This place has fascinated me for years. It’s something of a mystery that was still covered up in the 1920’s with only a few excavations done around then and in the 1930’s. It is currently in the Arab village of Beisan, at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley.
In the Biblical account of the battle of the Israelites against the Philistines in 1 Samuel 31:8-12, the bodies of King Saul and three of his sons were hung on the walls of Beit She’an. In the Roman times this was the leading city of the Decapolis, a league of pagan cities.*
It remained buried for so many centuries, and yet when you see the vastness of it, you are quite shocked! Those Roman columns are extraordinarily tall, and it blows my mind to think that only a few stuck out of the ground, and yet the Arab nomads just farmed their herds here, with no digging or wanting to know what these things were sticking out of the ground! My archaeological mind would have going into overdrive 🙂
When you first enter the Regional Park of Beit She’an, you’re first shown a very large model of how it would have been set out.
If you are lucky enough to have the place to yourself, as we were, then you can all spread out and go where you like. Interestingly, it was the only time that it rained for us: we didn’t mind, even though it was October, it was still mighty warm! After allowing us to take off, our tour guide Hilik, reigned us all back in and started to guide us through this ginormous complex. The vanity sets, the large red columns which seemed almost white until the rain bought out their beauty, the rooms where there would have been steam like saunas, even alcoves carved out so you could go and do your business! This is such a phenominal place.
There also is a very large Roman ampitheatre on which I did burst out in song at the behest of my girlfriend! I just didn’t get good enough shots of the entirety of the theatre, but there are plenty online.
My advice is to not rush through here. The beautiful craftmanship is still abundant here, the detail, the tiles and mosiacs. There is plenty to wonder at here, and I cannot wait to go back and show my children!
It’s been five and a half years since my first ever trip to Israel. I have wanted to write about my journey for the longest time, but up until recently, anything I wrote just seemed to fall completely short of what I really wanted to convey.
Let me take you back on a little bit of my journey.
There are a couple who are authors, Brock & Bodie Thoene. They have a series that I read back in 2003, called The Zion Chronicles. Within the pages of these fantastic Historical Faction (my play on words) was a sentence that caught me completely by surprise, ‘Have we made Jesus a Gentile?’
I had NO idea what that meant at all! In fact, I had been taught that Jesus negated the need for there to be a physical Israel now, and we the Church were the new Israel. The Jews were stubborn and had been blinded, and they were after all responsible for Our Saviour’s death. Isn’t it amazing the rubbish one will believe?!
I prayed. Because I knew that God was on my case. Then I found out something utterly astounding – Jesus was and IS Jewish! And then I found out something utterly shocking: Jesus WASN’T a Christian. What the heck? He’s not? Well then, what the heck am I? And there in was the biggest question of all I guess – I didn’t know.
I didn’t go and enrol in Torah school, I didn’t study Judaism, I didn’t DO anything except for keep on reading everything I could find by the Thoenes. Most of their work was about the Second World War, the Reformation of Israel and fictional stories within. But there were teachings within the storylines that grabbed me. Stories of Nephilim – Neph-a-what? Stories about layers and meanings within the Hebrew letters. Stories about strong, brave and courageous people who only wanted to live, and refused to give up and die. Stories that highlighted Isaiah 53 and it’s amazing meanings hidden in plain sight. Within the pages of their stories, I found something I wasn’t bargaining on; I found life with the Jewish Jesus.
Slowly but surely God lead me on a journey, that to be honest, is still slow and steady, but as each revelation sinks in, it then becomes a part of me deep within. When I met my now husband, he devoured every book on Israel, history, archaeology and everything else that had to do with the Holy Land. He wasn’t yet a believer, when we made the decision alongside a friend of ours, to go on a Holy Land Tour. I would read to him certain scriptures as we moved through different sites, to put into context all we were seeing. Unlike other pre-Christians, he was being shown everything until he finally had to make his own decision to get off the fence! How so very loving and kind of our God to do that 🙂
Next thing you know, it’s October 2013 and we were off with a hiss and a roar. Having never been around Jewish people, not really knowing anything remotely Kosher, we got a wild education before we hit Israel, thanks to El Al Airlines! I was sitting on the edge of the seat (close to the toilets) and I was being hit on every surface. As soon as we were in the air, everyone got up and walked around, chatting to everyone – very loudly, the Orthodox Jews were wrapping phylacteries around their head and wrists, praying loudly, nodding back and forth. Large Middle Eastern men were locating things in the overhead locker and I had big tummies in my face, bums in my face, legs and arms hit by the passing traffic, the trolleys hitting my legs, and alot of loud gesticulating people who seemed to be partying down by the toilets! I watched men being asked to move so the Flight Attendants could get through; they wouldn’t. I was being yelled at by said Flight Attendants in Hebrew until I said ‘English?’ I wasn’t entirely sure I had made the right decision at this point…..
I have never travelled El Al Airlines again 🙁
We landed at night and were taken to our hotel. I awoke at 4am, and watched the sunrise over Tel Aviv. I watched as kids were walked to school, all singing and seemingly happy. This was Israel. Wow.
And then we met our Tour Guide and headed off to Caesarea. Just the three of us in a little bus, this was awesome! We had the morning with the Guide then drove over to another part of Caerarea to pick up the rest of the tour group – oh my life.
There standing in Velour Tracksuits, were a bunch of African American Queens, complete with walking sticks, a walker, wigs, cornrows, false nails and attitudes to match! God had a sense of humour and he was letting me know….
To be honest, it was fine, apart from one individual who constantly held up the bus due to her shopping habit and lack of time management, the tour itself was great. One of the greatest highlights for me was being at Capernaum and Nazareth. I had encounters there that were completely unexpected, which I detail in my novel Mirabelle. Suffice to say, God has this beautiful way of surprising and arresting us IF we remain open to Holy Spirit and His guidance.
I didn’t particularly feel the need or notion to all of a sudden up sticks and move over there, but one place that fascinated me for reasons I couldn’t understand, was Masada. It wouldn’t be until our next trip and a whole lot of revelation in between, that I would come to know some very key things about this amazing and powerful place.
Through having our DNA done and then building a family tree through My Heritage, my daughter connected our lineage through to the Tribe of Benjamin. Going through the family tree, we also discovered that we are directly connected to certain Roman Emperors (I wish this wasn’t the case) and we had relatives that were born in Qumran around the time of the Siege of Masada. I cannot say that I can prove it all with facts, figures and certificates, but this resounded in my heart so loudly, I knew we’d finally found an answer to my weird fascination with Masada. Little did I know that God had an assignment for me the next time that I would go there….
It would be quite a while before we got to go back to this magical land. In between visits, Neil and I got married (Yahoo!), Neil accepted Jesus into his life (Yay!) our eldest daughter moved to London, our second eldest daughter graduated Make Up Artistry School, our son became a Wilson, my Father needed to be admitted to a Dementia Ward, my mother and her new partner became Travelling Gypsies, and my first manuscript got accepted by a Publisher!
And then there was Skywatch. Prophecy Watchers. L.A Marzulli. Timothy Alberino. Steve Quayle. Jim Bakker. Nehpilim. Giants. Extra Biblical books. Ancient Aliens. Documentaries galore. I wasn’t ok with any of this. As a Believer for over 20 years, I’d wanted to focus on the love of God. Bill Johnson. John & Carol Arnott. John Eldredge. Worship. Scripture. Soaking. Prayer. Confession of God’s Word. And more worship!
But alas God had other plans indeedipoos!
We were learning all these weird and wonderful things and both Neil and I were seeing unusual things occur. Suffice to say, Ephesians 6 got very real very quickly! But then a couple came into our lives who were new Believers, just like Neil, and what we were studying they had just been experiencing before their Salvation a few months before.
Fast forward a few years and Skywatch announced along with Aaron Lipkin that they were going to Israel. Well, those of you who know me and have chatted with me know that explosions within my stomach are God’s way of saying HELLO and this happened during the broadcast. That was on a Friday that I watched that, but I didn’t say anything to Neil until the Sunday – which was very unlike me. I wanted God to speak to him, and God sure did!
We prayed as we walked our beloved beach, and Neil asked for a sign, something that I don’t do. Incredibly, we got one within ten minutes, we cried and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving, and so long as children and schedules could fit in easily, we were off to Israel again……
Unfortunately, because of long standing issues with ‘guilt’ I felt we should ask this said couple to join us on the trip. Immediately red flags were raised, but I went into overdrive coming up with crazy ways to get funds for this – oh that I would listen to the Holy Spirit and not ‘good ideas!’
Part Two coming soon…..
Photos and content copyrighted by Sandi Wilson 2019