Whoa!!! How can the weeks fly by so quickly? How can so much happen and yet it is over in the blink of an eye? I can’t keep a handle on all that is happening around here.
We started classes. I think class will be great. The students seem eager to learn, and this is material I love to cover. We get to cover the best topics in the world. I had a great time with them. Of course we were behind by the end. I spent most of the week behind, but by the end we were caught up. How can you get better than topics like the Abrahamic Covenant, Abrahamic Sacrifice, the House of Israel, temples and seeing God, Joseph’s story, and Moses’ story. This is heady stuff, the best stuff ever.
View of the Dome of the Rock from our balcony rose garden (just outside our window)
BJ, Jul and I are also sitting in on Chadwick’s class. He is so good, and so much good stuff happens there. We are all really enjoying it.
The children are having a more difficult time this semester in getting used to the new students. Actually, Jacob seems to be doing better, which means he is not terrible. Sabrina, who never struggled, is really struggling. I think everyone is emotionally spent. I think she is just not sure if she can do it again, if she can give her heart away and then have them leave. But we will all get over it, we will all do it again. These are great people, it will just happen. I already find myself as quite taken with so many of them. I sense a real greatness among them.
Sabrina with Erica and Angela at Gibeah, on the first field trip
We had a great field trip. It is the first one, and we try to help them get familiar with the geography of the nearby areas and come to understand that they really are in the place of the Bible. It is so great to see the look on their faces when you show them where a miraculous story took place. You see the excitement rise when they realize that this is real, that these things they have always heard of really happened here. Here is a summary of the field trip (this semester I am trying to include more information about what we do on the field trips, providing an almost virtual summary of them).
First we went to Gibeah of Saul. 2754 ft elevation, coordinates N. 31* 49.385 E. 035* 13.856. Important things that happened there: Man who needed lodging did not want to lodge in Jerusalem with Jebusites, so came here, Benjaminites raped his concubine to death, all Israel nearly destroyed them as a result (Judges 19). Saul goes from here to look for his lost asses and is anointed king. Somewhere between here and where Samuel is, as he comes back, the spirit falls on him, he starts to prophesy, and becomes a new man. Saul sets up his capital here, with palace, etc. From here Jonathan smites Philistines (1 Samuel 13) Here David plays the harp for Saul. Here David and Jonathan became friends. Here Saul tried to kill David. Here Michal lowered him from the window and put a statue in his bed. Here Jonathan warned David, and their amazing friendship was cemented. So many incredible stories from there.
View of Beth-el from Gibeah
butterfly at Gibeah of Saul
Then we went to Nebi Samwill. 2891 ft. elevation, coordinates N. 31* 49.169 E. 35* 10.855. Here you can see a Crusader parade and stable ground. Richard the Lion Hearted was here during the 3rd Crusade (1192). He saw the city. He never made it in. This was called Mt. Joy (or Montjoi) because at dawn of July (maybe June) 7, 1099 the Crusaders first saw the City from here. Other pilgrims cried for joy from here, it was always their first view of the city. From here pilgrims would walk barefoot carrying their crosses the five miles to Jerusalem. From here you can look down on ancient Gibeon/modern day El Jib. The people from Gibeon tricked Joshua into making a treaty with them (Josh 9, and first part of 10). In Joshua 10:9-13 you read of the battle that Joshua and the Israelites against a league of cities that had come to attack Gibeon. It was here where great hailstones rained down on their enemies. It was here that the sun and moon stood still so that the Israelites could slay their enemies in the Aijalon valley before night. It is so amazing to look at a place where something like that happened.
Sabrina with students at Nebi Samwil.
Other things that happened here: 2 Samuel 2:12-17 – David’s followers defeat Abner at pool of Gibeon. In 1 Kings 3:4-13 we learn that it was at Gibeon where Solomon had an experience with the Lord in which he was granted wisdom. Wow, imagine an event like that happening in a place you can see. We also have them Look out over the plains of Benjamin, the hills of Ephraim, and know Beth-El is just over the ridge. This is the Ridge that separates the two kingdoms. I try to help the students understand that as they look at the hills of Ephraim they are looking at their ancestral homeland.
Student being shown about phylacteries in the synagogue at Nebi Samwil, built to honor the Prophet Samuel
The Crusader chapel/mosque/synagogue built to honor Samuel, with the flags flown at half mast because we were there on Holocaust Remembrance Day
Then we go to a hill next to Mar Elyas where we can get a great overlook. Info: 2736 ft. elevation, coordinates N. 31* 44.059 E. 035* 12.774. We look around and see modern and ancient landmarks (ie. Bethlehem, Herodian, etc.) We point out border (rain shadow) between arable land and Judean Wilderness (about where Herodian is). Rain shadow causes Jerusalem to receive 25” a year, Herodian receives 5”. Rachel’s tomb is just beyond checkpoint in Bethlehem. In the areas we can see Ruth gleans in the fields just outside of Bethlehem (Ruth 2:1-2). David is anointed king in Bethlehem (1 Sam 16:1, 13). Of course place of Savior’s birth. Lehi probably went along this route past Herodian. Look south, to Hill country of Judah. This is the way of the Patriarchs, ie. Abraham came this way to sacrifice Isaac.
Looking at Bethlehem from Mar Elyas monastary
Then we went to Haas Promenade. Info: 2895 ft. elevation, part of a series of promenades envisioned by Teddy Kollek. Just below Ascension tower is hill of corruption or Mt. of offense, where Solomon built worship sites for his foreign wives (read 1 Kings 11:7). Just above is hill of Evil Council, where Jews (Caiphus) agreed to kill Jesus. Tradition holds that it is the first view of Mt. Moriah that Abraham had. From here we can look over and see three hills: furthest to right is Bethany, then Bethphage, then Mt. of Olives. To avoid wadis the route from Bethany is through Bethphage over to Mt. of Olives and down to Jerusalem. Bethphage is the starting point of the triumphal entry. Bethany is site of several important stories surrounding Jesus. We can see the three important valleys: Kidron, Hinnom, Tyropean. Also we point out City of David and Mt. Zion, the Dormition Abbey is site of Mary’s final resting place and is visible. This is the original Mt. Zion.
Students in the chapel at Augusta Victoria. Half go up to the tower to see the sights, and half sing and learn how to "read" a church. Then the groups switch
Then we go to Augusta Victoria. Info: 2688 ft. elevation (I am suspicious of this, I will recheck). N. 31* 47.242 E. 035* 14.914. This is the highest point of Mt. of Olives, so we read Acts 1:9-12, about the ascension of Christ. From up in the tower we can see the Jordan valley, wilderness of Judea (site of Jesus fasting, etc.), the Hill country of Ephraim, the Kidron and Hinom valleys are seen more clearly here, as well as the way of the patriarchs and the Herodian.
Mosaic from chapel in Augusta Victoria
Then we go to Seven Arches Hotel. Info: 2895 ft. elevation, N 31* 46.529 E. 035* 14.575. We can see very well the large Jewish cemetery. We review City of David and Valleys, and point out Gihon Spring (site of anointing Solomon)1 Kings 1:38-39. We review where was Solomon’s temple, and extended platform built by Herod (read Matt. 23:37-39, John 18:1).
I think it was the best we have done with this field trip. Jeff Chadwick was at his best, helping us see the various points all around us. And darn it, we had fun too. Sabrina was the only one who came with me. She had a great time. She was so good and did everything just right. She was so excited to show everyone the right way to go at Nebi Samwil or Gibeah. She was so sweet, so cute, and everyone loved her (of course, they always do). This was a great day.
Jeff Chadwick pointing out a block from Sauls's palace at Gibeah of Saul
Students and Sabrina going past crusader ruins at Nebi Samwil
It was a week of working on Church callings. In the last week we extended 68 callings, and I think I did about 35 of those. I am pretty sure I set apart about that many or more as well. It is exhausting work, but exciting. I love working with these great people and coming to get to know them a bit better.
We also went to the Western Wall, and had a great time. I helped the men understand what was happening there, and what they should do. We prayed at the wall. We did some dancing with the dancing groups. I found a prayer book that had Hebrew and English in it, and I read the prayers for them in Hebrew and they repeated it in English. It was a great time.
We have also been getting ready to go to Turkey. This trip is going to be a lot of work, but it is going to be great! I am so looking forward to it, and I am trying to learn as much as I can to be all ready for it. So much going on, we are cursed with too many good things. Thank the Lord!