3rd Archaeological Excursion – Qumran & Masada

The path of stone rising ahead in rugged perfection, the light playing over the grey stones of the desert, the silver lined clouds hovering over the Dead Sea, as if it were the finger of a pianist playing a melody for the day, all set the magical day out, as the students of STS visited the historical Qumran Caves and the magnificently standing Masada.

On 9th November, the students left for the third archaeological excursion at 7:30 am from STS reaching Qumran around 8:45 am. The trip was guided by Fr. Yunus, who made the trip productive and insightful with his extensive, yet beautiful explanations about the history of the places. Qumran sits at the vertical cliff of the Judean Desert, rising up from the shores of the Dead Sea. History tells us the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered here by the Bedouins in 1952. After spending approximately 2 hours, the students moved on to the next location – Masada.

After an early lunch, a large group of students decided to go up walking, while the rest ascended by the cable car. Energized and enthused, the students started the ascent with smiles on their faces and sense of wonder in their eyes. The snake trail, about 2.5 kilometers in length, never seemed to threaten as it offered a spectacular desert landscape along with the Dead Sea that kept our eyes glued. Upon reaching the summit, Fr. Yunus briefed us on the history of the event of the “Siege of Masada.” He stressed that the location is famously known for the fortification of Herod the Great and the 967 Jewish men and women who chose to end their own lives rather than suffer enslavement or death at the hands of the Romans. Masada kept all the students overwhelmed and awestruck as they started skimming through the historical lanes. After spending a considerable amount of time, the students headed back to Jerusalem, enjoying the sunset and rain, reaching STS around 5:45 pm.

 

Robinson Gidh

9th November 2022

2nd Archaeological Excursion to ‘Ein Gedi’ and ‘Dead Sea’

The second archaeological excursion of the academic year 22/23 included a series of visits to the Judean Desert. The group left Jerusalem for the shores of the Dead Sea where, guided by the great expertise of Fr. Yunus, professor and archaeologist at STS, they visited Ein Gedi’s nature reserve.

Whilst hiking up, along the trail in the desert, the students were surrounded by the magnificence of the oasis and with its resonant sound of water. It’s remarkable to think that this very road had been used by the Romans at the time of the Second Revolt and that centuries before the great encounter between David and Saul (cfr. 1Sam 24) took place here. Not only that, most likely this site has inspired the writing of the book of the Song of Songs. Even though at David’s time the area was not inhabited, many traces of ancient people can be found here which attest to the importance of this location. The most impressive example is the Chalcolithic temple that must have served as a central sanctuary for the region. Tribes just emerging from the Stone Age came to this plateau above the waterfall to worship. From this temple a spectacular view over the oasis and the southern part of the Dead Sea can be enjoyed and a sharp observer will easily spot, near the springs, the presence of groups of Ibexes, a type of mountain goat, from which comes the name Ein Gedi (spring of the kid) .

Finally, the visit ended at the modern tent-shaped roof that protects the synagogue ruins. Established in the 3rd century AD, the synagogue remained in use, with various alterations, until the 6th century. This corresponds to the information provided by Eusebius of Caesarea, according to whom Ein Gedi was "a large Jewish village”. The synagogue faces north, towards Jerusalem and the interior is decorated with a large mosaic, very well preserved, depicting four marsh birds in the centre and a pair of peacocks in each corner. Inscriptions list Adam's descendants, then the Patriarchs and the three companions of the prophet Daniel (Dan 3), as well as the synagogue's benefactors.

‘My love is a cluster of henna flowers among the vines of Ein GediS.of S. 1:14; cf. Sir. 24: 14)

Now, after having visited Ein Gedi, the group fully understood why the author of the Song of Songs considers this place heavenly and wonderful. How couldn’t they be struck by the beauty of the date palms, the greenery of the oasis, and the gurgling of the springs that descend the valley to flow into the Dead Sea? Enjoying such beauty, the excursion ended at the Dead Sea shores where the group was able to benefit from the therapeutic effects of the water and enjoyed a couple of hours rest.

 

 

Federico Schullern

27th October 2022

DIES ACADEMICUS – 15 OCTOBER 2022

On 15th of October 2022, the Salesian Pontifical University Jerusalem Campus organized its annual Dies Academicus. The event commenced at 9.30 a.m. with a short prayer service. The Ratisbonne choir invoked the presence of God through their choral piece, ‘Amazing Grace.’ More than 70 participants graced this event through their active presence and participation. The entire event comprised two important phases of the academic life of the Institute. In the first segment Fr. Andrzej Toczyski, the Principle of the University reminded the students the importance and purpose of the academic gathering. Bro. Nathanael George then gave a powerful visual presentation looking back on the highlights of the past Academic Year 21-22.

Later, as part of the annual academic tradition, Fr. Eric John Wyckoff welcomed and introduced the first-year students through a creative PowerPoint presentation. This was followed by the presentation of all the Professors and Teaching Staff and the area of their expertise. Fr. Matthew Coutinho did the honour of introducing all the teaching faculty members of the University. After these presentations, the entire college gathered at the entrance to pose for the official annual picture of the ongoing year 2022-2023.

The second phase of the event began at 11.00 a.m. in the Don Bosco Hall. After a solo performance of 'Laudamus Te', sung by Deacon Florimond Kazadi Kabale. Fr. Stanislaus Swamikannu sdb, the Rector of the Ratisbonne Salesian Theologate, introduced the Speaker and the Guest of Honour of the day, Rev. Fr Andrea Bozzolo sdb, the Rector of the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome. In his Lectio Magistralis entitled “The Reciprocity between Faith and Sacraments”, he shed light on several relevant issues. His lecture was well prepared and well presented, followed by a question and answer session for further clarifications and interactions, moderated by Fr. Stan Stanislaus Swamikannu. The program came to an end with a vote of thanks proposed by the Principal, Fr. Andrzej. A solicitous fellowship meal was offered for all the participant.

Indeed, the Dies Academicus was a rich moment of learning and faith sharing for us all.

We are grateful to the Christian Media Center who covered the event. You may view a short video made on the occasion, that summarizes the event.

Jameson Motilal Nayak

15th October 2022

1st Archaeological Excursion ’22 – Tel Dor, Caesarea Maritima, Apollonia

On 30th September, the Salesian Theological University’s first Archaeological Excursion of 2022-23, took place journeying to the ancient coastal cities of Tel Dor, Caesarea Maritima and Apollonia. A day before the excursion, Fr. Yunus gave a brief explanation about these sites with maps and it was a great help for us.

TEL DOR

Firstly, we reached the beautiful ancient city (national park) of Tel Dor. It was the ancient city of the Phoenicians but was later taken over by Israelites during the unification of Northern and Southern Kingdoms. We could visit the ancient church remains, the amphitheater and human settlements. The longevity of modern investigation at Dor has meant that a body of evidence has been amassed, substantial enough to contribute productively to questions of both local and broader significance, among them the beginning and development of Phoenician culture, patterns of trade in the eastern Mediterranean and the impact of imperialism and changing foreign domination on the cities and cultures of the Levant. Evidence of human settlements, storage, boats, and potteries areas, all from the Iron Ages was visible. The Phoenicians’ purple dye pits are one of the main features of this site. They collected sea shells and boiled them in these pits, thus obtaining the purple dye which was used by the royalty.

CAESAREA

Next we visited one of the most important cities during Jesus’ time, Caesarea. It was a small town including Straton’s Tower during the time of Phoenicians. In 25 B.C., Herod the Great built a splendid sea port, one of its kind during his time, in honour of Augustus Caesar. It turned out to be one of the greatest sea ports of the era. As a matter of fact, it was also the port from which Peter and Paul sets out for Rome. There are still remains of the port to be seen, and also, the amphitheater, hippodrome, Roman wall, Byzantine church, Aqueduct and many more historical wonders.  We could see many other Roman remains of statues, granite columns Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, which embellished the roman buildings, adorned with mosaics and Greek inscriptions. It was amazing to see the mighty hippodrome, the walls of the crusaders which have stood for more than 1500 years. Both byzantine and crusaders walls which once protected the city, still stand today. One of the greatest discoveries of this site for Christianity is the inscription with mention of Pontius Pilate, which historically proves his existence. The warehouse complex (c. 75 by 40 m) built c. 500 CE, consists of six warehouses of three distinct types: courtyard warehouses, a corridor warehouse, and a complex warehouse. A marble head of Emperor Hadrian was discovered in one of those warehouses.  In short, in the big city of Caesarea we saw a history of 500 years.

APOLLONIA

Apollonia-Arsuf is located in the north-western part of the modern city of Herzliya, on a kurkar (fossilized dune sandstone) ridge overlooking the Mediterranean shore. This is a place where beauty and history meet together. Also known as the ancient city and fortress of Arsuf, Apollonia was once home to the Persians, Romans and Crusaders. In 1994, excavations of the area revealed that Phoenicians settled there in the 5th or 6th century BC and it was officially part of the Persian Empire. In the Hellenistic period, the Greeks renamed the city Apollonia, after the Greek God Apollo. The area later fell to the Roman Empire during the occupation of the Holy Land. It was during this time that the city grew in size and importance and a harbour was constructed. Apollonia became the second largest city in the entire region with primarily Christian and Samaritan residents. Eventually, in the 12th century, the city became a Crusader stronghold where the Battle of Arsuf took place during the Third Crusade. Today, the ancient city, located on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, is part of the Herzliya Municipality and has been intensively excavated since 1994. Here we saw the weapons used during the crusaders war with the Muslims. We could actually see the three defence walls the Crusaders built to protect themselves, and also the stone shells with catapults which were used in war.

Again, I would like to repeat that Apollonia is a place where ‘beauty and history meets’.

 

 

Raymond Joseph

30th September 2022

First Years Study Trip to Galilee – 22nd September 2022

“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times” is a truth which validated the STS 1st year students’ recent Study Trip to Galilee.  For three days they visited the revered sites connected with Jesus's hidden as well as public life in Galilee. Thirteen students with the STS Principal, Fr. Andrzej Toczyski SDB, and expert guide, Fr. Yunus Demirci, OFM Cap., pilgrimaged by bus, starting early in the morning from Jerusalem on Friday 16th September 2022.

The Students, and at the same time pilgrims, first stopped at the Mount of Beatitudes where they received a profound explanation about the traditions and evolution of the site. During the Holy Mass, they contemplated the eight Beatitudes mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew. The next steps led them to Tabgha (from the name Hepta Pegon - seven sources), the site devoted to the miracle of multiplication of bread and fish and to the Church of Primacy of St. Peter. At the Capernaum archeological site it was possible in a concrete and tangible way to remember foremost the healing of Simon-Peter's mother-in-law in his own house, the expulsion of the unclean spirit of a man, and the healing of a centurion's servant. Fortified by the fish of St. Peter in a restaurant, the students enjoyed a half-hour boat trip on the Sea of Galilee and the beautiful sceneries to be seen from the boat. Then they travelled to Nazareth, to the Betharram guest house.

Saturday 17th September was also a very tight day. The morning was devoted to the Basilica of Annunciation, the nearby museum, Church of St. Joseph, the Grave of a Just man, Mary’s two wells and the Synagogue of Nazareth. After lunch the pilgrims ascended Mount Tabor by bus and during the Holy Eucharist contemplated the Transfiguration of Lord Jesus Christ. In the evening, most of the pilgrims and students took part in a solemn procession at the Basilica of Annunciation, accompanied by a rosary prayer in several languages.

On Sunday 18th September it was planned to visit Cana in the Galilee, but both, the Latin and Orthodox churches were not open on Sundays for visits. However the morning prayers on the site gave opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ first miracle. A special visit to the archeological site of the ancient city of Sepphoris (Tzipori) followed. This has, according to some traditions, connections to the parental house of the Virgin Mary and hidden life of St. Joseph.

The way back to Ratisbonne led the group via Haifa with its beautiful Stella Maris church at Mount Carmel. After Holy Mass and refreshments, the group stopped to take some photos at the Bahá’í gardens in Haifa with its wonderful view on the city bay.

It was an exceptional opportunity for the students to stand on the same places as Jesus stood, to touch, smell, taste, feel, imagine, perceive not just intellectually but by the whole person, all dimensions including the spiritual one. Especially at the beginning of their studies, may this experience help them to deepen and broaden their horizons of faith.

 

Matej Fabian SDB

22nd September, 2022