Saturday, May 14, 2011

Jericho and more!

Another amazing, fast, and too packed week. This week was spent mostly in getting ready for our Turkey trip. There are so many unknowns in that trip, it is going to be an adventure.
Sabbath was great. I set apart 20 or so people, we honored mothers, and had great meetings overall. I really enjoyed my Sabbath. That night we had a great time acting out some Bible stories for the students and having them guess what story it was. This is a very fun Sabbath activity, one that our family and the students seem to love a lot.

Those ruffians inside of Jericho

Daniel as he comes from the lions' den

One of those bad counselors who wanted Daniel in the den

The next day was Mother’s Day. We never get to celebrate it on a non-Sabbath, so we went to town on this one. Sadly, first we had a meeting. But after that we cleaned the house for Mom, got everything ready, and then went to Jericho to do some filming of our Nativity movie, which is what Julianne said she wanted to do the most. We went to Herod’s winter palace, and there shot the wise men coming up to Herod. It was hot, but we had a good time. We won’t mention the part about how while we were filming Jacob wandered off to the local farmer’s goat barn and was hanging out with the goats and the local Palestinian man. Then we went down into Jericho. We stopped at the little market in the middle of town and bought water, ice cream, and lots of groceries. From there we went to Wadi Qelt, where you can see the road that goes between Jericho and Jerusalem. We put Tashara/Mary on a donkey there and filmed her riding toward Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It went really well. What a beautiful area.

Herod's throne room

A cool bridge by Herod's palace

Wadi Qelt

Then we returned home, but stopped on the way and bought some chicken for dinner. When do you get to buy dinner for Mom on Mother’s Day? It was wonderful. The kids were great troopers. Sadly, Alexia was feeling a bit sick.
That meant that the next morning when it was time for the whole family to go on a field trip, Julianne needed to stay home with Alexia. That meant that Jacob couldn’t go. Pretty soon most of the kids didn’t want to go, so only BJ came with me. I was looking forward to this field trip with them, but we did most of the stuff yesterday, so the interest was gone, and that is okay I guess.
This is a great field-tripping group. They are at the bus on time, they get on and off the bus quickly, they listen well, and they are great! We pointed out Bedouin, sea level, the different kinds of wildernesses we go through, etc. on the way down. Our first stop was Herod’s winter palace. On the South side we went through the story of the Hasmoneans, their building a palace there, of Herod coming to power and marrying into the Hasmonean family, of his building more and more at the palace there.

Ray Huntington and BJ at Herod's palace

We walked across the wadi, pointing out various architectural features along the way, especially a bridge that was built across the wadi. Then we came to the palace with the apse and throne room, a little pool, and several columns, including one that still has some of its original, fluted plaster on it. Everyone loves this cool palace. If Jesus really was born in December, which I think is fairly likely, then it is quite likely that Herod was in this palace when the wise men first arrived in Jerusalem and started inquiring about the baby who was born King of the Jews. If that is the case, I don’t know if Herod would have come up to Jerusalem to question them or if they would have come to Jericho to meet with him. In this part of the palace we read the account of Herod’s death in the New Testament and of his death and funeral in Josephus.

students walking from one part of the palace to the other

From there we went to tel Jericho. Of course I bought some love nuts there because Jericho’s nuts are better than anywhere else we have bought some. On the way we talked about the Jericho being the city of Palm trees. We pointed out Moab across the river, and how during the period of the judges Eglon and the Moabites oppressed Israel, and gained control of Jericho, and shared the story of Ehud rescuing Israel.
Then we went up on to the tel. It is the lowest city on earth. Some say 670, others 870, some 1000 feet below sea level. My driving GPS puts the parking lot at 656 feet below sea level, my handheld geocaching gps puts it at 718 feet below sea level (N. 31* 52.159, E. 035* 26.632).

students as we read about Joshua on top of Jericho

We went to the covered area and looked at the landscape, and talked about Joshua bringing the children of Israel across the Jordan and how it divided in two. We pointed out about where Gilgal probably had been and spoke of the children of Israel coming from Gilgal up to rescue the men of Gibeon, where we had been one week prior. Then we read the account of the fall of Jericho. We went and saw the 7000 BC building, the oldest building on earth. We saw some of the trenches dug by Kenyon, and talked about the various walls and her mistakes in dating things. We also pointed out where what had once been a squalid refugee camp was now a very nice Palestinian neighborhood. We also pointed out the Mt. of Temptation.
From there we went to the southern edge of the tel, where you can see some Italian excavations that have taken place in the last few years. Here you can now see the glacis (retaining wall) that would have been there when the Israelites came in, and on which the wall would have stood. You can also see some mud bricks that are all that remains of a wall that had been on top of the glacis and now is a rubble pile at the bottom of the glacis. It is incredible to be staring at the wall that fell. We took the opportunity to speak of how the Lord can bring walls down flat for us in our own lives.

Elisha's spring

We took a moment to go to Elisha’s spring. We paid Tawfic, the spring house manager, a little money and got right into the spring house to see where the spring that makes Jericho live actually comes out of the ground. We read the account of Elisha and Elijah going across the river, Elijah ascending to heaven, and then Elisha coming back and healing the water of the spring with a cruse of salt. We spoke of how the Lord can take that which would often seem to ruin our lives, and use it to heal things and make our lives amazingly abundant. Wonderful, beautiful moments. Those who wanted to drank from the spring. Good stuff!

students drinking at Elisha's spring

Then we went to a bit sycamore tree in the New Testament part of town. (just south of OT Jericho. Roman cities were often not on the hill of the OT cities, but spread out below them). It is 799 feet below sea level, N 31* 51.545, E. 035* 27.444. This wonderful old tree is the perfect place to read the story of Zacheus climbing a sycamore tree to be able to see Jesus, our Savior, and then having him over for dinner. This was the Savior’s last stop before going to Jerusalem to be crucified. We also read the story of the healing of the blind men as he was going up to Jerusalem. We spoke about the journey he would have taken, and what he may have been thinking of, as he went up to that holy city one last time.

Taylor at the sycamore tree

And then we went up. We drove up the road, and turned off to go to the Wadi Qelt overlook. We first hiked up a steep hill, so that we were on the ridge looking down into the wadi. From there you can see the St. George monastery. It is supposed to commemorate where Elijah was fed by ravens and the place where Mary’s father was supposed to have been told he would have a child. We talked a little bit about Elijah there.

St. George's Monestery

Then we hiked along the ridge, and stopped part way along. From there you can see both Jerusalem and Jericho. So we talked about the road to Jericho. (2891 ft. above sea level, N 31* 50.453, E. 035* 24.760). We spoke of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and drew some lessons from that. We talked about the Savior’s last journey to Jerusalem. We talked about the Savior being tempted in the wilderness, and how this area is the traditional site for that. We also talked about the valley of the shadow of death. It was a wonderful moment, a great time. So beautiful, so peaceful, so powerful. Then we headed home, and got there exactly when we needed to be there. It was a great field trip, so powerful and wonderful. It was my first time to do a field trip with Ray Huntington, and he was so great to work with. I think the students has a wonderful experience. I know I enjoyed it.

Ray Huntington teaching the students about the valley of the shadow of death at Wadi Qelt

I do not know why, but this time it has really struck me as sad that I probably won’t go back to Jericho or Wadi Qelt again. I sure love those places, and it seems weird that I may not be back there for several years. I will miss coming to know the places better each time, coming to understand the land, the people, and the Savior better continually.

goats at Wadi Qelt

Soon it was back to class, getting ready for Turkey, and trying to get a few research things done. One nice thing we were able to do is have a leadership training with Elder Pieper of the Seventy. It was a very nice meeting. We also had a great forum this week by a Palestinian Christian. We did several Turkey prep meetings, a Turkey orientation meeting with the students, and I got to visit with a few students a bit and get to know them better. Frank gave an excellent lecture on Paul’s travels, and a little bit of John, having to do with the places we will stop in Turkey. BJ and I continue to attend Jeff Chadwick’s ANES class, which is great and we always learn in there. Jeff is such a good teacher, and so good with the students. I have also been able to play basketball with the students and BJ a bit, which I really like. All in all, it was a nice week, even if a bit stressful as we try to get ready for Turkey.

leadership meeting with Elder Pieper

The week ended in a strange way. Sunday is the day that the Palestinians memorialize as the “day of disaster”, or in other words, the day the State of Israel was created. They started to stage protests and riots today after prayers as a result. They barricaded roads, started fires, threw Molotov cocktails, etc., etc. They did it right outside or place.

police near the small riot

The riot police came by and chased them, put the fires out, etc., and then they all did it all over again. It stayed pretty mild, but we were put on lock down. Apparently in the next village over, one of the Palestinian youth was shot with live ammo instead of rubber bullets, apparently it was a handgun, so it was someone local, not one of the police. Still, the boy has died, so things will get a lot more tense. We will have to see how it all goes. Oh, how we pray for the peace of Jerusalem!


  1. Its weird seeing other students there! I hope you are having a great new semester. Give your family a great big hug for me!

  2. I hope things settle down over there. Can't wait to hear about the Turkey adventure. Good luck!