Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Lick of the Land

One of the common questions I get after returning from a trip is "How was the food?" JUC does a great job with the food. Not having to worry about cooking for a few months made it all the better. Here is a tiny taste of my culinary journey through Israel.

When you wake up to a smiling breakfast, you know it's going to be a good day (oatmeal, granola & fruit yogurt, muffins, hard-boiled egg, and banana - fuel for a fresh day!)

Falafel in pita with fries and watermelon! Score!

Shabbat dinner every Friday evening was always something to excitedly anticipate.

Study break during final exams week. Since "desserts" is "stressed" spelled backwards, they must help handle those finals!

But the fabulous food wasn't limited to just on campus. There were other memorable meals on the road.

During field studies we had a great smorgasbord of selections to put in pita bread.

Waiting for the Samaritan Passover to begin gave us time to eat sandwiches we packed.

A shared plate in Wadi Rum in Jordan, ready for us to sink in our hands.
While there were certainly memorable meals throughout the semester, what I remember most fondly is I where I ate it or who I was with.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Wadi Rum

Driving south, we came to a cliff line. Wadi Rum stretched out before us. Rocks and sand were visible as far as the eye could see. (Rum is Arabic for sand) This was Lawrence of Arabia territory (the movie was filmed extensively here, along with many others including recent movies like The Martian).

We stopped for lunch, which had our last real bathrooms for two days. Our bus would be leaving us in the meantime. We loaded into trucks for a quick drive through the sands to our campsite. Settling in to our Bedouin goat-hair tent, it was time to start preparing dinner: the goat needed to be slaughtered. (I won't go into the gory details)

The next morning we mounted camels for a three hour ride around the area, including a stop for tea. Arriving back at camp, we had lunch and then relaxed in the tent for the afternoon. While some napped, I played cards with others. I now like to imagine Abraham sitting in his tent in the heat of the day, playing cards. It's a different pace of life.

Everyone made sure to watch the sunset both evenings we were there. A few of us hiked/climbed up to get a better view of the spectacle.

I set up my sleeping bag on the sand that final evening. Settling in the for the night, I stared up at the stars twinkling over our heads. A shooting star swooped across the darkness. I couldn't help but be in awe at the beauty of the night sky.

The next morning we packed up and headed back towards Jerusalem. It had been an amazing trip, the climax of the semester. I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life.

Our campsite, complete with Bedouin goat-hair tent

The so-called Seven Pillars of Wisdom in Wadi Rum.

Dinner! It looks fresh!

Dinner is served!

A camel ride through the great desert

Enjoying lunch during our second day

Creating a trail to find a view

A grand view of the area around our campsite

Watching sunset

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


We hit the road again, heading farther south to the town of Shobak to stay at Jaya Camp, run by a local Bedouin family.

We started by walking into town because we were told there was a fun shop of trinkets to visit. The clouds looked threatening when we started our short trek and soon let loose. We ducked into a small cave to escape the drenching downpour and hail. When it stopped a few minutes later, we walked the extra minute to the store. Across the street was the world's smallest hotel, a VW bug with a bed shoved inside. On our way back the sky let loose again (I think it was waiting for us) so we ducked inside another cave.

We gathered inside a common tent where it was dry. We learned about grinding grain and coffee. The grain was turned into flour and baked into flatbread. Dipped in olive oil and zaatar, the warm bread tasted wonderful. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing inside the tent, enjoying each other's company, and playing games.

The next morning after breakfast we explored the nearby Crusader castle before hopping on the bus to continue farther south to Wadi Rum...

At Jaya Camp at Shobak

The world's smallest hotel with the Crusader castle in the distance

Hail! Very unusual for May!

Grinding grain. Place it in the center and turn. It comes out the side.
Repeat until desired consistency reached.

From flour to dough. Flatten, bake, and serve!

Roasting coffee beans.

Mashing the roasted coffee beans to a pulp!

Exploring the Crusader castle at Shobak

We found the secret passage exit: a steep, slippery tunnel to the base.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

When the Spirit Came

There was one more holiday I would have liked to stick around for in Jerusalem which was today (Sunday): Shavuot (Feast of Weeks / Pentecost). Coming 50 days after the Sabbath of Passover, it remembers the giving of the Torah at Mt Sinai. The Shavuot after Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension imbued it with additional meaning because the Holy Spirit came upon them at this time. Jesus had promised that his departure wasn't the end. Rather, it ushered in a new beginning. The first Shavuot gave the Torah; that Shavuot empowered them to better live it out.

While I may not be in Jerusalem anymore (Lord willing I'll be back in due time), I have reassurance that God is with me. If there's something he wants me to do, he will equip me by the power of his Spirit to carry it out.

Wadi Hike

People assault the flinty rock with their hands
  and lay bare the roots of the mountains.
They tunnel through the rock;
  their eyes see all its treasures.
~ Job 28:9-10
After breakfast the next morning, we loaded up and drove back to Dana Village to begin our hike down Wadi Dana, a large canyon sloping into the Rift Valley. We descended over 3000 feet over the course of 10+ miles, ending at the Feinan EcoLodge where we would spend the night. The hike took six hours, including stops, giving us plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.

Our luggage was waiting for us when we arrived. After a brief rest, we piled into trucks and drove to the nearby ancient Feinan copper mines. When King Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem, he used large amounts of copper/bronze in its construction (1 Kings 7:47). This is the closest copper mine to Jerusalem and may have been his source.

The EcoLodge had minimal power via solar panels. As the sun set, candles were lit around the facility, setting a relaxing mood.

Near the beginning of our hike, looking down Wadi Dana with many miles to go

Stopping for lunch, our guide pulled a tea kettle out of his pack, built a small fire, and made us sweet tea

The rocks along the wadi are beautiful
Watching some goats along the way. Is it just me or are some of those goats floating next to the rock face?

The Feinan EcoLodge, where we would spend the night

One of the Feinan copper mines which we explored. Notice the green of the copper.

At a small local museum we looked at a great model of the region and saw where we had hiked

Supper by candlelight. I'm having a hard time seeing what I'm eating but it still tastes good.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Across the Jordan

The semester wasn't complete simply because exams were done. My Cultural Backgrounds class still had one thing remaining: six days in Jordan. To better understand the culture of the Bible, we visited various Bedouin groups, since their culture most closely resembles that of the Bible. This was unlike any other field study I've ever done, and it was fantastic!

Departing early, we crossed the border and drove to the small village of Dana, south of the Dead Sea. We learned about making bread, milking a goat, and plowing. Then we sat back with a cup of tea while someone serenaded us with a musical instrument called a rabbaba.

Driving a little ways, we came to our accommodations for the night. Well, we could see them from the bus but it would be a hike or truck drive to get there: an encampment tucked away among the rocky terrain. I opted to hike (no surprise if you know me) while my luggage rode. We wandered around until sunset, then had supper. Finally, we gathered in the main tent to look at maps and had the local guide tell us entertaining stories. Settling into bed, the trip had started off well.

Making flatbread

Milking a goat for all its worth

My pitiful attempt at plowing

Listening to the rabbaba

Overlooking Rumman Camp (note the cluster of white tents just right of center)

Our accommodations didn't even have WiFi!

Appreciating the landscape by camp

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Farewell Again Jerusalem

If I forget you, Jerusalem,
  may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
  if I do not remember you,
  if I do not consider Jerusalem
    my highest joy.
~ Psalm 137:5-6
My bonus days around Jerusalem have ended. I'll miss wandering around those old streets.

I went to Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv Tuesday evening and departed from my incredible adventure. I'm thankful for safe flights home. Unpacking my suitcase is taking some effort, but unpacking what I've learned will take years. I pray that God will use these experiences to transform me to more faithfully follow him.

Hugging Jerusalem good-bye at Jaffa Gate