revived and the cacophony will return.

Holiday lights are strung on Salah edh-Din for the occasion.


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Interested in visiting Israel/Palestine at a deeply discounted price? Pastors, professors, and their spouses are invited to participate in a unique experience for less than $1,500. Join us on January 8-15, 2019 for a rich engagement that introduces leaders to the potential and pitfalls of group travel in this exciting part of the world.