The hospitality at the Bedouin camp includes a short camel ride through part of the Negev Desert. Most of the folks decided that the tandem riding of camels is something everyone should experience. Once! Maybe twice, if you have a custom fitted camel saddle.

Local residents travel to Israel

On one of the first days of their Israel tour, members and friends of the Lake Almanor Community Church enjoy some Bedouin hospitality that includes hot sweet tea, Arabic-style coffee, unleavened bread cooked in the customary manner and an explanation of what traditional Bedouin manners would require. Photos by Gregg Scott

It has been many years since this writer’s younger days and times experiencing the histories and cultures in Southeast Asia, Europe and western Mediterranean countries.

When referencing recorded American history we rarely start with the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

There were recorded inhabitants here, native and immigrant, back to the 1400s.

The immigrants that came here from Europe have ever changing histories due to the constant wars that determined the ruling civilizations that include the Roman Empire that can be traced back to 27 B.C.

With that timeline in mind, what would it be like to step back in time and take a look at the homes and lands of a people who lived thousands of years B.C.

That’s exactly what 40-plus Chester/Lake Almanor residents and friends had the chance to do as part of a study tour to Israel organized by the Lake Almanor Community Church.

Have you ever heard of places like Tel Beth Shemesh, Tel Arad, Ein Gedi, Qumran or Bet Shean (later named Scythopolis)?

These are just a few of almost 40 locations of more recent historical history (2,000 B.C.) that were visited during the nine-day tour.

The amount of information disseminated by a very knowledgeable tour guide could easily fill a book, but more importantly the actual viewing of the sites and seeing how they contributed to the way of life in those times presented a whole new perspective on many of the historical stories from that epoch.

The crystal clear water gushing from the side of an arid sandstone hillside at Ein Gedi Spring can only be described as amazing. There isn’t a sign of water for miles and miles from this oasis on the edge of the Negev Desert.

Tel Beth-Shemesh is an ancient ruin of a town that is believed to be the burial place of Samson, the Nazirite of biblical account, situated on one side of the Sorek Valley just a few miles from his birthplace of Zorah.

Tel Arad, first settled during the Chalcolithic period, around 4,000 B.C. and later by the Canaanites in approximately 2,650 B.C.

It was ultimately inhabited by Judean Kings until the mid-500 B.C. era.

It is quite unusual because it has a small version of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem within its walls, which by Jewish law was not permitted.

Ein Gedi, which means “Spring of the young goat” is an oasis near the Negev Desert and also has biblical significance as the location that soon-to-be-King David took refuge from King Saul who was trying to kill him.

What a marvel to see this clear, clean spring coming from a dry, barren hillside.

Qumran is the archeological ruins of the city that is the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The inhabitants of the city hid the scrolls in sealed vessels in nearby caves to keep the Romans from destroying them circa A.D. 68.

Bet Shean is an ancient Tel (old/new city) that was first established around 6,000 B.C. and later inhabited by Canaanite/Israelite peoples circa 1,200 B.C.

The city experienced several changes in cultures through conquests over the centuries and around 63 B.C. Emperor Pompey made Judea part of the Roman Empire.

A new city was built on the slopes of the Tel and called Scythopolis.

A young Israeli docent and her child talks about the history of this 3,000-year-old site as she prepares to demonstrate how the olive press behind her operates at one of the many archeological sites that Israel has designated as a National Park. After crushing the olives with this first century stone the “pomace” or pulp is placed in a hemp bag and the liquid is squeezed out with a screw press.

It prospered and became the leading city of the Decapolis, a loose confederation of 10 cities which were centers of Greco-Roman culture in the area.

The area went through several more cultural changes after the fall of the Roman Empire and ultimately was destroyed by the Golan Earthquake of A.D. 749.

Beside these ancient historical sites, the tour also visited many of the Biblical sites including the birthplace of Jesus: Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and walking the Via Dolorosa (the Way of Grief) to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the site traditionally believed to be the location of the crucifixion of Jesus.

There appeared to be a consensus by the tour group that trying to process over 6,000 years of history was both exhilarating and exhausting and well worth the effort.

Almost all the information in this story is available in many history books and online, but there is absolutely no way to truly understand the interactions of the many civilizations and cultures until you see the proximity of the cities and their neighbors.

Seeing the lifestyles of current residents and talking with the people was also a clarifying revelation about the hurdles of everyday life in Israel.