Saturday, February 6, 2010

Emmaus Nicopolis

I have to apologize in advance for all the pictures and words. Blackwifeo hates it when I post too much and go off - it's boring, she always says. Well, it's my blog and I can do what I want. I had a really crappy week, this last week. Some weeks I get to the weekend and I feel I can't go on like this. Something is going to break. There are just too many balls in the air and I'm tired of catching them and stressed lest any fall to the ground and break. So today's trip was special for me. It recharged my batteries and defragmented my disk. I so needed it.

I forced myself and the boy out of bed before 6am. It was dark and cold. I warned him to dress warmly and in fact it was just 2 degrees C when we got to Latrun, and the car actually had the "ice on road" warning light flashing, something I have never seen before.

I planned a visit to Emmaus Nicopolis. It's an old town, first mentioned in connection with Judas the Maccabee's wars against the Greeks (2nd Century BCE). The Hashmonean city was destroyed by the Romans in 4 BCE. In the first half of the 2nd Century CE, Romans and Samaritans settled in Emmaus, which eventually gained 'polis" status and was called Nicopolis throughout the Roman and Byzantine period. It was conquered again by the Muslims in the 7th century and then again by the Crusaders who restored the Byzantine church.

Emmaus Nicopolis is particularly special as it's mentioned in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 24,13-25) as the village where Jesus appeared to his disciples after his crucifixion and resurrection. It's now run by the "Community of the Beatitudes", whose nuns and monks were asleep when we arrived at the gate at 7am. So we had some time to kill till it opened at 8:30.

It just so happens that Emmaus adjoins Ayalon Park (or Park Canada - it seems to have two names). So we went off into the woods to make our coffee.
It was cold. But we braved the elements and the coffee was hot and delicious.
The park has lots of trees. They are still young trees but it's beautifully green and lush.
I knew from my "research" that there was a Roman Bathhouse nearby and so we trampled through the mud and puddles (it has been raining of late) till we found it. It's great. See the channels that brought water into the pools.
We crept inside. There clearly has been archaeological work going on. You can see the hypocaust system the Roman's used to heat the air that passed underneath the warmed floor.
It's a great building. This I think is the room with the heated pool or caldarium, through the doorway is what I think is the tepidarium.
This is the roof. It was domed and there is that gap at the top where the light gets in now.
See these are the domes on the roof.
Adjacent to the bathhouse (in fact touching the outer wall) is a Muslim cemetery.
We did a little bush bashing and explored the destroyed Arab village of Amwas, which was captured from the Jordanians by Israeli forces in the Six Day War in 67. It seems that way back in 1878 one Blessed Mariam of Jesus Crucified, a nun from the Carmelite monastery in Bethlehem, had a revelation in which Jesus told her that Amwas was Emmaus of old. So the Carmelite monestery acquired the site from the locals and pilgrims have been visiting Emmaus ever since.
This is the tomb of Sheikh Ibn-Jebel. He was a Muslim general who died of the bubonic plague which broke out in 640 BCE, two years after the Muslims conquered the Holy Land. Emmaus was abandoned and fell into ruin due to the plague, until the Crusaders came along.
By now it was 8:30am and time to go visit Emmaus itself. On the way out of the park we stopped for bagele. The bagele dude, told the boy that the bagele on the table were just for "advertising" and the fresh ones are in the trunk of the brand spanking new Kia from Hertz. The bagele business is clearly better than I would have thought. His giant falafel (stuffed with onions) were excellent.
This is Emmaus (it costs 5NIS to enter, collected by a stern nun). These are the remains of the Byzantine Basilica (5-7 Century CE), rebuilt (on a smaller scale) by the Crusaders (12 Century CE). There are some excellent mosaics in the foreground.
This is the baptismal font (I think it's called). It used to be inside a smaller baptistery chapel.
I love the lines of this, the southern apse, unfortunately you cannot see the reliquary niche in this picture.
There are some 1st Century BCE Jewish graves in the hill off to the side of the Basilica.
This is the building you see from the Tel Aviv - Jerusalem highway (Highway 1) up on the left hand side as you pass Latrun Junction. The building was built in the 30's and now houses the chapel of the Community of the Beautitudes, who have lived there since 1993.
This is their chapel. I swear we have the same rug on our living room floor.

All in all, it was perfect. We came home and Ravid and Shiri popped in for brunch. Now it's time to hit the books. I feel much better.


arnieo said...

Good post. I love your Saturday posts, they can never be too long and certainly not boring. They contain the correct amount of irreverence making them interesting. Thanks for keeping us informed,

oliviao said...

I think so too! Miss you...

mart said...

I have to agree with the previous commenters.
Just ignore BWO's whines. (You make up for it in your sucking up posts)