MARJORIE JAMES – GEZER EXPERIENCE

JUST A THOUGHT – GEZER STYLE
BY : 
MARJORIE JAMES

May 24, 2013

We are in Israel! We had uneventful flights to NY and from there to Tel Aviv, which is the way we like it. It is warm today (88), but there was a bit of a breeze, so we weren’t uncomfortable.

The big event in NY was the closing of Terminal 3; our plane was the last one ever to take off from T3, so there was lots of fanfare – TV cameras, interviews with crew members and some travelers, flowers for the crew members, and lots of photos after we all got on board. I wasn’t sure we would ever take off! It was a BIG DEAL to the airport staff, and they told us about it at least six times during and at the end of the flight.

Tomorrow is the Sabbath, so we won’t be digging. We will be touring Old Jerusalem, Galilee, the Dead Sea area (including Masada and the cave where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found – just looking, not climbing up to it) and the City of David, which is adjacent to Old Jerusalem. A busy day, but we can hardly wait to see it all again.

Seeing the places mentioned in the Bible makes the events come alive. John and I have nudged each other more than once since we came four years ago and said, “We’ve been there!” It puts a whole new perspective on reading scripture.

During the week, we leave at 6:00 am for the dig. Yes, this sleeper-in will be getting up at 5:00! We find out our jobs on Monday; I can hardly wait to see a dig up close and personal, even if I do have to get up “with the chickens.” This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I plan to enjoy every minute!

My plan is to post each night, so stay tuned.

 

May 25, 2013

The first full day in Israel, and I am worn out! We did much walking, and my feet are screaming at me.

We had seen the sites before, but nothing diminishes the fact that we are seeing what Abraham saw. I learned a new fact today: The temple mount, which now hosts a Muslim mosque (temporarily according to scripture) is believed to be the place where Abraham planned to kill his son, Isaac, before God stopped him. The Muslims believe that it is the place where God took Mohammad away from earth. Of course, we Christians and Jews know that it is the site of the original temple and the two subsequent rebuildings. According to Scripture, it is where Christ will establish His reign on earth. A busy place.

We spent quite a bit of time on the Mount of Olives, the site of Jesus’ agony at the Garden of Gethsemene and his total submission to God’s will by dying on the cross for our sins. The olive trees in the garden have roots that date back to before Jesus’ time, and they are looking very healthy, thank you!

We went to both reputed sites of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. One site was discovered through the research of Helena, mother of Constantine. She and a group of archaeologists did exhaustive research to discover the actual site. There is now a Greek Orthodox church on the site. We fought the crowds to walk through – I am glad they chose to honor Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, but it would mean more to me to see the different areas without all the “decoration.” But that’s just me.

The other site is on the “back” of the Mount of Olives and looks and feels like the “real thing.” However, according to the professors we were with, the archaeology work is faulty. It was a relaxing end to our day, and relaxing is what we needed. One of the vendors tried to steal one of the students’ cell phone out of her backpack, but she realized what had happened, and one of our mild-mannered professors went Rambo and retrieved it. A very exciting end to the day.

Well, I am about to go to sleep. A tech guy came in today and will be the official “blog guy.” When I get the tracking information, I’ll let you know. Tomorrow, we go to the site – I can hardly wait!

Love you all.

 

May 26, 2013

Well, we have finished our first day on the dig. Busy, full day with lots of dirt!

We started out by taking a tour of the tel. We saw cisterns, tombs (but no bodies), city gates from Solomon’s time, and the typical Jewish four-room home near the gate. The homes were small, but they didn’t stay in them like we do. One home had pillars that were discovered the last day of the dig last year, indicating two stories above the main living area. The homes near the city gates were generally for the wealthy and those in charge of the city.

It’s amazing to see the ruins and listen to an archaeologist explain what we are looking at. It makes much more sense that way. A wine or olive press was discovered two years ago, something very important to the residents. Another group is coming in right after we leave to further explore the gates and homes; our focus is the water system.

We saw three herds of sheep on “our” hillside munching on the weeds and making themselves quite at home among the ruins. It dawned on us that it was probably much like shepherding in ancient times, except for the Nike shoes and cell phones! I was reminded of the verse about “My sheep hear my voice…” when the shepherd made a little sound (not words), and the sheep immediately left what they were doing to follow him. Oh that we could be that in tune with what the Lord says to us!

Dirt, dirt, and more dirt! I was afraid I would spit out mud when I brushed my teeth! We spent the first four hours filling sandbags and putting them along the paths leading to a section of the city wall and the cistern to ensure safe passage. The inclines to the Solomonic era are steep, and the footing can be “iffy.” Lunch sure tasted wonderful, even with a little dirt in it. We were covered in a thin layer of fine dirt and very hot, sweaty, and tired by lunch time.

The rest of the day was spent learning about “conservation”, a method of shoring up ancient walls that maintains the integrity of the find. It is painstaking work but every important. Tomorrow we will get our assignments (actually will probably be able to choose for the most part) and get started on the actual digging and processing of information. I am hoping to be a “sifter”, someone who goes through the fine dirt in search of artifacts – I will be very excited if I find something. One of our crew found some shards today just lying around where we were walking. She was beside herself, even though the archaeologist wasn’t real excited about them. They had no markings of any kind and were probably purposefully left behind. Didn’t matter to her; she plans to study archaeology in college, so this was a great inspiration to her.

Got some color today but no sunburn – maybe those few days with the top of my car down got me ready for this. Bone tired tonight but still thrilled to be here. Must go – I’m about asleep at 8:30 at night! 5:00 comes early. May the Lord bless you today!

 

May 29, 2013

I will start this out with an apology – I was about half asleep last night when I remembered I hadn’t posted. Just couldn’t pull my eyes open!!

Next, I will publicly say to our daughter, Taressa, that she was right. We needed safari hats with a flap in the back. The only sort of painful sunburn is on the backs of our necks. We’re doing OK, but it would have been better if we had listened to her.

Yesterday, I got to “shepherd the shepherd” whose sheep and goats were getting too close to the dig site. He did really well until he got on his cell phone, and two of the goats were wandering too close to the top of the hill that housed the cistern hole. Having goats fall into the chasm didn’t seem like a good idea, so I waved at the shepherd and motioned to him about his goats.

Watching the herd, I could see why God used so many comparisons (parables, if you will) to explain our relationship to Him. Sheep (and goats) will wander if given the chance, and even with direction from the shepherd, some will persist in going where they shouldn’t. Anyway, it was fun being “guard” yesterday.

I also got to do some conservation/restoration work yesterday, but I don’t think I did a real good job. I wasn’t complete sure of what I was doing, and I think it showed.

Today, I got to sift through the dirt coming up from the cistern – mud actually. Besides dry sifting, getting rid of as much of the dirt as possible, we also did “wet sifting” which involved hosing down the leftovers after the dry sift so we could find the pottery shards. We had a good day of shard-finding because the digging was in a new area. Such fun to realize that I was holding a piece of someone’s daily life from Solomon’s time, the Iron Age, in my hand. Amazing! Our greatest thrill will be if we find shards from the Bronze Age!

The most fun I had today was when I got to be a signaler to the crane operator, making sure that all went well when the large bags of mud were being lifted from the cistern and deposited near the sifters. We had a relay system – the gentleman at the top of the cistern could signal to me, so I could signal to Ossie, the crane operator. Believe it or not, it was fun! We got 48 bags of dirt successfully hauled out. Not all of them were designated for sifting, fortunately.

The Lord is showing Himself to us in miraculous ways. I will get into more detail later, but two relate to a prayer of mine about a month ago for guidance for the next phase of my retired life. John and I are having more fun than we probably deserve, and we have met and worked with some incredible young people and not-so-young people.

I have tried to post pictures – we have some incredible ones showing the site and the work we are doing. Two people have said they will show me “how easy” it is. If it’s so easy, why can’t I figure it out? (Don’t answer that question.)

Love you.

 

May 30, 2013

Hello, my friends. It was a HOT day at Tel Gezer today – 102 degrees at 9:30. Whew! We drank a lot of water and made it through. However, we had what are equivalent to Santa Anna winds (hot and strong) a bit later which blew our “base camp” down and scattered stuff all over the place. After we picked everything up, we ate a quick lunch and went home. Some people went on a visit to another cistern site after that, but I needed to find a clinic and have a blood test (PT/INR) done, so John and I didn’t go.

A good friend of ours from NOBTS (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) was visiting the site today, and he took me to the clinic. My doctor didn’t speak English, but she had a physician’s assistant who spoke excellent English, so we did the whole three-way conversation thing. My blood level wasn’t wonderful, so they changed my dosage and want to see me again on Sunday. (No, girls, nothing to worry about. This happens periodically and is easily fixed.)

Today was a red-letter day at the dig. One of the things we were looking for were some steps deep in the cistern that they think lead to another entrance/exit point. The diggers found the stairs and dug down to the last one. A big accomplishment! Also, four people were cleaning up at the city gates of Gezer from Solomon’s day, and one of them found a small statue/figurine. Much excitement among the lead archaeologists because it sets a possible date of middle Bronze Age for the gates. The figurine was broken, so all we have is the head, but it was in almost perfect condition. Maybe someone will find the rest of it before we leave.

It is hard to believe that our first week is over. We have moved a lot of dirt and made many new friends and renewed friendships formed while John was a trustee at the seminary. We are tired but happy to be here. We have Fridays and Saturdays off, so tomorrow’s activity is a tour including the Sea of Galilee, Caesarea, and other sites I can’t name right now. It will be a very long day but one full of Biblical historical significance.

One funny – I washed some of our clothes. There is no laundromat, and we’ve been told that the laundry service at Ne’ve Shalom, where we are staying, is a bit less than reliable. Therefore, most of us are washing our own clothes. We start out with clean water, of course, but it very quickly becomes muddy. The clothes are cleaner, but far from clean like at home. However, everything will just get dirty again, so why worry? It is amazing how cavalier we are about dirt. Today, my water bottle had some dirt on it, so I used my equally dirty finger to wipe it off, then drank happily. Can’t quite believe it, but dirt is a condiment to most food at the site!

Well, I am about to fall asleep. I pray that this will find you happy and healthy and blessed by the Lord. He is certainly worthy of all our praise!!

 

June 2, 2013

Didn’t post last night because my computer had 3% power. So sorry!!

It was a VERY HOT DAY (110 degrees), but we saw some incredible sights. Before we left, Taressa gave us water bottle fans, and I wasn’t sure we would be using them while digging but, boy, have they come in handy today!

We went to places near the Dead Sea first. As most of you know, the Dead Sea is the lowest body of water in the world. We went down 4,000 feet from TelAviv. Our ears popped on the way down!

Our trip to Masada was the highlight of the day. Masada is a plateau located on the eastern fringe of the Judean Desert. This was the wilderness where Jesus was tempted by Satan. Some believe that part of the temptation was on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (the Pinnacle where Satan “reminded” Jesus that he could call down angels to protect him from a fall), but the 40 days without food and water and the “turn stones into bread” temptation were definitely in this area.

Masada, because of its strategic location and flat top, was transformed into a fortress during the Second Temple period by Herod (37 BCE to 4 BCE). He built it as a refuge against his enemies and as a winter palace. And what a palace! As usual, Herod (the Great, I believe) did it up well. All his palaces were luxurious, and this one, because it was on such a high, dry mountain, is very well preserved. The frescos (plaster walls painted while the plaster was drying) and the mosaic designs are still in incredible shape because of the difficulty for conquering armies to get up there and because of the arid climate. Archaeologists also have found pieces of parchment and cloth. Herod, according to history, never lived in his palace. He died in 4 BCE, and the Romans stationed a garrison in Masada.

Masada is best known as the last rebel stronghold for the Jews. A group of Jewish zealots conquered Masada in 66 CE, set up a community on Masada and were joined by other rebels in 70 CE after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. They took over the rooms and parts of the palace and basically lived on the food supplies left by the Romans.

In 73 or 74 CE, the Romans laid siege on the rebels at Masada. They built camps around the base of the mountain, and the excavation of the camps revealed the most complete Roman camp unearthed. The siege lasted a few months before the Romans built a battering ramp. (I guess they wanted to go home!) The zealots could see that they were outmanned, and they decided they would kill their families and themselves rather than be taken as slaves of Rome.

One of the incredible finds were 10 shards with the names of the last remaining people from the original 960 members. These shards were used to cast lots to see which of the ten would kill the other nine and then slay himself last. This incredible sacrifice and “nobility of resolve” according to Josephus, has been the subject of books and movies. Two women and five children, who had been hiding in the cisterns, told the Romans what had happened that night, the first day of Passover.

Sorry this was so long, but Masada is one of those “must see” places with an incredible history. The Dead Sea, near Masada, has a 24% to 40% salt content (depending on the information source). It is impossible to sink in the water. A number of our people went into the water; their only complaint was that the water made their scratches (from digging and stumbling on loose rocks) burn.

Factoid: The border between Jordan and Israel is halfway across the Dead Sea. Part of the land we drove through to get to the Dead Sea is Jordan, so we had to go through a check point coming and going.

Another factoid: The armed soldiers we see all over Israel are mostly young people. After graduating from high school, the boys must serve three years and the girls two years in the military. There is a maturity that comes from this experience that I suspect prepares them well for higher education. One gentleman told us that most of them take off for Europe for a year after they have served. I think I might, too!

Factoid 3: The data palms we saw while driving to the Dead Sea are not indigenous to Israel; they are imported from Iraq and grow very well. Data palm honey is wonderful!

There were two more stops, En Gedi, where David hid from Saul and proved he was not trying to kill Saul by not killing him when he went into a cave to “relieve himself” where David and some of his army were hiding (1 Samuel 24:1-12). We also stopped at Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Fascinating story, but I’ve talked too much already.

Today, we only worked until lunch time. It is still very hot! Some of the folks went to see the Pools of Saloam (spelling?), but I’ve seen them before (beautiful) and am worn out, so I napped and wrote this post instead. When John gets home, he’ll probably tell me all the wonderful sights I missed. Oh well, next visit!

If you want to see pictures of what we’re doing and where we have been, go to www.nobtsarchaeology.blogspot.com. Love you all – it’s now laundry time. We get the clothes cleaner but not clean!! It’s amazing how casual we have gotten about dirt!

 

June 2, 2013, Part Two

I am at Masada waiting for the others to return, so will take this opportunity to write about yesterday. I hate not seeing it all again, but the heat is too much! I warn you, this is a long one!

Yesterday was very busy! Our first stop was at Ceasarea, Herod’s city by the sea. It is one of the most beautiful parts of Israel, the Mediterranean Sea. The Phoenicians built a settlement there that flourished during the Hellenistic period (332-337 BCE). In 30 BCE, Herod was given the city. He dreamed of a deep water harbor and went about creating it. He took 12 years to build it, and it became a major trading port.

Caesarea became the center of Roman rule; Pontius Pilate lived there and only came to Jerusalem for important events like Passover, to make sure the Jews there to worship were kept in line.

Christians, i think, know Caesarea from the biblical account of Paul’s defense of his Christian faith before King Agrippa, as recorded in Acts 25. He was in the amphitheater, which has perfect acoustics. Today, the amphitheater is used for concerts and other events. Caesarea is a beautiful place; I wouldn’t mind vacationing there!

We then traveled to Megiddo, best known to most of us for what will happen in the future. However, it was one of the most important cities in Israel. It is in the perfect place to control the Via Maris, an international trade route that linked Egypt and Mesopotamia. Basically, whoever controlled the Via Maris controlled trading, so Megiddo became the site of many battles for control. See Judges 5:19 for one reference to these battles. Megiddo is a veritable wealth of information and artifacts for archaeologists; two of ours dug there.

Megiddo is identified as Armageddon in scripture, where the final battle between good and evil will take place. Any time, Lord!

We proceeded to the Mount of the Beatitudes. A natural amphitheater made it possible for Jesus to sit down and “open his mouth and teach” to the disciples and the crowds he saw there. The Sermon on the Mount is the first major sermon Jesus gave, and it rocked the listeners’ world, saying that the kingdom they were looking for wasn’t a political one but one based on the hearts of people. Radical stuff!

We then went to Capernaum, the home of Peter. Peter’s home has been excavated, and let’s just say that he wasn’t poor! Jesus lived at Peter’s home and taught in the synagogue (see John 6:22 and beyond for one of the most famous).

After Capernaum, we went to The Church of the First Feeding of the Multitude. Jesus frequently went to this area when he needed to withdraw from the crowds to pray. It is believed that this was where Jesus fed the five thousand; the church has a rock that is reputed to be the rock where Jesus laid the loaves and blessed them. See Mark 6:30-46. There is a beautiful, ancient mosaic of loaves and fishes at the altar.

We did a brief stop at Magdala,the home of Mary Magdelene. The excavations there are new, in the last two years, because the land was owned by an Arab man who would not allow digging there. When he died, his family sold the site to the Israeli government for mega-shekels.

We then went home after 12 hours, very tired but full of the reality of God’s love for us, His people.

 

June 3, 2013

Today was a “normal” day of digging – no touring afterwards or lectures to attend. It was nice. We made no new discoveries, but we keep finding pottery shards; there were a couple of “interesting” ones today.

The goal has been to get to a causeway built by a previous archaeologist in the 1930’s – we got there today. Now the hope is that he didn’t disturb what is underneath so we can find artifacts that will date that depth – hoping for the early bronze age or earlier. This archaeologist wasn’t careful about keeping shards from different places and depths separate, so we are finding items from many ages all mixed up. Maybe under the causeway will be a source of “clean” finds.

I thought I would spend some time on various impressions and experiences I have had, so here goes:

Turkish coffee – the Israelis LOVE their coffee strong, so Ossie uses q  bunsen burners to make it here at the site, heating the water and then pouring the grounds in and letting it boil. It actually tastes good, but one should not drink all the way to the bottom of the cup. I found that out the hard way when I got a mouthful of grounds. Yuck!

Driving in Israel – I’m never going to complain about driving in Seattle again! They are a bit maniacal to say the least. I’m not driving, but it is still crazy scary. They drive fast and cut right in front of us; motorcycles drive between lanes, which scares me to death.

Dirty and clean – We have all gotten a bit casual about cleanliness. As I said before, we’re up to our ankles in dust up above, and there is mud below. Most of us are washing our own clothes because the laundry service here at Neve Shalom is expensive, and we’re not assured that we’ll actually get our clothes back. We have “clothing exchanges” when the laundry is done. One couple only got half their clothes back and are hoping to get the rest of it when deliveries are made tomorrow.

Anyway, there is no way that our clothes will come clean when we hand wash them, so “cleaner” is the mantra. What’s a little dirt among friends? One man has worn the same shirt every day since we got here, and he plans on wearing it every day (unwashed) and then throwing it away before he goes home.

People on the dig – We have recent high school graduates, college students, a doctor, some professors, three teachers (the other two are elementary), an attorney, the owner of a publishing house (yes, I have talked to him about editing for him), a surveyor, a Boeing engineer from Seattle, and various others. We have melded into a well-oiled machine; there are no “big” jobs or “small” jobs, although some of the diggers get dirtier than the rest of us.

The key is that we all love the Lord and are having much fun, even though we are as tired as we have ever been! I’m losing weight, which is good, but I am sore!

We have a large group of middle and high school students here tonight. So much energy! So much noise! Our Boeing engineer is prepping himself for the “we need to get up at 5:00” lecture, but these students are Israeli, so they may not understand. We haven’t found any leaders yet.

Well, the sun is setting, and it is almost time to try to sleep. Thank you for reading my posts – I am having fun doing them. If you have any questions, please ask and I will try to find out the answers.

Love you all!

 

June 4, 2013

Update: The man with the everyday shirt wore a different one today. I also found out that he does wash it. However, he’s one of the “deep diggers” so washing it hasn’t changed it much. It was still damp today, so he had to wear something different.

It was cooler today, which was a relief, if you call 90 degrees cooler! This Western Washington gal was still awfully warm!

When I was listing the people on our dig, I left out the preachers, not on purpose. There are three of them at the top of the tunnel, so when I am up above doing the signal relay, I get to hear them talk. What fun! Southern preachers are a hoot – they love The Lord and their people, but they are funny when they are talking to each other.

For example, they got to talking about people who are “complainers” and one of them said there was one such couple in his church who didn’t like one particular topic in sermons (I couldn’t hear what it was), so he said he preached three sermons in a row mentioning that topic, and they left the church. They were laughing so hard they could hardly talk.

Today, all the pictures of the causeway built earlier were taken, so tomorrow it will be removed. Then the excitement will really start. One man said that getting underneath the causeway has been their goal while digging for 3-1/2 years. Hopefully there will be wonderful artifacts under all the mud, and they can firmly date the cistern construction.

Speaking of the tunnel – drum roll, please – I went all the way down today! What a hike down and up, especially up! I made it, slowly, but I made it. It actually wasn’t quite as bad as I had anticipated, but I won’t be doing it again. The cave at the bottom, 150 feet down, is impressive. It is fun to see what people who know what they are doing can accomplish.

We got our laundry back today and ended up with a shirt that isn’t ours and missing one that is. Not bad; hopefully all shirts will find their rightful owners tonight at dinner!

Got a new insight on the verse about the separation of the sheep from the goats. (I don’t have my bible with me, so I am not sure of the reference.) I noticed that the herds around us are mixtures of sheep and goats, and one of the professors commented that things have to be together to be separated. All of us will be in a “mixed herd” until Christ comes to call us out of the mixture and into our place. Oh, happy day!

Must go. I trust this finds you healthy and content with life. We certainly are!

 

June 5, 2013

Today marked the half-way point in our adventure. Hard to believe that it is going so fast! The second day we came back to Neve Shalom and collapsed, wondering if we could make it three weeks. Now I feel we could go on longer.

Much excitement in the cistern today. They hit the bottom “floor” and are looking around to see if there is a secondary outside entrance. Many of the water systems had a hidden entry in case something happened at the main entrance.

Some really big sherds (“shards” in America; “sherds” in England and Israel) were found today. The archaeologists haven’t had a chance to look at them yet, but we who don’t know as much are excited. It looks like there are sherds from a vase that could be reconstructed. It is a beautiful greenish-gray color. I’m anxious to hear what the experts say.

Some more musings about our life at the dig:

1. I read what I wrote about the preachers yesterday, and I’m afraid I left the wrong impression. These men love the Lord and love their churches, and I respect them tremendously. The one with the “complainers” had counseled with them and tried to heal the rift, to no avail.

2. Water is vital in this climate. John and I each have two 1-1/2 liter bottles of water every day, and others drink even more. We each freeze one of our bottles to drink in the afternoon and refrigerate the other one for in the morning. The bottles are huge, and we found insulated covers to put over them that work well. The frozen ones are still partially frozen at the end of the day.

3. Dirt is everywhere, even in our pores. We shower carefully and still leave dirt on the towels. One of the college student said that even after a before-pool shower, swimming, and taking a long shower in his room afterwards, he still leaves dirt on his towel. We may never be clean again! I am sure our socks won’t be either.

4. Did I tell you that our “weekend” is Friday and Saturday? It is hard to adjust and remember what day it is when the workweek starts on Sunday!

5. We have wonderful Israeli people helping us. I’m not sure I am spelling their names right, but here goes. Tzvika is the regional head of the national park system and works side-by-side with the lead archaeologists from NOBTS. He is delightful and takes the time to answer all our silly questions with grace and very good English. He has published a book about ancient water systems in Israel, and our publishing company owner is going to publish it when it is translated into English. It is a beautiful book, and I have volunteered to proofread and edit after it is translated.

Ossie is our crane operator who takes the bags of dirt, rocks, mud, and sherds from the cistern to our sifting site right above it at ground level. He also makes us Turkish coffee every morning. I told him yesterday that he is our barista. He didn’t know that word, but when I explained it to him, he was pleased. I have learned how to make it also, but it isn’t a skill I plan to bring home with me!

Nissan is our very quiet, focused conservation expert. He doesn’t socialize much, but he is very good at his job and teaches the neophytes patiently.

These are the main ones, but there are always others coming in for a day or two to supplement. Today we had a lady who is working at Masada come out to see what is going on and to work with Nissan. There is much excitement about what we are doing at Gezer, so we have had many visitors coming out for meetings and tours as well.

Well, it is time for bed. BTW: Ray is much better today. He worked today but didn’t overextend himself. Tonight, he was back to his usual jolly self. Thank you for praying for him.

Love you all. Word of advice: If you ever have a chance to do this, DO IT!!

 

June 6, 2013

Thank God it’s Thursday!! It has been a good week, but we are all worn out tonight. Tomorrow, we’re going to Galilee, and have just been told it will be a longer trip than the 13-hour one last Friday (or was it Saturday?) We’re taking more cold water this time!

Much excitement today. The diggers think they have discovered an underground spring in the cavern. This would be over and above what the “big guys” were hoping for! They are going to try to get fairly clean water samples on Sunday.

Speaking of fairly clean, John has a new pair of brown socks. Of course they were white this morning, but it is starting to look like brown may be their permanent color, even with a washing.

One of our men, Gary, developed a kidney stone about the time we left the site today. Pray that “it too shall pass” soon. Fortunately, he has some pretty heavy-duty pain killers because he has had them before, but he is very uncomfortable and really doesn’t want to go to the hospital tomorrow. Pray for a quick resolution to his problem.

On a personal note, I had my second doctor’s appointment, and my blood level is close enough to normal (for me) that I don’t have to go in again before I get home. PTL!!

The diggers are finding some very large sherds now that they are at the bottom. Today, I held two pieces of a jar handle and put them together – they fit perfectly! It is much more exciting than a jigsaw puzzle in a box, and I love those! We think there may be enough large pieces to at least be able to put the jar together enough to see what it looked like. Just like in a museum – such fun! All I could think of was that some woman like me held that jar many, many centuries ago.

There is a wedding reception on the grass just up from our room, so it could be a long night. Happy, but noisy!

It is hard to believe that we are 2/3 of the way through our adventure. We have made new friends and shared incredible experiences. Once again, the bible is coming alive even more than it did when we toured here. We are learning much about life in biblical times at a up close and personal way.

The head archaeologist is receiving all sorts of offers for the next dig. Obviously, they have managed the four-year dig well. This is probably the last year for Gezer. It will be exciting to hear where the next dig will be. Will we go? We’re going to wait for specific news about the next dig and then pray a lot about it. This has been the experience of a lifetime, but we’ll see.

Must go. Love you all. Thank you for reading.

June 7, 2013

What a day! Much new information and new insights on stuff I already knew!

We toured around the Galilee area and saw many fascinating things. There is a different perspective when archaeologists are guiding, especially when there are water systems involved. But first the factoid of the day.

In Israel, not only do we get yellow lights before the red, but the green light starts blinking when the yellow is about to show up. Plenty of warning. Another fun thing is that there are yellow lights before the green, so the cars can get ready to go. Maybe when people drive the way they do around here, the transportation officials figure more warning is helpful.

On to the tour. We started at Mt. Carmel, where Elijah did a number on the priests of Baal. See 1 Kings 18: 16 and on. A couple of things I didn’t know are that Baal was the god of rain and lightning, so the whole scenario was to show that the God of rain and lightning was Jehovah.

The area had been in a drought that Elijah declared for two years before the BIG EVENT! The challenge Elijah brought was, “Who provides rain?” After this spectacular demonstration of God’s power, there was a great revival, and God’s people turned back to worshipping Him. However, that worship only went on for two years. By then, 98% of the people had returning to the worship of false gods. Our translation of the bible said that Elijah was afraid of Jezebel, so he ran and hid. Our professors said the Hebrew says that he was discouraged. Can you imagine? This spectacular demonstration of God’s power, and His people turned away from Him after only two years! (Kind of sounds like some of us at times, doesn’t it?)

We then drove to Zippori, called Sepphoris in the Bible. Zippori was called the “Ornament of All Galilee”, and it is easy to see why. It was a large city and the capital of Galilee during Jesus’ time, considered the center of life in Galilee. It is the possible birthplace of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and it is also possible that Joseph did some of the work on the city. Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, is in the valley below Zippori.

It is 40% excavated, and I can’t imagine what else is lurking under the surface. There are exquisite mosaics almost completely in tact; it was a luxurious place. We walked down the main street through the business district on the way to the bathhouse, and we could see the ruts in the stones from the many wagons full of goods that rolled down the street.

The bathhouse has a large, ancient mosaic celebrating the time the Nile River overflowed its banks (I don’t know the date) and another showing Amazon women fighting. The mosaics were almost in tact – the only damage was from falling stones and pillars during an earthquake. They were amazing!

There is also a mosaic of the “Mona Lisa of Galilee” in the governor’s house in Zippori – absolutely beautiful!

A bit of recent history: The Galilee area is bordered by the Golan Heights, which are called Bashan in the Bible. One mountain in the Heights was the scene of a tank battle in 1973 when Syria sent its tanks in to conquer Israel’s defenses. This was during the Yom Kippur War, and the Israelis defeated the finest of the Syrian military force.

From Zippori, we went to Tel Dan. I had never heard of this site, but it is a big deal! In 780 BC, Syrian King Hazeal (during the time of Elijah and Elisha) killed both the Israelite kings, in the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom. In celebration, he erected a plaque of sorts announcing his conquering of these kings. This “Dan Inscription” was discovered in the mid-1980’s and contains the only mention of King David outside of the Bible. Both of the kings Hazeal killed are mentioned as descendants of David. This find silenced those who said the whole “David saga” was a myth because there was no extra-biblical confirmation. My view is that the Bible is true, and I’ll wait for scientists and archaeologists to find the evidence!

We were at the north end of the Sea of Galilee where the Jordan River flows into the sea. Arbel, a small fishing village, is in the area where Jesus walked on water. It is very close to Capernaum, where Jesus lived in Peter’s house, which is just below the Mount of Beatitudes, which is close to the area where Jesus cooked the fish for the disciples after his resurrection and asked Peter, “Do you love me?”

Israel really isn’t all that big! Magdala, where I told you Mary Magdalene was from, is also very close to this part of the Sea of Galilee.

Another factoid, then it’s time for me to go to sleep: The Byzantine Era started in 324 CE, when Constantine declared Christianity the official religion.

Vocabulary word for the day: discalced. There is a monastery on Mt. Carmel that is a “discalced Carmelite Monastery.” As I used to tell my students – “Look it up!”

Love you all.

 

June 8, 2013

We did some more sight-seeing today, but we also had time to ourselves to shop and relax. It was fun, but the streets of the old Jerusalem market are packed with people. Much jostling and pushing. It is divided into sectors – Jewish (closed for Shabat today), Arab, and Christian. It looks like it is where the residents of Jerusalem do their regular shopping. Bras and panties are in “caves” right next to jewelry, shoes, clothing, food of all kinds (Today there was a carcass hanging ready for sale with its tail still on. I think it was goat.), sweets, souvenirs, eating places, etc. it is like a very large Pike Place Market with narrow streets and lots of people rushing everywhere.

It was probably through these streets, actually ones like them a layer below where they are now, that Jesus walked while carrying his cross.

Before we went shopping and had lunch, we went to Herodian, described as a “mini-Masada.” Herod the Great built a palace on the hill that is seven miles south of Jerusalem and one mile south of Bethlehem. He liked to build magnificent palaces, and this one was no exception.

While there, Herod died. He had prepared his tomb at Herodian, which was found and excavated in 2007. However, his body wasn’t there, nor were the many jewels and finery he was buried with. The evidence seems to indicate that his grave was broken into and desecrated by Jewish zealots who hated him, for good reason. There were three sarcophagi, which were also empty, buried with him, with no indication of who they were. One was small and probably was for a young child.

The film we saw before climbing up this mountain (not this lady!) indicated that Herod was a man of contradictions, depending on who was speaking. He was cruel, killing his “favorite” wife and putting her in a container of honey so he could visit her when he wanted. A later wife declared that he was a “good husband.” He was brilliant, and a great engineer and builder but given to great fits of rage. Today, he probably would be diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic.

Just for fun, and some more excellent Israeli ice cream bars, we went to Nabi Samuel. The Israeli Antiquities Authority declared this site as the place Samuel died. However, the bible says he died in Ramah, not where we were, so we must have gone just for the ice cream!

The site was a reservoir for water used 638-1527 CE. During that time it changed hands three times: Muslims, Crusaders, and Muslims again.

A line from the song, “There’s Just Something About That Name”, referring to the name of Jesus, that keeps running through my mind: “Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s just something about that name.” Not only are there layers of buildings all over Israel, but there are layers of kings and kingdoms that their leaders thought would be permanent but were replaced by someone else. Our Lord is still in control, will never pass away and can’t be replaced. PTL!!!

More digging, sifting, and conservation tomorrow. Hopefully we will find more exciting pottery. The archaeologists were as excited as we were over the handle and the sherds that went with it – later Bronze Age – so we are anxious to see what we will find. At the beginning of the dig, the comment was made that the “big find” usually happens right at the end of the dig. I am ready!

Good night. Love you all. Thank you for the positive comments about my posting. It has been fun to do.

 

June 9, 2013

I’m posting a bit early tonight because we are all going to Ossie’s home for dinner tonight. Ossie is the Israeli I mentioned as our crane operator and coffee maker, but he is so much more. If something needs repaired, he knows how to do it. If we need a part or a tool or a small bulldozer, Ossie has it. Tonight he will impress us (I’ve been told) with his culinary skills on the grill. When I asked him how his wife felt about us all coming over, he said she was excited because she loves to cook (and is very good at it, I’m told). I’ll give details tomorrow.

It was a good day at the dig. We found two figurines that are very exciting to the archaeologists. They really didn’t expect to be able to continue digging after we hit the causeway, but we have the time and the strong backs to do the work. The finding of pottery is a wonderful bonus.

By the way, I erred in writing about the age of the artifacts we have found. There must be careful inspection of what we have found before dating can occur. So PLEASE DON’T TELL ANYONE WE HAVE ESTABLISHED DATES FOR OUR FINDS because we haven’t. Thank you!

It’s time to go off to dinner. Love you all.

 

June 10, 2013

Sitting here looking at a most gorgeous sunset over the valley below our “home away from home.” Even with the scare with Syria in northern Israel, God is still doing His magic with his creation! We are all very glad that we toured the northern part of Israel last week. There is a “travel advisory” along the Golan Heights today. No, we are not in danger here.

We are really slowing down our production rate at the dig site. Now it’s a matter of digging a little and sifting A LOT. John has put together a system for the sifting of the mud coming up out of the hole, so they are an efficient machine! The sifters are using basically a wood frame with a wire screen stapled to it. Ossie, our resident has-whatever-we-need man, has a large sifter that they started using today, so eight of them sifted 20 bags. John is one tired puppy dog; his comment was, “We kicked butt today”, and they did.

We’re finding more and more artifacts – two of our young diggers found a vase almost in one piece, handle and all. Very exciting!! There are some smaller pieces that are interesting as well. Of course, I can’t even speculate about how old they are since we got “the lecture” yesterday, but they are old!

I’ve ended up being the scribe for the lead archaeologists, which means that I’m able to watch their excitement over what they are seeing. Two of the volunteers spent some time today putting a jar together, which was fun to watch! I am typing up the daily log and keeping track of all the bucket numbers and contents, digging level, position, etc. It really is interesting; if I was younger, I might be digging, but for me this is fun.

It is hard to believe that we only have three more days at the site. By Thursday, we should know where next year’s dig will be – either back here to do final “stuff” to help the Antiquities Authority get the site ready for tourists and other visitors, or at another site. They have had many offers on where they could go, and they are at a meeting even now going over options.

Me – I’m going to sleep. Love you!

PS: The dinner at Ossie’s house was amazing! We had fish, lamb (much milder than what we get in the states), beef, goat (for those brave souls who have no sense) and lots and lots of “salads”, small individual dishes set out like tapas. All of it was delicious, including the homemade apple pie and ice cream for dessert. Have I mentioned how good the ice cream is over here? Yum!!PS: The dinner at Ossie’s house was amazing! We had fish, lamb (much milder than what we get in the States), beef, and goat (for those brave souls who have no sense) and lots and lots of “salads”, small individual dishes set out like tapas. All of it was delicious, including the homemade apple pie and ice cream for dessert. Have I mentioned how good the ice cream is over here? Yum!!PS: The dinner at Ossie’s house was amazing! We had fish, lamb (much milder than what we get in the States), beef, and goat (for those brave souls who have no sense) and lots and lots of “salads”, small individual dishes set out like tapas. All of it was delicious, including the homemade apple pie and ice cream for dessert. Have I mentioned how good the ice cream is over here? Yum!!PS: The dinner at Ossie’s house was amazing! We had fish, lamb (much milder than what we get in the States), beef, and goat (for those brave souls who have no sense) and lots and lots of “salads”, small individual dishes set out like tapas. All of it was delicious, including the homemade apple pie and ice cream for dessert. Have I mentioned how good the ice cream is over here? Yum!!

June 11, 2013

Two more days to go – simply too hard to believe that it has gone so fast! We have been more tired than ever before, more dirty than we would ever get at home, eating food we normally wouldn’t, and have loved it! The folks we have been working with are absolutely incredible people. The young ones (high school and college) have worked hard, had fun, and included some of us not-so-young ones in their laughter.

Today, I “officially” became the registrar of pottery. I have been doing some of the cataloging and that sort of stuff, but Dr. Warner (Dan) announced that I was the registrar for the last buckets tomorrow. He has even said he hopes we come back next year so I can “registrar” from the beginning. It has been fun but we are still praying about coming again in 2014.

The verse in the Bible, “No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:23) has come to my mind a lot today. It has been difficult when Tsvika, the Director of Antiquities for Israel, and Dr. Warner, the lead archaeologist for our group, don’t agree on how things should be done. I keep wanting to ask who my boss is – next year (if I come) would be easier because we could discuss issues beforehand and have a plan for how things would be done. I’m learning to “go with the flow.” They honor and respect each other, but they are very different people.

We were on the biggest show on the most popular TV channel in Israel last night. Well, Tsvika was! I learned that the water system we have been digging in is the largest pre-Roman water system in the world! We had many people dropping by today and will probably have many more tomorrow and Thursday. They have to be escorted around by one of the archaeologists, so they are worn out tonight after all the trips into the depths of the deep.

Tomorrow is clean-up of the website by everybody else while Tsvika, Dan, and I classify and package up the last of the artifacts and pottery (and bones and charcoal now) so Tsvika can take them to the restoration department of the National Parks Department (much like our Department of Interior). The national parks are the sites with excavations, and the nature reserves are what we call national parks. The government owns about 25% of the land in Israel because of all the sites, dug and undug that are known about. The restoration department will do the hard work of putting the artifacts we found together, where possible. I have a much different view of what we see in museums now!

Tomorrow night, we go to a restaurant named The Old Man and the Sea in Jaffa for our celebratory dinner. Rumor has it that it is the best fish restaurant in Israel. I don’t know whether I told you or not, but early last week a group of us went to the Elvis Restaurant in an Arab town near here. Great cheeseburgers, fries, and milkshakes, but it was a bit overwhelming to see so many Elvis pictures, memorabilia, and large statues. I don’t think I can compare the two restaurants – both of them are experiences to treasure!

Must go. 5:15 am comes awfully fast around here! We’re supposedly supposed to get rain tomorrow, but we’ve been told to “wait and see.” I almost miss the unpredictability of weather in Seattle! Almost!  Love you all.

 

June 12, 2013

Well, our time at Tel Gezer is over. I must admit that I felt a deep sadness as we drove away for the last time. What an experience! We got dirty and hot but had the time of our lives. I don’t tolerate heat all that well, but I discovered inner depths I didn’t know I had. God is so good to prepare us and equip us with what we need to accomplish His plans for our lives!

The Old Man and the Sea exceeded our expectations. We ate much wonderful food and enjoyed a drop-dead view of the sun setting over the Mediterranean Sea. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Since we finished all that needed to be done a day early, we get a sleep-in day and some swimming at beach on the Mediterranean Sea tomorrow. We’ll do a little “easy” touring first, but we all are looking forward to relaxing.

Our hotel, Neve Shalom, is located in a unique community called Newe Shalom, “New Peace.” It was established for the express purpose of fostering relationships between Arabs and Jews and seems to be doing just that. The local school has an equal number of Jews and Arabs in attendance. One of our people talked to two upper elementary girls, one Arab and one Jew, who are best friends. Peace comes through the heart, not at a treaty table, right? One lady who visited Gezer told us about Newe Shalom and made the comment that “It doesn’t look like the rest of Israel.” Maybe a small community can make a difference someday.

We’ve had some of our people go home earlier, but the people who stayed until the dig was over start going home tomorrow. We have bonded in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without the dirt and sweat. I’m praying that we will get to see some of these people again “this side of glory”, as one of the preachers put it.

Now we’re looking forward to sleeping in our own bed with our snuggly pugs (if we can pry them away from Taressa). We have made memories to last a lifetime, but home has its advantages, too, not the least of which is being able to see our friends and talk face-to-face with them.

Speaking of sleeping, it’s time. Tearing down a site and overeating is hard work! Love you all.

 

June 13, 2013

Today was a day of relaxation, sort of. The plan was to go to the Mediterranean Sea and swim. But of course, we found out there were sites to see on the way! We finally got to the Mediterranean around 2:00, tired and, of course, dirty. We did see a couple of interesting sites along the way.

Before you read further, I suggest you read  1Samuel 17 (yes, the whole thing). We were there today – not when all this happened of course. Seeing the setting makes the whole account come to life. The valley was a major route to Jerusalem so was important. The Israelites were encamped on one side of the valley, and the Philistines were on the other side. Goliath and David met in the valley between them. Of course, we know that David beat Goliath, but if you read carefully, you will see that David, too young to be a soldier, didn’t take credit for the victory. The Philistines had the incredible fighting force and Goliath, but David had God, and that made all the difference.

It’s like that in our lives today, too. We never attack any obstacle alone; God is fighting the battle for us. Why don’t we remember that?

Interesting factoid: The five stones David took from the stream represented the five Philistine cities in the area during the Israelite period.

Another one: The stones were about the size of a baseball.

Another one: Israel frequently goes to the Elah Valley to bring in smooth stones because so many tourists pick up stones for souvenirs!

We also went to Ashqelon, near the Mediterranean Sea, which is known for the oldest arch in the world. It was built as the entrance to the city, a thriving port city during the Middle Canaanite period (2000 – 1550 BCE). The Philistines controlled the city during the Israelites period (1200-1000 BCE). Jews and Muslims were also part of Ashqelon’s history. Today, it is a large port city with about 100,000 residents.

We ate at McDonald’s, and the Big America burger was outstanding! No cheese, of course, but much better than what we get in the US.

Ashqelon is mentioned in scripture as part of David’s eulogy for Saul and Jonathan (2Samuel 1:20) and Samson’s wedding bet (Judges 14:11-19). The entrance is part of a large park where lots of people camp out and swim on the weekends. It was pretty busy when we were there. I can’t imagine camping right by ruins of a Roman theater and forum, but they do.

That’s also where the group went swimming. Actually, the young ones swam and we more “mature” people watched. It was marvelous; the breeze and ice cream were greatly appreciated. Have I mentioned how good the ice cream bars are?

I just found out that the husband of our PE teacher when I was at Heritage Christian School just died. Please pray for his wife, Peggy Hoffer, and their children. He wasn’t that old but recently had some heart issues that required surgery. I don’t know details.

Time for bed. Love you all.

June 14, 2013

What a relaxing day! As more and more of our crew is leaving, we’re suffering a bit of separation anxiety and a bit of “Gee, wish it was me!”

Today, we took a short trip with one of the seminary archaeologists to the Israel Museum on the campus of Hebrew University. It is an incredible museum, and our trip there was even better because we had our own personal tour guide. It was crowded for awhile, but the further we went, the fewer the people.

It was exciting to be able to “translate” dates and eras into what we have discovered at Gezer. In fact, there were some artifacts found at Gezer on display! We’re figuring out more and more how important Gezer was to Israel and how important our findings are. We were blessed to be a part of the adventure!

Yes, we are seriously considering coming back next year. We want to come home, pray, and make a decision based on what God says and not on our emotional response to what we have experienced. Being home will help us put it all into perspective and give us a chance to wait on God’s decision.

Tomorrow, we have nothing planned except to sleep in, do some work, eat ice cream bars, and possibly do some easy walking. There is a tour guided by Tsvika which would be interesting, but anything that is entitled “The Hills of Galilee” isn’t on my list. We’d like to go back into Jerusalem, so hopefully that will be possible on Sunday.

We head for the airport Sunday evening for a flight that leaves at 12:54 AM Monday and arrive home around 12:00 PM on Monday. Pizza at Sparta’s (preferably with meat AND cheese) is on the docket for Monday night with our girls (OK, grown women).

One of the things that I have been struck with is that Israel is truly the promised land. It has everything needed for success – location on trade routes, creating thriving cities that were easily defensible because of places like Gezer (which was very important in antiquity), mountain ranges (like the Golan Heights) which help protect Israel today, fertile valleys, and the Mediterranean. The Lord certainly chose well for His people! Doesn’t He always?

Yawn!! Good night, my friends, and may our Lord bless you richly today!!

 

June 15, 2013

It’s hard to believe, but this will probably be my last post about our trip! The three weeks have flown by – the second day I wasn’t sure I could make it, and it’s already over!

We had a very relaxing day. I slept in, did some “registrar work” for Dr. Warner (Dan), went out to lunch with two of the other archaeologists/professors at NOBTS, came back and did a little more work for Dan, then took a nap. Did some walking around, ate dinner, and am now ready for bed. (This sounds like one of those annoying Twitter tweets, doesn’t it?)

John and Bill, another volunteer who pastors in Indiana, walked (hiked, actually) to the monastery near here. John came back all sweaty but carrying some olive oil he just “has to try.” It is produced by the monks at the monastery.

This has been the trip of a lifetime, and I thank you for sharing it with me through my posts. Your kind words and encouragement to continue were a blessing.

Love you all.

 

June 17, 2013

Well, it was an eventful day today, so I will write some more! We’re at the Ben Gurion Airport waiting for our flight to New York then home. When we checked in, we found out that we had a stop-over in Amsterdam to refuel. Surprise!

We went to Tel Tsafit (pronounced “safit”) which is the tel Gath was on. Gath was Goliath’s hometown and the largest Philistine city during the Iron Age. It absolutely glows in the sun because it is formed of gleaming white rock.

It was also on the route of the ark when it was taken to Ashdod – 1Samuel 5:1.

Two of our dig leaders went there to discuss the possibility of starting the excavation of the water system, which has yet to be found. The chief archaeologist has been at Gath for 16 years and has requested that NOBTS do the cistern work. Our people are very excited about the possibility, but they already have two other short projects to do first, including finishing the Gezer dig next year.

Unless The Lord tells us otherwise, we plan to return to Gezer next year. That idea came to us at the same time while listening to the excitement in the voices of the archaeologists. We want to continue to be a part of Gezer and beyond.

We’ll fill you in later. Love you all!

 

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