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Jordan/Israel Project 2000

Project Dates: June 14-July 30, 2000

Participants of the 2000 Jordan/Israel Project

Youth Corps Volunteers Tour and Dig in Israel

by Joel Meeker

My family and I arrived in Amman, Jordan, June 30 to join the 11 Youth Corps volunteers and David Baker who oversaw the first phase of the Jordan/Israel project (see article below). They had just finished serving at a camp on the outskirts of Amman. We saw that they had done well in the very Spartan accommodations common to this area.

For the next week we toured the Holy Land before beginning work on the archaeological dig at Ashkelon. Friday we all visited the ruins of the Roman Decapolis city of Jerash north of Amman. It was one of the most important cities in the region during the time of Christ, and has been extensively excavated. We then followed the King’s Highway south.

This is the road sometimes followed by the children of Israel as they moved north toward the Promised Land. We spent Sunday visiting Petra and Monday snorkeling in the Red Sea.

Tuesday morning we crossed into Israel at Eilat. A tour guide met and accompanied us up the Negev to our first stop of the day, Masada. Masada was a fortress palace built by Herod the Great and the last strongpoint to hold out against the Romans during the revolt of A.D. 70. We continued up the shore of the Dead Sea to the Oasis of En Gedi, one of the places where David hid from Saul when the latter was trying to kill him (1 Samuel 24). Then it was on to Qumran to learn about the Essene community and the Dead Sea scrolls.

Wednesday, we first had a ‘float’ in the Dead Sea. Then we drove to Jericho, Beit She’an and Meggido, where we toured the excavated walls and gates. We also viewed the valley below Meggido, the famous Armageddon, where great armies will gather before the final battle at Jerusalem (Revelation 16:13-16).

Thursday we drove north to the ‘mount of Beatitudes,’ the traditional site where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount, and Capernaum, the center of Jesus’ ministry. We saw the excavated fourth century synagogue possibly built on the foundation of a previous synagogue which Jesus may have known. We drove up mount Carmel to see the probable site where Elijah defied the prophets of Baal and where God worked a great miracle (1 Kings 18:19-40).

The group at Caesarea Maritima

Friday we drove through Haifa, Israel’s most important port, before continuing on to Nazareth. From there we drove to Caesarea Maritima and viewed a copy of the stone found on the site, which bears an inscription confirming that Pontius Pilate ruled the region during the time of Christ’s crucifixion.

Sabbath morning we had a Bible study at 7 a.m. on the biblical history and prophecies concerning Jerusalem. After the study we took our bus to the Temple Mount where we visited the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. From Jerusalem we drove to Ashkelon where we checked into the Dan Gardens Hotel, which was to be our home for the next three weeks.

Our archaeological work began Sunday morning at 5 a.m. Our group had representatives in three of the four excavation areas at Tel Ashkelon, but most of us were in Grid 38.

There we excavated the period around the 10th century B.C., which is the period of David and Solomon. One week an inscription was found on a clay tablet which might be the first ever find of Philistine writing. This would be quite an exciting development, and we all looked very carefully for inscriptions of any kind on the pottery we found, without further success. Jamie Franks and Lily Miller each found a small stone figurine made to fit on a necklace, apparently the first of their kinds to be found.

At 1 p.m. the buses took us back to the hotel. Following lunch we had some free time, which many used to take a nap, until 4:30 when we met for an hour and a half of pottery washing. Most days at 6:15 p.m. there was a 45-minute lecture by some of the foremost experts in the field.

United Youth Corps volunteers dig at the Ashkelon excavation site

Since our excavation workweek ended Thursday afternoons, on Fridays we left Ashkelon at 8 a.m. for Jerusalem. On our first Friday trip to the Holy City, we drove through the valley of Elah, and read the account of David’s battle against Goliath which occurred there. Our first stop in Jerusalem was the city of David, south of the Temple Mount. We toured the excavation site (many Ambassador College students had participated in the excavation work here in the 1980s). At Warren’s shaft, Marjolaine and I were surprised by the photo exhibits on the walls showing the excavation of the shaft and the tunnel in the 1980s. We were surprised because we recognized many old classmates from Ambassador College!

From the pool of Siloam we drove to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, then to Bethlehem.

Sabbath morning after a late breakfast we had a Bible study, during which I covered the Olivet prophecy of Jesus (Matthew 24), and other references to the Mount of Olives. Then we drove to the Israel Museum where we saw the Shrine of the Book where some of the Dead Sea scrolls are exhibited.

During our third and final weekend in Jerusalem, we visited the excavation sites in the Herodian quarter, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall to watch the Jewish traditions played out at the beginning of the Sabbath.

Saturday morning after a late breakfast we had a Bible study at the Youth Hostel during which I talked about lessons from the life of Hezekiah, and gave some background about the Garden of Gethsemane and the valley of Hinnom which we visited later in the day.

Lily Miller finds a one-of-kind small stone figurine

During our last week excavating, the supervisors took the time to sum up what had been accomplished during this year’s dig. Most of our efforts were concentrated on three different structures from one of three different periods corresponding to the earliest Philistine period. The findings seem very much in line with biblical statements about the Philistines.

On the last Thursday evening we were invited to an exposition of all the finds of this year’s excavation. The rarest find of the year came from a period much later than David. It was a coin bearing the likeness of Queen Cleopatra. It is only the fifth such coin to be found, and the first to be found ‘in context’. One of the four other coins was sold to a private collector apparently for around $100,000! ‘Our’ coin will go to a museum, but this gives an idea of the excitement aroused by this particular find. There were also quite a number of other coins found, as well as beads, scarabs, figurines and several complete or nearly complete vessels of clay pottery or alabaster.

Following the exposition the whole excavation team had a final reception and dinner including entertainment in the form of skits and music.

One of the grid supervisors told me during the reception that our Youth Corps volunteers had done very well. He said they occasionally have Christian groups participate in the excavation, but that they often don’t blend in well or work harmoniously. Your group is different “they blended in well and worked well in the teams,” he told me.

During the dance following the meal, one of the assistant directors of the excavation asked me about our Church origins and beliefs. When I explained a bit about the origins of United and mentioned our previous affiliation, he said, ‘Oh yes, Herbert Armstrong, I remember that group very well.’ He also expressed appreciation for the work done by our Youth Corps volunteers.

Our volunteers set a very fine example of hard work and service, and we hope to be able to continue offering such opportunities to our young adults.


Caring for Disabled Children in Jordan

by David Baker

On June 14, 11 volunteers from the United Youth Corps embarked on a six-week journey to the Middle East. The volunteers spent 19 days in Jordan before going on to Israel. The volunteers paid their own expenses for an opportunity to represent the Church in Jordan and Israel.

While in Jordan the volunteers served at a summer camp sponsored by the YWMA Center for Special Education.

(During the 1980s and early ‘90s the Church assisted the Center through the Ambassador Foundation.) The campers are students at the Center and are classified as mild to moderate in terms of their mental disabilities. Even though some of the campers were in their late teens, they had never spent a night away from home without their parents. The camp was divided into two sessions; older boys, June 21 to 25, and younger boys and older girls, June 26 to 29.

The group arrived in Amman, Jordan, on Thursday evening, June 15. They were met at the airport by a representative of the Royal Palace, who assisted them with entry formalities. Friday was spent touring. On the Sabbath the group discussed some of the scriptures relating to Mt. Nebo and Madaba and then visited these sites.

The camp activities included making melon and bag lamps, constructing paper hats, making candles, building and flying kites, making cards with rubber stamps, painting stones, making wire cars, gardening, decorating the camp with arts and crafts, a treasure hunt, water balloon toss, visiting an amusement park and touring the historic town of Salt. The campfire activities included musical chairs, balloon stomp, races, singing and dancing.

The volunteers served with the Center’s staff in all aspects of the camp, as activity coordinators, counselors, kitchen staff, etc.

On the Sabbath of June 24, the volunteers took a day off from camp and traveled to the Jordan valley. They saw Tell Deir Alla, Pella and the remains of the Decapolis city of Gadara. From this location the group enjoyed a beautiful view of the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee.

The first group of campers returned home Monday morning, June 26. Some of them said they didn’t want to go home and were already dreaming of returning to the camp next year. Within minutes of the departure of the first group of campers the second group arrived.

Wednesday, June 28, the secretary to Princess Sarvath and the director of the Center toured the camp and spent sometime with the volunteers. Both expressed their appreciation for the work of the volunteers and expressed their desire for the program to continue. They presented a small gift to each of the volunteers as a token of their appreciation for a job well done. On Wednesday evening the group was presented with a beautiful cake at a party concluding the camp. The following morning the campers loaded the buses and returned home and the volunteers enjoyed some much-needed rest before touring and digging in Israel (see article above).

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