Sunday, July 04, 2010

I'll Never Forget It. Ever. (METS Part 1)

From May 15th through June 7th, I was blessed with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go on a very unique seminar to the Middle East including the countries of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt (Sinai), Israel, and finishing in Greece (METS). The nature of this trip was quite unique in that it involved an almost entirely academic group of participants from a very wide spectrum of theological positions: 6 seminaries sent 24 students on this trip-Duke, Candler, McAfee, Immanuel, Columbia, and Southern. In addition to the students, 6 lay people came on the trip as well as 2 Old Testament scholars (Dr. Max Miller and Dr. Steve McKenzie) who led us.

Any trip to anywhere with that much diversity of opinion on the Bible and all things related is bound to challenge your thinking as well as test your patience and humility. Then imagine taking that bunch to the most historically controversial areas in history and you can quickly see why one would say, "I'll never forget it. Ever."

There are so many aspects of this trip that I would love to write about such as how I ended up on this trip, what my family went through to make this happen, what I learned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (and what I didn't learn), why hermeneutics affects everything, what it means to be a feminist, why the atonement is so offensive, etc., etc., etc... But for most people I've been talking to--they just want to know where I went and want to see the pictures. So let's start with that...

First--the pictures: We have a website set up for all of the participants to share their pictures together. Some of us have uploaded our pictures, others are getting around to it. You can view my favorite pictures here, all of my pictures here, and everyone else's pictures here.

Second--where I went. Here's the whole sha-bang:
May 15-16
Orientation in Decatur, Georgia
May 17
Departure—from Atlanta to Washington DC to Vienna
May 18
Arrived in Vienna around 10:30 AM and departed for Damascus, Syria
Arrived in Damascus in the late afternoon.
Checked in at the Cham Hotel and went for a scenic view of the city.
Finished the evening in a revolving restaurant overlooking Damascus.
May 19
Full day in Damascus
Al-Hamidiyah Souq (the market/bazaar)
Al-Zahiriyah Library (brief—did not get to go into the library)
Traditional site of St. Ananias House
Damascus Museum—ancient artifacts including Ugarit artifacts
Evening visit from Mona Muhanna (Syrian Melkite Christian)
May 20
Lebanon day excursion
Baalbek, LebanonRuins from Roman temples and Byzantine churches
On to Hama, Syria for overnight, checked in at Orient House Hotel
May 21
Brief tour of Hama
Al Nouri Zanki mosque (only visited outside)
Norias (Roman water wheels)
Apamea—Ruins of Roman city
Krak des Chesvaliers—toured 12th century Crusader castle
Checked in at the Al Wadi Hotel in Meshtayeh, Syria
May 22
Travelled from western Syria to the center—Palmyra, city of the palms
Tombs (above and underground) at Palmyra
Ruins of Palmyra
Mamluk Castle at Palmyra—watched sunset from castle walls
Worship service on top of castle at dusk
May 23
Travelled to Jerash, Jordan
Jerash ruins (this was Gerasa of biblical times, one of the Decapolis cities)
Spent the night at the Landmark Hotel in Amman, Jordan
May 24
Church of St. George—Mosaic map of biblical events
Mt. Nebo—Went to the top where God took Moses to see Promised Land
Al Karak, Jordan—toured Kerak Castle (12th century Crusader castle)
Wadi Mujib—vast river (Arnon) canyon dividing biblical Moab from Ammon
Shoubak, Jordan—very brief visit outside of Montreal (Crusader) castle
Arrived at Maan, JordanGrand View Hotel overlooking Petra-area
May 25
Petra. Amazing.
May 26
Travelled from Petra to Aqaba, Jordan at top of Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea
Rode ferry across Red Sea gulf to Nuweiba, Egypt
Drove across Sinai wilderness to St. Catherine, Egypt—Morgenland Hotel
May 27
Got up at 1am to ride camels up Mt. Jebel Musa (Sinai)
Climbed last third of trail up Mt. Sinai to watch sunrise
St. Catherine’s Monastery—ancients icons and manuscripts
Nuweiba-Taba, Egypt—Stayed at Intercontinental Taba Heights Hotel
May 28
Crossed border into Israel at southernmost tip
Travelled the whole day,
May 29
Masada Fortress on eastern edge of Judqean Desert overlooking Dead Sea
Caves of Qumran where Dead Sea Scrolls were discoveredBobbed in the Dead Sea
May 30
Back in Jericho, Tell es-Sultan—excavation of earliest settlement in Jericho
Mt. of Temptation, visited Monastery of the Temptation at top
Drove to Galilee region
Beit Shean, Israel (ruins of Beth Shean/Scythopolis/Beisan)
Mt. Arbel, Galilee—overlooking region of Galilee and city of Tiberias
Worship service at Mt. of Beatitudes Guest House, where we lodged as well
May 31
Church of the Multiplication on the shores of Galilee
Capernaum—Peter’s home and synagogue
Golan Heights
Banias, Israel (biblical Caesarea Philippi—Matt.16), Temple of Pan, waterfall
Tell el-Qedah—(biblical Hazor—Joshua 11), largest “tell” in all of Palestine
Boat ride across the Sea of Galilee
June 1
Nazareth—morning after IDF commandos attacked aid flotilla
Jezreel Valley (very fertile)
MegiddoSolomonic gate, Ahab’s fortress, Early Bronze altar, water tunnel
Caesarea Maritimaruins on Mediterranean coast, events in Acts
Drove to Jerusalem to spend the night at the Notre Dame Guest House
June 2
Mt. of Olives panoramic view of Jerusalem
Walked from there to Old City of Jerusalem entering at the Lion’s Gate
St. Anne’s Church (amazing acoustics, Ragan sang “Comfort Ye My People”)
Church of Our Lady of the Spasm (Armenian),Church of St. Helen (Coptic),
Church of the Holy Sepulchre—many events in history of this building
Lunch at the Arab Orthodox Society—Jerusalem Cultural Center & Museum
Free afternoon and evening to roam
June 3
Visit to office of American Jewish CommitteeRabbi David Rosen spoke
Israel Museum—scale model of 2nd Temple-era Jerusalem
Shrine of the BookCodex Aleppo, Dead Sea Scrolls
Free afternoon & evening to roam (I visited the Western Wall—aka Wailing)
Evening visit—Hagit Ofran, heads Settlement Watch Committee., Peace Now
June 4
Travelled to Bethlehem (not on donkeys)
June 5
Departed Jerusalem at 3am for airport at Tel Aviv for flight to Athens
Hydrofoil cruise to the island of Hydra
Free afternoon and evening on Hydra
June 6
Morning worship service on Hydra
Free morning
Cruise back to Athens
Toured Acropolis and Mars Hill
Free late afternoon in Athens
Last dinner together, outdoors at restaurant in Athens
June 7
3am departure for Atlanta via Frankfurt, Germany