Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ein Kerem Addicts

Julianne, Jacob and I at Tel Gath

What a thoroughly enjoyable week. We started out with a trip back to Ein Kerem with our family. We have long been planning on filming a Nativity movie that our family can enjoy for years. We want to act out the Nativity story in costume and reading the scriptures, doing some of the filming in as many realistic places as we can. So, we went to the spring which is supposed to be the meeting place of Elizabeth and Mary and filmed that part of the story. We filmed it again, and again and again and again. It may be that Julianne is a bit of a perfectionist here. Hopefully we make it through this filming process with a happy, intact family! It was fun, and we loved it there.
Then we did the zoo again, with some friends from the branch. We had a very, very nice time. It is a great place, and though it was at times a bit cold, it was great to let the kids just run and have fun with friends and animals.

Tashara helping Jacob at the petting zoo

while we were all there Alexia did a party at the zoo with one of her school friends.

Alexia with a turtle at the zoo

Alexia's friends at the zoo

The field trip the next day was incredible. Julianne, Jacob and Sabrina came. I love going to these places with the students and my family. We started out at Tel Gath, Goliath’s home town.

Tracks of a big cat we found in the mud at Tel Gath

It is so much fun to go there with Jeff Chadwick, who is one of the lead excavators there. He does such a great job of bringing it all to life and helping people understand the archaeological process.

Jeff Chadwick explaining the archaeological squares at Tel Gath

Then we went to Mareshah, and saw the bell caves created by quarrying (great acoustics there, so we sing). Then we saw a great ancient olive press and an ancient columbarium/dove cote. Fun stuff.

Sabrina with friends inside the bell caves

Students inside an ancient olive press

Me teaching while Jacob held on to me

Sabrina helps Kent Jackson take pictures of a flower

All along the way we were teaching them about the geography of the Holy Land, and especially the low-lying hills called the Shphelah. There are five valleys coming into the low and high hills of the country, and each has an important fortified city in it. On this field trip we do four of the five valleys and cities. Mareshah is the city for the Guvrin valley. Julianne taught them a lot about this on the bus, and then we helped them remember it again and again throughout the day. At Mareshah we also go to some pretty fun Idumean/Sidonian tombs. Nothing to great historically there, but the students enjoy it, and it helps bring home a good historical point about when the Idumeans live in the area. Herod is rumored to be from that place.

Poppies starting to come out, and a turtle

Afterwards we went to Lachish. This is my favorite tel in the Holy Land. It is so easy to see the gates in this place, and the drama of the stories there are so powerful. I hope that we helped the students to picture in their minds’ eyes the stories of ancient Israelites trying to hold out against the Assyrian, and later Babylonian, invaders. They can see the siege ramp, the counter siege ramp, the threshold of the door that they so desperately tried to defend.

Threshold of the gate at Lachish

This place is always moving to me, and I hope that they were able to picture it as well, and identify with the people, and have it come to life for them. I think it happened a bit for at least some of them. Lachish is the fortified city of the Lachish valley.

Jacob with his friend Lani on the field trip

From there we went to the Elah valley. This is where the David and Goliath story happened. We had little Sabrina re-enact the story with our largest student, Brock, who is 6’5”. Everyone had fun. We also talked about the meaning of the story, and the faith and perspective of David.

Sabrina slaying Brock in the Valley of Elah

Then everyone gets a turn with their own sling. It was pretty muddy, but pretty fun.
Then we went up to Azekah, the guardian city for that valley. It is a spectacular view, and helps you to see how the whole David and Goliath story developed. Great stuff. From there we went to the last valley of the day, the Sorek Valley. There we stop at its big city, Bet Shemesh, where we wrap up the story of the lost ark and talk about the whole Samson story, because you can see where most of it took place from there. It is a long, but phenomenal field trip. I love this field trip.
The next day was a fun. Not only did we have a very fun class, but afterwards I went with Julianne to Alexia’s class. They have been learning about Archaeology, and so I did a little presentation for them about archaeology. It was a lot of fun, and they really got into it. Jeff Chadwick let me use his trowel and brush (mine are in Egypt) to show them. I did a little power point too. It was a lot of fun, and afterwards they gave me a little potted olive tree as a gift. That night we had a fun time in scouts. We finished up personal fitness merit badge stuff and had a nice basketball game or two. BJ was on fire, hitting from all over the place. He was amazing, and we had a lot of fun.

Me teaching Alexia's class. Alexia is in the front wearing one of my hats

Other highlights of the week include some fantastic lessons with the students. They are so great, and we ended up with some really enjoyable, fun lessons. I also got some good research done, we had a wonderful forum speaker, and Julianne and I took Jacob and Sabrina back to Ein Kerem. We went to some of the churches that were closed when we were there last. We really enjoyed the Church of the Visitation. But probably even more than that we loved the Russian Orthodox church. We had to hike and hike up to it, it took a while to get there. But it was beautiful, and the view was spectacular. I really, really like this place. Then we had a cub scout basketball game. The students were spectacular with Kaleb, he had a great time, and I was so impressed with them. Sabrina also wanted to play, so they were incredible with her. I loved how they treated her. We have such amazing people here.

Kaleb and Brock playing basketball

Sabrina and Brock playing basketball

We also had a very small birthday party for the two blond-haired, blue-eyed twins that Sabrina has decided she is triplets with, along with Jessica Bassett and Katilin O’Connor, two more of the students that we love so much.

The fun birthday party at our place

Another great moment was Julianne and I going to synagogue with a lot of the students and our friend Ophir Yarden, who teaches the Judaism class here. We enjoyed ourselves, and I love worshipping when we all read and sing together. What a wonderful thing. And they really know how to welcome in the Sabbath and they love it so much. There is something to be learned there.
I am also starting to feel a lot more healthy. I read the news and can’t believe what is going in on Egypt. We will have to see where this will go, but I feel like we have been a little piece of history. That is nice, since here what so often happens is that history becomes a piece of us. Both are good.

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