View toward Syria from Israel

November 15, 2017

Acts 9 records the conversion of Saul, better known later as the Apostle Paul, the former persecutor of the church of the Lord. “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (vv.1-2).

It was on his way, as he neared Damascus of Syria that he saw the resurrected Christ. Blinded by this experience, he was led by the hand into the city, where after three days he was told of Jesus’ plan for him to be an apostle, a chosen vessel to preach the Gospel. Immediately he was baptized, and at once began to preach (vv.3-22). “The rest,” as they say, “is history.”

We had the occasion last November (’16) to be on the Israel/Syria border, and look over into Syria. Paul would have gone in this direction on his way to Damascus, and we thought about that as our group stopped here to look, reflect, and take photos.

In northern Israel, looking NE into Syria. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

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The Suez Canal

November 10, 2017

On most Friday afternoons I teach some homeschoolers (brilliant students) two subjects, Bible and History. Currently their world history is dealing with the 19th century. One of the topics in that time-frame is the construction of the Suez Canal. Said Pasha  gave a concession to Ferdinand de Lesseps who created a French company, The Suez Canal Company, to join the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. The canal opened under French control on November 17, 1869. (Said was Wāli of Egypt and Sudan from 1854 until 1863, officially owing allegiance to the Ottoman Sultan but in practice exercising virtual independence. 4th son of Muhammad Ali Pasha).

The Suez Canal. The Sinai Peninsula is at our back, looking across to Egypt. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Our text says:

Naturally, the countries of Europe were very interested in this canal–the Suez Canal. The canal could change the way that European countries traded with China, Japan, and the other countries of the Far East. Instead of travelling all the way down the coast of Africa, around the tip of that enormous continent, and then heading east, European ships could sail from the Mediterranean Sea straight down into the Red Sea and then turn east. When the canal was finished,it would be a hundred miles long, about twenty-six feet deep, and it would make the trip from Europe to the  East six thousand miles shorter! (The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child. Vol.4, p. 109).

This area is of tremendous biblical importance as it pertains to Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea en route to the promised land of Canaan. I have previously written here and here on the Suez.

Another view of the Suez. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The canal separates the African continent from Asia, and it provides the shortest maritime route between Europe and the lands lying around the Indian and western Pacific oceans. It is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes. The Suez Canal is one of the most important waterways in the world.

The canal is extensively used by modern ships , as it is the fastest crossing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean . Tolls paid by the vessels represent an important source of income for the Egyptian government.

Railway and a sweet water canal are run on the west bank parallel to the Suez Canal. The Canal runs between Port Said harbor and the Gulf of Suez, through soils which vary according to the region. At Port Said and the surrounding area, the soil is composed over thousands of years of silt and clay sedimentations deposited by the Nile waters drifted by Damietta branch. This formation extends to Kantara, 40 km to the south of Port Said , where silt mixes with sand. The central region of the Canal between Kantara and Kabret consists of fine and coarse sands, while the southern region contains dispersed layers of rocks, varying in texture from soft sand to some calcium rocks, The side gradient of the water cross-section differs according to the nature of the soil, which is 4:1 in the north and 3:1 in the south.

The Suez Canal is a sea level Canal and the height of water level differs slightly and the extreme tidal range is 65 cm in the north and 1.9 m in the south. The banks of the Canal are protected against the wash and waves, generated by the transit of ships, by revetments of hard stones and steel sheet piles corresponding to the nature of soil in every area. On both sides of the Canal, there are mooring bollards every 125 m for the mooring of vessel in case of emergency, and kilometric sign posts helping locate the position of ships in the waterway. The navigable channel is bordered by light and reflecting buoys as navigational aids to night traffic. (http://www.suezcanal.gov.eg).

Some current stats of the use of the Suez.

Click photos for larger view. Oh BTW did I mention that the home-school students I teach on Fridays are my grandchildren?


Touring Ireland: W.B. Yeats Grave at Drumcliffe Graveyard

October 16, 2017

Irish poet W. B. Yeats chose the churchyard at Drumcliffe in County Sligo as his final resting place, located at the foot of Benbulben mountain. Yeats died in France but he wished to be buried at this location.

Grave of poet W. B. Yeats, Drumcliffe Graveyard, near Sligo, Ireland. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid. An ancestor was rector there Long years ago, a church stands near, By the road an ancient cross. No marble, no conventional phrase; On limestone quarried near the spot By his command these words are cut: Cast a cold eye On life, on death. Horseman, pass by! (W. B. Yeats, “Under Ben Bulben”)

St Columba’s Church of Ireland in Drumcliff. Built in 1809. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Thanks for following our Emerald Ireland Tour. Tomorrow we are to make our way on to Dublin.

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Killary Fjord in North Connemara, Ireland

October 14, 2017

Today we visited the Connemara loop, which included the Killary Fjord among several other interesting sites. Here we were able to view from a distance the Killary Fjord Shellfish operation, where they farm blue-shell mussels on longlines submerged 8 meters under water. The Blue mussel (Mytulis edulis), is a species native to Irish waters, and is one of the main species cultivated by the Irish aquaculture Industry.

Killary Fjord, Ireland. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Killary Harbour/An Caoláire Rua is a fjord located in the west of Ireland in the heart of Connemara which forms a natural border between counties Galway and Mayo. It is 16 kilometres long and in the centre over 45 metres deep. It is one of three glacial fjords that exist in Ireland, the others being Lough Swilly and Carlingford Lough.
On its northern shore lies the mountain of Mweelrea, Connacht’s highest mountain, rising to 814 metres. To the south rise the Maumturk Mountains and the Twelve Bens. The area contains some of Ireland’s most awe-inspiring and dramatic scenery. (Wikipedia)

Killary Fjord. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Thanks for following our travels in Ireland. Click images for larger view.


Touring Ireland (cont’d) Galway Cathedral; Remembering J. F. Kennedy

October 13, 2017

Continuing our tour of Ireland today we saw thatched roof houses at Adare, then the scenic “Cliffs of Moher,” and then on to Galway, concluding with a brief stop at the Galway Cathedral.

I found it interesting that inside the cathedral in the Mortuary Chapel there was a mosaic of President John F. Kennedy (by Patrick Pollen).

Mosaic of President John F. Kennedy, Galway Cathedral, Galway, Ireland. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

President John F. Kennedy visited Ireland June 26-29, 1963, five months before his assassination. That visit included Galway (June 29, 1963), where we are tonight. Every indication is that his visit was well received by the Irish people. There is an amazing amount of video documentation (YouTube) of his 4 day visit to Ireland, including here (Galway).

Galway Cathedral, Galway, Ireland. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Thanks for following our travels! Click images for larger view.


Touring in Ireland

October 12, 2017

Today was Day 3 of our Ireland Tour which has taken us from Dublin to Glendalough, Waterford, Blarney, and now Killarney, where we today have taken the 109 mile Ring of Kerry, encircling the Iveragh peninsula. Today we began with a brief stop at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney.

St. Mary’s Cathedral at Killarney, Ireland.

 

Killarney is home to St Mary’s, a beautiful Gothic-style building that serves as the cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Kerry. Previously, St Brendan’s at Ardfert was the diocese’s cathedral.

English architect Augustus Pugin, who worked on the iconic Palace of Westminster, designed St Mary’s with a rugged exterior and smooth, light-filled interior.

The cathedral was consecrated in 1855 and renovated in the 1970s. (https://www.discoverireland.ie/Arts-Culture-Heritage/st-mary-s-catholic-church-killarney/50303)


Xerxes at Troy–Some Background for Esther

September 19, 2017

The events narrated in Esther take place during the reign of the Persian King Xerxes. “The Hebrew word used throughout the book is ʾaḥašwērôš (“Ahasuerus”) which is considered a variant of Xerxes’ name. Xerxes is the Greek form of the Persian Khshayârsha” (Huey, F. B., Jr., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 797).

The book of Esther begins by telling of a great banquet in Susa, the capital,  in the 3rd year of his reign (483 BC): “in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his princes and attendants, the army officers of Persia and Media, the nobles and the princes of his provinces being in his presence” (Esther 1:3). The biblical author’s intent was not to give the details as to the why of this banquet, but historical sources are helpful. Xerxes was on a mission to gather strength and support for his invasion [ill-fated] into Greece. This is the setting for the opening verses of Esther.

In the year 480 BC Xerxes marched westward to invade and attempt to conquer Greece. En route he passed through ancient Troy, where the historian Herodotus states, “he sacrificed a thousand heifers to Athene of Ilion” (Herodotus 7:43). Ilion is the Greek name for ancient Troy.

Our photo shows the Troy sanctuary area, Stratum VIII (dated ca. 700-85 BC).

Troy Sanctuary Area. Here Xerxes, King of Persia (r.486-464 BC) offered 1,000 heifers in sacrifice to the goddess Athena, in preparation for his war on Greece. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Xerxes’ invasion of Greece was a failure. It was after his return from his disappointing catastrophe that the Jewish maiden Esther became his queen, in the “seventh year of his reign” (Esther 2:17), which would be 479 BC.

Regarding the site in our photo above, Manfred O. Korfmann writes, “The earliest structures representing a sanctuary at the nearly deserted site are those established by the Aeolian Greeks sometime after 700 BCE, thus apparently existing within the lifetime of Homer! Votive offerings confirm the existence of much earlier sacred precincts as well” (TROİA/WIL̇USA p.62).

Of the city of Troy itself Korfmann continues, “Illion became the religious and political capital of a federation of municipalities, and to the south and east of the acropolis a lower city (on a grid-plan) arose – overtop and partially dug into remains from Trois VI/VII” (ibid.63).

The ancient city Troy consists of 46 occupational levels which date back to a total of nine different cities!

Our map shows Troy, which is a site on the Unesco World Heritage List.

Map of Troy in today’s Turkey, in relation to Greece.

I have previously posted on Troy here and here.

It is good to be reminded that the events of the Bible did not take place in a vacuum. The covenant people of God interacted with the people of their day, sometimes including the world powers as was the case in the Persian period, the setting for Esther.