Mount of Olives panorama

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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shakespeare in the Park: Starring Rachel!

Mrs. Bonaccorso introduced the program after Rachel sang an opening number

Last night Elaine and I thoroughly enjoyed an evening at the Anglican School of Jerusalem, where the secondary school put on a number of scenes from famous plays of William Shakespeare in the front garden.  Besides starring as Kate in a hilarious scene from "Taming of the Shrew," Rachel also sang a number of songs in between acts, as well as performing a brief number as the "clown" in the scene from "Twelfth Night."

Rachel looked lovely, performed wonderfully, and sang beautifully!  We were very proud of her, and we are grateful to Anglican and especially Mrs. Bonaccorso, the drama teacher and director.   Thanks also to Rachel's friend Annie Lopez, shared these pictures with us because Dad had forgotten his camera!

Singing before the Scenes Began

With guitarist Lucas Valenzeula

That's our girl!

"Taming of the Shrew"

Rachel played Katherine, or "Kate," opposite Johannes Exeler, who played Petruchio.

Singing During "Twelfth Night"

Goofing off with Annie . . .

Why should the guys have all the fun? Some of the boys had a choreographed battle at the beginning of the Richard III scene.  Here, earlier in the day, Annie and Rachel, try their hand at medieval warfare!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Shephelah Summer 2012 Field Trip

One of our standard Old Testament field trips is a bus tour through the Shephelah, the area of low rising hills cut by wadis and small streams where so much of the books of Judges and 1 Samuel took place. For more background and discussion of the pertinent scriptural texts, see the blog entries for our fall and winter trips (the pictures in the winter blog post are particularly striking because of how green the flower-filled the hillsides were during the rainy season).

In this entry I am mostly just posting pictures from this last trip.  I must admit that on more than one occasion I wistfully realized that this would be my last visit to many of these places!

Tel Lakhish in January

Tel Lakhish in May
Bet Shemesh and the Samson Saga (see Judges 13-16).

Looking across to Zorah, Samson's home town

Class pic at Tel Bet Shemesh
Singing "Choose the Right," because Samson didn't always make the right choice!


Azeqah (spelled Azekah in the Bible, but is uses a qoph so I insist on a "q!") was an important hill top controlling the Elah Valley.  Here we read about the Philistine invasions and David's willingness to fight Goliath.  We then sang "Who's on the Lord's Side, Who?"

At the "David & Goliath Lookout" with the battle site in the Valley of Elah below
Model of the Shephelah

Close-up of the site of `Azeqah, lower center, sideways text

Valley of Elah

Taking our students down to the Valley of Elah itself, we went to the probably site of the contest between the Philistines and the Hebrews, and notable the duel between Goliah and David (see 1 Samuel 17).

Here I am setting up the scene . . .

Our Philistines watch from their side of the wadi
Nate McMaster, our David, challenges Goliath
David takes on Goliath (Alvin Green)
David about to cut off Goliath's head
"David" showing all the students how to use their slings

Detailed map of our Shephelah field trip

(B) Bet Shemesh, (C) `Azeqah and the Valley of Elah, (D) Lakhish, and (E) Marisha (Bet Guvrin)


Lakhish (KJV "Lachish") was an important fortress dominating the Lakhish Valley. Its earlier Caananite king is mentioned in Joshua, and the Israelite stronghold here was famously besieged by both the Assyrians and Babylonians.

Tel Lakhish, with ramp heading up to the gate
Students clambering through the dried grass to the site of ruined temple.  Some say it is a Persian "solar temple," but it may be an early Israelite shrine like the small YHWH at Arad

Group pic at the temple site at Lakhish

David Cramer clambering through the water culvert under the Lackhish gate
Jared Ludlow in the room where the Lakhish Letters were found

Our own "Lachish Letters!"


Maresha, also known as Bet Guvrin ("House of Guvrin" because it dominates the Guvrin Valley), is not a site explicitly mentioned in the Old Testament, but its fortress served the same function in the Guvrin Valley as Bet Shemesh, Azeqah, and Lakhish did in their areas.  Along with the rest of southern Judah, it was taken over by Edomites, who are known in the New Testament as Idumeans.  In fact, Herod is said to have been born here.  They Edomites were Hellenized in the Intertestamental Period, when Maresha became known as Marissa.  Later, after the Jewish Revolt, the Romans changed the name of the city to Eleutheropolis.

Marsesha is known for its extensive caves, both amazing bell caves, which were chalk and lime quarries, and storage and work rooms under the town itself.

The Roman-era amphitheater in Eleutheropolis
Class pic in one of the bell caves
Singing in the bell caves.  Because of the great acoustics, this is a great place to sing!  We started with Christmas carols and then sang a sacrament hymn about the crucifixion.  After that we sang Easter hymns.  Then after singing "Oh How Lovely Was the Morning," we sang "Hark All Ye Nations."  In other words, we sang a musical summary of the gospel and restoration!

Water in a cistern in Marissa. No wonder "fountains of living water" were such a powerful and attractive image!
A columbarium or dovecote.

In the Sidonian tombs

Group pic in the Sidonian tomb

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Museum of the Good Samaritan

This afternoon we took a brief family outing to the Good Samaritan Museum, which is modern mosaics museum built on the site of an earlier Byzantine and then Crusader church called "The Inn of the Good Samaritan."  It is on the road down, literally down, to Jericho, where early Christians liked to imagine the setting of the Jesus' Parable of the Good Samaritan.
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him . . . (Luke 10:30-33)
The idea behind the modern museum, which is found on the West Bank about halfway to Jericho not far from the Israeli settlement of Ma`ale Adummim, is to unite in one museum the people involved in the story of the Good Samaritan: Christians (for Jesus, the narrator), Jews (the priest and the Levite), and Samaritans (for the kind, helpful fellow-traveler).  To that end, mosaics and some other artifacts from Christian churches and Jewish and Samaritan synagogues have been brought here for display.
Using the parable as a unifying feature for the mosaics works has not been without controversy (read the fourth comment on this blog about the Good Samaritan Museum from an actual Samaritan).

A wooden roof, approximately in the form of the original basilica, has been built over the site of the original Byzantine church that was on this site.  The greater part of the mosaic floor of this church has been restored under this open-air skeleton basilica.  

Samuel and Rachel doing the hands-on mosaic activity

Samuel working on a Star of David mosaic

Rachel working on her mosaic
Then Samuel was ready for a break!
Other mosaics from various sites from throughout what used to be called "the Territories" (Gaza, Judea, and Samaria = Gaza and the West Bank) appear on the grounds, but the best ones are now housed in an old Ottoman-era building on the site, which has been renovated and expanded, the most important renovation being the addition of air conditioning!).  Here in addition to many mosaics were inscriptions and also photographs of sites, including some of the Samaritan holy site at Mt. Gerizim near modern-Nablus.  Since we are not able to travel freely to those areas of the West Bank, these displays are, unfortunately, as close as I am going to get to those places and people.

This interesting mosaic from a synagogue in Gaza actually portrayed David (rare in Jewish art), here dressed as a Byzantine emperor he plays his harp.

In this picture of a picture, Mount Gerizim (the mountain of blessing) is in the snow-covered foreground while Mount Ebal (the mountain of cursing) is in the background.
Samuel was actually a trooper for most of the visit.  We had noticed an ice cream freezer at the entrance to the National Park site, so he had a treat waiting for him if he was good.  And after being out in the heat for just a little while, he was glad to get into the air conditioned museum proper, where Elaine did a good job of explaining to him what mosaics were and helping him make a game of finding animals and other things in the mosaics.  

Elaine (seated on the bench out of the picture) explains to Samuel how mosaics were made

Samuel stayed interested for awhile, but then Dad KEPT reading inscriptions and looking at mosaics

So after a while, he had had enough!

Rachel thought it looked like a good idea. They were glad that the building was air conditioned.  I was glad we were alone in the museum!
After we left the museum grounds, I took some pictures of barren Judean Wilderness, which I might be able to use in future classes when I teach the Parable of the Good Samaritan.