Showing posts from December, 2018

The last day of 2018, Day of Wonder

I speak for many in the group when I say that today has to be one of the most memorable days in our lives, just as true for the young students as for a 50-something like me.  In one day we experienced the two most sacred places in Judaism and Christianity, and the third most sacred place in Islam. And we got to see things that very few non-Muslims ever get to see. Last night we had been informed that our appointment with an official guide from the Waqf (the Muslim authority for the Temple Mount in Jerusalem) had been cancelled. Then this morning it was back on, but none of us knew quite what to expect. We were struck with amazement when he said he was taking us inside the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. For the last 18 years non-Muslims have been barred from entering these places, and until today I thought there were no exceptions. I can safely say that the interior of the 7th century

Dome of the Rock is the most beautiful, dazzling interior of any building I have ever seen.…

Dead Sea swim and Manger Square

I finally got the help I needed from Maura Dodge and Allison Croce to get pictures from my phone to the iPad.  Many thanks to those two technical wizards. So here are two photos from Saturday: most of the group covered in mud from the Dead Sea, and Manger Square in Bethlehem all lit up for the Christmas season. This also means that I’m able to provide you with photos from today’s unbelievable adventures. Watch for that in the next post.

It’s Sunday night, time to update everyone on today’s activities. We started the morning with a lecture in our hotel’s conference room on the history of Jerusalem, provided by Ibrahim our guide. Then we headed into the city itself, where we saw something from virtually every period. There was the excavated wall built by King Hezekiah of biblical fame, who reigned from 742-686 BCE.  The prophet Isaiah probably walked beside these very stones. We also saw Hasmonean structures from 600 years later, and then the Byzantine era Cardo (Main Street) from around 500 AD.  Rounding out our trip through time was the Crusader-identified “upper room” near the area where the Last Supper took place, though of course the medieval building containing it did not exist in Jesus’ day. Most impressive was our late afternoon tour of the area to the west and south of the Temple Mount, with its         foundation walls and stone streets that most certainly were there in Jesus’ day.  In between these historic …

Sites along the Dead Sea part 2

After Qumran, we headed down to the Dead Sea, where most of us floated in the incredibly salty water, 10 times saltier than the ocean. It was shocking to see how much the Dead Sea has receded just in the 10 years since I was last here. We looked like an invasion of the mud people after smearing ourselves with the mineral-laden mud. Everyone who did it has reported softer, rejuvenated skin. After the Dead Sea, we paid a quick visit to nearby Jericho, the oldest city in the world, going back some 10,000 years. As a resident of Jericho, Vermont, I was particularly excited to spend time in the original. Back in Bethlehem, after dinner a large group went down to Manger Square, which is all decked out for Christmas. At the urging of Prof. Mahoney’s Palestinian friend and former SMC student Sally, we tried “Sahlab,” a sweet winter concoction of warm milk, rose water, toasted coconut, and pistachios. Masada is in the state of Israel, while Qumran, Jericho, and Bethlehem are in the Palestinian…

Sites along the Dead Sea

Today was actionpacked, a mix of serious history, contemporary realities, and mud-covered fun. We began the day with our guide Ibrahim at Masada, the mountaintop fortress first built by the Hasmonean (a.k.a. Maccabean) kings in the 2nd century BC, enlarged and made luxurious by Herod the Great, and then used as the final holdout of the Jewish rebels in the first revolt against Rome, AD 66-73. The views from the plateau were stunning, and some of Herod’s colorful plaster work survives. From the top, you can still see the outlines of the Roman encampments below, along with the ramp they built to get to up to the fortress.

Next up was Qumran, where the Dead Sea scrolls were written by the Jewish sect called Essenes in the period from roughly 150 BCE to AD 68. Pictures from Qumran will appear in the next post.

Arrival Day!

Hi, everyone! We all arrived safely at the hotel in Bethlehem (yes there was room at the inn) where we have wi-fi, so this is where I will be posting from. Just one picture to share: the haggard but excited group in Tel Aviv after collecting our luggage. Dinner in two hours, then it will be off to bed for everyone as we try to adjust to the time change. First full day of sites tomorrow: Masada, Qumran  (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written), swimming in the Dead Sea, and Jericho.

Second post

Here’s the photo I promised, offering a tantalizing preview of the sort of thing we might see.


Hi, everyone! This is the first posting of many on behalf of the Holy Land trip sponsored by St. Michael’s College, Dec. 27, 2018 through Jan. 8, 2019. I’m Jeffrey Trumbower, Professor of Religious Studies and blogger-in-chief for the trip.  My next post will consist of a photo from my office, just to make sure I can upload photos successfully.  I look forward to keeping everyone up to date on the adventures of the group.