Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Friday, September 30, 2011

Be'er Sheba and Arad Pre-trip

I will have more on these sites after we take the students to them, but for our faculty pre-trip, I was able to take my daughter, Rachel.  It was fun to familiarize her with basic archaeology and to show her some landscape she has not seen yet.

Jared Ludlow's son Joseph also came.  He and Rachel, along with two of the Harper teenagers, are taking seminary together, where they are studying the Old Testament.  It was interesting for them to see the site where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob often stayed (even though the ruins come from other periods).

This is a reconstruction of a horned altar found in Be'er Sheva

Artist's depiction of the late Bronze Age city

Rachel at the well of Be'er Sheva. Abraham and Isaac each dug wells here

Looking down at the later water works

Rachel in the water tunnel

Back to the modern era: Josh Ludlow, Rachel, and I at McDonalds!
After lunch we went futher into the Negev to the site or Arad.  Most of the ruins are Canaanite, though there is an Iron Age Israelite fortress above the earlier city.  An interesting thing about the Israelite city is a small temple, one of  several that have been discovered in Judah.  Hezekiah and then Josiah dismantled these alternate sanctuaries to that of Jerusalem.

The small  Holy of Holies in the Arad Temple complex

Arab Culture Night

On Wednesday evening, September 28, the Jerusalem Center held its traditional Arab Culture Night.  Here are a few of the highlights:

It is intended to give our students an idea of what Arab, and Muslim, culture is like, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.  It begins with a lecture by the Arabic teacher about Islam, where two sheiks from the Al Aqsa Mosque here in Jerusalem chanted Qur`an and demonstrated Muslim prayer.

I must note that it was actually rather ironic that we held our celebration after Ramadan and, in fact, on the even of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  But because all of our potential Jewish lecturers were had religious and family obligations, it was not possible to do something for Rosh Hashanah that night.

We then had a rather extensive feast in the Oasis cafeteria, which featured traditional Palestinian foods.  Almost all of the students, and some of the faculty families, including my Rachel, dressed for the occasion.

The evening ended with some instructions, and a little practice, at Palestinian dancing.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Neot Qedumim

Neot Qedumim means something like "Beauties of Ancient Times" or perhaps "Beauties of the Ages" and is a "biblical park and nature  reserve." It is located midway between Jerusalem and Modi'in, the home town of the Maccabees.  We take our students there so that they can see the different kinds of plants and animals that are mentioned in the Bible to get a better feel for both the text we are studying and the land where we are living.  See the brief Wikipedia article and the park's own website.

Besides seeing almond, pomegranate, and of course olive trees, the students saw typical terraced hillsides, cisterns, and water wheels.  They also participated in herding sheep and goats (not as easy as it looks), grinding hyssop in mortars and pestles, making qeli or parched grain and pita, and turning the wheel of an olive press.

Almonds on the tree

Rivka, or "Rebecca," drawing water like her namesake

Izak makes parched grain or qeli

Students working at homemade pitas

At the end we watched a Torah scribe describe the parchment and tools he uses for copying the Torah onto scroll, saw him make the special ink, and witnessed him read from the sacred text in Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Yemenite fashion.

A special treat for me were the remains of a small Byzantine chapel.  Because Neot Qedumim was midway between Joppa on the coast and Jerusalem, it was a convenient stopping place for Christian pilgrims in that period.

Showing the students the Alpha and the Omega on either side of the cross in the mosaic floor

One fun thing, for me, was that Elaine came with us on this field trip.  Now that the children are settled into school and their schedules, I am hoping that she can either accompany us on our Monday field trips each week or at least go with the faculty, and sometimes the faculty wives, on our Thursday "pre-trips," when we scout out ahead the sites that we are taking our students to the next week.  She enjoyed it well enough, but I guess a long, hot, outdoor trip might have not been her favorite!  The students enjoyed her, though, and I certainly did!

This was as close as Elaine would get to the sheep

Grinding hyssop

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Newly posted Troy clips

There are several newly posted video clips under the day at Troy on the Turkey Page.  Some of them are serious, but some of them are fun, such as the reenactment of the death of Hector and Trojan frog catching.

Final Entries from Turkey: Bursa, Nicaea, and a last visit to Istanbul

The final entries have been added to the bottom of the Turkey Page. After viewing the highlights video below, scroll to the bottom of the Turkey Page and read about (and see) the Grand Mosque and Silk Market in Bursa, our visit to and discussion of the events in Nicaea, our ferry ride across the Marmara, and at last our tour of the inside of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.  We then ended our trip to Turkey with a farewell dinner and flew home arriving back at the Jerusalem Center at 3:40 a.m.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hierapolis, Thyatira, and bus rides

It has been a long day, but as always, interesting. The students were very good-natured given the long hours spent on buses.  Watch this highlight video and then scroll to the bottom of the Turkey Page for today's updates, pictures, and video clips.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ephesus and Miletus Update

Watch this video clip of today's highlights and then scroll down to the latest entry at the bottom of the Turkey Page.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Assos and Pergamum

Today was another long Turkish driving day, punctuated by two delightful sites.  One, Assos, provided us a beautiful lookout on a clear, Aegean morning.  The other, Pergamum, inundated us with rain.  After viewing the highlights video below, go to the bottom of the Turkey Page for a full report.  More video clips and pics will be posted as this sketchy Turkish internet allows.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


As before, after you watch the video highlight below, go to the bottom of the Turkey page to see details of what we did today:

BTW, the causes of the car explosion in Ankara, the Turkish capitl, are still unclear. Ankara is a long way from here, and we are all JUST FINE

Monday, September 19, 2011

Full Day in Istanbul

After watching the video montage below, go to the Turkey Page, scroll down to the newest items, and view longer clips of many of the places we went today.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

First post on the Turkey Page: We're in Istanbul

I am going to focus this page on our Fall 2011 student trip to Turkey.  I will put brief update posts on the main blog, but the pictures and most of the reports will be organized here.  A page does not operate quite like posts.  While new posts appear at the top of a blog, you will need to scroll down to the bottom of this page each time to see the newest additions to the page.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Settling in to a routine . . . kind of

Sorry there has been a lull in blog posts, but this has been the most "normal" week that we have had yet.  After our field trip to Jericho and the Judean Wilderness Monday, every other day this week was pretty standard: Old Testament in the morning, and then while the students had their other classes, I had time to fall into a routine, including an hour or two of biblical Hebrew study, course prep for the next day's class, and time with the children. I come down from the apartment just before 3:00 to meet them when they come home from school, and then after I hear about Rachel's day, I take Samuel up to the gym to play basketball, we practice karate on the patio, or we go down to the playground.

On Thursday it was Elaine's turn, however.  We took the students to the Garden Tomb, and she came with us.  It was her first time there.  While the Church of the Holy Sepulchre bears the weight of tradition and probably has more archaeology and history on its side, to my mind the Garden Tomb has sentiment and spirituality arguing for it.  As the good people of the London Missionary Society, who run the garden, always points out, we worship the Risen Lord Jesus, not places.  In this quiet, peaceful spot just north of the Old City's Damascus Gate, one can better recreate in one's mind and heart what it must have been like that first Easter.

The Garden Tomb's Golgotha, also known as "Gordon's Calvary" because the British officer Charles Gordon first thought he discerned a stone in the cliff face back in the eighteen century, on the other hand, is right next to a busy Arab bus station today.  But then the place where Jesus was crucified would have been right next to a busy road too.

Latter-day Saints tend to prefer this site, and our students were no different.  After we took the usual tour by representatives of the missionary society, we gathered for our own devotional.  We read the crucifixion account of John 19 and then sang "Upon the Cross of Calvary."  We then read the resurrection account of Luke 24 and sang "He Is Risen."  After Steve's group joined us, he read the first half of John 20 and we sang a number of other songs.  Elaine enjoyed it there.

I then took the afternoon off so that we could walk around the Old City to the Jaffa Gate and the glitzy Mamilla shopping area right across from it.  This made Elaine feel a lot better!

Jaffa Gate

The Citadel, or Tower of David, is an Ottomon-era fortress built on a Crusader fortress built on a Roman legionary camp built o the site of Herod's Palace.  It was most likely the place where Jesus was tried before Pilate (the Antonia Fortress, the traditional site, was a Roman garrison to be sure, but the governor lived here when it town)

Mamilla Shopping Mall

There it is! The Ark of the Covenant . . . after being lost for millenia, I found it in the Mamilla Shopping mall.

We then went to the famous Ben Yehuda Street, a pedestrian mall with a lot of character, where I got my first shawarma of the trip, a piece of Arab bread filled with shaved lamb and lots of fixings.

Orthodox Jewish street musician. My camera battery gave out after this so I could not try to get a better, more-focused picture.

After taking a cab back to the center, we got the children, checked out a car, and drove to West Jerusalem where Samuel and I had our first haircuts here.  The place we went was “Shmuel in Jerusalem.”  Shmuel, or Samuel, was born in Tennessee and grew up on Detroit.  He was an interesting fellow – lapsed in his observance as a 20-something, when he learned to cut hair.  But then he said “God was calling him,” and he returned to stricter observance and eventually made aliya.  For the past 7 some years he has been studying Talmud, was “ordained” as a rabbi, and just went back to cutting hair part time to make some money I guess.  He is interested in mysticism and had lots of interesting things to say.

Unfortunately my camera battery died, so you will not see a picture of Shmuel or his shop.  Nor will you see any pictures from the pleasant evening we spent with friends, the Howell family.  John is our outgoing elders quorum president, with whom I will be working for a few weeks before he moves.  They have 5 boys, so we had some fun with them in the park while Elaine visited with Heather.  They live in the Katamon area of Jerusalem, which was the main, well-to-do Arab suburb of Jerusalem until 1948, when the Arabs were driven out during the War of Independence.  Most of the houses and apartment buildings date to that time and were formerly Palestinian.

Today I spent some time preparing for Turkey, where we are taking our students on Sunday for a week tour of Greek, NT, Byzantine, and Turkish sites.  Tonight is our "night off."  We got pizza from Dominos (unkosher because it mixed meat and milk/cheese, but we loved it!), and now Elaine and I are going to watch movies since the kids are at last in bed.