Today was an adventure to say the least. It began for me at 4:30AM Israeli time, when I woke up with numb toes and a total inability to fall back asleep. This turned out to be a blessing though; I was able to spend some time in prayer with the Lord, which was a wonderful way to prepare for the busyness of today. I was also able to e-mail my dad and see how he was doing, and how the first day of his massive audit was going. Hearing from family didn’t hurt either, especially with the mild jetlag and homesickness setting in.
After cleaning up I had a nice breakfast that now seems like it was a week ago. The dining commons have an open and spacious nature to them that I find refreshing. You enter them through a courtyard; immediately to the left there is bread, peanut butter, and the equivalent of Nutella sitting on a counter adjacent to the fridge. As you enter further into the room the space widens, and tables line the north wall, and on the south there is a larger dining space that is partially separated by columns.
The food for every meal is served buffet style in an open room upstairs, and dishware is also returned there. Subsequent to breakfast was class, which began at 8AM in a building directly across from the one that houses the bathrooms, dorms, library, D.C., and etc. The classroom is down a creepy white hallway with brown doors on the west walls. Inside is a humble classroom with desks tightly packed in, maps of The Land Between, a screen, projector, and a whiteboard. The room is like an icebox; white and frigid (apparently central heating isn’t a thing in Israel).
During the first 1.5 hours of class there was a brief introduction to faculty by Dr. Paul Wright (President of JUC), and then he talked us through the welcome packet we received last night. One thing I remember him saying that really stuck out was his challenge to, “do things here in Israel that you can’t do at home, and abstain from doing the things here that you can do at home.” That’s definitely solid advice; we are here for only three weeks, and we can’t truly taste and absorb Israel if we’re spending our free time watching Netflix or constantly checking Facebook. My hope and goal is that we as a group dedicate ourselves fully to the study of the Trinity (one god, one land, and one people) as we immerse ourselves into learning the culture and history of the Holy Land.
Dr. Wright gave us a tour of the JUC campus after this, and my goodness it was chilly! The campus itself is pretty small; there’s the main building that houses the dorms, library, student union (they call it The Oasis), administration offices, dining commons, bathrooms, computer lab, and the courtyard. The other building contains a bathroom and classrooms. An interesting fact that we learned today is that the school is 150 years old and actually rests atop portions of the Herodian Wall, and the Old City walls are extremely close by (100 yards to the north). This floored me. How many people can say that they are not only able to study from seasoned professors who understand the land both historically and geographically, but also that they stayed in a building built into a 2000 year old wall? Words aren’t sufficient to say how grateful I am for this experience, nor how excited I am to experience the Word in a 1 Timothy 3:16 manner:
“All Scripture is God-breathed & is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
J E R U S A L E M | C I T Y O F D A V I D
After Dr. Wright finished his tour today we had a ten minute break before we returned to class and became acquainted with Vernon Alexander, a grad student studying for his Ph.D. at Bar Ilan University. He gave us more course materials- another map and a book titled, “Historical Geography Notebook.” After addressing the obvious questions and explaining the calendar, transportation, expectations and etc. For the next 2.5 hours he covered a vast spectrum of subjects from dating pottery to shalom.
One of best parts of today is how everything we did in the classroom was an intentional preparation for what we would be seeing in Old Jerusalem. The most vibrant, “OH, I GET IT NOW EVERYTHING HAS COME FULL-CIRCLE” moment of today began in a classroom when Instructor Vernon explained that valleys were a natural defense for a city. Jerusalem is surrounded by three- to the east is the Kidron Valley, to the south is the Central Valley, and on the southwestern side is the Hinnonim Valley. In the North Jerusalem was unprotected, making it the obvious point of attack for enemies.
Bearing this all in mind, fast forward to later today when we’re facing east, standing atop a building, overlooking the City of David. Directly to our left (north) sits the Temple Mount (also known as Mt. Moriah or Mt. Zion), the site where they believe Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac. Fast-forward 1,000 years and this is the same location upon which Solomon built the temple in which the Lord dwelt.
Okay, so let’s hope I didn’t lose you with all of that information. Quick review: Northern side of Jerusalem is the weakest because it doesn’t have natural geographic defenses. In this northernmost area is the Temple Mount, where the Lord dwells, a place where heaven and earth are said to meet. Add to that Psalm 121:1-2:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Where does Jerusalem’s help come from? From the holy place, which just so happens to be located on the most vulnerable part of the city. How great is our God, and how great is it to study His word in cultural and geographical context.