October 2009


This morning we went to the Lutheran World Federation on the Mount of Olives to help harvest their olives. There are 800 trees on the property of LWF and each fall the olives are harvested exclusively by volunteers. The olives are pressed Beit Jala or Latrun and the olive oil is used in the kitchen at the Augusta Victoria Hospital and is sold to raise support for the hospital. AVH primarily serves Palestinian refugees and those with social needs. It is the only hospital that offers kidney dialysis to Palestinian refugees.

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Just a few of the 800 trees. These trees are only 40 years old. It takes 10 years before a tree will produce useful olives. Some olive trees on the Mt. of Olives are 1000 years old and still produce olives!

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The olives range in color from green to brown and all are good for making oil. They are actually hard and cold be stepped on without getting squished.

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We used small plastic rakes to comb the olives out of the trees. We agreed that it was rewarding to hear the olives plunk on the tarp below. (It’s the small things!) 🙂

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Brandon even climbed into the tree to reach the olives at the top.

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Joanna helped by putting picked olives in the bucket. (Admittedly, it didn’t last long but it was cute for the minute she did help.)

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LWF pays by pound to press the olives and the bags are weighed before they are run through a sorting machine. So when the tree was finished, we dumped the olives in a pile and sifted through them for clumps of leaves, twigs and stones. These are the olives we picked from one tree. It took us about an hour and a half.

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Our newly harvested olive tree.

It was a fun morning and we made it home 10 minutes before the rain started! This was our first rainy day and have been promised many more are to come. In fact we’re forecasted to have rain for the next 5 days. Hopefully that means will have some clear skys when my mom and dad come.

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The Temple Mount has reopened for normal activity. Like I said, it wasn’t as bad as the news made it look. Even the picture from this article is from last month. A picture of normal day-to-day activities at the Temple Mount wouldn’t be newsworthy, so they had to pull a more shocking photo out of the files. These skirmishes just go to show how far we really are from peace in the Middle East.

Have you heard the news from Israel today? There have been more disturbances on the Temple Mount. Yes, that is not far from where we live. Yes, I can seen the Aksa Mosque out our window. (It’s the gold dome in the picture at the top of our blog) Yes, I’ve heard helicopters flying around the Old City today. Are we safe??? YES!!!

The Arab youths mentioned in the article are a very small portion of the Arab community. The vast majority of Arabs are peaceful and easily live alongside their Jewish neighbors. These tense moments have been happening on and off for the past few weeks. You would never know this was happening unless you read the news or were trying to go to the Temple Mount. Notice the end of the article says “Jewish prayers at the Western Wall went on undisturbed.” The Western Wall is VERY close to the Temple Mount. That alone tells me things are ok. Hopefully the Temple Mount will be open for visitors when my parents come in 10 days!

My (Brandon) most recent field study was a 3 day trip into the Negev (southern desert region). I have over 180 pictures of the trip so I’ll try to share some of the best here.

View from Bet shemish

Remember the story where Samson tied the foxes tails together and let them go in the Philistine wheat fields? Well, this is where it happened, the Valley of Sorek.

Battle of David and Golith - Elah Valley

This is the Elah Valley. The location of the David and Goliath story.

At the end of our first day, we spent some time at the Mediterranean Sea.

Mediterainian Sea 2

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Four room house at Beersheba 2

This is the ruins of a four room house at Beersheba. The ancient Israelites all had identical floor plans. The first room (and area at the front of this picture) was considered a public space and the receiving room for guests. Directly behind that were two rooms: a workroom and a multipurpose room. (In the picture these two rooms are divided by the 3 pillars of stones.) The workroom was where the women cooked, sewed, taught their children, etc. The multipurpose room could serve as the dining room, or a bedroom for the children, or a barn for the animals in winter (who also provided heat for the home). Beyond these rooms is the inner room which was not open to guests (see Psalm 128).

Tamarisk Tree in Beersheba 2

A Tamarisk Tree – Genesis 21
Abraham planted a tamarisk tree when he settled in Beersheba. Tamarisk trees are very hearty but grow very slow. When Abraham planted it, he was making a statement that God’s presence would dwell in this land longer than he would.

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Avdat – a spring in the desert and possibly a place where the Israelites would have gone when they were wandering in the desert for 40 years.

Masada 2

Remember when I told you about the Herodian and how egotistical Herod the Great was? Here’s another example of his architectural genius. This is Masada. Notice on the tiers on the left, there were palaces built on each of these. The plateau even had a swimming pool and the fortress extended further to the right than this picture shows.

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Floating in the Dead Sea

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En Gedi – David went here when hiding from Saul.

Qumran Cave #4

Qumran Cave #4 – Where the found the Dead Sea Scrolls

Tomorrow I leave for a 4 day field study to the Galilee region. Should be fun!

In order not to be wasteful, Brandon and I used to force ourselves to eat leftovers just before they spoiled. Neither of us really liked those meals. Times have changed…

Tonight I was fixing Moroccan Chickpeas and Couscous for dinner. It’s something we’ve had before that we rated as an “okay” meatless meal.  The olive oil was heated in the pan and I dumped in the diced sweet potato, green pepper and onion. Next I sprinkled on the spices. First cumin. And 1 1/2 tsp later I realized that the cumin was looking a little dark on those veggies. A quick smell confirmed that I had used pepper instead of cumin. Really? 1 1/2 tsp pepper Kelly?

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Dried spices come in clear plastic bags at the shuk or packets at the grocery store. I typically purchase my spices at the grocery store because I can’t read the Hebrew at the shuk and obviously have a hard time identifying spices. The packets at the grocery store are usually in English, but my pepper and cumin bags have only Hebrew.

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Brandon came home and wrote the English name in permanent marker on each packet. Genius!

And we’ll be having leftovers for dinner tonight. No one is complaining. 🙂

In case you’re interested…
cumin = כמון
pepper = פלפל

I added a function to our blog this morning that some of you might like. At the bottom of the right hand column there is a link to subscribe to our blog via email. We’re using a service called FeedBurner so don’t worry about spam. All you have to do is click on the link, enter your email address and watch for updates in your inbox. Some of the reviews say there can be a 24-48 hour time lag from when the post is written to when it is sent via email.

Brandon mentioned a bit before about his Rabbinical Thought class. Recently he had to write a paper on how ancient rabbinical literature can give us a new perspective on the New Testament. While researching for the paper, he was introduced to a book by David Bivin entitled New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus. Bivin has spent much of his life with noted scholars of rabbinic literature, Semitic languages, ancient texts, and archaeology. Several years ago he taught Hebrew at JUC. We have friends who go to his church here and our landlord knows him. What’s more, the book was published by the En-Gedi Resource Center out of Holland, MI.

After proofreading Brandon’s paper, I decided to take a look at the book for myself. The editors’ preface alone made me want to read the book. I thought I’d share a bit of that here. (If you’re not into reading the preface, skip to the next paragraph.)

We have tended to read the teachings of Jesus as if they can be removed from any context, making them timeless and universal. Because of Jesus’ divinity, we tend to forget that these words were spoken by a man who lived in a particular place and time…What if we were to read his words in light of the Jewish literature of his period, considering that he was part of a larger discussion going on around him? Even though his sayings will make more sense, it may bother us that some aspects of Jesus’ life were not so unusual in his time…It takes faith to study in this manner, not knowing if our convictions about his uniqueness will be confirmed…Initially we were skeptical of whether any good could come out of such a study that might threaten our long-held understanding of Jesus. But what we found was just the opposite – when we heard his teachings in the context of his world, many “ah-hah’s!” and satisfying answers emerged for questions that we had been almost afraid to ask, and his powerful words became more applicable to our lives.

The book is fascinating and in the first 3 chapters I’ve already gained new insights on tough passages. For example in Luke 14:26 we read, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters and himself as well, he cannot be my disciple.” Today we read hate and wonder how this fits with “Honor your father and your mother.” However, the word hate in this context means “love less” or “put in second place.” We also think it’s mean when Jesus doesn’t let prospective disciples say goodbye to family before following him. However callings like that were the norm among sages in the first century.

Ok that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re interested in learning more, find a copy of Bivin’s book or check out the Jerusalem Perspective. Bivin started JP in 1987 as a monthly newsletter and after 12 years changed it to a web publication. You can view several free articles online, and there are also links to other great resources.

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