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Faculty - Gordon Matties

Exploring the "Ancient Stones"

Visits to the Holy Land usually include countless “holy places.” But what does it mean to call a place “holy”? I like to think of it as a place that, at one time or another, reflects life at the intersection of the divine and the human. Given that definition, are not all places holy?

On this tour we’ll visit the requisite sites. And by considering the entire land as storied landscape, we’ll find ourselves living imaginatively into the biblical story. Some say the biblical text “comes alive” while walking into ancient archaeological sites.

For texts to come alive, however, the sites and the landscape must also be brought to life. And there’s hardly a better way to facilitate that than to read Jerome Murphy-O’Connor’s book The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (5th edition; Oxford, 2008). Of course, most tour groups are accompanied by an authorized guide. Yet with Murphy-O’Connor as our tutor we’ll more easily recognize what we’re looking at and we’ll know how to ask intelligent questions.

Murphy-O’Connor has a section on every site we visit. Read him before visiting the site (bedtime reading the night before!). Refresh your memory of the biblical texts associated with that site. Take photographs at the site as you are inspired to do so. Then, when you get home, you’ll be able to make that memorable slide show for friends and family, impressing them with all the pertinent information (thanks to Murphy-O’Connor). How else will you remember that the first Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was dedicated on May 31, 339?

Article source: http://cmustudytour.blogspot.com/2009/11/exploring-ancient-stones.html

Categories
Faculty - Gordon Matties

Palestinian Walks, with Raja Shehadeh

On this tour we will do our best to “walk the land.” On at least four days we will get out of the bus and walk the hills and the wadis of Israel and Palestine. We walk into Wadi Qilt. It used to be possible for us to walk from St. George’s Monastery to Jericho. I’ve done that a number of times with my groups. The last time I found myself in that famous wadi, at the end of which lies King Herod’s summer palace and the bountiful, beautiful, and ancient city of Jericho, it was closed for “security reasons.” Although I lament that we may not be able to take that walk this spring, we will hike Jebel Musa in the Sinai (so-called Mt. Sinai), scramble up to the waterfalls of Ein Gedi (where David hid from King Saul, 1 Samuel 23-24), and wander around Tel Dan and along the gorgeous headwaters of the Jordan River at Banyas (ancient Caesarea Phillipi).

The importance of walking the land was impressed on me recently when I read Raja Shehadeh’s moving account (Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape. Scribner, 2007). Raja Shehadeh is a passionate hill walker. He enjoys nothing more than heading out into the countryside that surrounds his home. But in recent years, his hikes have become less than bucolic and sometimes downright dangerous. That is because his home is Ramallah, on the Palestinian West Bank, and the landscape he traverses is now the site of a tense standoff between his fellow Palestinians and settlers newly arrived from Israel. In this original and evocative book, we accompany Shehadeh on six walks taken between 1978 and 2006.

Amid the many and varied tragedies of the Middle East, the loss of a simple pleasure such as the ability to roam the countryside at will may seem a minor matter. But in Palestinian Walks, Raja Shehadeh’s elegy for his lost footpaths becomes a heartbreaking metaphor for the deprivations of an entire people estranged from their land.

You can read excerpts of his book. For parts of chapter 5, CLICK HERE, and for parts of chapter 6, CLICK HERE. Even better, CLICK HERE to watch an illustrated reading by Shehadeh himself.


Article source: http://cmustudytour.blogspot.com/2009/11/palestinian-walks-with-raja-shehadeh.html

Categories
Faculty - Gordon Matties

The Land: Evangelicals and Israel

A Canadian Mennonite University Study Tour
April 26 – May 17, 2012

Article source: http://cmustudytour.blogspot.com/2009/11/land-evangelicals-and-israel.html

Categories
Faculty - Gordon Matties

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Most tour groups whisk people in and out of Bethlehem. Half a day at the most. They visit the traditional site of the Shepherd’s Fields (either Latin or Orthodox), then the Church of the Nativity and they’re gone. On the Ancient Stones, Living Stones tour, we spend four nights in Bethlehem. This gives us barely enough time to get a feel for the city and, most importantly, to meet some of the people who live there. It’s important to me that tour participants get a good sense of what life in Bethlehem is like. You might want to read the National Geographic article and watch their short video about Bethlehem today.

We will be staying at the Casa Nova Palace (OK, not a palace) right on “Manger Square.” Next door we’ll visit the Church of the Nativity, built by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century A.D. on foundations that go back to the fourth century. There are fine mosaic floors still visible from the 4th century structure. Of course any visit to that church raises the question, Where was Jesus born? Kenneth Bailey offers a helpful response to that question in an article titled “The Manger and the Inn.” To read a short version, click here, and for a more in depth article, click here.

I always enjoy meeting the people in Bethlehem. During our days in Bethlehem we’ll take a tour of the Deheisheh Refugee Camp, we’ll visit with Zoughbi Zoughbi of the Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center, and we’ll worship with Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem on Sunday. I plan to set up a conversation with Mitri Raheb, Pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church. If you are able, you may want to read his book, I am a Palestinian Christian (Fortress Press, 2005).

I hope this whets your appetite for an engaging and eye-opening experience in Bethlehem, home town of King David, birthplace of Jesus.

Article source: http://cmustudytour.blogspot.com/2009/10/o-little-town-of-bethlehem.html