July 7 Thursday Athens

We stumbled out of the hotel in the dark to put our bags in the van.  Three-thirty is very early in the morning.  Our plan was to catch a 7 a.m. flight from Tel Aviv to Athens, and then with an eight hour layover  we would try to leave the airport, take the metro into the City to tour the Acropolis, Mars Hill and the Agora, and a little of the rest of the City before returning to the airport for our flight.  Since most of us had never toured Athens this seemed like a plan.  We checked our bags through to Rome, and once we landed we found a place to put our carry on items in storage, while we went off to see Athens.

The biggest challenge is the Greek alphabet is not our alphabet, so reading signs can be difficult.  But the Greek people in general were very helpful and friendly and gave us good directions.  The Metro was fast and clean, and we managed to change trains without losing our way.

On the way up to the Acropolis we passed the Spanish Embassy and a demonstration to “free Palestine” was going on.  We had Jonathan stand next to their banner.  A family from Pitssburgh I met getting on the plane for Rome was visiting in Athens during the “riots,” and except for one night of serious violence, the “riots” were pretty “civilized” with rock bands and food festivals and people demonstrating and denouncing the government for sure, but nothing where anyone was getting hurt.

Upon arriving at the Acropolis we engaged a local guide, for far less than we had been offered ahead of time.  We certainly got our exercise.  The Acropolis is a real climb, but worth it.  In a way it was a good transition between Jerusalem and Rome.  In one day we will be in the three major centers that have served as the cradle of Western Civilization.  Certainly there was more to see than our time afforded us, but we had a sample, a taste of Ancient Greek culture.  The guide stressed how the Parthenon was constructed in a way to take into account the natural optical illusions of the human eye, altering the dimensions of the columns so they would appear to be perfectly straight and in alignment.  The ancient Greeks were pretty smart.

The temples on top of the peak of the acropolis are not the only ruins of public buildings.  All around the base of the peak, especially on the northern side are remainder of the agora, where public business was conducted, Mars Hill, where philosophy was debated, theaters, markets and smaller temples to some of the lesser gods.

We also got some sense of the ancient Greek polis that gave birth to democracy.  Some of us reflected on why did Greek democracy ultimately fail, and does that have any lessons for our culture.  Greek democracy worked at least in the beginning, because all citizens had a sense of duty to contribute to the common good.  Everyone served in the army.  Everyone contributed to decision making.  We may need to research how the ancient Greeks taxed themselves.  We reflected that taxation may be the problem that brings our democracy down.  We’ll see.  After  awhile we were overwhelmed by all we were seeing.  We got cultured out as well as becoming physically tired.

We did take an opportunity to see Mars Hill, where Paul preached to the Athenians, and remembered that except for a few people who responded to him, most of the Athenians panned Paul’s exhortation.  Paul left Athens without founding a church.  Perhaps they were too cultured.  I recorded AB giving an introduction to a sermon he will be preaching about Paul and Mars Hill, right there at Mars Hill.  I will try to upload it.

Some of us found a restaurant, where we could rest and have some refreshment.  We also walked through part of the down town market, and discovered we were right at a subway station that went to the airport.  Hopefully we will get to Rome on time.  We all desperately need the sleep.




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