Saturday, October 17, 2015

A bunch of Olive Pickers!

For church we watched General Conference. Then we visited together as a family for a long time. That evening we went to the Fellows’ house, where we had popcorn and ice cream together and visited for a long time and really had an enjoyable, delightful evening. The power of friendship always amazes me.

Sunday started out with a short little trip to the Elah Valley. We went as a family and met the Fellows and a new family from Tel Aviv who has a seminary age student, and went through the David and Goliath story. We first went to Azekah and went through the story there, as well as all the other things to talk about there, such as the line between the Philistines and Israelites, the Assyrian and Babylonian destructions there, etc. 

Azekah from afar

Another view of Azekah
It was amazing how six days earlier it had been so dusty there that the dust poofed up in clouds as you stepped around (the result of excavating), but after just a little rain the ground was great to walk on. Then we drove up to Kiyet Qaiyafa, which is probably Biblical Sha’araim. This is probably where Saul’s camp was during the David and Goliath story there. From there you can see how the Israelites could march down and cut off the Philistines after David’s victory and start slaying them “by the way to Sha’araim.” 

Kiryat Qeyaffa, probably biblical Sha'araim
View of one of the gates at probable Sha'araim (which means the two gates)

View of the Elah Valley, where David slew Goliath, from Kiryat Qeyaffa

Another view from probable Sha'araim to the Valley of Elah
Looking down from the Sha'araim area to the valley, the way the Philistines would have fled, and probably the "way to Sha'araim" where they were caught by the Israelites
Then we went down to the valley and slung stones again. I think everyone learned, and we had a great time.

Jacob and Sabrina walking to the brook of Elah

Teaching the seminary students and families about David and Goliath in the Valley of Elah

Seminary students and families slinging in the Valley of Elah

The seminary field trip group in the Valley of Elah.
 We got back in time to do some cleaning and then Jacob and Sabraina had some friends over to play. It is really good for them to have some peers to play with. It worked out well and I think everyone had a good time. We also helped people get homework done.

Monday was a fun field trip. We went to Ne’ot Kedumim, which is such a valuable experience for the students. They taught them about shepherding, and they shepherded some sheep and goats around, performing a few tasks with them. 

Our guide, Joanna, teaching about shepherding

It turns out that sheep and goats like fig leaves a lot
students herding sheep and goats
students trying to separate the sheep from the goats
We stopped and looked at all sorts of plants, picking and eating some.

Almonds at Ne'ot Kedumim. It reminded us of Aaron's rod.
Julianne picking a fig leaf (very Eve-like, don't you think?)
It rained once, and suddenly grass springs to life

Look at all the grass from that one rainfall! Exciting!
A sycamore fig
We ground hyssop, and talked about its symbolism. 

Grinding the hyssop

We drew water from a cistern and talked about how that worked. 

Getting ready to draw water from the cistern
And now we have the water!
We then made a bunch of food from scratch and had a great time. 

getting ready to make the food
preparing the lentil pottage
stirring the lentil pottage

making pita from just salt, olive oil, flour and water
Cooking the pitas
Dr. Whitchurch and I were the judges of who made the best pitas and pottage

We ended up with the Torah Scribe, Zachariya, who has become a friend of mine, teaching us about making Torah scrolls, reading them, etc. The students really get a lot out of this field trip.

Zachariya is a scribe credentialed to write Torah scrolls and also the passages for tefillin (phylactries) and mezzuzahs

Kosher writing pens (he gave me one!)

the materials from which you can make kosher Torah ink

Zechariya's 200 year old Yemeni Torah scroll

Zechariya reading from the Torah

Writing the Torah

The 200 year old scroll is beautiful

Me helping him unwrap the scrolls

I love these scrolls

The students were a bit tired when it was all over
 There has been some tension around here lately. We have been restricted from the Old City and East Jerusalem of late. A number of Palestinian youth, men, women, and boys, have taken to stabbing Israeli soldiers or people who just look very Jewish by the way they dress, etc. Sometimes they have used cars to hurt people too, but mostly it has been knives. Some of them have been apprehended, some have been killed. Every action causes a reaction. As we were leaving the field trip we got a call from Kaleb to let us know that the Anglican School was locked down for a few minutes as they assessed the security situation after another stabbing. They had to wait twenty extra minutes before the taxi could come in and get them. They were never in danger, but it made the little ones just a little nervous.

The Anglican International School in Jerusalem

On Tuesday the number and scale increased, and things got much more tense. The students were put on restriction, they can’t leave the building at all without it being an organized trip. They immediately began planning trips to the Israel Museum, etc., which ended up being a good experience for them. It has been sad because this week they had two writing assignments I have given them that were designed to get them out in the city and do some thinking and writing there. They had to do the writing in the Center, which is good, but not as good as we had hoped. Still, everyone is doing well and enjoying themselves.

I went to a dinner and lecture at the Albright Institute on Tuesday evening. It was a very good lecture, and I also made some very good contacts. I really enjoyed it.

The Albright Institute

On Wednesday we met with Joe Uziel, the archaeologist in charge of excavations at the City of David. He took us around the excavations, seeing parts of it that aren’t open to the public. I got a better feel for the gates and what was going on in the city than I have ever had before. He is a really, really enjoyable guy who really knows what he is doing. It was a privilege to get to know him and to better understand the massive walls and very massive gate that was constructed by the Jebusites and which served Israel all the way until the Babylonians came, about 1200 years after the walls were first built. Pretty impressive stuff. And it was so much fun to be there with my wife and good friends. We also spent a little time going through how we would do the field trip on Wednesday.

Joe teaching us outside the walls of early Jerusalem

Joe teaching us underneath some of the excavations

The walkway down to the gate so that people could draw water from the Gihon spring, which was protected by the gate
Julianne and our friends walking down along the massive walls of the gate
Some of the remains of the gate

reconstruction of the gates of Jerusalem, where the Gihon spring was (Solomon was probably crowned here)

Classes are going well. We are moving so quickly. We covered Isaiah this week, and the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel, and began covering the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah, covering Micah and starting Jeremiah. We are moving very quickly, but I think the students are really getting it. I so enjoy classes with them, they are such good students.

I got some good writing done on Thursday. Thursday afternoon we got the ladders and buckets from the Center and the Allreds joined our family as we picked the olives from three good sized olive trees. Next week we will press them for oil, but first we pick. I think it is such a great experience for my kids to be able to pick olives here in Jerusalem and just get an idea of what that is like. We had a great time together as a family, and will long remember it.
Tashara is beautiful even picking 

Kaleb picking olives

Jacob picking olives
Sabrina picking olives
Jennifer Allred and Luke Shaffer (a student) holding the ladder for Sabrina to pick olives
We were picking on a hill, so often we had to hold the ladders tightly for those on top picking
Phil Allred picking olives

Often Alexia just climbed the trees to pick what she could reach that way

The Allreds and Sabrina and Alexia show off most of the olives we picked

Tensions seem to be going down just a bit, though we will have to see.
Class on Friday was particularly enjoyable. Some questions from some of the students led us into a discussion that I felt was very meaningful. We really got into the kinds of things that become false gods for us today, and how especially the way we think and the things we value are so influenced by the world that we can end up worshipping both the world’s ideas and God’s at the same time. It was a wonderful day in the classroom.

Afterwards I got little things done for teaching, met with students about their midterm scores (always a bit painful), we went shopping, and all in all I had a great time with Julianne. Jacob and Sabrina had friends over again, I was able to get a bit more writing done, and we had some nice family time. Tensions rose again a bit today, but not as high as they were before. I have hope that things will smooth over soon.

the shopping center at Ramat Eshkol we often go to

In the early evening I went with Jeff Chadwick to give a blessing to a wonderful young lady. She is from the Phillipines, and like so many others, she is here away from her family taking care of the elderly and sending money back home. Many of these are women who go for a decade or more without seeing their children. This particular lady is due to give birth to her first child. She will be with it for a month, travel back to the Phillipines for a month, and then leave the baby there with grandparents while she comes back to work here. Heartwrenching! But it was good to meet her, and I intend to be of as much assistance to her as I can. I have been called as her home teacher, which is a system we have in the church where we make sure that everyone has someone who makes sure they are alright and taken care of. I will do what I can for this good lady.

We spent some time today talking about the great opportunity we have here as a family and how wonderful it is that we can grow closer to each other and God here. We are so blessed! That evening our family watched Princess Bride together. That is such a great classic, I just love that movie. We laughed and laughed together. It was a great ending to a great week. 

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