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February 24, 2011 Schlepping to Scythopolis

By Belinda

Our guide, Danny, told us that we were going to “schlep” to the next place on our journey. “Schlep”—a Yiddish noun for a journey, especially a long and arduous one—or to carry something heavy. There you are friends—a word you can incorporate into your conversation today.

We started this day by schlepping to Scythopolis, pronounced Skitopolis (although it was not an especially arduous journey.) The city was named after the Scythians, an ancient people who moved into the area from what is now Iran in the second century B.C. but before that it was the site of the city of Beit Shean or Beth-Shan, the ancient Canaanite city, conquered by the Israelites, where the bodies of King Saul and his sons were hung on the walls by the Philistines, after they defeated the Israelites and King Saul committed suicide.

  The next day, when the Philistines came to rob the dead, they found Saul and his three sons dead on Mount Gilboa. They cut off Saul's head and stripped off his armor. Then they spread the good news all through Philistine country in the shrines of their idols and among the people. They displayed his armor in the shrine of the Ashtoreth. They nailed his corpse to the wall at Beth Shan.
  The people of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul. Their valiant men sprang into action. They traveled all night, took the corpses of Saul and his three sons from the wall at Beth Shan, and carried them back to Jabesh and burned off the flesh. They then buried the bones under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted in mourning for seven days. (1 Samuel 31:10-12, The Message)

Beit Shean lies buried beneath a large hill that rises above the city of Scythopolis, which was buried by an earthquake in the 8th century A.D  

It is now in the process of being excavated and we were able to walk around the city. There is a huge theatre (hippodrome)—and here is another word that I loved—the exits were called “vomitoriums,” because the people poured out of the doors after a performance. 

I was fascinated by the public latrines, which are excavated in all of their glory! The seats are missing from the tops of the stones, but apart from that you can see the row of side by side seats—not separate at all for men and women and no dividing walls for privacy.  Quite a social and intimate setting.

Before leaving I climbed the steep steps to the top of the mound covering Beit Shean. There was an amazing view from the top and I noticed that there was another way down. I figured that it would lead back to the place I started from. It turned out to be a wrong assumption. As I made my way down, the sound of voices grew further and further away. I had taken the proverbial "circuitous route," and by the time I found my way back to the rest of the group they were all on the bus and just about to send out a search party. We had an appointment with some camels and we were almost late, but that is for another post!


Anonymous said…
In school I was taught that the vomitorium was where everyone threw up all the wine and food they had binged on. Gross.
Belinda said…
Lizzie, that does sound gross--but logical, but truly the vomitorium was the passage the audience exited from!
Susan said…
I'm glad you didn't miss the bus! :)
Anonymous said…
Dear Bel- Yeh and how many times can you say you were late for something because you were held up in the john!Poppy
Belinda said…
Ha ha Poppy, I didn't think of that! Thank you for adding that bit of "you."

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