Showing posts from June, 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…