Mount of Olives panorama

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

Samuel's Page

Since Momma packed for Samuel, his Jerusalem preparation consisted largely of special Saturday sessions with his home aide, Miss Mackenzie, and speech therapy sessions focused on what Jerusalem would be like and how it would be "same and different."

Two days before we left, he had his final karate lesson at Bobby Lawrence Karate studio.  As always, he had a great time with Coach Miki and his buddy, Keegan.

Mr. Miki and Samuel in guarding stance

Miki and Samuel, heroes

With Keegan's family, including Mom Carrie Ann and sister Gracie

Samuel and his training partner, Keegan, who is already a black belt

Thursday, August 25: Samuel was a real trooper on our trip.  He never complained, even though he pointedly observed once on the 11 1/2 our flight, "this is a really long trip!"  He was great at pulling his luggage and doing his part.

We arrived in Tel Aviv in the early evening, but because of immigration hangups, it was getting late by the time that we finally got our luggage, loaded onto a center van, and started to head towards Jerusalem, it was getting later.

It was at that moment that Samuel made a sweetly innocent and heart-warming comment: "This is Israel.  This is where Jesus lives.  When do we get to see Jesus?"  After a clarifying comment about how he lived here, we were able to say that he would come back here (and other places).  It turned into a nice conversation about getting ready for his return but learning more about what his life was like right now.

Samuel with his family in front of his new home.
A clip of Samuel's journey to Jerusalem and his new home in an apartment of the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies.

Friday, September 2. Samuel went with his mother and sister to the open house at the Anglican School, where he met more of his classmates and their families. He had already met his teacher, Mr. Shepherd, who is from Northern Ireland.

Sam, Mr. Shepherd, and Melia Ludlow (her father is teaching here with me at the Jerusalem Center).

Samuel has been pretty much just been busy with school his first month in Israel, but one of the things that he likes to do with with his family on their free day (which is Sunday, because we go to church on Saturday here), is go to the beach!

A Day at the Beach (10/2/11): We will start with a brief video showing some highlights of Samuel's trip to the beach with his family.  We all enjoy it, but it is his particular favorite . . . together with that of his mother.  His dad calls it, "Momma's sanity day," when we get out of Jerusalem, go to Tel Aviv, and have a fun day without so much culture, history, and religion all around us.

Before the beach fun began.  Eating Magnum ice cream bars in front of a fountain in Tel Aviv

Sammy loves the beach!

So does his sister!

Samuel with his Dad

Dad enjoyed the day off too! He does not get to go shirtless in Jerusalem!

Sam's sister Rachel

Rachel and Momma

Best of all, McDonald's with cheese! Samuel likes plain hamburgers, but the rest of his family likes cheeseburgers, which is hard to get in Jerusalem, where most things are kosher!

Olive Harvest and Sukkot (10/12/11)

Samuel had early out on Wednesday, October 12, because it was Erev Sukkot, or "Eve of the Feast of Tabernacles."  Sukkot is a 7-day holiday in Israel (8 days elsewhere), and the Anglican School that Sam and his sister attend gets Christian, Jewish, and Muslim holidays off, so he has vacation for a week!

Soon after he got home, he joined his family and the BYU students in harvesting the olives that grow all over the Jerusalem Center grounds.  Next week he will help as we press them into oil.

Sukkot is a festival that celebrates how the Israelites lived in tents and booths for 40 years in the wilderness.  Today many Jewish people live in "booths" or temporary shelters called sukkot to remember this.  Once the Children of Israel got to the Promised Land and became farmers, they combined this holiday with an autumn thanksgiving.  You can read more about Sukkot and how Samuel's family built a sukkah at his Dad's post about the holiday.

Last night Samuel and his Dad slept in their sukkah, just like Leviticus 23 says that God's people should each year in Jerusalem! It was mostly fun, though, eating candy and watching Scooby Doo like they used to when they set up a tent and camped out in the back yard at home.

Making Olive Oil at the Jerusalem Center (10/17/11)

The update above showed Samuel helping harvest the olives that grew this season at the Jerusalem Center.  This was the most involved that he has been yet with the students at the Jerusalem Center.  They are all very nice, kind young men and women who understand how Samuel's Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) make it difficult for him to meet new people and be comfortable in crowds of people he does not know.  82 college-aged students certainly qualify as "a crowd of people he does not know!"

But because he had a good time picking olives, we brought him with us this afternoon as the students took those olives and began making them into olive oil, first crushing and then pressing them.  Samuel enjoyed pouring olives into the crushing basin and then helping lift and push the heavy beam that rolls the crushing stone.

At one point, however, the students good-naturedly cheered a little too loudly for Samuel after he had poured his bucket of olives into the basin, causing him to need some "space."  I took him away from the main group and showed him the olive screw press all by himself. Then Mr. Tarek, one of our great Palestinian staff, showed him one-on-one how to use the stone-weighted lever press. 
Tarek was great at working with Sam one-on-one

When Samuel had regained his confidence, he went back to the main group and took more turns with the crushing stone and then watched, very interested, as the screw press and the lever press squeezed out the olive oil.  You can see more about the process in our blog entry on making olive oil.

I hope you enjoy this video montage of clips showing Samuel enjoying this activity and interacting with our Jerusalem Center Family.  I am very proud of our boy and am glad that he is feeling more and more comfortable with the people and activities here.

I hope you enjoy these other photos of Samuel having a good time at this activity.

Sam, in his red shirt, joins in with the boys on the end of the crushing stone beam

If you like these final pictures of Samuel helping his family crush olives, you may want to watch this clip:

Latrun, McDonalds, Haircut, and Hebrew (10/23/11)

 Today Samuel's family took him on a trip to a place called Latrun. Now this was our first real site visit with Samuel.  I cannot say that he was thrilled to go.  There were lots of questions as to why we were there or how long we would stay.  But we dangled the usual promises of ice cream and, this was a real treat, lunch at McDonalds.  We have decided that we simply must take him out about once a week, in short increments, until this becomes a familiar routine to him.

Samuel looking at the rainwater catchment basin at Latrun

He did not find the ancient water system much more interesting
At one point when he had had enough and was being truculent, I stumbled upon the idea of throwing rocks . . . at other rocks, at trees, and especially some big cactus that had caught his fancy. 

After we left the Canada Park, we drove by some other sites in the area, such as a Cistercian Monastery, but we did not stop, pressing forward to the all-important McDonalds.  And this is where we had a real Samuel success.  He wanted to say shalom to everyone in the restaurant.

Yesterday he had announced to us that people in Jerusalem speak Hebrew, and he wanted to speak Hebrew in Jerusalem.  So we decided to teach him a word or two a day.  Yesterday it was the greeting shalom, and today it was todah, or thank you.  He tried them both out on Mr. Hayet, our director, and Noni, one of our staff before we left the center this morning.  But all afternoon he wanted to try his words out on everyone we saw.

Remember that Samuel will hardly talk to strangers in English when he is home in the United States!

He and I had a hair appointment after that.  Our interesting friend Shmuel, who immigrated here from the U.S. and cut our hair when we first got here, has gone back to studying and lecturing on Torah full-time.  But the person who owned the shop he was working on has taken us on.  Asaf gave us great cuts and was really good with Sam Man.  And of course, Samuel needed to say "hello" and "thank you" in Hebrew several times.  I think that it is actually his way of trying to control his environment, or at least feel more in charge in it.

In fact, it turns out that we need to teach him a word a day in TWO languages now.  Because when we got to the Arab markets in East Jerusalem, he wanted to "say something" to everyone there as well.  Hebrew just won't do there.  So we have added salaam and shukran for a greeting and "thank you!"

Learning about John the Baptist with his family (10/30/11)

In the entry above, I noted how Samuel does not always enjoy going out to visit sites but how we really want to expose him to this Land, a little each week (I capitalize "Land" because this is the Land, Eretz Israel to the Jews and "the Holy Land" to Christians").

We had more success in today's outing to En Kerem, which is traditionally identified as the home of Zacharias and Elisabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. Part of that is because we went to standing, functioning churches rather than just dragging him to see piles of rocks.  Part of it was because we came armed with M&M's, a Snickers bar, and other incentives to keep him behaving.

After you have seen the family entry about En Kerem, this entry on Samuel's page will show you the OTHER side of the outing.  We'll start with this clip of me describing the site as soon as we got out of the car.  Those of you who know Sam Man will smile as you see him running and jumping around, flapping his hands in Sam-style all the while!

At each of the churches, I tried to explain what they commemorated.  A lot of the video footage I was shooting was aimed towards an adult audience, but we tried to explain to our boy the basic stories:

Visiting churches still "took a really long time" in Samuel's opinion, and his attitude can clearly be seen from this picture of him standing on the steps of the St. John the Baptist church:

But Samuel feels and responds to the spirit of the Lord, and he got quiet and reverent each time we went into a church.  He was interested in how it was different from one of our churches.  He was particularly interested in the kneeling benches attached to the pews, and he helped him light a candle in each church and explained how that helped our Catholic friends in their prayers:

We talked about this icon, explaining why John the Baptist was dressed that way.

Samuel loves candles, and we use them in Advent and Holy Week each year, so seeing these prayer candles in each church caught his attention.  We talked about them, made a donation, and lit one in each church.
While we tried to stay reverent, Samuel could not help but tell us that he thought that the grottos, or cave chapels, connected with each church seemed like "secret passageways."  It was all I could do to keep him from crawling under the altar in the John the Baptist Grotto!

Samuel was interested in how the priests and nuns dressed.  He does not get to see a lot of this in Provo, Utah!
All-in-all it was a good afternoon outing.  We kept it to under two hours, and at the end we had treats!

There were still a few "piles of rocks" to climb on!

Yes, this is a Cow Slide with three slides or tongues coming out of its mouth!

Christmas and Chinese in East Jerusalem (12/2/11) 

It has been a while since Dad has updated Samuel's page, mostly because many of the posts that have involved him, such as Getting Ready for Christmas, have also been about the whole family and have appeared in the main blog.  Although today's topic was also about a family outing, it really featured Sam Man.

Sorry, no pictures today.  I took a camera, but while I took a few pictures of interesting Arab street art, somehow I failed to take any pictures of us in the Christmas store or in the Chinese restaurant . . . but I am getting ahead of myself.

When we are back home in Utah, we have a tradition we call "Christmas Saturday."  The Nativity goes up and the Advent wreath is set out, usually on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving. Then the next day, Monday, we trim the tree and do all the other Christmas decorating.  But the next Saturday, the first Saturday in December, we have an outing up to Salt Lake, where we visit Modern Display to see all their wonderful decorations and to buy a figure or two for our Nativity; have dinner, usually at Chili's; and then wrap things up at Temple Square to see the lights.  It is a fun tradition, and one that we were missing this year.

Well, as described in Getting Ready for Christmas, Elaine and I found a Christmas store buried in East Jerusalem, not far off of Salah-Din Street just north of Herod's Gate.  That is where we bought our tree.  Today, when the kids came home from early out (every Friday is early out because of midday Muslim prayers and the imminent start of Jewish Shabbat), we decided to take them there to buy some Christmas decorations, as if it were Christmas Saturday at home.

Now Samuel has not been into the Old City yet and has gone to the busy section of East Jerusalem just north of the walls only once.  Crowds and unfamiliar sights and sounds can be real sensory overloads to him with his autism.  But things worked out in our favor.  Things do not shut down late Friday afternoon in East Jerusalem as they do in Jewish areas, but many shops stay closed after midday Friday prayers at the mosques, so things much quieter and less crowded.  Fortunately the Christmas shop, which I think is owned and run by Arab Christians, was still open.

And this is where I saw yet another example of an interesting, but welcome, quirk . . . or should I say blessing.  Palestinians and many Israelis, like the director of our center, just have a thing for Samuel, and he responds to them MUCH better than he does to Americans, even many of the BYU students that he sees in the Center almost every day.  In the crowded Christmas shop, filled with breakable items, Samuel seemed to us to be a virtual elephant about to destroy the proverbial China shop.  We kept trying to restrain him, shush him, hold his busy and often flapping hands.  "No, no, he is fine, cute boy," the proprietors would say.  And of course Samuel immediately demanded of me, "What do they speak?"  As soon as I said Arabic, "He launched into his al-salaam alaychum and shukran routine.  I think he just feels more comfortable with people speaking other languages.  He knows he cannot say much, and he understands little of what they say, so he (and they) communicate on some other level that makes him comfortable.

We stopped at one of the olive woods shops that students and LDS tourists often frequent.  Samuel walked out with a free little carved donkey as a Christmas present because the owner liked him so much.

Then, as an homage to our usual December dinner at Chili's, we went into the Hong Kong Restaurant, a "Chinese" restaurant in the neighborhood.  It was not TexMex, but it was not going to be Middle Eastern, and Samuel could at least eat rice.  Well, it turns out that they usually are not open on Fridays, at least not after prayers, but they let us in anyway.  In fact, all the men in the store were in the process of salah as we walked on, praying and bowing on prayer rugs right there in the restaurant.  Samuel thought that was great, and he told us we needed to be very quiet until they were finished.

The dinner was different.  It looked like Chinese food but tasted . . . well, pretty much like middle eastern food!  But the older gentleman who was the proprietor and his wife doted on us, the only customers of the evening.  And they LOVED Samuel.  His two phrases of Arabic earned huge smiles, and they never came to the table without tossling his hair or patting him, things he would not brook from people back in America.  Of course he ate nothing but rice (he only eats "plain foods" remember).  That was okay with them.  When he asked for ice cream, they brought bowl after bowl for him, even though I said he needed to finish his rice first.  "No, cute boy, he can have some ice cream."

So it turned out to be a fun evening.  And I think that if Samuel were king of the world, perhaps THEN we could have peace in the Middle East!

Carol Service at the Anglican School (12/21/11)

 Wednesday was the last day of school at the Anglican School, and for Samuel's last day before holiday, he participated in the school's carol service.  Elaine had relief society business that morning, so I took Mother and Lindsay to his concert.  It gave them a chance to see the school, which, as I blogged about on August 31 at The Anglican International School of Jerusalem, soon after the children started there.  The school meets in an old British hospital complex that was built and run by a London missionary society in the 1890's, long before the State of Israel was even founded.

The front courtyard of the Anglican School

The central building

The interesting historical inscriptions in the arch of the Central Building

Lindsay and Mom in the front courtyard

The back "yard" where Samuel likes to play basketball

Because it is a religious school and is in Israel, Samuel and his sister are having lots of experiences that they would not have elsewhere.  Notice, for instance, the bulletin board below about the exposure to Holocaust Studies that all the students receive:

Anyway, when we arrived in Chorlton Hall on the second floor of the Primary School's building, we found that it had been transformed into a chapel, lit only by candles.  It was quite beautiful.  The program began with a procession of clergy, and it included readings, prayers, lots of carols, and even a little sermonette.

Reverend Hilditch speaking to the children and parents

Headmaster Hoskin delivering the thanks and the benediction
Samuel loves to sing Christmas carols, but the program ended up being hard for him, because of all the candles actually.  He has always loved lighting the candles on our Advent wreath at home, but a week ago he had a nightmare about a fire at the Jerusalem Center, and he has been terrified of fires ever since.  He is a little calm at home, if we are very careful, but all the candles at school made him very anxious.  Half way through, he needed to get up and leave.  I went out with him, and we talked about how the school was made of stone and would not burn . . . but he was worried about "all the human beings, they could burn!"  Bless his heart.  But eventually he mustered up his courage and went in for the last few songs so he could sing his favorites, "Silent Night" and "O Come, All Ye Faithful."

Towards the end of the program, Rachel came in with a few of the Secondary School children and members of the staff to sing "O Holy Night."  This was certainly a much more religious Christmas program than we would ever get in a public school at the States!

Sorry the picture is so dark.  Rachel is wearing the Santa hat in the center.

Samuel's Ninth Birthday (3/1/21)

Thursday was Samuel's birthday.  He wanted to go to McDonald's and "an ice cream shop."  Samuel has taken periodically to talking to me as he goes to bed about things "back home in Utah."  Though it has been quite cool and blustery here, this has included talking about what he used to order at Dairy Queen, Farr's Fresh, and Cold Stone!  So we went to a McDonald's on Emeq Repha'im in West Jerusalem and then walked to a gelato store nearby.

Samuel loves plain hamburgers, french fries, and chocolate milkshakes!

Elaine and I love cheese on hamburgers, making this non-kosher McDonald's a treat in itself!

A double-scoop chocolate ice cream cone!

Opening a card from Nana

With shekals in it for another McDonald's trip!
Elaine had made chocolate cupcakes for Samuel to take to school for the day.  She had also baked a vanilla cake, which we shared when we got back to our apartment at the center.  We gave him a homemade card with a picture of a new red bicycle, which we are going to buy for him when we get home in August.

Anglican School's Easter Play (4/3/12)

On Tuesday of Holy Week this year, the Primary Division of the Anglican International School held its Easter play in the Garden Tomb.  Imagine that!  While the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has more in terms of archaeology and tradition to recommend it as the probable site of Jesus' crucifixion and nearby burial, the Garden Tomb north of the Old City will always provide a more moving and spiritual setting for many Protestants and most Latter-day Saints as they recollect and meditate upon the miracle of that Easter miracle.

So about noon yesterday we arrived at the Garden Tomb and sat with our friends the Ludlows.  About a half hour later the children arrived on buses from school.  It was a Passion and Resurrection play all wrapped into one, with the children taking parts and singing songs.  Here are some representative video clips from the experience: 

Samuel had originally been given the part of Barabbas . . . not particularly auspicious, but that is okay.  He was shy about doing it, and several days before the performance had told his teacher that he did not want to do it.  That ended up being for the best, because I am sure that Samuel would have been frightened when the other children, playing the crowd, had shouted "Barabbas!" and "Crucify him!" so loudly.

Instead he was allowed to sit with his class as part of the chorus, standing and singing some of the songs or being part of other crowd scenes.  In the end, he did not do any of those things.  We had a lapse of communication with the school, which had not really told us much about the play until a few days ago, or with his teacher and the music teacher, who did not contact us at all.  Because of his autism, Samuel needs preparation for these kind of things.  He wants to be part of things and be like the other children, but it is hard.

So he sat in the back, absently-looking around and sometimes vocalizing or flapping his hands, both signs of anxiety for him.  That was hard to watch.  It was sadder that he did not sing a single song or seem to take any notice of the story that is central to our faith.

Fortunately he was seated on the back off to the left behind some big potted plants, so no one really noticed, except for me and Elaine, who were keeping an eye on him and knew what kinds of behaviors to look for.

Samuel, sitting there and trying not to be uncomfortable during the play

It was one of those moments when autism is a hard, painful reality.  Rachel is precocious and a high achiever.  If anything, with her we have fallen into the trap of expecting too much from her.  But with Samuel, we just wish that he could be like any of the other kids with just typical, normal behavior.   In fact, there was a terrible, bitter irony that we were having all these disappointed and hopeless feelings during a play about Jesus and his atoning sacrifice for us, which is the foundation of all we believe and hope for.  We read and teach and testify about Jesus and his miracles, and yet the miracle we want more than anything seems always beyond our reach.

Yet I am still led to recognize the small miracles, which cumulatively over time have amounted to a very great miracle indeed.  Samuel is so much more functional than we had ever hoped he would be, and he is, generally, an incredibly happy child in his own little world.  And we had a small miracle just today, after the play when things seemed dark.

The play was over at last, to Samuel's relief
Elaine, as any mother would do, took the whole play debacle awfully hard.  I know my wife well enough to know that as much as I wanted to comfort her, I just needed to give her some space to mourn.  So I turned my attention to my boy, praying for help to make this be a good experience for him somehow.

At the end of the play, the children took their applause and Samuel, standing at last with the group, gave a little bow.  That was sweet . . . and sad.  When he came up to us afterwards, he asked, "Did I do well?"  How were we to answer that?  He had not done anything!  But he had stayed up there the whole time, even though sitting in front of a crowd must have been terrifying for him, and he had more-or-less controlled his behavior, not allowing himself to be too extreme in his flapping, vocalizations, or "odd" actions.  Suddenly I remembered the horrible, but wonderful, experience that we had had with his being in the school spelling bee last year (if you have not read my essay The Failure that Was a Success: How My Son's Losing the Spelling Bee Was the One of the Proudest Moments of My Life about that experience yet, please do).  "Yes, buddy, you did a good job," was our response.

Samuel looking at "Golgotha" (Gordon's Calvary)
And then the Lord told me what to do.  Most of the children went back to school, but I told Mr. Sheppard that we would be taking Samuel home from there.  While the other children and families left, I asked Samuel if he understood what the play was about.  "Kind of," was his response.

So I led him to the far side of the garden, where a viewing point looks over towards Gordon's Calvary over a busy Arab bus station.  "That's the same as the picture in the book," said Samuel, referring to my Easter book, God So Loved the World.  And before I knew it, I was having a basic, but important, discussion with my son about Good Friday and how Jesus died for us.  The sounds of the buses coming and coming, though at first a disjuncture with what should be a holy site, seemed appropriate to me: outside of the city gates, wherever our Lord was crucified, people were coming and going on a busy road.

See God So Loved the World, 81.
We took our time walking back across the garden, waiting for the area around the tomb to clear out.  And then I was able to take my boy all by himself to the tomb and talk about Easter.  "This is where Jesus came alive again," Samuel said. Yes, or somewhere much like it, I said. The important thing is that Jesus was resurrected, and because of that we will all live again too.  He was quiet but thoughtful.  He let me take all the pictures with him in that place that I had not yet been able to get him to in the eight months that we have been here.

The picture I have been waiting to get . . .

Before we caught a cab home to the Jerusalem Center, we walked through that area of East Jerusalem, in search of so Easter Egg dyes for this weekend.  I talked Samuel into it by promising him an ice cream bar.  While at a small Arab convenience store, he also got a Hippo Candy treat that they have here that he likes.

As we walked down crowded, foreign streets that normally would have been worrisome for him, he was instead rather talkative (for Samuel).  "Where are they from?  What do they speak?"  And then back to the important topic: "When is Good Friday?"  The end of this week, pal.  "That's when Jesus died." "When is Easter, Dad?"  This week, buddy.  "And Jesus is alive again. Where does he live now?" In heaven, where he and Heavenly Father can look down on us and take care of us, was my simplistic answer.

The little gift shop that was our Christmas store in December was now an Easter store.  We got the coloring materials for our Easter eggs.  Samuel cannot wait to make them.  We went home, and he went to his room to play his Wii and watch his Mario movies as usual.  But he was also more talkative, telling me several times, unprompted, "I love you, Dad."  And not long before bed, as Elaine and I were lying on our own bed resting (why is it that getting children ready for bed is such an ordeal that we need to prepare for it?), he climbed in between us to snuggle.  My precious son.  Disabled and so very abled at the same time.

Getting ready for bed

Sports Day at Anglican (4/27/12)

The Anglican School had its Sports Day (like a "Field Day" back home) on Friday.  Samuel did surprisingly well at all the team sports, even winning an award in the egg race.  His teacher said that he did really well helping his team mates, which for him is even better than individual competition.

Thanks to Margaret Ludlow and another parent for these photos of our boy.

Our Galilee Miracle

We had our own family miracle on Tuesday, July 17, as we were crossing the Sea of Galilee on a boat.  On that occasion the Lord temporarily opened some of the doors into Samuel's mind and heart, giving me one of the most wonderful opportunities that I have had to have a question and answer session with my boy about things that really mattered.

Please read the Our Galilee Miracle post on our main blog:

Sam in the (Old) City: Our adventure on one of our last days in Jerusalem

We did not want to be here a while year and not give Sam Man the experience of being in the Old City, especially since the day may come when sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre may mean more to him.  So we prepped him, talking to him for a couple of days about our plans and then drove down and parked at the Mamilla Shopping Center, right across from Jaffa Gate where we could get in and out of the Old City as easily as possible. 

Please read the whole account and see the many, many pictures in what may be our final blog entry: