Monday, September 28, 2015

From Arad to Synagogue

Sunday the 13th was a great day. We had a pleasant, relaxed morning. Then we went to Bet Shemesh, where we met the Fellows family. From there we went to the tel together, and we explained all of the things we were looking at in regards to both the story of Samuel and the story of Israel losing the Ark of the Covenant. It was getting pretty hot, but everyone seemed to enjoy learning about what we could see there. Because it was so hot we held off for a while on telling the full story. We did let the kids have some time to explore the archaeological remains there.

The Sorek Valley where Samson spent so much time
Then we went north just a bit, around the hill, to where you can drive up through the Eshta’ol Forest. Samson grew up going between Estha’ol and Tsora, so the Eshta’ol forest is a good place to do more of the story. We drove around until we found some a nice place for a picnic. There we ate and went through the story of Samson in detail for the two seminary students and all the older kids. The younger kids heard part of it and then went to play in the forest. It ended up being a very nice time.

Eshta'ol Forest
More of the Esthta'ol Forest, where Samson grew up

On the way home we went to a grocery store we had heard about that is in a part of town we never go to. It was in the basement of a big mall. It was a really nice store with good prices and lots of products we don’t usually see here, including some Kirkland products. We enjoyed getting some things that are hard to get, but soon it became apparent that they were closing the store as part of getting ready for Rosh Hashanna (Jewish New Year). We were the second to last one out of the store, and it was only about 3:30. Our problem was now that we had been ushered out on one side of the huge mall, the mall itself had closed and they wouldn’t let us back in, and we were parked all the way on the other side of the mall with a whole bunch of big grocery bags to carry. The streets around there were one-way, so we weren’t sure how to get the car there. But I left everyone sitting in some shade and went on my ten minute walk to get to the car and then figured out a way to get the car to them. The kids were very happy to not have to carry the groceries all that way.

We spent the rest of the day getting ready for the big field trip tomorrow.
The morning came early, but we were pretty ready so it wasn’t that hard to get up to the bus on time. It is important for us to be early to everything because our family is definitely not supposed to slow down the students. My kids were great, they were there ten minutes early, ready to roll.

It was a great field trip. It started out with a very long drive. I explained a few things to the students, and checked on our kids a few times. They were each sitting with a student and seemed to be enjoying themselves. On occasion one of the students they were next to fell asleep and they got a bit bored, but mostly they had a great time visiting and getting to know people.

The bus on which we tour all around Israel

After almost two hours of driving we arrived at Tel Arad. This is a great place. It is mentioned in the Bible because the Israelites fought them under Moses, and again under Joshua. It became a huge fortress later, and witnessed people like Shishak and others. 

Students learning from Dr. David Whitchurch at Tel Arad

It had a functioning temple, and you can still see where the Holy of Holies is and you can still see the altar. It was a great place to teach about gates, writing (they found a lot of ostraca), temples, and worshipping more than one god (a problem they apparently had there). I feel like we had a really good time there with a few powerful moments.

The students looking down at the temple at Tel Arad, where I stood teaching them about it

Our family in front of the Holy of Holies of the Israelite temple at Tel Arad

Then we went to the lower Canaanite city, which had been occupied long before Israel came on the scene (from even before the pyramids). There David Whitchurch taught them while Jacob followed lizards.

After that we only had the briefest time to walk around and see the Canaanite ruins. We did stop by a well where Brother Whitchurch showed Alexia some owls that were in there.

Overall it was a great site and the students learned, were edified, class purposes were furthered, and we had a great time.

Then we drove out to Beer Sheva (Beer Sheba). This is a wonderful place. It is nearby the modern town, which is located where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would have been. They spent so much time in this place, it was great to sit and read the stories about them there. There really is a power in reading the stories that have to do with a place while in that place. 

Dr. Whitchurch teaching the students at Tel Beer Sheva

We were also able to talk about how false worship crept into the town and temple that were there. The broken altar that was found there, reconstructed in the entryway, provides a great opportunity to do that. We also had a great discussion about gates again, and David Whitchurch did a powerful job of teaching that and tying it into Christ being the keeper of the gate. It was a wonderful moment, and really touched me. We were able to do some good stuff with the archaeology there, and even taught about how the Anzac trail went through there. I really enjoyed myself.
Then we drove to Tel es-Safi, or Biblical Gath. 

Dr. Jeff Chadwick teaching at biblical Gath, or Tel es-Safi, where he excavates
We all hiked up quite a ways and had a great time learning from Jeff Chadwick about the excavations there. It is always fun to learn from the person who does the excavating about a site. It is quite a hike, but worth it. The view is wonderful, the feel you get for the land is great, and the stories associated with Gath are outstanding. Jeff is so animated and does such a great job teaching! I think we all enjoyed it.

Students getting on the bus or getting water from our coolers under the bus

Of course it had been a very hot day, and the steep hike up was a bit much for some of my kids. They were pretty ready to be done. To begin with Jacob and Sabrina were really struggling. But I started to get them to do races, etc., and they came alive and had a great time. Alexia had a hard time, she just wanted to sleep. But the students were so great with all of them. All day my kids were so very good, and the students were so very good with them. I was so proud of my kids and how they learned, behaved, and interacted. Overall it was an outstanding day!

At Gath with two students who bought hats like mine. There is nothing like a Camel Leather hat!!
And then it was back to school. Classes are going very well, though there are so many questions and so many important topics that it is hard to stay caught up. These students are very good. They are on time or early for everything. They are on and off the bus quick, respectful at sites, good about when to take pictures and don’t do crazy pictures, and they are absolutely excellent in the class. I so enjoy these classes with them. This week we covered materials such as the covenant on Mount Sinai and how much God wants to reveal himself to his children, How the Passover and a bunch of other elements of the Law of Moses point towards Christ, and how the Law also teaches about the Fall and overcoming the Fall, about how we can learn of faith and the atoning power of Christ while studying the wilderness wanderings, about how understanding Egyptian religion can help us understand the plagues and exodus a bit better, how we can see God’s love and mercy even in episodes of destruction, and a whole bunch of other good things. What a fun week it was in the classroom. What a good bunch of students we have. Because our kids had Tuesday off, Tashara came to class and the orientation for Turkey as well. She also went to the evening Forum where Jeff Chadwick got everyone ready for the history and archaeology of Turkey. She is really trying to get a lot out of her time here.

I also spent a lot of this week getting ready for being in Turkey all of next week. I also got some normal work stuff done, which was nice. Things with my calling are moving along. We set apart a lot of people. We extended calls to the rest of the students, and did a bunch of other little things to make sure that the Branch is functioning well and everyone is being taken care of. I serve with great brethren and it is a wonderful experience!

On Thursday Julianne came with us for the field trip prep trip. When we get back from Turkey we have half a day free and then we are back on the field trip road going to Jericho. So we stopped by Wadi Qelt and talked about how we would do things there. 

Dr. Jeff Chadwick talking about Christ not turning stones to bread at the temptation in the wilderness

Then we went to Herod’s Winter Palace, which has changed a bit, and it was quite fun to explore that a bit. 

Julianne at Herod's Winter Palace near Jericho

I really enjoy working with Phil, David and Jeff, and having Julianne there as well made it all the better. What fun it is to explore these places (even though I know them well) and talk about what to teach and learn there. Sometimes it is hard to believe I get paid for this!

A donkey who said hi to me at Herod's Winter Palace near Jericho
From there we went to Jericho and explored that site, which I always love. We also went over to Elisha’s spring, which is a site I have very fond feelings for. There are so many stories to love that are associated with that place! We also swung by New Testament Jericho, which also has some great stories to tell. Then we got home and had a great time with our kids.

Jacob and Sabrina have had some difficulties with some kids in their classes who aren’t as nice as would be ideal. We have been trying to deal with both of them. I think we largely have Sabrina’s solved because her teacher has been so kind as to move seating arrangements around to get Sabrina away from trouble and next to a great girl. I think Jacob’s is largely working out also.

Friday morning was a bit rough. I try every morning to wake the kids up in a nice way, but some of them don’t wake up well and are quite mean in the morning. When they were complaining about being woken up and how they were woken up I tried to reason with them, and they kept getting crazy and I had to try to talk over them and eventually had to silence them all. I laid it on the line about how whether they were tired or not, whether they were wanting to get up or not, they needed to do what they should do and they should be nice while they do it, no excuses. I got after them pretty hard. It was a rough moment, but as the morning continued on they were all very loving and nice with me. Hopefully this makes some kind of difference.

On Friday the kids got home early, as they always do on Fridays. But I wasn’t able to spend much time with them because I had to make sure I was so busy getting ready for the Turkey trip. We did have a hurried dinner, and then we went with several students to a synagogue service. It was quite enjoyable! I love how the kids learned about how much you can be happy about the Sabbath and how you can welcome in the Sabbath. 

Ophir Yarden, our Judaism teacher, teaching my family and some students at the synagogue before going in

I love singing in Hebrew and praising God. I got to know just a little bit a nice lady who does some archaeology here and who was guessing we were the Mormon students. I reveled in the fact that we closed the service by praising God, singing Hallelujah several times in a context where my kids can actually see how they were praising God. It was a delightful experience!!!

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