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A day's journey to Emmaus
by William King
8/29/2007 / Travel
JERUSALEM - According to the New Testament accounts Jesus appeared to his disciples several times in the period after his death and resurrection around Passover and before his ascension to heaven several days before Shavuot (Pentecost). In one such case the Gospel of Luke chapter 24 tells of two men walking on the road to Emmaus when Jesus appears among them. Although they talked for some time the two men never recognized that it was Jesus until he sat with them for a meal, blessing and breaking the bread. At this point they realized it was Jesus and hurried back to Jerusalem to tell what had happened.
While some scholars believe the site of Emmaus to be located near the present day Arab village of Abu Ghosh, the traditional location is further west at Latrun. The site is located on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway where the Judean Hills meet the coastal plain. Remains of a church built during the Byzantine Period from approximately the 6th century CE, as well as a more modern Catholic church on the site, attest to the Christian connection to the area. The ancient church was destroyed during the Arab conquest of the Land of Israel in the 7th Century AD/CE, and was rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 12th Century. Ossuaries from the Second Temple Period were found inside several caves located adjacent to the church.
Near the church is the Canada Park established by the Jewish National Fund of Canada in 1973. The park is a popular picnic and hiking destination for people from both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv looking to escape the city for a day. The park offers a view over much of the coastal plain, on a clear day affording visitors a view of Modi'in, Tel Aviv, and down further south to Ashdod. Also inside the park is a well preserved public bathhouse from the Late Roman Period, around 135 CE. The park was also home to three Arab villages until the area was conquered by the IDF in the Six Day War and the villages abandoned and destroyed.
On the other side of the highway is the main part of modern Emmaus, the Latrun monastery and fort. The monastery was established in 1890 by a group of French monks of the Trappist order. The monastery is well known among Israelis for having a variety of fine wines made from the vineyards onsite.
Across the street from the monastery is the Latrun tank museum and armored corps memorial. The site is an old British police fort established during the British Mandate period and occupied by the Arab Legion after the British left. The fort holds a strategic position along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway and was the focus of several battles during the 1948 War of Independence. Many new immigrants fresh from the death camps of Europe were rushed into battle and died trying to take the fort, but it wasn't until the Six Day War in 1967 that the Israeli flag would fly there. Today there is a memorial to all of the members of the IDF's armored corps that have fallen in battle. The museum also showcases various Israeli tanks and vehicles from throughout the years, as well as enemy equipment captured in past wars.
Close to the museum is Mini Israel, a theme park where they say that you can "see it all small." The park features scale models of several popular locations from across Israel. Visitors can walk from the promenade along the beach in Tel Aviv to Eilat in just minutes, seeing all kinds of buildings, natural formations, and archaeological sites along the way. One can even put a note into a box next to the model of the Western Wall that will be delivered to the real wall in Jerusalem.
For Christians looking to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, a day's journey to Emmaus is highly recommended. Restaurants located inside Mini Israel and near the tank museum mean that you can make it a full day outing, or a picnic in Canada Park is also nice. The area of Emmaus is full of history, and the sites around the Latrun fort are educational and entertaining for all ages.
Copyright 2007 by Images of Israel.
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