What a week! We began by getting together with a group and going to Caesarea. There Tashara and I did scuba diving, while others snorkeled. Then Tashara and I snorkeled with Julianne, Phil and Alexia also. We saw huge columns, big blocks Herod had created the harbor with, hulls of ships, a sarcophagus, and some cool schools of fish. It was a wonderful, wonderful day.
|Pointing out Herodian ashlars under a school of fish at Caesarea|
|A large Herodian column underwater at Caesarea|
|Herodian Ashlars that make up the harbor Herod created at Caesarea|
|Uncovering a sarcophagus underwater at Caesarea|
|a school of fish over the ruins of the harbor at Caesarea|
|There were a lot of jellyfish at Caesarea that day|
When that was over, we showered as fast as we could and ran upstairs to the big 4th of July BBQ. It was festive, and fun. Andy Skinner gave a great spiritual thought, tying the USA and the constitution into the scriptures and the Gospel. It was very moving, and we enjoyed it very much.
|4th of July dinner at the Jerusalem Center|
|Trust me, the cake was red, white and blue, but my phone camera is weird|
A bunch of us left that a bit early so that we could go to an iftar, the meal that is held to break fasting each day of Ramadan. Omar, the olive wood carver, had invited us to one with his family. They held it at a restaurant, and it was wonderful. The food was great, and it was great to learn about the blessings they say as they do this. But better was the feeling. There was a real feeling of family and togetherness and love. I believe that it is a time of family and loving God, and so the Spirit comes. We were quite touched. We also had a lot of fun visiting. The environment was nice, the grounds were lovely, the food was great, and the people were fantastic. What a perfect evening!
|Omar, his family, and our friends at Iftar|
|Street celebrations and parade at Iftar|
The next day was a big field trip. We went to Bethlehem. I was paired with David Whitchurch. On the bus drive I played some patriotic music and we raised a small flag and said the pledge of allegiance. I think everyone was grateful to be able to do that so far away from home.
We went first to the Herodian. We got to the Lower Herodian, and had enough time that we could have explored it a little bit. But instead David gave a long historical lecture (which I had invited him to do on the bus but he chose not to), and no one got to do anything there. The palace there is amazing, it was one of the largest palaces in the Roman world. I did stress for the students the contrast between Herod wanting so much to be remembered and all he did to be great as opposed to Christ, who sought to do his father’s will and bless others, rather than seeking for himself. We know who is more remembered today.
|The palace complex at Herodian|
|The pool at Herodian|
|Two students ran out to just be in the pool for 30 seconds at Lower Herodian|
The Upper Herodian, on top of the hill, is impressive. It was a huge fortress. We went through how that worked and no one got any time to explore, but we had a nice time there.
|My kids listening to teaching at Upper Herodian|
I saw some excavations going on, so I went to visit with them and got to look around a little. It is going to be cool!
|the Upper Herodian excavations I saw|
|More of the Upper Herodian excavations I saw|
Then we drove to Manger Square. It was a short line to get into the Church of the Nativity. It is a great spot, but they hurry you so much there is no way you can really have a reverent or thoughtful time there.
|Waiting to get into the grotto (birthplace) at the Church of the Nativity|
We did go to the annex that is the Church of Saint Catherine and pray and sing and then down to Jerome’s Grotto where we prayed and sang more. It was very nice, we enjoyed it a lot.
|Singing in St. Catherine's at the Church of the Nativity|
|the steeple of the Church of the Nativity|
|My students lining up at the Church of the Nativity|
Then we went to the Milk Grotto. This church is about a story of Mary stopping to nurse the Savior on their way out of Bethlehem, and some of her milk spilled to the ground. From all over the world people come there to pray for fertility if they can’t have children, and reportedly many miracles result. I believe that faith is rewarded. So there we talked about how the Father must have trusted Mary so much to entrust his son to her care. Then I spoke of how this means he really trusts all mothers as he sends his children to them. I talked about the world’s values, and how motherhood is not valued by the world, but how it is according to God’s values. I spoke of how nursing imagery is used in the Bible. Then Julianne talked to them about motherhood, and was very moving. She did a fantastic job teaching about the divine importance and central nature of that role.
We then gave them free time. They went shopping, and we just wandered around and then sat down and visited. We left just a bit early to see if we could get to the Shepherd’s Field church. But we missed it by a few minutes, and they wouldn’t let us in. So sad. If I had called the bus to pick us up just a bit sooner, we would have made it. Instead we saw paintings on walls.
Then we went to the Tent restaurant, and had a great, traditional Arab meal. We loved it, and had a great time visiting with others. I really enjoyed that!
|Jacob entertaining students at the Tent|
|Being served in the Tent Restaurant|
|Tashara and Alexia at the Tent Restaurant|
Then we went out to our Shepherd’s Field. We showed them a sheepfold, and then we went out and looked at Bethlehem.
|Phil Allred teaching at the sheepfold I found at our Shepherd's Field|
|All of us at the sheepfold|
I taught them about Christ’s birth and how blessed we are for that gift, and they bore testimony to each other, and we sang songs and had a musical number, and it was a wonderful, glorious time. Then we sang Christmas songs all the way home, and sang almost every song in the hymn book.
|Tashara and Alexia at our Shepherd's Fields|
|Julianne, Jacob and Sabrina at our Shepherd's Field|
|My family in our Shepherd's Field with Bethlehem behind us|
|Students pondering at Shepherd's Field|
Sadly, I had a student who broke his foot today, and another one who accidentally ate nuts at the Tent dinner and had a huge allergic reaction and went to the hospital to make sure she could breathe okay. It was a bit tough in that way. But for the most part, it was an amazing day!
Tuesday was also very nice. Class went well, I felt like we had some very, very meaningful discussions. After that was announcements. While we were there we got a surprise visit from Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Oddly enough I had just emailed him a few days earlier. No one knew he was coming, but he suddenly dropped by for a tour of the building and then wanted to visit with the students. That was great.
As I sat there listening to Whitchurch do announcements, I saw a friend of mine, Richard Holzapfel, outside the auditorium/form we were in, and popped out to say hi to him. As I was speaking to him suddenly I turned and there was Elder Christofferson. Surprise, surprise. He let the students ask questions, then he bore a wonderful and powerful testimony of Christ and of the need for us to go and help others and help others come to Christ. It was wonderful.
|Elder Christofferson, an apostle, teaching the students|
The rest of the day we just did various things, especially together as a family. That night we had a court of honor. Kaleb earned a number of merit badges. Jacob received his Wolf award as well as a few others. It was a nice time and I was proud of them. We visited with Brother Michelsen for quite a while. He has a week left here in the country. Crazy. He is a good man who has been so good for our family, especially Kaleb. We will miss him, but have been blessed by him.
Wednesday was more class. Again, I felt like it went very, very well. We had more truly meaningful discussions. Then Julianne and I went to visit a very nice lady. She is an elderly Jew most of whose family died in the holocaust. When she was living in Pennsylvania she joined the Church, and even taught adjunct at BYU for a while. But she eventually decided she was Jew first, and moved to Israel, and no longer considers herself a Mormon. She is wonderful to visit with, and very pleasant. She has also written and self-published a book in which she talks about Jews not converting to Christ until Christ comes again. She uses Old and New Testament scriptures, but much of it is based on the Book of Mormon. We had a wonderful discussion on those ideas together, and on Christ’s use of the Old Testament in his teachings. She is absolutely right that Christ really uses the Old Testament heavily, including, or maybe especially in the Sermon on the Mount. We had a lovely time together.
She was filling quite ill, and was on oxygen. She asked for a blessing. I was happy to give her one, and the Lord truly blessed her. I could feel and tell a difference, and so could she. She expressed it and was grateful. I love to see how much the Lord loves all of us. What a wonderful time.
|Julianne, Me and Renee|
I spent much of the afternoon and evening getting ready for Galilee. Julianne and I had dinner with the students, and I got more ready. That night we both got a bit sick. Additionally, Sabrina had a bad dream and came in to be with us about 3 am. Between her moving around so much and my not feeling well I never got to go back to sleep. That meant I was very worn out when it was time for our field trip.
We learned that many were sick. In total, about 32 of our 80 students got very sick that day. Over a quarter of my students couldn’t come on the field trip. Still the field trip was great. Andy showed them the broad wall, which was built by Hezekiah. Then we toured the Burnt House, a house that was destroyed by the Romans when they destroyed the Temple of Herod.
We also toured the Wohl Museum, which has more houses in it that were destroyed by the Romans. There we were able to show them the kinds of bowls used for washing feet, the kinds of pots that held ritual purification water, similar to that spoken of by John when Jesus turned water to wine, and the kinds of plates, etc., that would have been used for a Passover meal. Julianne taught them about women and how they cooked and lived and family, etc. She did an excellent job!
From there we had a little snack, and then we went in to the Davidson Archaeological park, just at the foot of the Temple Mount. Julianne again missed the chance to be there because she took home a sick individual. I got feeling a bit weak and out of it for a while, but it came together, and I thought things went pretty well. I tried to keep them in the shade as much as possible, and I kept things short because clearly a lot of people didn’t feel very well. But still we spoke of the kings of Judah, and then of Christ going in and out of the temple. We talked about Mary being cleansed and going to the temple. We talked about Peter healing a man at the temple, and Christ healing the man born blind, and Christ cleansing the temple, and the triumphal entry, and so many other things. Christ loved the temple so much, and it was wonderful to be in places he was and to think of him and try to follow him. As we finished on some steps that he almost certainly walked on we talked about the importance of walking not just where he walked, but more importantly, how he walked. Everyone was worn out, but it went well.
Then my family met up with Julianne, and we had some treats, bought everyone’s last souvenirs, and took Tashara to meet her friend, Eliana. We got a few things done around the house. More and more students were sick, so we decided to reschedule the midterm they were going to take tomorrow morning for tomorrow night. That meant that we could sleep in. Dates are hard to do around here. Everything shuts down on Friday nights. But when stuff happens on Saturday nights we are having our Sabbath. Sunday nights we can’t stay out very late because we always have something big the next day. So we took advantage of this opportunity, and went out to enjoy the town together on a Thursday night when we had a Friday we could sleep in.
We went to the big Jewish shopping market and just enjoyed the environment. Then we went and found Tashara and picked her up, and together we went to Ben Yehuda street, the open air pedestrian street that is the hang out place. Julianne and Tashara did some long shopping there, but then we enjoyed the very festive feeling of the place. By then I was worn out and not faring super well, but still it was nice. We had ice cream, and just enjoyed the place, and then they drug me home. I made it, and fell asleep hard and worn out.
The next morning we ran to the City of David, and used the go pro to film as we ran through Hezekiah’s tunnel as fast as we could. It was a ton of fun, but the lighting didn’t work out very well for us, and the film didn’t turn out great. Ah well. It was way fun.
Then we spent some time getting ready for Galilee. Then we got together with the other faculty families and took off to tour Ashkelon, the place where George Pierce has been excavating. We saw so much cool stuff, some of which we can’t reveal right now, but tomorrow they will have a big press release, and I will come back and update this page then with links to the press release.
|Ashkelon Philistine Wine Press|
That reminds me, the Huqoq excavation, which Matt Grey showed us around, finally had their press release. The findings there can be seen at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/07/mosaic-synagogue-huqoq-israel-magness-archaeology/
We got back in time for a little relaxing and packing and food. Then I went and gave my exam. On the way up I learned that one of my students had just learned that her sister had unexpectedly died. I was shell shocked, and couldn’t imagine how she felt. It is just very, very sad. She is handling it okay, but this is hard and sad.
They did okay on their exam (I think, I haven’t finished grading them yet). Julianne and I watched a bit more of the movie about the Anzac girls, and I fell asleep, so very tired. Yet just after midnight I got a call about some car insurance things we have been trying to deal with from a time BJ got run into. I have been trying for so long to get this worked out, and I am getting closer. In the meantime, I lost a lot of sleep last night.
This morning we had an early morning presidency meeting. Then I got to come home and eat with my family. Then we went to church. It was nice. The marriage class was really good, and they helped me to learn more about how I can be better in our marriage. Some of the comments that made me think the most were my own. Interesting how there are things we know, but we need to remind ourselves to do better. After church I was able to give Rebecca a blessing. She is the student whose sister just died. The blessing was amazing. I was overwhelmed with how much God loves his children and is involved in their lives. I was overwhelmed with how much he wants to bring us all home, and how this girl is able to be with God again. God so loves us and takes care of us.
As a family we talked for a while about all the things we see in our life that are evidence that God is aware of us and blessing us. The way President Michelsen was here for just exactly how long we needed an amazing Young Men’s leader (he tells us we were what he needed to, funny how often it works that way). The way President Lillie’s stay here was extended just the amount of time the branch needs to get us through some transitions. The way God knows Rebecca’s heart and needs. There are so, so many ways we can see that God loves us and gives us just what we need when we need it. We are so, so grateful!