Sunday, July 10, 2011

Two weeks gone by too fast

It is getting to that hectic period, and it won't get better until we have been back in the states for a while. So, I am going to have to give up on as much detail and as many pictures, and just get done what I can.

Sunday was a great day. Julianne went to the house of our friend Willeke Kunibe, a Dutch woman who married a Palestinian man, converted to Islam, and has been living here for something like 35 years. She works for Dukkak travel agency, who handles all our travel out of the country. She came with us to Turkey and Julianne and she hit it off. Today she had the ladies from the JC over to learn how to make lots of the traditional Palestinian pastry thingies. They spent all day there. I played with the kids a bit, but mostly they spent the day getting ready for the talent show. They practiced skits, songs, shows, etc. all day. Then that night we put on the Judd/Muhlestein kids talent show. There were sword fights, songs, puppet pals, gymnastics, guitar songs, Jacob told stories twice, and it was a big hit. The kids loved it, and as always, the students made them feel like a million bucks! I also played in a basketball tournament that night. My leg, which I thought had gotten all better during Jordan, started to really hurt me again. It was hard to play, and I really limped my way through the day.

Monday was my least favorite field trip, because we went to the Holocaust museum. BJ came, and while this stuff is terrible, I think it is good for him to go to. This time I decided I just really didn’t want to go through one more time. So I went with them through all of Ophir’s excellent preliminary lecture, then when they went inside I waited at the end. A few students couldn’t take it and came out pretty early, and I shoo’ed them back in. Several came out weeping and most were emotionally exhausted. I am glad I did not go in. Afterwards we had the great lecture on Mt. Herzl by Ophir. All in all it was a good field trip. And that night our wonderful friend Lynde Mott arrived. Poor woman, her flight was delayed, but she made it. She is such a wonderful, giving, thoughtful delight, and it is great to have her here. I think she is going to love it here.

I did my last two classes with my Old Testament class. It is hard to believe that is already over. It is hard to believe I am done with those OT field trips for a long time. While I am excited to be with my new class, I am having a hard time dealing with the idea of not meeting with my old class anymore, or of not teaching Old Testament here anymore. I have so, so very much loved helping students learn to understand and love the OT. I have reveled in their coming to see its patterns, symbols and meanings. It has been a wonderful experience, I don’t like that it is over. And I really don’t like the idea of my OT students going on field trips without me with them. I really, really wish I was going with both classes on these field trips. I so want to take them all through them. Not that I don’t think Frank will do an even better job than me, but that I want to share in the experiences with them.

My OT class on our last day together

I have not been able to go with Lynde to very many places. Julianne has taken her all over the place. She has gone everywhere with her, and they move fast and do a lot. I joined them for the touring around the temple mount where the Savior would have gone in and out of the temple. I really had the distinct impression that I kind of interrupted what was an amazing flow between the two of them, and that Julianne would have done a better job of showing her that place than I did. Julianne is so amazing, and really knows this stuff. I was able to take Lynde and the Oliver family to the City of David, with BJ, and that was fun and I had a great time. I really like doing that stuff with BJ, we have a lot of fun together. He and I walked home together after that, and it was great. I also gave my final. That was an interesting day. Julianne and Lynde were gone all day, heading to Ein Gedi, Wadi Arugot, the Dead Sea, Qumran, the Baptismal Site, Jericho, various places in Jericho, and Wadi Qelt.

Lynde and Julianne at the Western Wall together

Lynde in a mikvah near the temple

I tried to watch the kids and get stuff done. Eran wanted to talk to me for a while. He was “irritated” at an email I had sent wherein I had outlined a way I thought we had not planned as well as we should have and had failed the students in a small thing. It took us a while of going around and around to get that thing worked out. The kids had been doing pretty well during all of this and then they wanted to go play in some places, and I thought that they were behaving well enough that it would be okay. I went to collect Kaleb, Alexia and Sabrina from the Bomb Shelter/Nursery. I got there five minutes before I was supposed to give my final. There I found that the floor was covered in a thick layer of water and bubbles. They had made an incredible mess, and I did not have time to clean it then. I sent them all home, and gave the final. Then I went to get Kaleb and Alexia and have them clean it up, while BJ watched Jacob and Sabrina. While we were cleaning, trying to be very quiet because we were right next to where the Islam class was being held, I suddenly heard Jacob and Sabrina yelling in where the class was being held. I just couldn’t win for losing today. But it all worked out okay in the end, and hopefully some children learned a thing or two.

The next while became a blur. We went lots of places with Lynde. I think she was really enjoying it, but I think we also worked her too hard and wore her out too much. Some of our more memorable outings were to Ein Kerem (she loved the Church of the Visitation, where Elizabeth supposedly lived and Mary stayed with her there. This church has great artwork), to the valley of Elah, where we did some slinging like David, and where we drove our 4 wheel drive vehicle up onto Sha’araim to come to really understand the whole story, and to Beth Shemesh. We had wonderful times, and she is great to be with.
On Friday I began my New Testament class. It was very enjoyable. I miss my other class members very much, and it will be hard to see them do field trips with someone else. But I really enjoyed starting this class with these guys. It is going to be great. On Monday we had our first field trip together. It was also the 4th of July. So, once the bus got going I brought out a flag I had printed, and we did the pledge of allegiance and sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic, the Star Spangled Banner, and sang along with Lee Greenwood to I’m Proud to be an American. We went to the Herodion, a fortress palace that Herod built, both as a place he could be safe if there were an uprising, and a place to serve as a mausoleum. The lower part has a huge pool, lots of palace buildings, a Roman Bath, and a ton of things to explore. The upper part is a huge fortress. We had lots of time to look at the landscape and explore the areas inside. We finished ahead of schedule, and still had a call from the other bus about how they had finished even earlier and were hoping we could get done soon so we could go to Bethlehem University together. I told them we were going to finish a bit early, but it was always my plan to use the time we had on site to our best advantage and that we would not let other people being nervous about time take away from our good time. I did a small spiritual thought tying in Herod’s tyranny with the 4th of July, we explored the tunnel system, and left. I felt good about how it went.

At Bethlehem University we had the usual propagandistic smack, and then the students got to enjoy spending time with their students. My kids had been great on this field trip so far, and during this part they just watched a movie near the bus. Then we went to a great lunch in the Tent restaurant. Then we went to Manger Square. For the first time my children went inside the Church of the Nativity. It was empty. I have never seen it so empty. It is amazing to be there with no one else. We were able to look at everything we wanted to, and teach everything we wanted. We still had to hurry through the part with the manger, they just make everyone do that. Ah well. We sang a little in St. Catherine’s, the catholic part of the church. All in all it was very nice. The students got a little shopping time in Manger Square. And then it was off to shepherd’s field.

Family at the "birth spot in the Church of the Nativity

At shepherd’s field we did a little filming for our family movie. Then we had all the students stand at the crest of the hill where they could see so much. I tried to get them to picture people like Ruth and David there. I tried to help them picture angels and the Savior there. Then we sang one song and I let them have some time for their journals. During that time BJ explored down in the valley a bit. He went to the watchtower, which he liked, and scared out some gazelles (or gazelle like creatures). I saw them running along for a long time. Very cool. It made me think of what kind of animals would prey on gazelles. Lions came to mind. And then I remembered that David had killed a lion somewhere around Bethlehem. Somehow the story became just a little more real to me.

Filming at Shepherd's Field

Then we retired to a sheepfold. We had some musical numbers and by then were out of time. Se we got on the bus and had a very nice testimony meeting all the way home. On the whole I think the whole things was a great success. I felt very good about it.

No matter how much I have known the reality of the condescension of Christ when he deigned to come down to this world as a mortal baby, every time I look over at the hills of Bethlehem it becomes more real to me. While I love being in Bethlehem itself, and I like to think of his birth there, I never have a chance to have a nice moment in the Church of the Nativity. I like the place, but they hurry you through too much. I wanted to talk to my children about the birth of Christ there, but it just isn’t possible. But when I go to the fields across from the city, where you can look over at Bethlehem, and picture the shepherds hurrying there, and picture Mary and Joseph traveling there, and picture the star, and think of what happened there, it always strikes me as so amazing the Christ would come to earth in that way so that he could rescue us. This time I thought of what it must have been like for that great being to take his first breath in that little, mortal body. Oh how he must love us to be willing to go through that. How real it is. Jesus Christ is real! He really came to save us! This is such an amazing and wonderful truth!

Bethlehem and surrounding hills

Meanwhile, Lynde had been through a relaxing morning. Then she had met up with a friend of ours, Rebekah Call, who had taken her through Bethlehem on their own. I think she had an adventurous and great time.

The next morning Julianne, Lynde, BJ, and Tashara packed up and went to Galilee. They went to all sorts of places all day long. That night they did a service project at the Tiberias Branch House, which needed a lot of weeding done. They spent forever doing that, then had a great night sleeping on the roof, saw a great sunrise, weeded some more, saw a ton of great stuff, and dropped Lynde off at the airport. I guess she was pretty worn out by then. Julianne worked her hard. I think we also underestimate how much of a toll it takes on someone to see and hear and feel so many very new and foreign things. We have been doing that kind of thing for enough years that we are kind of used to it, and forget how tiring it is for most people.

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee

In the meantime, the other kids and I had a great time. We did some fun things, they played on computers a lot, I got a lot of work done, including some good work on my book about God’s love in the Old Testament. I am getting close to finishing that. All in all we had some very nice days. Friday they planned for us a great 4th of July celebration, even though it was the 8th by then. It was the best BBQ I had ever been to. So much good food. They even made cheeseburgers! Amazing, you can’t do that here, yet they did. We had great music, and the students danced with our kids on their shoulders. We had a carnival with 3 legged races, fishing for prized, marshmallow bobbing, etc. It was a very fun night. Sabbath was great. Tashara spoke in Sacrament meeting, and did very well. Alexia spoke in primary and did very well. We visited with lots of students, pretty much all day long. All in all it was a very nice family day.

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