Sunday, June 15, 2014

The End (For Now)

We are home, and it feels good! We love going on these trips, but coming home is always wonderful. This year, I came home with a chills and a cough. Being on a plane for 20 hours when one does not feel good is almost unimaginable (except that I can imagine it well).  However, things are starting to look up in the health department, so life is looking better.

We made some incredible finds this year, according to the experts. A small Canaanite goddess left her legs in the cistern, and we found them. We found lots of shells, Cypriot pottery shards (beautiful), flint, and pieces of jars and chalices. We also found LOTS of bones, more than expected.

The biggest find is how big the cistern is. It is around six by 15 feet, much bigger than we thought. That discovery lead us to the decision to come back to Gezer and finish what we started. The word is that it may take two more years to do the job well.  We might even find the water source. So much for moving on to a new challenge!

From a personal viewpoint, one of the greatest finds were the friends we made. There were quite a few of us back this year, so there were many hugs. The Lord gave us some funny people as "rookies", and we quickly grew to love them. Most of us are planning on coming back to finish what we started. Another seminary may join us next year, which will be a new dynamic. They are getting their archaeology department going and want to be partners with us to get some first-hand experience. This is looking like it would be a good thing for both of us.

As we were getting set up at the beginning of the dig, a man in an "ultralight" took some pictures of our site. I put ultralight in quotes because it is one of those large curved parachutes with an engine attached. Anyway, he sent the pictures to us, which gives a totally new view of what we were doing.

 This was the first day, so the tent wasn't even up yet. If you look closely, you should be able to see the vans driving in and the two "blue rooms." The main tent will be put up between them on that flat surface next to the road.

This shows the opening to the cistern and the big crane that lifts the bags out of it. You should be able to see the Canaanite gate near the little bridge; beyond it is the Solomonic gate.

This gives a better view of the two gates and some of the surface excavation being done. The surface people from Southwestern Seminary will be back next week to continue and expand their field of operations.

What a blessing this experience has been! I'll be back next year, the Lord willing, with more blogging. I have had so much fun doing this and hope you have enjoyed reading it.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Today was a day of work, but it was also a day of celebration. At the beginning of this year's dig, we all thought this would be the last year at Tel Gezer. We would find the bottom, make it "beautiful", and move on somewhere else.

However, that is not exactly how it happened. Three times we heard that we had reached the bottom, and three times we found out we had not. This water system is much larger than anyone thought. Tonight's celebration was supposed to celebrate finding the end. Instead, we celebrated meeting our goal in terms of depth, with the caveat that we were coming back to finish.

I don't know how well this will show what I am going to tell you, but hopefully it will help you visualise how the system works. This diagram was drawn by Macalister, the man who discovered the system in 1903. The tunnel goes down, and he thought the bottom of the incline was the end. However, when he got down there (what he thought was the bottom), he discovered the cavern shown in black. He thought it was small and insignificant.

However, we have found out that the cavern is actually quite large and may contain the water source. Therefore, we are coming back to explore the cavern. which will take at least next year and maybe longer. AND, as I said before, we still haven't really hit the bottom. [Sigh]

These two pictures show what the diggers have been doing in the depths of the earth.They love it down there, and I am so glad that they do. We actually had too many people who wanted to dig this year!

The celebration was marvelous! The British ambassador to Israel was one of the speakers, and he really expressed the enthusiasm we have all felt in discovering a small part of the history of Israel. A famous Israeli singer performed, and there were two songs that made the audience come alive.  One was about the rebuilding of the temple - most were singing along with her enthusiastically. However, the most dynamic reaction from the audience came when she sang "Jerusalem, the Gold."

She first sang this song right before the Six Day War, after which Jerusalem was once again united. Gilla, a tour guide the seminary uses for the tours they sponsor, said that the singer is seen as a driving force, almost a prophet, in the fulfilment of the dream. Everybody (except us Americans) was singing and clapping enthusiastically along with her. Great joy for them! Gilla said that there are people who want to make it the national anthem of Israel.

All in all, it was a tremendous, but long, day. We will sleep very well tonight! Tomorrow is our tear-down day. It is unbelievable that the dig is almost over. We're going to go to Asi's home for a very tasty meal (his wife is an excellent cook!) and barbecue. Four of us will have to leave early to go to the airport. Our flight leaves at 12:10 am, and we have to be at the airport three hours early to go through the security gates - yes, more than one - to get to the plane.

I will probably write one more blog, either at the airport or after we get home. There is a lot to absorb, and that takes time. Lord willing, we'll be coming back next year.

Love you all.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Then and Now

Today was a short day at the dig site because of a very special trip the group was invited to take. An archaeologist, Eli (pronounced Ellie) Shukron is giving the group a walk under Jerusalem to view the system that supplied Solomon's temple with water. II Kings 20:20 states that King Hezekiah "made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city."

For years, people had wondered how the temple got all the water needed to perform the rituals used in the worship of God. One day, Shukron heard a scraping sound when a bulldozer was working near the Pool of Siloam. He stopped the digging and did some exploration. What he eventually found was earth-shattering. As his crew was excavating the entire drainage channel of Jerusalem, they discovered a First Temple Period reservoir capable of holding 8,000 cubic feet of water, enough to provide for all the needs of the priests and pilgrims worshipping at the temple and the everyday needs of the general public in Jerusalem.

Something I have never thought about was the great amount of water needed each day at the temple. Since the temple was at a high point in the city, water would logically be difficult to obtain However, what Shukron discovered was an elaborate system of streams that fed into the reservoir. God provided for the needs of His people - why are we surprised?

These are pictures taken by John last year.

Schematic diagram of the water system

Tight spaces!

Excavation of the Pool of Siloam

I learned an interesting factoid today. Most of the million dollar homes on the hill across from Gezer are built on top of ancient tombs. The whole layering phenomenon continues to this day. I can visualise people 2000 years from now discovering homes built way back in the late 1900's on top of even more ancient structures! One man uses the tomb under his house to display his art work. I'm having a bit of trouble wrapping my mind around that!

Since I couldn't really make it through the "hike" under Jerusalem, I am relaxing at Neve Shalom. We will be leaving early morning three days from now - so hard to believe. Tonight it our last dinner at Neve Shalom, which really doesn't break my heart. (Should I be saying that?) 

May you see the Lord's blessings in your life today and always.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Rest and Relaxation, Mostly

Yesterday, Saturday, was a touring day. However, there was much walking and climbing, so I didn't go. I do wish my legs had the strength to tour Israel's rocks, hills, and all, but alas, 'tis not to be! John was worn out, so we both stayed home. We washed clothes, took naps, and I did some work for my registering. It was a much needed restful day.

The group went to Herodian, Herod's last palace and the place where he died. Last year, we saw a tremendous video about Herod. He was a brilliant architect and builder, but he was also cruel to enemies and his family. He was probably either schizophrenic or bipolar, it is thought. When he died, he was buried at Herodian, but his sarcophagus was empty when it was discovered  His body was probably stolen by his enemies.  

Reconstructed tomb of Herod,
based on architectural drawings

Steep walk to the top - why I didn't go up

View from Herod's tomb

After Herodian, the group went shopping! Old Jerusalem is a fun place to shop, if you don't mind many people going up and down a narrow rock path, much of it underground. Actually, I enjoyed it last year. The shops are amazing, small cubicles carved out of rock lining both sides. They sell everything, and the shops aren't in any particular order, so food will be next to children's shoes, next to a shop selling expensive necklaces and bracelets. Trying to bargain for a lower price is expected, which is actually great fun. I don't know whether or not I got any bargains, but it was fun to try. 

Jesus probably had to walk through the same walkway (except two levels down) carrying the cross on the way to His crucifixion. 

There was another stall with hanging meat, but I chose not to post that picture. There was a skinned goat hanging in front; we knew it was a goat because his tail was still attached. Not on my list for dinner! However, we had goat meat when we went to Asi's home for dinner last year, and the tiny taste I had was actually good.

The hot pink "stuff" in this picture is pickled cauliflower. Why is it pink? 
                                         Who knows? I, needless to say, didn't buy any!

The fruit (and the veggies I like) here are out of this world! Part of the reason is that produce is picked when ripe one day and appears in the store the next. Last night, while relaxing on the steps before going off to bed, a group of us had some strawberries that two of the ladies bought at the market, and they were wonderfully ripe and delicious. However, they probably wouldn't have lasted long, even in the refrigerator.

Just so you know, I tried to post last night, but the wifi wasn't working. On our list for next year will be a portable wifi box. Yes, there will be another year. We have accomplished this year's "final" goal, but in the process discovered that the small cavern at the bottom is actually very large. So the archaeologists are planning for us to come back to explore the cavern, with the expectation of great things, including the source of the water. There is much excitement about what we have found so far, so there is a celebration of hitting the bottom of the cistern on Wednesday, with many dignitaries. It should be fun. We are sworn to silence about coming back!

Must go. I'm going to go take a short nap before dinner.

Love you all!


Friday, June 6, 2014

Lots of Different "Stuff"

Today, WE HIT THE VERY BOTTOM OF THE CISTERN!!! Well, I didn't, but our diggers did. Much excitement! It was just in one spot, so there is still work to do to get down all the way around, but it is a significant day.

Friday is usually our "Saturday", with no work, but because we had Wednesday off, we had a "half day" - worked until 2:00 instead of the regular 3:00. If that seems early, remember we usually start at 6:30. This body of mine doesn't particularly like getting up that early, but I am enjoying being at the dig. It has been much cooler most days than it was last year, which is wonderful. We actually wished we had sweaters one evening last week!

Last night we went out to eat at the Elvis restaurant. Actually had a cheeseburger - yum! Not quite Red Robin or Five Guys, but good.

Elvis is in the building!

One of the things I have enjoyed while here is the plethora (how's that for the word of the day?) of plants. Of course, there are the weeds in the area around the tel, but there are also marvelous things growing and blooming. Enjoy these pictures.

I loved eating fig preserves my Aunt Katie (in Georgia) made, but I've never seen a fig tree with fruit before now. Impressive!

Enjoy God's beauty all around you today (and always)!


PS: We have been devastated about the shooting at Seattle Pacific University. Many of my Master's classes were in that building, and the father of two of my students has his offices there. Fortunately, he had already gone home so was not in danger. Praying for the victims and their families, the rest of the university family, and the shooter.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sightseeing and Playing in the Mud

Synagogue at Capernaum
Capernaum was the central point of Jesus' ministry. Tradition says that He lived at Peter's house. This picture is of the synagogue that came after the time of Jesus. However, some of the pillars are from Jesus' time, and the edge of the foundation of the synagogue during Jesus' time, the foundation of the synagogue before, and the one after can all be seen on the outside of this site to the left of this picture.

Capernaum is a beautiful city, and according to what we were told, the restoration has been carefully and accurately done. It was a wealthy town, and the tops of some pillars are gorgeous.  This isn't a real clear picture, but it is a statue of Peter on the village square. 

Tel Dan is next. It is at the far north corner of Israel. A long drive, but worth it!
River at Dan, an archaeological site and nature preserve! A beautiful place to walk.                                                            
Altar that Jeroboam built for worship of the golden calf at Dan.
No loud piano playing today, so I can actually figure out how to do pictures that John sent me to share with you!  These are pictures from Dan. I gave you the scripture reference yesterday - I guess as a teacher, I'm still giving out homework! Tonight, I'll tell you a cool thing. One of the kings of Dan (don't know which one) killed the kings of the Northern and Southern Kingdom (Israel and Judah when they were divided). When he returned to Dan, he had a plaque made commemorating the death of the kings "from the house of David." This is the only extra-biblical account of King David. Up until the discovery of this plaque in Dan, skeptics denied that David had ever existed, much less be a mighty king. This discovery confirmed scripture's account - imagine that!

There still is no extra-biblical reference to Solomon that has been discovered, but it is just a matter of time.

This is the "high place" to the right of the altar. This is where the golden calf was placed so the people could worship it.
Today, we worked the way we were hoping we would be able to. We were a bit short-handed, but it all worked out well. We have found some phenomenal pottery. It's hard to believe that we are looking at pottery that was probably used at the time of the Patriarchs. Unbelievable!

We went to dinner at Elvis Restaurant. Great cheeseburgers - run by an Arab man - and lots of Elvis memorabilia and music. Definitely better than Neve Shalom's kitchen fare. Even though tomorrow is Friday, and we don't usually work on Friday, we need to make up for the day off yesterday so will work until around noon. More touring on Saturday, but it involves a lot of walking and climbing so I'll be staying home, sleeping in, and hand washing some "necessary items."  I may even take a nap!

God bless you this day and always.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Heat, Dust, and History

First of all, I hope you weren't too disappointed that I didn't post last night. First, my computer completely ran out of "juice", then I fell asleep waiting for it to charge enough for me to write. It was a very busy day!

Yesterday was a full day of doing what we were sent here to do. It was a day of refining processes while getting work done. The sifting that John is in charge of went off like clockwork, which made my section, registration, fall behind. We have about eight buckets of shards waiting for us in the morning.

Here are some pictures of the sifting operation. Man, do those folks get dirty, as you saw yesterday! They love it and consider mud and water signs of honor. I personally think that they never got over the thrill of playing in the mud!

Tomorrow, I'll try to get some pictures of the registration process, although sitting behind a bucket of water washing the last of the mud off the shards and putting them in boxes to dry isn't quite as exciting.

Today is Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, so it was a holiday. Pentecost to the Jews is the Festival of the Harvest. For Christians, Pentecost is the day that the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the ability to speak in languages so those around them from all over the area could understand what they were saying about Christ.

We toured for 12 hours. The temperature was in the high 90's, so we came back sweaty, stinky, and tired. However, we saw some marvelous sites. The highlight was Tel Dan, a nature preserve and historical site. Read I Kings 12: 16 - 33, with an emphasis on verses 25 - 33. Jeroboam, king of Israel, decided that he wanted to keep his citizens and others traveling through to go to Jerusalem (Judah) to worship, so he built altars in Dan and Bethel. As worshippers walked through his kingdom, as they had to in order to get to Jerusalem, the heathen priests would try to waylay them to worship at his altars. The scripture is clear that this was all "devised from Jeroboam's own heart" and was an abomination in God's eyes. The calves, unlike what we see in movies, were only about a foot in length.

I have some wonderful pictures of Dan but will have to send them tomorrow. We also went to Capernaum, the "City of Jesus." and those pictures will be here tomorrow. I'm beat, and there is a pianist in the lobby playing very loudly and not particularly well, and I can't figure out how to take them from my phone to this site.

Better tomorrow ----- I promise!

Love you all.