Saturday, April 2, 2016

Galilee ends, we are blessed!

Last Sunday was a great day. I taught class, and I felt like it went really well. It is so much fun to cover these wonderful topics with these wonderful discussed great topics such as raising Lazarus from the dead and the Savior’s love and mercy. I had a wonderful time.

Our apartment at Ein Gev, on the shores of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee during a small storm
Waves on the Sea of Galilee during a small storm
Then my family and I went to a really cool place called Gan Garoo. Gan means garden in Hebrew, and it is an Australian animal zoo, so they made a cool play on words with Kangaroo. They have all sorts of animals that are found in Australia. We got as close to some Koalas as I have ever been able to do. The highlight was probably that we could feed and pet kangaroos. Even the little Joeys played with us, and we watched them crawl in and out of their mother’s pouches. We played with goats and birds and saw all sorts of cool stuff, often being able to touch the animals. It was a really cool experience.
Crazy Weird Bird at Gan Garoo
goats getting up on the kids
Koala at Gan Garoo
Kids petting kangaroos at Gan Garoo
Jul lounging with lounging kangaroos
This little Joey loved Tashara
When we finished that we hurried to a really cool castle called Belvoir castle. It is a Crusader castle that is largely preserved. We didn’t have much time there since we got there after they were supposed to stop letting people in and convinced them to let us in by promising we would leave before it was time to close. So we ran and ran through it, and had a great time. It is big, well built, and has some cool passages to go through. What could be more exciting that going through a cool crusader castle with your family?

The family in Belvoir Castle, Israel
The family in Belvoir Castle, near the Sea of Galilee
Our family storming Belvoir Castle, near the Sea of Galilee
On the way home Tashara realized that her phone had fallen out in the castle. But it was closed, so we were going to have to wait until the next day to go get it. But that night we had a wonderful little bonfire where we talked about Easter, and it was beautiful. It is so remarkable to think of Christ while on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. His life is so real! Some have referred to the land here as the Fifth Gospel because of how it bears witness of him. It certainly does to me. Everywhere I turn I am reminded of him and how real he is and how much his life blesses ours. He is real, his ability to help me is amazing!

The boys in front of our Galilee apartment
View of the Sea of Galilee from our door
Where the students stayed, next to us
The next day was quite rainy, so the family, who have all been to the places we were going today already twice in the last two months, decided to stay home and relax and try to get Tashara’s phone. They did get it, and they had a very nice day.

Beautiful Sea of Galilee
More of Beautiful Galilee
In the meantime, off in pouring rain we went on our field trip. Andy and Janet Skinner were with us, and they are so fun and wonderful to be with. We went to Mount Tabor, and before we got there it stopped raining. A cloud come in and covered the mountain, so that when we were fifty yards from the huge church we still couldn’t see it. We went in and saw a bit of a wonderful mass going on, and Dr. Skinner taught about the transfiguration. We went into the Moses chapel there and sang and talked a little more. Then we went out and talked just a bit more. It was pretty cool to talk about the transfiguration, where it says a cloud descended, while we were in the midst of a cloud on Mount Tabor.

The church on Mount Tabor, in a cloud that descended
learning about the Transfiguration of Christ from Andrew Skinner on Mount Tabor
 We also tried to look out over where the story of Deborah and Barak took place, but since we could only see about ten feet, we just imagined it. Still the story went well and I think we learned a lot about how God fights our battles for us when we turn to him.

Then we drove to Megiddo. It rained while we drove, but got better by the time we got there. As we were in the visitor’s center it rained a lot again. But it stopped by the time we were ready to come out. We went to the gate system and talked about Thutmosis III and Solomon, and even sang a song about Solomon’s gates. We showed them all sorts of cool things there, and Dr. Skinner taught them about Armageddon. He did a great job. We had fun seeing a huge site, and then we moved on.

Students learning about Armegeddon on Tel Megiddo

The family stayed and enjoyed seeing fishers at the Sea of Galilee
Playing in the Sea of Galilee
Jacob and Kaleb loved catching frogs at the Sea of Galilee
As we drove I taught them more about the Jezreel Valley and in particular about the stories that took place at Tel Jezreel as we drove past it. Then we drove to Ein Harod. I have been trying to get them to add this as part of the field trip for a while, and with some help from Phil we finally convinced them. We went up on the hill and looked out over the valleys where the story took place and read about it. Then we went below to the spot of the spring and finished reading the whole story. I had purchased a bunch of little pots, so I blew a pretend horn, they all turned on their phone flashlights and broke the pots and yelled “The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” It was a fun time, and they all seemed to enjoy it.
We went home and I enjoyed being with my family. We played games and visited for a long, long time. It was a beautiful evening, and we were as happy as could be.

Students wandering around near the spring at Ein Harod
Reading the story of Gideon next the the Spring of Harod
View from Mount Gilboa next to the Spring of Harod, where Gideon's army was, looking over at Mount Moreh, where the Midianite army was
The next morning we all left early and went to Tel Hazor. There we sang the song about Solomon’s gates again. Then we talked about Joshua conquering the city and burning it and looked at the evidence for it. We talked about how when God helped Israel there was nothing they couldn’t overcome, and how it is like that in our lives. Then we went out to where the watchtower is, and talked about watchtowers. Dr. Whitchurch spoke there and tried to make a good point about watchmen, but it fizzled a bit. We didn’t talk there much about how Israel was scattered from there, but I covered it with them later. I love Tel Hazor, and we had a great time there.

Tel Hazor in the spring
Jacob and Sabrina on the watchtower
My class on the watchtower
Then we went off to Tel Dan. I love that place. We taught them all sorts of things, such as about the geography, history, how the Jordan flows from there, and used that to teach about living water and relying on God.

The Jordan just down from one of its primary sources

The Jordan as it springs forth from rocks. There is no water on the other side of these rocks, this is one of the places it begins.
We got to the place where the golden calf was built by Jeroboam.  Dr. Whitchurch taught nicely there, and I added a bit. I made sure our students understood that this idolatry was the beginning of the end for Israel. In many ways the scattering of the northern ten tribes began right at that spot as Jeroboam built a golden calf.

The High Place for the golden calf, and the replica of the altar, at Tel Dan
Tashara and I with our matching hats at Tel Dan next to the high place
My students learning from Dr. Whitchurch next to the high place at Tel Dan
Then we taught a bit about the politics of the area. This was an area that was on the border with Lebanon and Syria originally, and where many battles were fought. It is amazing to sit and look into areas where that happened, and to see how close we are to Lebanon.
View of Lebanon from Tel Dan
A tank leftover from earlier conflicts next to Tel Dan, along the "green line.:

Me explaining some things at the old border
Jacob going through the bunkers at the old border
Kaleb, Tashara and Alexia with Lebanon behind them
We went to look at the gates. We talked about gates in general, teaching about what kinds of things happen at gates. Then we talked about Christ being the keeper of the gate. We spoke of him being the one who is the judge as to whether or not we can be allowed into the city, but also the advocate, the one who both pronounces and makes clean. He is the one who makes it possible for us to go from one type of place, the world, to another, heaven. At an ancient gate a judge was supposed to take care of the poor. He was supposed to use the supplies of the city to care for those who cannot care for themselves. Christ is the one who is at the gate, and he enables all of us to have what we need to come through, if we will just present ourselves willingly there. It was a nice moment, I thought.
Jacob in the place of Judgement at the gate
We also spent time at a gate through which I think it is likely Abraham passed. He rescued his nephew from this place, and certainly fought outside this gate, but we don’t know if he went through. In any case, it is always nice to be where Abraham was.

The Abrahamic era gate at Tel Dan (known as Laish in Abraham's day)
From there we went to a beautiful waterfall, and then to Banias, known in Christ’s day as Caesarea Phillipi. It was in the area of Caesarea Phillipi that Christ asked Peter whom men said he was, and who the Apostles said he was, as recorded in Matthew 16. Whitchurch taught about Peter’s testimony, and did a fair job. Not as powerful as would be ideal, but fair.

Waterfall of Banias, near Casearea Phillip
Students at Banias/Caesarea Phillipi

Sabrina at Banias/Caesarea Phillip. Here is another source of the Jordan, as water springs forth from the rocks after melting on Mount Hermon above
From there we went to Nimrod’s Castle. My kids love it there. I gave a stirring speech to my troops, delivering the speech Aragorn gave to his men at the Black Gate. Then we stormed the castle, with the other group defending. It was a lot of fun. Then I just went around with Jacob, trying to make it everything he wanted it to be. We had sword fights and explored, and on the whole he had a wonderful time.

Part of Nimrod's castle as seen through windows from another part
The remains of Nimrod's castle
During the bus rides Julianne and I told them the story of our getting married. They always love this, and we try to make it a story they can learn from. It is always an adventure.

Then we went to Har Bentel. There we could see to the outskirts of Syria. We went over the story of Paul on the Road to Emmaus, and then some of the modern political situation. We hurried home, ate dinner, and then Julianne and the kids drove off for home. It was sad to see them go. I have had such a great time with them here. Apparently on the way home they had an adventure with the door of the van coming off while at a gas station. Kaleb helped Julianne fix it. Good for him. They made it home late, but safe. Meanwhile, I attended Andy Skinner’s class on the crusades so that I would know what he had already taught them when I got to Akko the next day.

Last dinner at Ein Gev

Sunset over the Sea of Galilee
The next day was mostly great! We started out going to Akko. Before we got there I gave them a bit of a primer on the bus, helping them understand a bit more about the crusades. Then I lined them all up and divided them into groups, and had them re-enact the third crusade takeover of the city, when it was made the capitol of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. Then we went inside and I walked them through much of the Hospitalar complex, showing them all sorts of stuff that I think was interesting and educational. I felt like it went really well. I took them to the courtyard and we had a sword fight. It was fun, and this time I lost a round, first time ever. I think they had a good time. Then we gave them a worksheet and had them run around and fill it out using some of the signs that were there. They learned a bit from that, but it wasn’t as useful as I thought it would be.
Then we took them through the city, where I taught them a bit about the rest of the city. We did the Templar tunnel, and came out at the Sea Wall on the Med Sea. I taught them about that harbor, and also about Paul’s journey home and how he stopped there. On the whole I felt like the whole thing went really well and that the students learned a lot.

From there we traveled to Sepphoris. Whitchurch was taking them through there. He got us in pretty quickly and had us sit down outside a beautiful mosaic floor. Then he took 45 minutes to try to teach about the deceitfulness of riches. We got through it.  
Mara (Hebrew for Mary), with a Roman period stone manger behind her. This is similar to what the Savior would have been in
Students learning at the model of Sepphoris
He took so long we had to rush through everything else. 

Finally we left, and we drove to Chorazin. Thank goodness I had looked into what the hours were for the place, it saved us. This is one of the three cities the Savior spent a lot of time in. We taught about it, its history, and since the synagogue there actually has a Moses seat in it, we spent some time on the idea that the Savior said the Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat, so they needed to be listened to. I feel like we had a decent lesson there, but it wasn’t my best lesson ever. We went around and saw a number of worthwhile things, and then it was time to go. It ended up being a pretty good field trip, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been.
Britney and Courtney, sisters, at Chorazin
That night I packed up. The next morning we loaded the bus and said goodbye to Galilee. I was on my own the whole day, and it was just fun. We went to Mount Carmel, and went over the Elijah story. There is so much we can learn from that. I think we had some wonderful moments there. I was pleased to see that when we finished with free time some of my students went back to the place where we had our devotional and sat and read their scriptures there. We also went up to the overlook and helped them get a feel for the land and the valleys. I think they are really starting to get a feel for the place. I come to understand the geography and how it interacts with the stories better and better all the time, and I think I have done a better job than ever of helping the students get a feel for it. I am happy about that.

My students reading on Mount Carmel
Apparently priests have had problems with fire on Mount Carmel before
The groves of Mount Carmel
My students atop Mount Carmel, getting their bearings
We did a quick trip to look over the B’Hai Gardens. Then we went to a cemetery where we saw the headstones of the first missionaries and converts to the Gospel in the Holy Land in the Latter Days. It is always nice to do that. Then we left for Caesarea.

Looking over the B'hai Gardens
Singing at the Haifa cemetery
Caesarea is a giant place, and it went well there. We went to the theater and went over the history of the place and stories associated with it. Then we went to the Palace and went over Paul’s speech to Herod Agrippa and Festus. We had some nice moments there.

at the Palace of Caesarea
We went to the hippodrome and told some historical events that took place there, and then did horse races. Then we went to the bay and saw Whitchurch teaching for half an hour to a bunch of students in Allred’s class who had all fallen asleep. I gave my students some free time. Then we saw a movie that helped explain the place. Then I showed them the harbor, and could explain it better than ever before because I had just done a scuba dive there one week before. Then we went out the crusader entrance, and drove to the aqueducts.

Getting on the bus
Counting to see if everyone got on the bus
They had a great time on the beach, and then we loaded up and came home. On the way home they asked me to talk about the Book of Abraham, so I did for quite a while. They also wanted to know about some other things I have researched, so I did that too.

At the aqueduct of Caesarea (Caesarea Maritima)
Students enjoying the beach
 I answered questions for quite a while, and then I finally gave them some free time. We got home just in time for dinner. I got to see my family, and then we went and ate, and we had a very nice evening. It was so nice to be home.
I was so tired I fell asleep early, and slept for nine hours. I can never sleep that long. It was nice.

In the morning I taught class, and it went well. We talked about the Triumphal Entry, about the Savior’s encounters with the Pharisees, etc.

When that was finished I visited with Phil for quite a while. He is such a great guy, and I so enjoy being here with him. It is a blessing and a privilege. Afterwards I exercised, visited with Julianne, and tried to catch up on emails. I spent my time doing that even after the kids got home, until it was time for us to go join Ophir’s family. We went to meet him and his kids, and then walked together to his synagogue. The synagogue was a bit more empty, but it was nice. We enjoyed our time there, and then walked back to their house with them.

I have always, always wanted for my kids to see how a Jewish family does a Shabbat (Sabbath) meal. Ophir was kind enough to invite us to join his family for one. He went through so, so, so much work to make this happen. We got there after 8 (the time change made it so that synagogue started later). The candles were lit ahead of time, and we just helped them get it all going. We started with a special drink of grape juice. Then they gave their kids the Shabbat blessing for kids. It is a combination of a blessing in Genesis 48:20 and the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26.  For the sons they say “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh,” and to the daughters “May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.” For both they then say “May God bless you and watch over you. May God shine his face on you and show you favor. May God be favorably disposed toward you, and may he grant you peace.” They both put both hands on each child’s head and gave them that blessing individually.

Then we sang a number of song welcoming in the Sabbath and giving thanks to God. It is beautiful. We also did hand washing. Then we ate huge, yummy artichokes. Then we had deliciously stuffed cabbage, and the yummiest carrot concoction ever, and a yummy potato thingy, and chicken, and some other yummy stuff. Then we sat around and talked and enjoyed ourselves for a very long time. Eventually we had desert, and then said the closing prayers. We got home about midnight, and everyone was exhausted. But it was a great experience, and everyone was touched.

Fortunately the next day we all slept in. Then we had church. I started testimony meeting, feeling inspired at the last minute to speak about how much Christ can heal us of all that we need to be healed of. Then the students, who seem to realize it was their last testimony meeting here, took up more than the hour in bearing testimony. It was a beautiful, wonderful meeting. The rest of church was nice also. I especially enjoyed being able to teach the primary children what a redeemer was, and how Christ redeems us. It was fun. Afterwards I counted tithing, visited with Julianne’s brother David on the phone, and we watched old family videos together. I said some prayers for my fast, and we ate dinner.

At dinner we had some great conversations. We talked about how to have more harmony and peace in our home. We talked about what we learned from last night’s Shabbat dinner. I am so grateful to Ophir’s family for having us over, it was a profound experience for us. The kids came up with several things they would like to do differently to make Sabbath more special. I am excited to do these things. I am very much looking forward to it. We talked about what fasting really was and how to fast in a true spirit of fasting. We had a great time together. Our kids are getting old enough that we can have some wonderful and real conversations together on Sabbath. I love it!

Then we got ready for conference. I can hardly wait to watch it.

We are so blessed. I just can’t believe all that the Lord does for us to help us draw closer to him. So, so, so blessed!

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