Greeks learn in order to comprehend.
Hebrews learn in order to revere.

~ Abraham Joshua Heschel

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Let the Rains Begin!

Hello everyone. Well, the weather here is beginning to change and the raining has begun. It seems it’s actually a bit earlier than usual but the last couple days we’ve had several short bouts of rain. Typically in Jerusalem there is a completely dry season from about mid-April to mid-October, and then a very wet and rainy season from mid-October to mid-April. During the wet season, Jerusalem averages 24 inches of rain! We have already noticed some things that may be a bit challenging during these next months of rain. One is drying clothes. We’ve had Denyon’s diapers on the line now for about 24 hours and they’ve been rained on about four times…maybe they’ll dry eventually. Also, we’ve got our umbrellas and backpack rain covers ready for our numerous walks in the rain to and from school and elsewhere. Fortunately, Denyon’s stroller has a rain cover too so hopefully he’ll make it through the season without getting drenched. Also, the Jerusalem limestone (practically all the sidewalks are composed of this) gets extremely slippery when wet so hopefully we’ll make it through without any nasty falls. Lastly, when it rains, it stirs up even more dust and some sort of white chalky particles that easily make their way onto everything! Today, while eating lunch, a large breeze came through our apartment and left us with a table full of what looked like white ashes. Delicious! At home, it’s easy to avoid inclement weather by just staying inside, staying in your car, using the dryer, etc. However here we either have to face the elements or just wear dirty clothes…or both! Until next time!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Bit of Culture

So I have noticed one stark diffrence between American culture and Israeli culture. Now don't get me wrong when I say this, but Israelis really love their children well. It is not uncommon in America for new moms and young ladies to gaulk over beautiful babies and talk about their bundle of joys. However, here, even the men (and women) do the same. There have been numerous occasions since we've been here where men have been so enamoured with Denyon, talking to him in Hebrew "goo-goo, ga-ga" talk, motioning for high fives, etc. We noticed this right away when we arrived at even the airport. Also, it is not uncommon for men to own and run the local "gans" aka preschools/daycare centers. That is something that is extremely rare in the U.S...even for men to work with young children. There are plenty of men I know that love their children and grandchildren very well, but on the whole American culture is not that way with small children and babies. It is really cool to see that here and something that we did not expect. Just a few nights ago when we were eating out for dinner, one waitress said she wanted to wait 20 years for Denyon's phone number and the manager gave us free sorbet for Denyon for dessert. He sure did love it! The moral of the story is...when we have Denyon around, things go much smoother! That's all for now.
Shabbat shalom,

Friday, September 19, 2008

The First "Incident"

For nearly the last week, I have been debating as to whether I would include this story on our blog. The one phrase I heard over and over again before we left for Israel was “be safe.” I understand that came out of the mouths of all of the people who love us dearly and truly want us kept from any harm. However, there is only so much you can do to “be safe.” We live each day in the hands of God, trusting that whatever happens, God is ultimately in control. I have hesitated putting this on the blog because we didn’t want you to worry about us (as I know many of you are), but I wanted to honor the fact that you are on this journey with us and I want you to know what our experiences are. Thus, I feel as though I need to share with you an incident that happened last Saturday (September 13 – our 5 year anniversary day) on one my field trips ~ Shallon and Denyon were not on this trip as this was a fieldtrip for one of my classes that Shallon is not taking. Essentially, we (my class and I) were on a field trip that went through the West Bank. We were about two miles from our destination site when two Palestinian boys (ages 13-15) threw two rocks at our bus. Not many of us saw the rocks coming our way. I certainly didn’t as I was looking the other direction. Then all of a sudden it sounded like a gun shot went off. I felt a spray of glass across the back of my neck. It took me a few seconds to gather what had happened. I turned to the two ladies who were sitting next to me and both of them were bleeding. Essentially, one of the rocks went through the glass window of the row I was sitting in. The rock ricocheted off the foreheads of the two women sitting next to me. Both of them suffered significant cuts on their foreheads. Furthermore, the woman immediately next to me saw the rock coming at the bus ... hence, when the window shattered, glass went into her eye. For 40 minutes, I kept pressure on her wounds and she kept her eyes closed, while another classmate kept pressure on the other woman’s wounds. It took the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) about 30 minutes to show up. The ambulance came 10 minutes after that. Both of the women were taken to the best hospital here in Jerusalem. They were treated and released seven hours later. Bless God … both of them are going to be fine and were back in the classroom on Monday. The doctors were able to get all the glass out of the one woman’s eye – she is going to recover just fine. Both of them also received a number of stitches. But needless to say, we were glad it wasn't any worse. Again, these things do happen and they are unforeseen … but they are rare. We do feel very safe most of the time here in Israel. It is an amazing place to be and we are loving every minute of it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yehudiya Hike (Golan Heights)

Well, to celebrate our anniversary and just because, Brad and I enjoyed a day hiking in the Golan Heights through Wadi Yehudia this past Sunday. The trip was hosted by JUC as a student activity day and we took full advantage. A wonderful young lady named Melissa spent the day with Denyon and had a great time. He really enjoys her and was very excited to see her the next morning as well when I headed off to my Gospel of Matthew class.
The hike was amazing. We started at the top of the canyon, hiked to the bottom, and then climbed back up. Down below we hiked from waterfall to waterfall, canyon pool to canyon pool. A couple of the pools we actually had to swim across in order to continue on the trail. It was a bit of a challenge swimming with a bag over your head so as not to ruin your cell phones, passports, camera, and lunches. We managed the first swim with no casualties, but the second we weren’t so lucky. We ended up with a broken, waterlogged flashlight and soggy sandwiches. Luckily we’d already eaten the main portion of our lunches so it wasn’t too bad. For a select few this will remind you of the blue river canoe trip where we enjoyed peanut butter and water sandwiches when I was a kid. That’s the first thing I thought of when pulling out the soppy pita bread and draining the water from the bag! The water in the pools was absolutely refreshing because of the extreme heat. Another fun part was jumping off the cliff rocks into the water. One of those things that they tell you not to do, but everyone does it anyways. The water is very deep actually. That was the thrill for the day. Part of the hike through the base of the water was very dense with all sorts of greenery. There were even some bamboo trees I think. At times we felt like we needed a machete to cut through the brush. The climb back up was nearly straight up and completely black basalt stone. It was a challenge for sure but right up our alley. We came home completely exhausted and very satisfied for going. And Denyon didn’t seem to miss us at all!
Speaking of Denyon, he has made some major progress since we’ve arrived. He’s gotten his two front teeth, and is now working on three more! I can feel two of them and just see the third coming in. Needless to say he’s been a little fussy because of the pain I’m sure. Poor little guy. He’s also gotten much more mobile. He still prefers to army crawl but is getting very efficient at it. I must have looked away for about 30 seconds while I was cleaning up in the kitchen and he was playing around the corner. I looked over to check on him and didn’t see him but heard him…he had actually crawled under the couch! Also, before coming here he didn’t transition well from position to position so if he was sitting he stayed sitting, if he was lying down he stayed lying down, etc. Well now it’s no problem and I had to laugh last week when after putting him down for a nap, then checking on him to see why he was still fussing after several minutes, he was sitting up crying his eyes out snuggling with his little green frog. I’ve never been able to sleep sitting up so I figured he couldn’t either. I assume he was protesting the nap, but he did eventually take one. His first real word and his favorite thing to say is “book.” What a great word! He also says what resembles “please” which again is a great word to be saying. He still loves books and prefers them to most toys. We’re proud of that!
Our internet is still not officially set up in our apartment so we haven’t been able to upload many pictures to the blogsite. We will do that as soon as we can. Right now we’re lucky to be able to be online long enough to post and check an email. It’s the only “business” that we haven’t been able to take care of since we’ve gotten here. The company definitely does not get any awards for its customer service and the fact that we don’t speak Hebrew makes working out the kinks doubly difficult. We’re hoping that we can get it settled this week but you never know. We’ve learned that nothing happens fast here in Israel!
We are enjoying ourselves thoroughly and Brad and I both absolutely love our classes and are learning so much already. It’s a blessing and a privilege to be here. Until next time!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Trip to Galilee

Hello everyone! It’s hard to believe we’ve been here nearly three weeks already. School is well underway and Brad and I both are loving classes. I am fortunate enough to now take two classes—Archaeology and The Gospel of Matthew. Brad is taking these two classes as well so it’s fun to have them together. We were fortunate enough to find people to watch Denyon for the six hours we’re in class which is such a blessing. It gives us some time away and keeps Denyon used to being with others. It’s working out great.
This past weekend we spent three days in the Galilee region. We stayed at a very nice inn on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee (aka Kinneret as the Israelis call it). We had extremely hot weather (nearly 110 most days) so we had to be mindful of Denyon of course. Despite that, we were able to visit the ancient ruins of Bethsaida (a small fishing town in the bible where at least Peter, James, and Andrew were from), Capernaum (another fishing town where Jesus regularly visited and preached in the synagogue), Tabgha (the site of the church of the multiplication of bread and wine), Susita (in the Decapolis on the eastern side of the sea…near where supposedly the pigs from the demon-possessed man ran into the water), and Hazor (an ancient city built by King Solomon’s men). Hazor was the only new site for us and we had the whole park to ourselves for three hours. The ruins were extensive and included a large Solomonic Gate to the city with six chambers and an outstanding water system with a shaft that went underground to a tunnel of a pool of water. It’s amazing what these early builders could do without the conveniences of modern day.
In addition to these ruins, we visited a place in the Golan Heights called Hexagons Pool. It was in the Yehudia Valley Reserve and we hiked down (about 25 minutes) to a beautiful natural waterfall and springs and pool among beautiful rock walls and trees. The water was so refreshing and the whole family enjoyed a swim…well Denyon mainly splashed water everywhere. It was lifegiving water in the extreme heat. Brad and I are actually headed back to the same area next week with JUC for a more extensive all-day hike. We’re looking forward to it very much.
We briefly visited the Jordan River park, saw the ancient Galilee boat in the museum located in our hotel, went down to the area where seven natural springs flow into the sea, and climbed a small mountainside for a beautiful view of the entire sea. We arrived too late to explore the ancient ruins of Gamla (we were there two summers ago but wanted to go again…maybe next time). And it wouldn’t have been a complete trip without some family swim time in the Sea of Galilee. Again, the water was refreshing although not near as cool as the water at Hexagons Pool. Overall it was an amazing trip and we were grateful for our time as a family there.
On another note, everyday life is going well. I’m figuring out how to grocery shop here and it is a little different. If I go alone, I typically must take the stroller, lock it outside the store, put Denyon in the cart while I shop, and make sure I don’t get too much that I can’t carry it home in the bags I bring and the stroller. We have been told that most stores deliver if you like but we haven’t ventured to do that quite yet. If Brad goes along it’s a little easier and we’ve actually taken a suitcase to fill up with groceries. As Brad likes to say, “Here comes the carnie act!”
Denyon cracked me up on the last shopping trip. I was going to buy some cucumbers and went to grab a produce bag to put them in. I probably looked away from him for maybe 5 seconds and when I looked back, he had grabbed a cucumber and was eating it whole! I suppose he wanted some cucumbers as well! He’s been doing much better sleeping and is getting back to his normal 8 a.m. wake up time. We are so grateful for that!
I suppose that’s it for now but we’ll keep you posted! Until next time…shalom!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Classes Have Begun

So many of you are probably wondering how my classes are going and what exactly I am taking. So here's the skinny ... I am really enjoying my classes thus far. I am thrilled with the passions of my professors and the content is right up my alley. This should be an outstanding semester. So here are the classes I am taking:
1. The Gospel of Matthew in its Jewish Setting - this class is taught by a Messianic Jew who was born in South Africa, lived in Switzerland, moved to the States where he has lived for the majority of his life and then made "Aliyah" (a Jew moving to Israel) about 15 years ago. He just completed his PhD and did his dissertation on the subject of the class. Essentially, the class is him walking us through the book of Matthew and sharing with us what he learned doing his dissertation. Oh yeh, and our reader for the class (a reader is spiral notebook of articles the professor has collected for us to read) is 875 pages long - I have never seen such an enormous reader!!!
2. Rabbinical Thought & Literature - this class is taught by a Jewish Rabbi who is wicked smart. He is not only an ordained Rabbi but also a full-time professor at Hebrew Union College (he is an adjunct at JUC). He is open to dialoguing about Christianity but this guy is as Jewish as it gets. And he is a great guy ... I can't wait to see what all I learn from him this semester.
3. Archaeology 1 - this class is taught by Gaby Barkay, a legendary Archaeologist who has done extensive digging around the temple mount, among many other places. This is the only class I haven't had thus far ... but will have the opportunity to "dig in" next Friday.
4. Ancient Egypt and the Biblical World - so this class is obviously about Egypt. Essentially, we spend the entire semester learning about Egyptian history and how it has influenced the Biblical story, and then we have an 8 day field study trip to Egypt at the end of the semester. Yeh, it sounds like a ton of fun, doesn't it? I can't wait.
5. Physical Settings of the Bible - this is the bread and butter class of this university. This class is the biggest reason why I chose to study in Israel and at JUC (Jerusalem University College for the initiated - and I have no idea how you get University and College in the same title - I am going to ask the director about this sooner or later). Essentially, this class is structured in such a way that you spend the class sessions during the week looking at a particular region, and then you spend a day or two in that region on the weekend. Thus, in addition to our 19 class sessions scheduled for the semester, we spend an additional 16 full days of study in the field. And we make it to every part of Israel in the course of the semester. Now this is the kind of learning that I love!
So there you have it for now. Grace and Peace!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Our First Week!

Hello everyone. Here we are in Jerusalem just after a week and starting to feel a little at home. We've already done so much and yet there is still so much to do. Here's an update thus far. I've mentioned a little about our apartment but here's a little more...we're on the fourth and highest floor of our building, which definitely made moving in a little tricky. Fortunately we can lock up our stroller at the bottom staircase because otherwise that would be a pain to drag up and down. The chariot stroller is working so well here. We wouldn't want anything else because there really is no such thing as a smooth road. The apartment is a two bedroom, one bath (although the toilet is in a separate room by itself), living room/dining room together, and good sized kitchen with a bar countertop. Our favorite feature is probably the two off the living room and one off of our bedroom. At about 4/5 p.m. we can open both up and let the breeze from the Mediterranean fill the apartment. It sounds dreamy...and in a way is...but that breeze just cools the apartment off to about 80 degrees instead of 90 or so. It's been 100+ all of the days we've been here thus far. We're adjusting to the heat pretty well.
Denyon has done pretty well despite all of the changes. Just as we landed though he started getting his front two teeth which has not helped. They're now peeking through but he hasn't slept well since we've been here. There are a lot of noises in the mornings too that probably wake him up early. I tried to tell him this morning that I don't do 6:30 a.m. but he didn't seem to understand. We're hoping he'll get back to his 8 a.m. wakeup before too long. Otherwise, he seems to love the new adventure.
So far, we've explored our neighborhood of Baka which is very nice. It's south (slightly southwest) of the old city and JUC. It takes us about 25 minutes to walk to campus and about 35-40 to walk to the old city...depending on which gate we enter. There is a nice park a block away from our neighborhood, and about a 15-minute walk is a beautiful promenade that has an amazing outlook where you can see the whole city of Jerusalem from Mt. Scopus to the Old City to the Mt. of Olives. It's amazing! There are lots of nice shops, supermarkets, and restaurants nearby and all within 15-20 minutes of walking distance.
We have explored the old city both on our own and with a class at JUC. Denyon and I were allowed to join Brad and his class on a walking tour of the old city which was very nice. Denyon did great and soaked it all up. During that trip, we visited the supposed room of the Last Supper, the Church of the Resurrection, the four various quarters of the city (Jewish, Muslim, Armenian, Christian) and were introduced to the man who will become our primary money changer. His name is Shaban and he has a great relationship with JUC. Most of the students use him to change their money from dollars to shekels and we will do the same. He is the fairest rate which is currently about 3.5 shekels/dollar.
I have already made three friends who all have children so that's a great connection. I met up with them at a park and it was great. One lives just a block away.
Also, Brad and I are planning on going on a day long hike in the Golan Heights sponsored by JUC. We were able to find someone to watch Denyon...a wife of one of Brad's classmates. We've heard the hike is one of the best you can do in Israel and that's next weekend.
As for this weekend, we're heading up to Galilee. We will leave Thursday and return on Saturday. We're looking forward to getting our feet in the same soil where Jesus taught again. Brad was there this past June but it's been two summers since I've been and obviously Denyon has never been. We can't wait!
Another bonus is that I am able to audit one class per semester for free! I have decided to take Biblical Archaeology with Gaby Barkay (one the the best archaeologists). Brad is also taking this class so we found a student who is studying abroad from Wheaton College that offered to babysit during the three hour block on Friday mornings. I have not met her yet but Brad tells me she's a lot like our regular babysitter at home--Erica. If that's the case we're in great hands. I am very excited about the opportunity to take the class and will very much enjoy the two day-long field trips associated with it.
Brad is busy now doing some homework but he is planning on tomorrow posting about his classes and how he thinks his experience will be. He came home today loving his first three classes and I know he's very excited about the semester.
Well, I can't think of much else for now. We'll keep you posted and Brad will post some pictures tomorrow as well. We love you all. Have a great night!