There was a time that it was easy to visit sites in the Palestinian West Bank. That is no longer true. Car rental companies will not permit their cars to be taken into the West Bank. We hired a driver and vehicle (4WD) to take us several places. I think we were fortunate to obtain the services of a tourist bus driver who happened to have a day free. Even for him going into the West Bank was not easy.
First it is necessary to choose the appropriate border crossing. Then instead of taking what formerly was the most direct route drivers must go in circles to avoid running into the fence (or wall). This is especially true near Jerusalem.
Our first stop was Gibeon (Joshua 9-10). The last time I was there to see the excavations by James Pritchard of the University of Pennsylvania I drove directly to the ruins. This time it was extremely difficult to reach the same ruins. We were successful in our efforts and got some good photos that we hope to share later.
We also stopped at Shiloh where the tabernacle was set up after the ancient Israelites entered Canaan (Joshua 18:1). A team from the Israel Antiquities Authority was excavation in three different areas low on the tel in areas mostly from the Islamic and Byzantine period.
Next we went to Mount Gerizim to visit the Samaritans Museum. Husney W. Cohen, a priest and director of the Museum, was kind to show us around and explain the Samaritan viewpoint about several biblical events. Samaritans believe the temple was to be built on Mount Gerizim rather than Jerusalem. They think Abraham offered Isaac on the mountain. They accept only the first five books (the Pentateuch) of the Old Testament. In this photo you see Cohen, myself, and Leon Mauldin with the ancient scroll. This scrolls look to be much newer, or better preserved, than the old one I photographed many years ago (here).
I understood Husney W. Cohen to say that he was third in line to become the High Priest of the Samaritans.
We had hoped to visit the archaeological work on Mount Gerizim, but it was closed due to some construction.
We made a short stop at Jacob’s well (John 4). Then we visited the new Tel Balata Archaeological Park. Tel Balata is the site of biblical Shechem (Genesis 12:1). While in Nablus we also made a short stop at the traditional Tomb of Joseph (Joshua 24:32).
We left the central mountain rain through Wadi Farah (now called Wadi Tirza by the Israelis. We were short on time and did not try to stop at Tirza (1 Kings 15:33). The springs that once flowed through the valley are now practically dry. I understand this is because the water is being piped away by Israel for use by the settlements.
We stopped at Jericho and made a visit to Tell es-Samarat (the site of Herod’s hippodrome) and Herod;s Palace (Matthew 2). New signs have been erected to point to these places, but the roads to them are terrible. The sites are in terrible condition and there are no explanatory signs.
In the future we hope to show some photo of some of these places.