Weeks 3 & 4

I’m rolling weeks three and four together because of our odd schedule.

We have worked Sunday through Saturday morning, making for a long work week. Hence, we are rewarding ourselves with dinner out. Tonight (Saturday) we will drive to the nearby town of Shefar‘am (Shafa ‘Amr in Arabic), which is known from Josephus for its role in the Jewish Revolt and the Talmud for being the seat of the Sanhedrin for awhile, but we know it as the town that houses a favorite restaurant that specializes in traditional Arab fare. We were first alerted to the place by Richard Knott, a member of a local kibbutz. It turns out that local Jews regularly make the drive to this mostly Arab (Muslim and Christian) town for the food. We will pick up Richard and two other kibbutzniks on our way. I skipped lunch to prepare for the feast.

We are ending things right on time, having closed out two squares and being near the finishing point in two others. As usual, we have been partially successful in answering our archaeological questions. This is in part because, also as usual, we have encountered a few things that we can’t explain. For example, the corner where two walls meet is not where it ought to be. Indeed, around four meters of one of the walls in question is missing, and in its place is either a pool or a pair of water channels. The fact that we don’t know exactly which is a clue to how difficult the task of interpretation can be, for parts of this water installation are also missing. The upshot is that we will publish Field V without everything as clear as we would like it to be. This is the nature of the beast, I suppose.

The last day in the field is next Wednesday, which means that on Tuesday night we will eat at another favorite spot, a restaurant on the slope of Mt. Gilboa with gorgeous evening views of the Jezreel Plain and quite excellent specialty dishes made with herbs and vegetables grown right in the owners’ farm, which spreads out on the hillside below. They also bottle their own cabernet sauvignon, a phrase that completely stumped me when I saw it for the first time in Hebrew. When we arrive in Jerusalem Wednesday evening we’ll dine at the Ambassador Hotel on Mt. Scopus. I suppose it’s obvious that one of the things that draws us back to these ongoing archaeological projects is the food.

I have tended in these web log posts to emphasize the ongoing peace that I encounter everywhere I go in this country. By “peace” of course I mean the banality of everyday life: people of different religious and cultural identities, and ideological convictions, encounter one another in the shops, restaurants, and parks, sometimes ignoring one another, at other times doing business with one another, and at others having real conversations. I have mentioned that a Muslim Arab family owns and runs the hotel in which we stay, many of the workers are Christians, and their primary business is provided by the groups of Christian pilgrims who come from all over the globe to see the holy sites in and near Nazareth. I don’t make these observations because I am oblivious of the violence that we all read about or see on TV, but because the papers and television stations are oblivious of—or indifferent to—what I see. And so are their audiences. Can you imagine anyone reporting that yesterday I picked up one of our dig vans from the car wash, where I spoke to the Arab business owner in Henglish (or was it Engbrew)? As an Israeli citizen, he, of course, was fluent in Hebrew, and he was patient and kind with my attempts to make meaning, and to understand what he was telling me.

If one talks and listens enough, one will certainly encounter prejudices. Ze’ev, a Jewish ex-pat Ukranian who works at Zippori National Park, one day explained to me how most of the world’s problems are caused by Muslims. Another day Khalid, one of the Muslim brothers who runs the hotel, told me that all of the world’s problems were caused by Jews, and he did so with a smile on his face.

So the peace one encounters here is not God’s Peace. At times it is grudging, while at others it is the result of genuine human striving for the good (for example, from my hotel window, which looks out over Arab Nazareth, I can see a building that has “Community Peace Center” written on it in Hebrew; it may be associated with the Nazareth Academic Institution: http://www.mecedu.org/), which I confess I believe to be the result of God-given moral intuition. The peace may be second- or third- or fourth-best, but we should not make the mistake of thinking that its dullness makes it trivial. Because this ordinary peace exists, people are free to deal with the regular joys and frustrations of living: high gas prices, in-fighting in city government, the World Cup, long commutes, and raising children. They can both celebrate and complain about the mundane.

As always, pray for the peace (God’s Peace) of Israel.

James

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