Saturday, May 28, 2011

Abraham, Arad, Arabs, and Birthdays Ahoy!

After a few hours of sleep on Sunday the kids woke up, and we had a happy reunion. It was wonderful to be with them again (though I could have used a few more hours of sleep before they came to say hi). We played some games, gave some presents, did some shopping, and tried to get all settled in again. It was a nice day. For BJ’s birthday (a few days away), we went with a group of students to see the movie Pirates of the Caribbean IV, and had a great time. We dressed up as pirates, we sang on the way down, and enjoyed the movies. It was a lot of fun.

The next day we went on a field trip to the Negev. The whole family came with us. We had a nice bus ride down, and then we stopped at a place where Bedouin women weaved rugs. They taught us how they did it, and how it was a way for them to help support their families. It was nice, and the kids had fun. Then we went to a place where Bedouins are making a more permanent home. Apparently the time was spent, for the most part, with a leader talking about how they don’t like what the government is doing with them. I wouldn’t know, I was tired enough that sitting with Jacob on my lap on a cement floor, leaning against a cement wall, I slept through the whole things.

Julianne with some of the women who are learning to read on tables donated by LDS Philanthropies (along with other stuff).

The Bedouin village

This cement floor is more comfy for sleeping on than you would think

Tashara learns to weave from a Bedouin

What I do know is that it took too long, and we got behind schedule, and had to cancel part of the Biblical portion of the field trip. I didn’t like that very much. Still, we went to Tel Be’er Sheva, and had a great time going through the site. (site info: 940 ft. above sea level, N. 41* 08.662 E. 029* 03.461). We spoke of Abraham (though he lived over in the area of the new city, where we ran out of time to go) his well, how he and Isaac and Jacob spent a lot of time there. We read the accounts of his digging a well there, making covenants with the local inhabitants, of Isaac doing the same, and talked about how the place plays into all the great Patriarchal narratives (such as Jacob leaving from there to go into Egypt, etc.). I also taught students how ancient gates work, and case mate walls. This tel was a small citadel, used primarily for a military outpost, a government center and a place to collect taxes and tariffs. It was probably built by Solomon. It was at least partially destroyed by Shishak/Sheshonq, who called it the fortress of Abram (preserving the memory of Abraham in that place), and was rebuilt later. It witnessed the wars with the Assyrians and Babylonians. Oh, if those walls could talk. We looked at the replica of the altar they found there, talked about temples, worship, turning to idolatry, etc. We later looked at where they probably had a temple in the town that had ended up becoming idolatrous and being destroyed. There are a lot of great lessons in that. We especially talked about how easy it is to start out in the right path (as with that temple) and yet slowly start to worship both the right and the wrong thing, which will always turn us away from the right thing eventually. It was a great site, and I think everyone enjoyed it.

The family at Tel Arad. We have to wear hard hats because we go underground in a water system. Of course we do that several places here, and this is the only place you have to wear a hard hat. But we are glad they make us do it once, where else can we look like Bob the Builder's family?

Replica of the Altar at Be'er Sheva

From there we went to Tel Arad. It is a climb, because it is 1848 feet above sea level. This is a great citadel, you can really get a feel for an Israelite fortress there. It served a similar purpose and had a similar history to that of Tel Be’er Sheva. There are two very interesting things about this site. A collection of ostraca were found there (broken pottery shards that were used to write on). Some of these, from around 600 BC, contained writing that used Egyptian script to record Hebrew words and numbers. Enough was found to make it seem that there was at least a small school of Jewish scribes who had long been using Egyptian script in their own way. Interesting for readers of the Book of Mormon.

The fortress of Arad

The other thing that is interesting there is the clear remains of an Israelite temple. The altar is still there, the holy of holies is apparent, as well as altars of incense. The other thing there are two standing stones used to represent deity. The fact that there are two indicates that this temple too probably became idolatrous as well, so we revisited our message of how we worship both God and other things at the same time, and how easy it is to start doing that, but how problematic it is. It was a powerful time. I think my family enjoyed it.

The Holy of Holies at Arad

This is one way of taking the family to the temple, even into the Holy of Holies

The altar at Arad

We had a long ride home, but it went quickly enough. And the next day was BJ’s birthday. I think he had a good day. We made his favorite meals, the class sang happy birthday to him, we played games with the students, etc. BJ has grown so much lately. He really looks like a young man now, and is just a hair shorter than his mom now. The next day Julianne spent most of the day getting ready for Arab night. It was a huge success, everyone seemed to enjoy it. And then the next day we finally got around to taking BJ in to the doctor to have them look at his wrist. The doctor couldn’t see a break, but said it was hard to see a break in that area and that the indications were like a break. He sent us to a specialist. He did more x-rays, and still couldn’t see a break, but felt like there probably was one. So they put BJ in a cast, and said to keep it on for 3 weeks. If it still hurts after that we will have him x-rayed again, and if not we can just take it off. Poor guy, it seems to still be causing him a lot of pain.

BJ's birthday (how did he get so old?

Arrr. matey! For BJ's birthday we went with some students to see the 4th Pirate's movie. Get ready to swab the decks ye rapscallions!

Thursday was also Jacob’s birthday, and he turned four. He also seems to have really grown a ton lately. He looks really big. A lady in the store saw him the other day and guessed he was five going on six. He looks like it to me too. He is becoming so much fun, and learning to control his craziness. He had a great day, playing a ton and loving his cake and ice cream and presents, etc. Everyone is growing so much. It is hard to believe this is our last birthday we will celebrate here. Life just goes so fast, and our wonderful time here is starting to wind down.

Jaker's b-day!

We also had Arab night this week, and as always, the hardworking Julianne put together something fabulous!

Alexia and Joan in their accidentally matching dresses

Sabroina, Tashara and friends at Arab Night

We are Arabian looking, yes?

For me, I spent most of my free time this week tying up loose ends from Turkey. We are trying to refine the trip for others, and write down lots of notes, etc. It has taken a lot of work. I am also trying to tie up lots of loose ends. But the best part of the week was being back in the classroom. It seems like it has been a long time since we were there, and I do so love teaching these guys this wonderful stuff. This week we did Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, and Saul. These are such incredible topics with so much depth and richness to it. I loved being in the classroom with my students again.

My beloved class

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