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For the third year, ABR Associate Dr. Scott Stripling led a team of diggers to Israel to excavate the Byzantine monastery at Khirbet el-Maqatir. Joining Scott and his team was Dee Alberty from Baton Rouge, LA. Dee shares her experiences in Part 4 of this diary.

Day 12 - DIG, Last Day

On our 20 minute early morning drive to work, it was clear enough to see the twin towers all the way in Amman, Jordan! (about 40 miles)

Scott warned us that there could be a few surprises on our last dig day... and he was right! Everyone worked on the 2nd square to wrap up our entire project today... hoping to find 'the surprise'!

My job was 'gleaning' the dig pile... others would quickly dig up the dirt, empty the goofas on one pile, and there I would sit and hand sift through it looking for tessera or other diagnostic pottery... Found about 1,000 of those little mosaic tiles! They dumped so much dirt that I almost got buried alive... or at least was up to my neck in 'Eretz Israel... another one of my goals… just didn't realize it would be so literalJ

But THE surprise was uncovered toward the end of our work day... a pretty little water channel adjacent to the right of the steps that led up to the monastery/church! Question: was it to enhance the beauty of the walkway or just for drainage?

Today I created a 'still life' photo of all the tools we use on a dig... a large pick ax, a terreah (hoe), goofas (rubber buckets), big trowel, little trowel, patish (smaller, hand-held pick ax), knee pad, whisk broom, soft brush, gloves, Bible... each tool has a purpose, and we used them all... the whole dig experience shared so many parallels to studying the Bible... in this case, we must have different 'tools' to dig out the Word of God... observation, interpretation, application.

Khaldoun, who owns the land where we dig, is back home from his business trip to Jordan (his company makes swim suits for Muslim women) came out to visit us on the dig site to see our progress [in hopes that we had located a water cistern for him to use :) ]. He also called Scott aside privately and related that while in Jordan, some random Christians told him he was going to hell if he didn't believe in Jesus. He was shocked and wanted to know why they would tell him such a thing. I didn't hear the rest of the conversation, but have learned that most times in Eastern culture one must build a trust relationship FIRST so one might be prepared to hear the gospel in a meaningful, heartfelt way.

image604One of Khaldoun's five sons brought over his purebred Arabian horse (I've never seen a shinier coat on an animal...magnificent!).

Packed up tools until next summer, said adieu to our workers. (Shoo-KRAN means thank you in Arabic... have learned to say THAT, a lot!) Scott is well pleased with our progress and Mike Luddeni said that these are some of the nicest architectural shots he's ever gotten at Maqatir (pronounced 'mc COT ter', American English or Maq a TERE, Hebrew)

As we got back to the parking lot down the hill and across the highway (since we rented our van from a Jewish company, we must park it on the Jewish side of the territory), we noticed a platoon of IDF soldiers near our vehicle... turns out the Israeli settlers were demonstrating around there in hopes of extending their already illegal settlement and the IDF soldiers and a UN watcher arrived to just make sure there wasn't any big-time trouble--seems like this small demonstration may be a regular Friday occurrence.

We celebrated at our favorite restaurant near the hotel, The Ambassador, which is next door to the Swiss Embassy (yummm, grilled salmon & steamed veggies).

Stayed up late tonight (7:30 pm). And it could take more than just a day for this old body to spring back to any semblance of life. But I'm glad we finished our job well…. and now my maiden digging voyage is in the history, zzzzzz.

Day 13 - TOUR

Another beautiful day in the Promised Land…Tika & I just need to wash clothes for the team and then we can go explore... but oops, it's Saturday/Shabbat and the only laundromat in town is CLOSED!

But by noon we've all finished our jobs (except for me) and drive down the hill to the Old City. Our first stop is near Jaffa Gate. The wall is composed of several historic layers... the well-hewn Herodian stones near the bottom are the nicest, of course. Outside the wall, Scott shows us the exact spot where Jesus stood trial before Pilate. Together, we read the biblical account in John 19 and imagine ourselves as spectators in the crowd.

From there we go on a short distance to the Upper Room, where Jesus partook of His Last Supper and where the 120 gathered on Pentecost and received the gift of the Holy Spirit... today there were about 120 tourists assembled in this room, (hmmmm, looking for flames of fire upon the heads, just in case). The floor pavement is original from time of Yeshua, but the vaulted ceiling was added later by the Crusaders.

On the way to lunch, we veer off the TRUE Via Dolorosa, into an unkempt, weed-filled hill & parking lot... we are, says Scott, standing in the REAL Praetorian guard (barracks for Roman soldiers) directly behind the wall where Jesus was tried by Pilate. Mike casually reaches down thru the weeds and tosses a well-crafted piece of white marble to Scott... it's an opus sectile (triangular flooring) from time of Christ... just sitting on top of the weeds! Scott has been contacted by the IAA (Israeli Antiquities Authority) to possibly excavate this area in summer of 2014... hopefully.

Over hummus lunch, Scott tells us a couple of interesting stories... one is of a young Arab man, whom he met in his classroom in TX. During the Second Intifada (2000), he was innocently walking thru the marketplace when he and others were suddenly arrested and thrown into a Jerusalem jail. While there, Jesus APPEARED to him and he immediately followed Him. Three days later, he was released and met some Christians from TX who encouraged him to escape Jerusalem, since his life would be in danger now as a new believer in Jesus... and enroll in Bible college in TX, where Scott met him. This young man is now living back here in Jerusalem as head of a ministry leading many Muslims to Christ!

Scott also related a story of Horatio Spafford, who wrote the hymn, 'It is Well with My Soul'' in the late 1800s. He died here in Jerusalem and D.L. Moody came over to perform his funeral at the Garden Tomb. Moody climbed up to the top of the Skull (supposed to be Calvary by Gordon) to preach... making the Muslims so angry that they erected a fence up there so that would never happen again. A fence is STILL there, and no, such powerful preaching hasn't happened there again.

After lunch, we're off on our walking tour to St. Peter 's of Gallicantu (where the rooster crowed) which is also the site of Caiaphas' house and possibly the pit where they held Jesus overnight (Psalm 88).

image605At sunset, we use the GPS to drive up to Saul's palace at Gibeah, a much, much higher elevation than the Temple Mount... just north, overlooking Jerusalem. Now, only the outer structure of one of Jordan's King Hussein's potential palaces remains... building plans abandoned after the 1967 war. Almost dark, Scott and Abby found pottery sherds from the time of David & Saul... 3,000 years ago! In Israel, one man's trash is TRULY another man's treasure.

Day 14 - TOUR

LAUNDRY....mission accomplished!!!!!! (Thankfully, we were all 'near-commando').

Today, we sadly say good-bye to Jacob, one of our experienced square supervisors who is returning to school in TX… but first we grab an All-American hamburger and chocolate milkshake at the Elvis Inn west of the city :).

After lunch, we turn NW to one of my favorite places in the whole world-- Caesarea Maritima... many mentions throughout Acts... not only for its grand history, but for its visual refreshment of vividly blue waters and the opportunity to drink deeply of the fragrant breezes off the Mediterranean... first we walk into the grand amphitheater where Scott directs us to stand in Herod's box seat while he remains onstage to demonstrate the excellent acoustics with a brief Shakespearean soliloquy. This box seat where we are standing is the exact spot where Herod Agrippa was struck with worms/died suddenly and another ruler 'almost believed' when he heard Paul's appeal. Notice the pic of the seaside Hippodrome, where spectators enjoyed sometimes gory horse & chariot races. Quite a globally commercialized city that Herod the Great built, complete with man-made harbor…amazing accomplishment in any day!

After hugs all around at the Tel Aviv airport, we head back to Jerusalem just in time for them to drop me off at my old friend's 6:30 pm Precept Bible study (Charlene DuBose was my Precept Level 2 trainer 23 years ago in Lafayette, LA)... The team dropped me off in the right neighborhood, but I had a little trouble locating her apartment building (GPS can only take you so far)... after asking for her address in at least 3 delis, I finally locate the correct building, but still not sure of the proper floor until two ladies step onto the elevator who look vaguely familiar... could it be??? YES, it's Kathy Kramer (Joel's wife, where we borrowed the tripod 10 days ago) and her red-haired friend, 'Jerusalem Jan' from Seattle, who gave Scott a much needed massage just a couple of days ago! I can't help but laugh out loud not only at God 's goodness: not only to get me to the right place at the perfect time, but also His sense of humor... there are only 10 students at the study and after 2 weeks in this amazing city, I already 'know' more than 30% of the group! And of course it feels so welcoming warm, just like the 'family of God' always does. I brought my own Observation Worksheets with me for a nice deep look into Ezekiel, even discovering a few new things that I'd missed when we studied it last fall.

... AND... 'Jerusalem Jan' offered to set ME up for a massage on Tuesday!!!!

Day 15 - TOUR

It's New Year's Eve! (you'd never know it over hereJ) Today, Scott takes our group up to Shiloh (pronounced 'SHE low')... which was the first home of Moses' Tabernacle (the Mishkan) in Israel for 300 years before they lost the ark of the covenant in battle with the Philistines... and the glory departed... Ichabod!

I had no idea that the Tabernacle was set in such beautifully serene rolling hills. And did you know that 'terraced' agriculture actually BEGAN in Israel? Shiloh doesn't get many tourists because it's located in the interior of the West Bank, but archaeologists have done some excellent work here. We got there so early in the morning that we enjoyed free admission, also because Scott is a VIP ('very important priest'). Our group picture is taken in a synagogue/church/mosque at Shiloh that may be of interest for a future dig also. Photo below is of our Dig Leader, Scott and our dig site guard/Shiloh guide Israel... they are the 'Skipper & Gilligan' of our little castaway dig family. Many comedic moments between these two.

Upon our return to the hotel, we processed the last of our pottery and I must dispose all the 'not special' ancient pottery in a dumpster (heartbreak that I can't bring it all home with me). Tika & I catch the bus down to the Old City to shop for the last time and meet up with our new young friend from LSU, Myles LaRoux, to celebrate the New Year.

We started the evening by sharing a hefty tiramisu (dessert first!)... wandered a bit aimlessly thru the ancient marketplace before locating a nice restaurant at Mamilla Mall for a proper celebration, decorated with red balloons and bottles of champagne! Myles returns to Louisiana next month, so we decided our next 'date' would be eating boiled crawfish on a back porch with juice running down our elbows… quite a contrast :)

Happy New Year, All!

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