Second Letter from Nazareth

Dear Family and Friends,

I am writing later than usual this Sunday because of morning chores.  More about that momentarily.

Last week I mentioned that I met Dad everywhere.  That is still the case, and I don’t imagine it will end.  I cannot ask him all of the questions I have about his experiences digging in the 1970s and 80s, why he dated certain pottery forms the way he did, or any of the other things only he could tell me.  Their number must be countless because I’m not running out.  I ask and not hearing his answer reminds me to grieve.  Did you ever hear him speak?  Maybe you know what I’m talking about.  At Kiddish last Friday Mom told me, “I miss his voice.”

Morning chores began when Tom McCollough and I met Motti Aviam at an archaeological site north of the eastern end of the Beit Netofa Valley, near the ancient divide between “Lower” and “Upper” Galilees.  The adjectives refer to relative elevations: the modest hills of the Lower Galilee give way to the steep mountains of the Upper.  If you’ve been to East Tennessee, Switzerland, Colorado, or Peru you won’t think they’re mountains, but they were the highest hills most of the ancient residents ever saw.  We three surveyed the site briefly, talking about the ancient remains, the two stones that made the native bedrock, and strategies for using the site to teach students. 

Then we drove to Kinneret Academic College, where I did none of the things I meant to do.  My task was to get some artifacts to study for the next article on Shikhin, but instead I dropped off artifacts and picked up a ladder and sundries for our use in the field.  I simply forgot about why I came.  Then I had a conversation with Motti.  Hearing him remember Dad, not only as an archaeologist but as the man he was, formed the day’s fulcrum.  I drove to Kinneret listening to loud music and I drove away in silence, asking my questions.  Tom and I dropped off the ladder at the site, then Tom left and I walked the site alone for a while. 

The last time I was at Kinneret College it was in December for an archaeological symposium on oil lamps in the Eastern Roman Empire given in Dad’s honor.  Both Dad and Mom attended the symposium, and it was marvelous to see Dad stronger than he had been in months, taking notes on the presentations and soaking in the field trips.  He and I drove to the site to see it green from the winter rains and we walked the balks with our heads down, taking in the remains.  In my memory he had a comment about every square in the field.  He pointed to an architectural fragment peeking out of one square’s balk and said, “That stone is very important.”  The team uncovered fully it just this past Friday.

So I met Dad at Kinneret and at the site today.

Last night I took the dig staff to dinner as a thank you at our midway point.  No one works harder than they do.  They might not do as much physical labor as other volunteers but keeping records and writing reports occupies them when others are taking weekend outings.  Students sometimes choose to stay up late, but I can remember my days as an Area Supervisor when I could not get the work done without enduring sleep deprivation.  So a special dinner was in order to say thanks, and we got it at a local joint that specializes in traditional Middle Eastern fare.  The owners are Arabs (I don’t know whether they are Christians or Muslims), and on Friday night the place fills up with local Jews.  After sundown during Ramadan Muslims crowd in to break their fast.  Our group just likes the food, which arrives in heaps.

More on archaeology next time.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and everywhere.

James

Comments

  1. I understand, as do many what it is to want to ask your Dad a question on a familiar topic, but he is no longer with you. Rest assured that you will ask him many things in the future. What a great history the two of you share. What a wonderful legacy he left for so many. You now have the awesome job of continuing to bring forth so much from what he began. You are doing an excellent job. Thanks for your letters and sharing your feelings. A father's love and legacy are meant to be carried forward by a faithful son. You are that faithful one.

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