September 2009

A while back we posted about some household repairs that are just a bit different when done in Israel. After our crazy weekend with a flat stroller tire, we thought it was time to share again. We share not because we need sympathy, but because God has provided in each broken situation.

Here’s a brief list of a few fix its:

  • washing machine – We had only hot water and then we had no water. It only took a couple days for the plumber to fix it. Thank you God.
  • water heater – Currently our water is solar heated. If we ever have several cloudy days, we need to switch on the electric heat. One weekend looked like rain so Oz came to show us how to switch hot water sources. The electric heater didn’t work. No problem. A week later the water heater was fixed and thankfully we never need it over the rainy weekend. Praise the Lord.
  • stroller – Friday I found myself 20 minutes from home, in the Old City, with a flat tire. Bummer. I made it home on the flat, but obviously the stroller was out of commission. Since it was the start of Shabbat, which was followed by Yom Kippur, we had a 3 hour window on Sunday morning when we might get it fixed. Brandon and Oz attempted, but ended up blowing out the entire tube. (It’s much more difficult to fix a flat with instructions are in Hebrew.) So we walked around Israel with Joanna in the hiking pack for a couple of days. Since walking is our only form of transportation, we were praying very hard for that tire to get fixed asap!!! Tuesday afternoon Brandon found a bike repair shop. The man there didn’t speak English but had the wheel repaired in 5 minutes! Thank you God.

There are others, but you’re getting the picture. We are continually blessed by God’s provision.


Saturday we went hiking in the Golan Heights. Israel has controlled this area since the Six Day War in 1967 when they captured it from the Syrians. It remains a highly constested land and is governed and controlled by Israel but is not internationally recognized as belonging to Israel proper. Needless to say it is a mountainous region where many Israelis vacation. We hiked in the Gamla Nature Reserve.

We went with a group of 50 JUC students and left on a 2 1/2 hour bus ride at 7 am. We hiked for 5 hours and had a 3 hour trip home. Joanna held up pretty good for not napping all day, but we were all exhausted when we got home. Here are a few pics and there are more on facebook.

PS – Daylight savings ended in Israel last night so we’re now 7 hours ahead of you until your time changes.

Last Sunday I went on a field study to the Benjamin territories. It’s a very small territory in southcentral Israel that includes Jerusalem. Even though it’s small, 60% of the Bible stories happen within this territory.

Jerusalem 130

Excavated ruins of the walls of Jericho during the time of Joshua.

Jerusalem 108

Judean wilderness – Check out Deut 32:10-14 or Hosea 2:14

Jerusalem 139

Modern Gibeon – Check out Joshua 9 & 10

Friday I went on the Samaria field study.

Jerusalem 168

Shechem – Genesis 33, Joshua 8, Judges 9

Jerusalem 188

Jacob’s well – This is where Jesus is given a drink from the Samaritan women. Unfortunately, you can’t take a picture of the well itself.

Jerusalem 190

But I did get to drink from it. If you’ve forgotten the story, check out John 4.

We are in the middle of the High Holy Days, so we thought it only appropriate to share a bit about these Jewish and official Israeli holidays.

Last weekend was Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. Judaism has its own calendar, which has 12 lunar months. Each month starts with the appearance of the new moon, the 15th of the month is when the moon is full and the month ends when the moon disappears. Days are counted from sunset to sunset. Thus, last Friday night began the New Year.

According to Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah celebrates God’s creation of the universe and recognizes his sovereignty over the world. On this day God judges people’s deeds from the previous year and decides their future for the next – death for sinners, life for the righteous and a repentance period until Yom Kippur for people whose status is uncertain. The 10 day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called “The Ten Days of Repentance,” during which people have the opportunity to atone for their sins.

Monday is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is the holiest of all holy days and even the most secular Jew celebrates in some form. It is a day of fasting and praying. Absolutely everything in Israel will be closed. Oz tells us that the Orthodox Jews even put boulders on the streets to keep people from driving.

Sukkot, the Feast of Booths is the following Saturday. In ancient times, this was when Israelites would come to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. Today, each family builds a Sukkot booth, either in their yard or in our case on the roof, to commemorate the Israelites living in tents and wandering in the wilderness. For 7 days they eat only in the Sukkot, and the very religious also sleep there. (If you want to watch a movie on this holiday and like foreign films, “Ushpizin” is an Israeli film that centers on Sukkot. You can get it from Netflix.)

We celebrated Rosh Hashana with some friends from JUC. They came to our apartment and we all made dinner. Unlike the New Year in the US, the Jewish New Year doesn’t have a huge celebration. It is more religious in nature and definitely less rowdy. As of today, we don’t have plans for Yom Kippur, but Brandon is looking forward to a 3 day weekend. Brandon has offered to help our neighbors build their Sukkot booth, and they indicated that they’ll probably have us over for dinner in it one night.

On Saturday we’re going with a bunch of students from JUC to hike in the Golan. Supposedly it’s beautiful – lots of waterfalls. We’re borrowing a backpack that Joanna can sit in, so Brandon has a pretty big workout ahead. It should be fun, and we’ll be sure to post pictures. Brandon has another field study today so he’s hoping to post pics from the last couple trips tonight.

“Shana Tova” (a good new year)

Brandon turned 30 today! He’s been very busy the last few days working on a paper (hence I haven’t had computer time to post) and had to spend much of his birthday writing. We did celebrate with scotcheroos, a new game (Sheish Beish), and dinner out. Here’s a few new family pics and there are a couple new videos of Joanna loaded on facebook.


DSC04015 (notice the shirt, “Daddy’s Girl”)

Brandon has pictures from his field study last weekend that we hope to get posted tomorrow. Back to the paper…

During the summer of 2001, I went on a 2 month Summer of Service (SOS) to India. My team was based in the foothills of the Himalayas, and we hiked into the mountains a few times to reach out to people in remote villages. One of the biggest challenges for me was thinking that the missionaries we worked with weren’t doing anything. I felt like time was so limited and if we were doing missions we should have been busy doing missions. Right?

Thursday I struggled with the fact that we’ve been in Israel for 1 month and I “haven’t seen anything.” We have a gorgeous view of the Old City and literally live a few miles from over 60% of what you read in the Bible. Yet, I’ve only been to the Old City a few times and haven’t even mastered our small corner of the city. I feel like time is so limited and if we’re living in Jerusalem we should be busy taking it all in. Right?

The reality is that the mundane daily activities must happen whether you live in Iowa, India or Israel. All people need to sleep, cook, eat, clean, do laundry, get groceries, have time alone, etc. Short term missionaries and vacationers are unique in that they can run full speed ahead. Long-termers need to pace themselves.

Living in another country doesn’t change who we are or what we’re called to do. We are loved by God, saved by His grace and called to be His salt and light in this broken world. Whether we live in Iowa or India, we are continually learning how to love God and love our neighbors more each day. I am learning to worship Him in the little things in life, like doing laundry or getting groceries.

I’m grateful for the lesson I learned in India and for this opportunity to live life in Israel. And yes…we’re bound to have adventures here, even if they don’t happen every day.

I have been in class for 2 weeks now and have already learned a lot. I am taking 4 classes (Physical Settings of the Bible, The History of Ancient Israel, Biblical Hebrew, and Rabbinic Thought and Literature) and auditing one (The History of Ancient Egypt). Physical Settings is the main course at JUC. It gives a sweeping overview of the historical geography of the Bible. I have a field study nearly every weekend for this class. The History of Ancient Israel is a fascinating class. After 9 hours of class the professor had only begun to explain the history of Israel. Biblical Hebrew will probably be my toughest class. The professor flies through vocabulary and often gets lost talking about something that doesn’t pertain to Hebrew. It’s a good thing there are a lot of people around who can tutor me. 🙂 Rabbinic Thought and Literature is mind boggling. First century Jewish rabbis were focused on asking questions of the text and finding answers to those questions. Their answers come from clues within the text; however, the clues that they discover come from all over the place. The answer becomes a written Biblical exegesis which is called a “midrash.” The other day we took a Biblical text and tried to examine it as a rabbi would. It took us 2 hours to get through 2 verses! The History of Ancient Egypt is mostly for fun. I’m sitting in on the lectures so that I have a foundation for the field study to Egypt in December. The classes are all great, but of course they all come with loads of homework.

Classes are Monday through Thursday, and I have Friday’s off. On the weekends, I usually go on a field study with one or more classes. The first couple of weekends, I spent time in Jerusalem. This past weekend I was able to travel to Bethlehem and Tel Aviv. In Bethlehem we went to the Church of the Nativity, a spot believed to be the place where Jesus was born. The “exact” spot is marked with this star.


In Tel Aviv we went to a museum. We mainly explored a tel, a city mound that has been created as a result of civilizations building on top of the ruins of another. This is an ancient olive press found in Israel.


In the weeks ahead I will be heading to the Sea of Galilee and the country of Jordan. In December I will be taking an 8 day trip to Egypt, where I will climb Mt. Sinai, ride camels, climb the pyramids, and wander in the desert.

I have a wide range of professors. One of them is a Christian while the other three are Jewish. Some have their Ph.Ds while another is a Jewish Rabbi. All of them have great respect for the Bible…some parts more than others. One of my favorite things about the professors is how well each of them knows and understands the scriptures. Their knowledge and passion for the Bible inspires me to study scripture more in-depth.

These first two weeks of classes have been a sprint. Mid September through mid October has 3 major Jewish holidays; Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. Since several of my professors are Jewish, they will miss classes during some of those weeks. We made up for it by having extra classes these past two weeks. And since this week is a “lighter” load, I finally made good on my promise to Kelly to post something on the blog.

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