Showing posts from 2016

Fifth Letter, from Jerusalem

19 June 2016
Dear Family and Friends,
This Father’s Day turned out to be special.I hugged my dad this morning and we wished one another “Happy Father’s Day.”Then I left with a group of students and others for a tour of the Old City designed to take us to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and then to the Russian Mission in Israel, down the Via Dolorosa, and thence to the Pool of Bethesda compound, which includes the Church of St. Anne, the mother of Mary. The Russian Mission houses some antiquities at the eastern extent of the original Sepulcher compound, some of which date to the time of Hadrian and others to the time of Constantine.According to Christian tradition, Jesus walked bearing his cross on the “Way of Sorrow.”If he did walk this route, he was several meters below the level of the current street.
Because today is Sunday, various masses being held by different branches of Christianity made some parts of the Sepulcher off limits to us.These included the tomb itself and the t…

Fourth Letter from Nazareth

12 June 2016
Dear Family and Friends,
Today is Shavuot (also Pentecost) for Jews.This year the holiday falls within the Muslim month of Ramadan. Western Christians observed their own Pentecost on May 15, which marks the gift of the Holy Spirit.So now we are in the second period of “Ordinary Time.”Shavuot has a dual significance: it is a harvest festival and a time to celebrate God’s gift of the Torah.Ramadan is a month of daytime fasting, also to celebrate God’s first revelation to Muhammad and to engage in almsgiving.The color for Ordinary Time is green, and even in mid June the lingering green here reminds us of God’s gifts of rain, sun, crops and herds.That is, of life.The authors of both Genesis 1 and John know that God’s speech is life giving.
I write this from the top of a Galilean hill.Monday the heat will come but for now temperatures are in the mid 70s Fahrenheit. A breeze cools my back, so I must be facing east.Traffic on Highway 77 whispers over my left shoulder.Every no…
Third Letter from Nazareth Sunday June 5, 2016
Dear Friends and Family,
We have completed our second week of excavations and tours, and exhaustion has arrived right on schedule.The dig’s work makes demands on the body, even when people are drawing top plans under shade.There is time for rest in the afternoon, but the early mornings restrain the full effects of sleep (even if people go to sleep at a sensible hour, but who wants to be sensible during this sort of experience in the Holy Land?).For example, this Sunday morning it’s 8:25 a.m.On a weekday, by now we would have been working for 3 ½ hours and second breakfast would be five minutes away.Today by 7:00 a.m. all of the crewmembers over 50 had eaten and while sipping their coffee and tea were remarking on how late it was.By contrast, I have seen exactly two undergraduate students.Neither said much after “good morning,” and might not have gotten that much out if someone else hadn’t said it first.
Yesterday we spent from 8 a.m. til…

Photos from the advance crew and the first week of digging

Rebakah and Mason staking out points  Jeff running the gun
 Emily Drennen The complete and whole Herodian lamp Emily found

Second Letter from Nazareth

Sunday May 29, 2016
Dear Friends and Family,
Most of the crew is here and work began in our Field I on Monday.The first day is among the hardest, because folks must clear thistles and grass from the site before they can erect shade, string their squares, and begin digging.Jeff Posey and his survey team made short work of shooting in the corners of the dig squares and taking beginning elevations.That’s what it’s like to work with a pro.
As we worked, God gave the gift of a rainbow to our west and the temperatures remained in the 70s. Later in the day it rained in Nazareth, and for our first Saturday trip we drove wet vans past standing water in ditches.I don’t think temperatures climbed out of the low 80s on the coast and the mid 70s in Nazareth.That is unusual in late May, but it happened last year too.In recent years the “late rains” (Deut 11:14; Jer 5:24; Joel 2:23; James 5:7) have lingered.
I mentioned gratitude in my last post.The dig really does run on generosity.The volunteer…

First Letter from Nazareth

May 22, 2016
Dear Family and Friends,
It’s 6:00 a.m. on Trinity Sunday and I hear the church bells of Nazareth asserting themselves over the sound of traffic outside my window.That is their job, I suppose.Sunday is a regular workday in Israel, but the Christians in Nazareth take the day off for worship.Well, the bells ring, calling them in.Some respond, some sleep in, and some head for the beach, I imagine.For my part, I have begun the day thanking God for the opportunity for another dig season in Israel.Gratitude has become my fundamental attitude here.
The early crew arrived in Israel without much incident: only one suitcase stayed behind in Philadelphia.But if the suitcase is yours I guess that qualifies as much incident.In any case, it has found its way to its owner, minus a few items that I assume a TSA agent though would make good gifts.At the Galilee Hotel in Nazareth we were greeted with Muslim and Christian hugs, handshakes, and a full dinner.Business for the hotel has no…