Israel 1 – Israel Is Like a Cake

A part of our required coursework while in Israel is writing a reflection paper for each day that we’re out in the field. To give my family and friends an idea of where I’ve been going and what I’m up to, I decided to share these reflections on the blog. Read as much or as little as you like. Either way, thanks for checking in!
– Mike

Jerusalem is kind of like a cake – it has many layers.

Ok, maybe that’s not the best analogy, but after our first day exploring the Old City, one of my biggest takeaways is that the Jerusalem we read about in the Bible is technically buried several feet beneath us. Due to thousands upon thousands of years of settlement, conflict, destruction, and resettlement, the streets of modern day Jerusalem are literally built upon the ruins of many nations and empires who sought – and fought – to call it their own.

My home away from home, lovingly referred to as 'Yoda's Hut' or 'The Hobbit Hole'

My home away from home, lovingly referred to as ‘Yoda’s Hut’ or ‘The Hobbit Hole’

Whether it was the people of Israel, Egypt to the south, or the various powers to the north like Assyria and Rome, The ‘Land Between’ (which is not limited to, but includes Jerusalem) has been part of an ongoing power struggle that persists even to today. One does not need to travel to Jerusalem to understand that Israeli Jews and Arab Muslims don’t get along, but the reality of how these conflicts are still at play was brought to life for me today. As we peered over the Western Wall to the Dome of the Rock, our view was obscured by many Israeli flags strategically placed along the wall. One could not look at the mosque without seeing Israel’s symbolic declaration that ‘this should all be ours.’

Dome

The Dome of the Rock

Learning about the city as we navigated our way through it was helpful as an academic pursuit, but the most meaningful experience of the day for me was our stop at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. While many claim that Golgotha and the burial tomb of Jesus are located elsewhere, it was thrilling to learn that archaeological evidence supports the belief that we were walking in the approximate vicinity of these sites. Even if it didn’t happen at this exact site, we do know that it happened nearby. These really are the streets that Jesus walked. This really is the city where David was king. This really is the land God promised to Abraham!

The ceiling in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The ceiling in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Speaking of Abraham, in our lecture today, the question ‘This is the Promised Land?’ was raised. When you consider its position between larger nations, its climate, and its topography, the ‘Land Between’ seems vulnerable and forgettable. Why would God choose to send his people here? Why not give Abraham and his descendants a more comfortable, fertile, and safe land? Our instructor suggested that the answer might lie in its location along various trade routes. Trade between Egypt, the Middle East, Syria, Greece, and Rome all funnel through this area at some point. Perhaps one of the reasons God has chosen the Land Between is because it is a part of his plan to announce the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Why not start in a place where people from all ends of the earth gather?

As we read in class today, Isaiah 2:2-3 is confirmed by our gathering:

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. Amen and amen.

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