Friday, December 2, 2011

Creative Energy

A couple weeks ago there was a power outage at the school.  Since it was cold and there was no way to serve lunch they cancelled school on that Friday.  Bonus long weekend for the kids!  I went to Russian lessons in the morning as usual.  Part way through I get a call from Emily asking if she and Marcy can do "arts and crafts".  I said fine as long as they clean up the mess.  Then she called back again asking for tape.  Then she called again to ask if she could use a random bag of "stuff" she found with the art supplies.  I knew which bag she meant.  It was a bag of metallic and non-metallic items that I used long ago at a Brownie meeting to demonstrate magnetism.  There was stuff in there like nails and screws, hair clips, plastic o-rings from curtains, unused cabinet safety latches, and much other random stuff.  I wondered what creation they would come up with that I would have to keep around for a while and then find the chance to throw away.  But, they surprised me with a homemade nativity scene.  Those who know me well know I've collected them for a long time (since age 7!)  They made the whole thing using tape which wasn't holding together too well so tonight Emily and I took it apart and hot glued everything back together.  They were both extremely creative in using all that random stuff and this one definitely rivals other homemade nativities - it might even beat the beer can, wine cork nativity.  See what you think!

A close-up of the Holy Family

Two kings and the shephard

The two-legged donkey and sitting sheep
(with 3rd king in the background)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

In pictures (and a few words...)

Marcy's banner

Everyone eager to eat

Madeline's contributions - turkey in her luggage

and she made the green bean casserole and mashed potatoes

a full plate (and now a full stomach)

and dessert - mmmm, pie (a la mode)

Hope everyone has the chance to eat as much as we did!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Galilee Cont....

We stopped in several places around the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus spent much time in this area preaching to the people and many of this disciples were chosen from here.

Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes - Jesus performed this miracle at the town of Tabgha on the Sea.  Followers kept alive the story of the miracle and the place that it occurred.  A church was built in 350 to commemorate and protect the site but it was later destroyed and not rediscovered until 1932.  Now, a new church protects the site and the rock on which Jesus performed the miracle sits below the main altar.

Capernaum - Jesus spent alot of time in this town.  It was the home of Sts Peter and Andrew.  This is where Jesus preached in the synagogue to the elders.  St Peter's house became a meeting house for Christians after Jesus died and eventually an octogonal church was built around his house.  Today a modern church stands above the remains and has a glass floor for viewing.

Kids listening to our guide "preach" in the synagogue

Remains of the synagogue in Capernaum

Sermon on the Mount - The place where Jesus preached the Beatitudes is located on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Today there is a beautiful church and gardens commemorating the spot.


Masada is a desert fortress/palace built by Herod but used by other groups fleeing from or protecting Jerusalem.  It went undiscovered and untouched for nearly 1300 years (I think I remember that correctly.)  Now it is a UNESCO Heritage Site.  And again I am amazed that something like this was built more than 2000 years ago in the middle of the desert!

Masada is built on top of a mesa, high above the desert.  Today there are three ways to get up to it.  A gondola, the serpant path which winds up the mountain with trail and stairs, and a ramp built by the Romans to attack the fortress.  Chris was eager to try the serpent path but we were short on time.  Our guide said a quick trip up would be 30 minutes but 45 minutes was more likely.  We took the gondola and Chris chose the serpent path.  He said not to wait for him at the top but promised he would not be far behind.  We watched a short film about Masada, got on the gondola, and caught this photo of Chris running up.  He made it in 16 minutes - according to Shmuel that is certainly a record!  We did not have to wait for him and he missed none of the tour!

From the top of Masada you can see the
Dead Sea in the distance

An original mosaic floor from the time of Herod

Kids checking out the view

Kids checking out the display which demonstrates the unique
water capturing system built to sustain Masada in the desert.
Canals were built along the ridges to divert rain water
into huge cisterns dug into the bedrock below.

Our whole group
(The small black spot is a person on the portion of
Masada which juts our over a cliff)

Old City Jerusalem

Much of what we saw in Jerusalem was inside the walls of the Old City.  This area has changed over thousands of years, ruled over by many different groups of people.  Today it is shared by the Jews, Muslims, Christians and Armenians.  And much of it is dedicated to souvenier shops.  But, we spent a day and half exploring the area and learned alot about the history and the important events that occurred there.

A view of the Old City
Dome of the Rock on the left
Where Muhammed ascended to heaven
and Abraham sacrificed the ram instead of Isaac

A mural depicting life inside city walls in Roman Period
Our kids kind of blend right in!

Dome of the Rock framed by Hassidic Jews

Western Wall and the Temple Mount
Western Wall is the only remaining portion
of the 2nd temple built by Herod

Small church dedicated to St Peter
stands where St Peter denied Jesus a 3rd time

A portion of original stone wall where Jesus stumbled
while carrying the cross.  His hand left imprint.
Here Simon was pulled from the crowd to help
carry the cross.

The spot of the crucifixtion
now inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
The actual top portion of Mt Golgotha
is visible and accessible below the shrine

The stone on which Jesus' body was laid to 
prepare for burial
Also inside Church of Holy Sepulcher

 The shrine surrounding the tomb
which is now encased in marble
also inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
I would like to go back to Jerusalem someday because you really need more time than a day and half to explore the old city well.  We sped through many sites and did not have time to wait in the lines to view the crucifixtion site or the tomb.  I'm sure we only saw about a 1/4 of the whole walled city.

Someone out there is not paying attention!!!

I just got to the blog without a proxy, without a VPN.  Better hurry before someone figures it out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shmuel Browns - Jerusalem Tour Guide

I think our guide in Jerusalem deserves a post of his own.  Perhaps others searching for guides will come across this blog and we can help further his business.  If you are ever going to Jerusalem, we highly recommend Shmuel as a guide.  He is extremely knowledgeable about the history, architecture, and the archaeological sites in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.  He is religiously unbiased in his presentation and politically neutral in his presentation of Israeli/Palestinian relations (and we really pushed him on the issue a few times.)  He made sure we had a balanced itinerary with plenty to keep the kids entertained and the adults educated and a good mix of natural and historic sites.  He went beyond the call of duty with long hours, helping with taxi arrangements, recommending restaurants (and pubs) and being flexible with our big group (which included sometimes cranky kids).  He has a good heart, an intellectual mind, and alot of energy!  You can read more about him on his own blog:

Giving us an archaeological intro at a digsite outside the Old City

Explaining the layout of the Old City during the Roman Period

Pointing out the sites at Masada

Singing a Psalm for us in Hebrew inside St Anne's church in the Old City
Thank you, Shmuel for a great week in Israel.  You made it memorable and we are eager to return!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hezekiah's Tunnel

Hezekiah was a Judean king around 700 BC.  In preparations for war with the Assyrians he dug a 1700 foot tunnel through the bedrock around Jerusalem to protect the water supply to the city.  Just recently, they opened this tunnel to tourists and you can walk the length of it underground through the spring water which still flows.  Of course, we did this.  The kids knew we were going to do this and looked forward to it the whole day, as it was the last thing we did.  I was a bit nervous about being in a small space underground but it wasn't too bad.  The water was freezing but mostly only calf deep but at the start it was quite deep and most of us got wet.

The water at its deepest wasn't quite this deep but close!

Heading underground

Olivia and Courtnie lead the way.
Tiny flashlights were our only light source.

Emily, Tyler and Shmuel (our guide) behind me.
Of course, Emily screamed alot - she lost her shoe, the water was cold, it was scary, etc.

Amazing that this was carved out of the bedrock in 700 BC.  How did they do it?  How did they know what path to take? How did they engineer it so the water would flow through it?


Our guide made arrangements for us to participate in the Temple Mount Sifting Project.  The Temple Mount is where the original Jewish Temple was and where now stands the Dome of the Rock and an Islamic mosque.  Several years ago the mosque got permission from the antiquities authority to build a new entrance to the mosque.  In fact what they were doing was digging underground to expand the mosque.  They were secretly dumping truckload after truckload of dirt from this ancient area.  A group discovered what was happening a acquired authority over the dump soil.  It was transferred to donated land and now they have been sifting the dirt for more than 5 years.  And we got to have our chance at being amateur archaeologists.

One of the volunteers showing the kids how to sift

Archaeologists in action

Mostly we found bits of broken pottery and pieces of mosaic but there were also some bones (most likely from animal sacrifice), glass, and metal.  Emily hit the jackpot when she found a small orange bead.  It was assumed to be a glass bead from jewelry but after it was cleaned off and examined closer they decided it was made of some precious stone used 1500 years ago!  Her find got it's own little labeled ziplock bag for safe keeping and they took her name and email so she can get credit for the find should it be determined to be significant.

The kids definitely could have stayed here all day digging in the dirt.  I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of them adds archaeologist to their list of "what I want to be" after this experience.

Ein Gedi Oasis

I was most surprised by the landscape of Israel.  I guess it can best be described as rugged desert.  There is not much greenery and alot of rocky hills and canyons.  Here are a few views:

There are natural springs scattered throughout the country and are the only reason that Jerusalem was able to thrive.  We got to visit one of the natural springs called Ein Gedi - or Goat Spring - named after the ibex (goats) that thrive in the area.  We took a short hike in to get to the spring and spotted some ibex and hyrax, a rodent-type animal that lives in the area.  You can see that even the hike in is still pretty "brown".

We arrive at the upper spring where the water is cool
and there is a cool.....


The Everetts brought a Nerf football and Frank and Chris played catch.
Our guide said definitely a first that he knew of!

This was definitely another popular stop for the kids.  They would have liked to stay and explore for alot longer but the reserve was closing.