Saturday, February 13, 2016

Beauty All Around

We thought we had it lined up for me to go work with Dive Tel Aviv the next day. My wonderful wife has saved up for a long time and for Christmas gave me the gift of getting scuba certified. So we found a company that seemed like it would work for us. But they have been pretty flaky to work with. I thought we had it set up for me to go start my certification with them, but they let me know that morning that it was too bad of weather. So I didn’t go. It was terrible weather, but we hung out around the house and had a very nice time. I went up and played basketball with the students for a few hours and really enjoyed it. We played some games together and had a wonderful day.

The next day we got everyone off, and then we went on our field trip to the City of David. I was with Andy Skinner and we had a very nice time working together. I feel like we really helped the students gain an understanding of how that was Jerusalem for the longest time, and of some of the most important characteristics of the city. We saw what I think is David’s palace, we saw houses that were destroyed by the Babylonians, we saw a wall from Abraham’s day that very well may have been built by Melchizedek (though who knows). We looked down at where Isaiah met Ahaz and gave the Immanuel prophecy, and at where the Assyrian and Babylonian armies camped. We spoke of the difference between how Israel behaved when those two armies came, and I told them to repent like they did in Hezekiah’s day so they could be saved like they were in Hezekiah’s day. 

My class in front of the Middle Bronze wall at the City of David, perhaps built by Melchizedek

Then we went through the gate from that same time period that protected the Gihon Spring. We talked about anointing Solomon, and then we went through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. That is always fun. Then we went to the Pool of Siloam and talked about healing the man who was born blind. Then we went up to the quarry, and then up the sewer tunnel. It was so slippery from all the rain that I just kept my head down and made sure I didn’t slip. Somehow we missed the guy who was supposed to tell us we couldn’t go further without paying. So we just kept going, and ended up coming out in the middle of the Davidson Archaeological site. Oh well. We were a bit late by then, but got to the bus and got back. On the whole it was a great day. I know every time I go there, which has been a lot, I am impressed with the reality of the scriptures and the power of their stories. Not only are the scriptures true, they carry tremendous power. I am so grateful for those great men and women of the scriptures and the lives they lead.

My class coming out of Hezekiah's tunnel at the City of David
The next day was normal class again. But class here is never normal. We did more with the David story. My students are incredible, and we have amazing discussions all the time. I spent a lot of time the rest of the day refining a few articles. I have a lot of work to do and I am getting a lot of it done. It feels good.
Tuesday evening we had a farewell dinner for the Joneses who are leaving. I will miss them, they are such dear, dear people. The salmon was incredible. Then we had the formal talent show. Alexia played her viola, and she was incredible. There were a lot of really good songs. It was a nice time.

Alexia practicing for the talent show

Alexia performing on her viola at the Talent Show

The next day we had more in the way of a really good class. Such good stuff, and I think they are really coming to understand the Old Testament. It is exciting and fun, I love it!! Then I continued to get a lot of work done on some articles. I am really making good progress, and I am pleased.

Julianne worked the whole day (and a lot of yesterday), on our Arab Culture Night. She is in charge of it. She did a fabulous job and got everything decorated in a wonderful way. The chefs outdid themselves, and we had a fabulous dinner. The lamb was incredible. All the food was. We had a great time, and then I got a bit more done that night.

Our family and the chefs at Arab Culture Night

Jacob and I dishing up at Arab Culture Night

Alexia at Arab Culture Night

Our family visiting at Arab Culture Night
The next day my students took their midterm. They did pretty well, on the whole I feel like they have learned a lot and I was really satisfied with how it went. As soon as that was over I found Julianne just finishing teaching seminary (the kids have two days off school this week, but she still did seminary with them, just a little later). Then we joined the other faculty couples and went on a professional development trip. We went first to Ashkelon. Ashkelon is great. As we go on these trips I really need to work on adjusting my attitude. I am the kind of person that wants to go and do, and do more and more. But this group tends to get places and wander aimlessly at old granny speed. It drives me nuts because I know we could do so much more if we didn’t dodder on our way, but I need to work on just enjoying the ride and not worry about doing more. I had some success with that today.
Julianne at Ashkelon

The Canaanite Gate and Wall at Ashekelon

Jul and I on top of Ashkelon with the beach and Mediterranean Sea in the background

Flowers at Ashkelon

Among the Roman ruins at Ashkelon

A very cool olive tree at Ashkelon

Flowers in Israel in the spring are always so beautiful. This is at Ashkelon

Again, Ashkelon was great. It was a big Canaanite city, and you can see some serious remains of the Canaanite wall and gate. It was also a Philistine city, and you can see some remains of that. It also has some nice Roman and Byzantine ruins, which we enjoyed. And the beach and view of the Mediterranean from there is breathtaking. What a time! (N 32˚ 27.031 E 035˚ 37.060, 203 feet above sea level).
Andy Skinner and Phil Allred in front of a Roman Tomb we found at Ashkelon after we looked for a long time to find it.

Inside the Roman Tomb at Ashkelon
Then we drove to a place that looked over at Gaza and the border with Gaza. There was a nice memorial there about some of the wars to take over that area, and we spent forever and a month there looking at the same things again and again. Then we drove a half a mile and got out and looked at the view some more, and then we looked at it some more. I am glad to have gotten that close to Gaza. It is the first time I have really seen the city, and I am glad I did. It really helped to get an idea of the topography and the layout of these Philistine cities.

An up close look at Gaza

Another up close look at Gaza

From there we went to a place called Beeri Forest. It was very pretty. The poppies are really coming out, and it was a peaceful, beautiful, enjoyable place to walk around. I loved it, and Julianne loved it even more. 

Wild Flower at the Beeri Forest south of Ashkelon in Israel

Wild Flower at the Beeri Forest south of Ashkelon in Israel

Wild Flower at the Beeri Forest south of Ashkelon in Israel

Wild Flower at the Beeri Forest south of Ashkelon in Israel

Wild Flower at the Beeri Forest south of Ashkelon in Israel

Wild Flower at the Beeri Forest south of Ashkelon in Israel

Wild Flower at the Beeri Forest south of Ashkelon in Israel

Wild Flower at the Beeri Forest south of Ashkelon in Israel

Wild Flower at the Beeri Forest south of Ashkelon in Israel

Moss at Beeri Forest

Wild Flower at the Beeri Forest south of Ashkelon in Israel

Finally we got home to the kids to learn that they had enjoyed their day of doing nothing but lounging around. They felt it was a perfect beginning to a holiday weekend.
The next morning I taught class for two hours. We did the dedication of Solomon’s temple, and so for part of the class I took them out on the balcony and we looked over the place where the temple was and talked about building and dedicating the temple. It was memorable. We also had some marvelous discussions about idolatry and the Gospel in general. This group has such incredible gospel discussions. I love it!

In theory I was supposed to go start my scuba certification today. At 3:30 am they emailed me to tell me they would let me know in the morning when and where. But they never did email, and I still haven’t been able to contact them. I spent the whole day thinking I was about to leave to start my scuba certification, and it was a gorgeous day, but we never left and nothing ever happened. I did get some good stuff done, and we had some fun together as a family.

In the late afternoon we decided we would go out and walk at least some of the road to Emmaus. We did some of it last time we were here, so we wanted to get some more of it done this time. But we found that there is a new road, and a new bike trail, that goes the whole way. We explored it, driving all around, going off here and there, enjoying the beauty of the brook and the blossoming wildflowers. We found a delightful little playground in the valley just before it climbs up to Jerusalem. We marked the GPS coordinates of the playground and the road from Jerusalem that leads to it (N 31˚ 48.128 E 035˚ 12.272, 2176 feet above sea level), and recommend the playground and bike trail to anyone who ever wants to go there. We explored, played, and had a very delightful time. It was wonderful!

The Playground along the Road to Emmaus

An abandoned Arab Village along the Road to Emmaus

The Playground along the road to Emmaus

Then we came home, made pizza, and watch the original Karate Kid movie together. The kids liked it, and we taught a lot of lessons from it. It was a really fun night. Then we got the young ones to bed, told the older ones to take care of themselves and get decent sleep, and then Julianne and I watched an episode of White Collar together (we have been working our way through that here). We had a great evening.

Earlier this week we noticed that Kaleb seemed taller. We had measured he and Tashara over Christmas break, and they were either exactly the same height, or maybe Tashara was a millimeter or two taller. But when we measured them now, he was an inch and a half taller. That means that in six weeks he grew an inch and a half. We marked how tall he was. Three days later he was a quarter inch taller than that. I think he is in the middle of a serious growth spurt. This is exactly, precisely, when it happened to BJ, during January and February of his year here. Hmm, funny. Alexia is really growing right now too. Fun!

The next morning I was hoping to sleep in, but some noises around us woke both Julianne and I up, and we weren’t able to go back to sleep. So instead we just visited and had a nice time together. Then we got ready for church, and had a wonderful time at church. We go to church with such delightful people. Afterwards the kids and I worked on things for Jul’s birthday, and I took a short nap. Then we had a wonderful dinner together, and played games, and visited with Julianne’s parents, and on the whole had a perfect evening together. The kids are doing so well, and life is great!

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