Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sweet Galilee Final Installment

I am too far behind, I can't really catch up if I keep trying to post lots of photos. So I am going to just put the text in and a few pictures, but not many, and try to get caught up. Here goes:

From here on out it was all doing field trips in earnest. The next day is one of my favorite field trips ever. We first went to Hazor. This is a very important site, the largest in this part of the land. Joshua left his fingerprints on the city writ large. It is also a very cool city for considering the deportation of Israel by the Assyrians, since this was an important stronghold that they overtook and from thence our Israelite ancestors were scattered. There is another large Solomonic gate here. It is so fun to see all these touchstones with history. I think the students love it.
From there we went to Tel Dan. This is a beautiful place, an incredible reserve. We get to see the headwaters of the Jordan springing out. We walk through a peaceful forest. Then we come to the actual high place where Jereboam built the golden calf for Israel to worship. I tell the students we are on ground zero. This is one of the key places that led to the destruction of Israel. We talked about how we may be like the Israelites. They worshipped both Jehovah and false gods, and I think we try to do the same as we follow God and false cultural and educational ideas given to us by the world. We had a really nice devotional there. We also saw the large gates present at Dan (including the spot of the Tel Dan inscription), and a gate where it is quite likely Abraham passed through. That is all so cool.

Tashara, Kaleb and I at Ceasarea Phillipi

From there we went to Banias/Caesarea Phillipi. This is the spot where Peter declared that he knew Christ to be the son of the living God. We talked about the significance of that event, and the setting for it. I think it is beautiful and significant. I gave them some time to ponder and think about things. Then we went on a nice hike to a beautiful waterfall.

At the waterfall

From there we went to Nimrod’s castle, one of my favorite places. Here Kaleb and I pulled out our toy swords, and off we went to storm the castle. We had so much fun running around and exploring. This is such a cool place. Some of my favorite places in it were shut off to the public as they do restoration work, yet still I found places I have never seen. Room after room, tunnel after tunnel, window after window. The most amazing thing is how beautiful all of it looks with the flowers springing up everywhere. So cool. Kaleb, Tashara and I had the time of our life.

Kaleb and I fighting at Nimrod's Castle

From there we drove up onto Mt. Hermon, and then over to an overlook whereon we can see into Syria and almost to Damascus. As we arrived there was a big storm, and the clouds were so heavy that we could not see more than 15 feet down the mountain. Our view was a complete bust. But suddenly a big wind came and blew the cloud out. We could see another big, black cloud blowing in right behind it. But, as we watched, the wind pulled the curtain of cloud away from the valley, revealing in shining shafts of sunlight the view we wanted. For three minutes we had this view, just long enough for Jeff Chadwick to explain what we were seeing. Then the blackness overtook us from behind, the sunlight disappeared and the valley was hidden in roiling black billows, and we were nearly blown off the mountain. We marveled that we had been given this brief glimpse of what we wanted so much to see. As we walked to the bus we looked at the view on other sides of this mountain. Here and there a cloud would part, and sunlight burst through. For a brief moment we could see both Mt. Tabor and Mt. Hermon at the same time, the two likely spots for the Mount of Transfiguration. This was a wonderful sight. The beauty of the storm interplaying with the sunlight for miles and miles all around was awe-inspiring. The magic of our moment was overwhelming. It was really surreal, almost too much to believe had really happened because I would not have believed it possible if I had seen it with amazing special effects in a movie. It was too moving and too good to be true, and yet it was.
I was made nervous by the news that night that Kent and Nancy Jackson would leave us mid-way through tomorrow to go to a doctor’s appointment in Jerusalem. Since Kent was planning on doing major parts of the next two field trips this shocked me. I knew something important was up. That night we had a fun bonfire. It had rained a bit, but we did it anyway, and it ended up being a ton of fun.
The next day Jeff Chadwick led us through Sepphoris. That was great. This is a cool town with a great history, and lots of stuff to see. It is quite possible that the Savior worked there as a builder. In any case, it is cool stuff. And some of the most beautiful mosaics in the country.
From there the Jacksons left us, and we went to Akko. Here I was the guide for everyone. I went through some of the history of the place. It has a lot of cool history, but the most important part is from the Crusades. For some time it served as the capital of the Kingdom of Akko. There are amazing buildings there. This was especially an important place for the Knights Templar and the Hospitalars, two orders I think are pretty cool. I walked the students through many of the coolest places, telling them bits and pieces of things here and there but trying to keep it fun. In the great courtyard I pulled out the toy swords and challenged them to a fencing duel. An extra point on a quiz to anyone who could beat me, two out of three touches. I fenced through three matches, and two of them had even taken fencing before. We went until the swords broke. No one beat me, and I think we had a great time.

Martin and I fencing

We also went through a couple of cool tunnels that were used from escape, transport and sewage. Fun stuff.
We ended at the coast, on the Med. We learned about how they built the harbor there. Then we walked up to a nice beach and spent about fifteen minutes there. Then we went on the long drive home. It was a great day. That night we did another bon fire and roasted marshmallows, etc.
It is always sad to leave Galilee. It is so beautiful, especially this time of year. It is so peaceful. The Savior is so much a part of the place. You can think of him and almost see him in every nook and cranny, in every field and flower, in every bend of the river or curve of the shoreline, in a hundred ruins and a dozen ancient synagogues. Jesus’ imprint is indelibly on the land, and whenever you drive you think of him and his stories. You are amazed at how much he walked, how far he traveled as he spread his love, power and message to a people he loved so much in a place he loved so much. It is a place that you fall in love with, and that is so hard to leave. This is a special place. This is the Savior’s place. O Galilee, sweet Galilee, where Jesus loved so much to be.
But leave we must, and so we did. We packed up and went to Haifa, to the Templer’s cemetery there, where we went over some of the history of some of the saints there. Touching stuff. Then we look over the Bahai gardens and the bay, beautiful stuff. Then we drove to Mt. Carmel. I love this place. We found a little spot and went over the story of Elijah. This is a sacred story, and I loved it. I separated from the Judd class this time so that we could have a time of instruction and peace without the crassness of the re-enactments. I would guess it wasn’t too bad this time, I have tried to teach that class about keeping the sacred sacred. I don’t know what they did, but our time was wonderful. We read through most of the story, stopping and talking about it as we went. What an incredible story. So much faith, so much passion, so many lessons, so many symbols. I know I was touched. When we finished with the story we found the chapel open, so we went in and sang. It was not as amazing powerful as last time, but it was so sweet and wonderful.
Of course the lookout was great, but not as great as I would have hoped. The clouds came around and we could only see some things. Yet it was nice, and I enjoyed it. I think the students did too.
On the long bus ride home we had a very nice time. Kaleb has been the hit on the bus rides. He loves to get on the mike and talk. He tells jokes and stories. They seem to love him. He is a good kid. Today he suggested that instead of a Holi-day we have a Holi-month, a month of celebrating something. So, he declared April to be charity month. This month we will celebrate charity. What kind of 9 year old kid comes up with that? What a good kid he is. I am proud of him. We have had a very, very nice time together.
Our last stop was Caesarea. That is a very large, very cool place. It also plays some significant scriptural role, in that Paul and Peter were there. It was from here that the gospel was extended to the Gentiles. That is pretty cool.

Kaleb, Tashara and I at the aquaduct that fed Caesarea

On the way home I talked to the students about the whole trip. I was overwhelmed with how much I love them. They are such good people. The Church is in good hands with them at the helm of the future. The Lord has sent the best to us here. We try to give them the best, and make them even better. As I look at them I can see how many great people we have that will do such great things. Life is good.
Sadly, when we got home we had a meeting with the Jacksons. Nancy has cancer, and they are trying to figure out how to treat her. So very sad. I think she will have a good recovery, but we will be praying for her. It has turned out that they will leave within a week, and not be back while we are here. This is so deeply sad. We have loved being with them. We have loved everything about them. I cannot imagine better people to work with, this has been a dream team. I am so glad to have been here with them, and will miss them so much. They are the best people in the world. God bless them. God help us.
The next day I just tried to catch up, and did a review and helped my students get ready for a midterm. It is good to be with my family again. I am so behind. But I can’t complain, I have been doing the best stuff in the world with the best people in the world in the best place in the world. It really, truly does not get any better than this.

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