Second E-mail to Samford
All the Samford students are making good impressions, and Aaron Carr is already being needled for knowing the right answer to many questions. Today after lunch my sister Joanna took the Samford contingent to the suk I mentioned earlier and they seem to have had a good time. This morning we toured the site of Sepphoris, which is large enough to consume 2 ½ hours of one’s time. Students got their first look at what they’ll be digging, and I think enthusiasm rose a notch. Tonight was the first lecture, Given by the elder Dr. Strange, and tomorrow we will tour sites in the Lower Galilee. It should be a good day. Caroline May, who seems enthusiastic about nearly everything, should be especially pleased. We should begin digging on Wednesday.
Ruthie Wilkerson, a classics major, has agreed to put together a Facebook page for Samford Summer in Israel. I figure this is a good way to market the trip, and I certainly don’t want to manage that page.
Tommy Archer, a poli sci major, was making some noise at dinner about flying to Egypt one weekend. Anna Wilgus, one of our religion majors, was behind him shaking her head at me the entire time. I told him if he had enough cash to hop a plane to Egypt, I wasn’t charging enough for the trip. Then I think I managed to convince him that it wasn’t worth it logistically. He is an Egypt enthusiast, however, and took Arabic as his foreign language, so I imagine he’ll be getting there at some point in his life.
Yesterday was Anna’s 20th birthday. I was able to get a cake with her name on it (well, I told one of the brothers who run the hotel, and he ordered it; it was decorated and delivered in an hour), and we surprised her with it at dinner. We sang to her, the group of 30 or so Polish pilgrims two tables away applauded, and Anna blew out both candles in a single breath. She seemed genuinely surprise, delighted, and grateful.
Everyone has Skype, and Ruthie can even text back to the States. Boy have things changed since I was a college student digging at Sepphoris!
The population of Nazareth is now just over 50% Muslim. We caution especially the young women in the group to cover up when they are out, but I have noticed several local women in shorts and otherwise revealing clothing, considering the high bar of modesty here. They walk the same streets as women wearing their hijabs, as well as Franciscan monks and tourists from all over the globe. Over the course of the trip our family will meet and hug Christians, Jews, and Muslims whom we have known for decades, and they will all greet us warmly, welcome us into our homes, feed us, inquire about our wellbeing, and tell us about their children and grandchildren. Today I spoke in broken Hebrew to Ibrahim, an Arab from the local village of Zarzir whom I first met in 1994. At that time he operated a back hoe at Sepphoris with dental precision, plucking 600 pound stones out of our excavation squares when needed; now he works behind the counter in the gift shop at the site, although sometimes he still operates the “tractor,” as he calls it. As of today he knows about my 18-year-old daughter and I about his 10-year-old twins. None of these people knows the others, but I keep thinking that if they all love us and we them, maybe those who hate, or resent, or allow old wounds to fester, can somehow come to forgive one another.
Pray for the peace of Israel.