Friday, August 24, 2012

I made a deal with myself that I couldn't get a new camera until I had a job.

The number of words I need to explain this post?

(Mental note: Clear the table before taking photos)

Pictured: Nikon Coolpix P510.  In red.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Freaky Friday


I've been looking for work now that I'm back in Australia after the trip of a lifetime and only studying part time.  I had sent off a few applications for jobs around the place as I saw advertisements, but hadn't really focussed on the job hunt as yet.  Last week I had two to submit: one by noon Wednesday and a second that closed Friday.

I can't now remember if it was Wednesday night or Thursday that I received a phone call to come in for an interview for the first, but the interview was scheduled for 2pm Friday afternoon.  So I handed in one application on the way down for the interview for the other.

It's a bit freaky when your job interview is in the Deputy Principal's office.  Not just any Deputy Principal's office, but the very office that the Deputy Principal of your own High School years worked in.

Anyway, did the interview, went home and about 1.5 hours later was offered the job.  That in itself was freaky enough, and I had to request some "breathing space" before giving them a final "yes" because it was just too quick for my brain to compute and because God had basically had to yell pretty loudly to get me to even consider applying for the other job that I'd just applied for that afternoon.

Anyway, they were keen for me to start ASAP as the lady currently doing the job is leaving Wednesday and it's such a procedure intensive position that a couple of days of handover is a really good idea.

So I started 8.30 this morning.  When taken up to the office I work from I recognised the old Maths staffroom from my days.  My debating teacher used to work from here (there were about 6 teachers in a space that now holds 2 people).  The old Graphics block that was pretty much the end of the universe before you hit the top oval is now quite central with all the buildings that have sprung up on the aforementioned oval.  I get to use the staff toilets, which were always off limits as a student (and don't have any graffiti).

I'm working in a role to organise work experience placements and school based traineeships and apprenticeships.  A role to use my brain, but is only 4 days a week to leave me some study time.  I also get school holidays.  Bonus.

The chance that this will feel normal any time soon?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jerusalem - Ginosar

SUNDAY 17 June

We had to pack up to move, then take our bags downstairs. The staff took our bags down to the bus, which met us after church.

We attended an arabic service at the Anglican Cathedral.  We walked up from the convent in good time (particularly given that we thought the service started 30 minutes earlier than it actually did)

An easier day in that we spent much time on the bus.  Sitting down in air-conditioning is good!  As we went down to Jericho we were once again going through the Judean wilderness.  It is very dry and stony.  We also played once more with crossing the sea level line.  We had lunch at Jericho, and there was the inevitable gift shop. This was the first time I saw Phoenician glass, which is hand blown and has very interesting patterns on it.

We stopped again at Bet Shean when we were nearly at Ginosar. This is a first century Roman town, and much of it is still visible.  It is one of the cities refered to as the ‘Decapolis’ (Ten Towns). You can see where the Cardo is, the Roman baths, the theatre.  We only had a short time to look, as it was the hottest time of the day.  We then had a ride in a tractor train around the hills and up to the bus park, which was through some shops and in the modern town.

Arrival at Ginosar was well organized. We said goodbye to Ammin the bus driver, then settled in to our rooms.  The accommodation here is really lovely, although there's heaps of walking to get anywhere.  I'm sleeping on a trundle, and two single beds have been pushed together as a double for Mum and Dad.  It is pretty roomy, and the kitchenette has plenty of room for clothes washing.  The bathroom is pretty tight.  All are nicely finished and air conditioned.

Dinner was at a buffet.  Looks like the food will be good here. We chose to have a reasonably early night.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Masada & Qumran


This was probably the hardest day for me.  There was a lot more sitting on the bus due to the distances we covered, but it was also a really hot day.  

We got on the bus and headed for Masada first. This was the fortress palace that the Jewish rebels against Rome made their last stand.  It did not end well for them, but is celebrated in Israeli folklore as a group of people who chose death as free people under God, rather than living as slaves to a foreign power.

Nedal (our guide) had joked that the cable car was broken, but it wouldn't have been very funny had it been true!  There is a snaking walking trail up the side of the mountain, but it wouldn't have been an easy climb.   It was hot.  We really only did the palace end, where there were Roman baths and storage for food.  We could look over the edge at the lower levels of the palace.  There was a bronze model that showed how the water was collected into the cisterns.  

We also went to see where the Romans had their Hebrew slaves build the ramp for the siege tower, and where the breach in the wall happened.  From the top you can see the remnants of the Roman wall around the whole hill, including watch towers and garrison camps.  It would have been scary to see them and know that they were going to get you.  Josephus might have been recording what they did at Gamla, with casting of the lots to see who had to kill himself at the end (after killing the remaining leaders, who in turn had killed their families).  But they have found ostraka with names on them (including one of the leaders of the revolt).

It was hot, did I mention that?

We then headed up to Qumran.  This is where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls, and was an ascetic community in the desert.  The was a section in air-conditioning, where there was the inevitable gift shop and a restaurant.  I'd be more prepared for the restaurant now, but it was very confusing with multiple lines and the menu at the front that didn't relate to which line you needed for the food of your choice.  It seems to be the way they can process bus loads of people coming continuously.

We had a wonder through the gifts shop, too.  Dead Sea Mud, and some books and things.

We then went into the audio-visual section, and Nedal talked to us about some of the findings in the dead sea scrolls.  It was so cold - I think I was running a temperature and it was uncomfortably cold almost to the point of teeth chattering.  Standing around was also taking its toll on me.  It was a relief to get back outside into the heat, although it took me a while to thaw out.  There are remnants of the Qumran community here, communal buildings for scribes and dining rooms, etc. they haven't found cells/bedrooms, but in this era they often slept on the roof, which haven't survived.

We came back via Jericho and Mt Temptation.  We were shown a sycamore tree in Jericho and Nedal talked about Zachaeus while we all went snap-happy, until Nedal pointed out that sycamore trees don't live for more than 400 years, so it was likely not the one Zacheaus climbed into.

The slab traditionally believed to be where they prepared Jesus' body for burial.
When we got back to Jerusalem we had a short break (on the bed with feet up) and then went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  There is a place where you can touch the stone that was like a skull.  It was limestone that was flawed and couldn't be used for building, so was left in situ.  It was also the town dump.  Although the church is very orthodoxy and over-decorated, there is an atmosphere of prayerfulness.  Or at least there is until the orthodox and catholic liturgies start to try and drown each other out! (The Catholics have an organ.  There’s no way the Orthodox are going to win.)

I didn't go into the sepulchre itself (there was a huge queue).  Greg who is familiar with the building looked like he was heading in another direction, so we went into an unadorned cave with a central preparation area and small niches off it where bodies were buried.  

I was struck by the number of young men in the orthodox community.  I would have expected declining numbers and older men.  Apparently monks are celibate, but priests are expected to have families and live in their villages.  Bishops are drawn from the monasteries, therefore are celibate.  Just so you know.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012



The deck outside the dining room at Ecce Homo
It's even quite chilly this morning, the birds are going gangbusters all around in the early morning coolness. A little hazy today, as if yesterday was a special "welcome to Jerusalem present. It's 6 am Friday, and as our guesthouse is on the Via Dolorosa, I am listening to the strains of "Were you there when they crucified my Lord" as a group at the first station of the cross. We walked it in our orientation tour on the first day, but not in a devotional way.

We left at 7.45 for the bus at the bottom of the Lion Gate, and headed into Bethlehem. It's not that far from Jerusalem really, but through a wall and checkpoint - easy enough for us to get through, but significant for the local Palestinian population who need papers (we did need to have Passports with us, though, just in case).

The hills as we travelled were different here than on the other side of town.  There is some vegetation, it's easier to see people making a living (or animals not dying) from these.  Lots of rocks, though, and quite steep in places.

We started at the Herodion, walking up to the top was an effort, but seriously worth it.  Herod built his palace, then had earth stacked around it to form a hill. It was probably the best place we've been to yet to see a bit more of the scale of these palaces - there are a couple of stories of rocks still standing on each other.  You walk down into it and it's quite cool in the shade.  

The zealots got into this palace, too, and there is some damage due to the tactics against them.  There were a pile of cannon balls as we left (okay, round stones that were catapulted in).

We went into the tunnels.  Herod had built an aqueduct to the bottom of the hill, then slaves would bring the water up, then others put it in the cistern.  The ones who knew where the cisterns were never got out of the job.  Because they knew the secrets of the palace, there were killed when they could no longer work.  Herod "The Great" seems such a lovely sort of bloke! (There is actually a story that he took hostages from among the first families with orders that they were all to be killed on the day he died, just so he knew that SOME tears were shed on the day he died.  Apparently they didn’t do it, but I'm not certain there was an overt party either.)  The tunnels got us back closer to the bus, so we didn't have to walk all the way back up to the top of the Herodion in order to get back. That was very welcome.

After this we went into the city to meet with Norah from Kairos.  They have written a document that looks at the problems and issues that exist.  Norah is a gentle, humble and strong person. A refugee.  But she is just as worried about what is happening to the soul of Israel as she is standing against the injustice perpetrated by them.  A remarkable woman and one who I will remember her spirit, if not her face.

We had lunch there with her.

We then headed out to the shepherds fields, which now is a suburb of Bethlehem.  There is a cooperative souvenir shop there. Beautiful things from wood carving to jewelry.  I could have spent a whole heap of money there. There was an absolutely gorgeous Noah's ark there for only US $8600. It would have been too big to bring home.

St Jerome - translated the Bible into Latin
Our last stop was the church of the nativity.  Very ornate and different denominations have jurisdiction over different parts of it.  We saw the stable cave with all its trappings, but I much preferred the less ornate caves around the back.  Nedal (our guide) stopped us in Jerome's cave and talked to us for a bit.  It is unadorned, and the cave outside is the other end of the one considered the cave of the nativity. I could have spent longer here, but the time we had was nice.  It was also cool.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Day Two: The day we nearly killed our guide with the amount of sightseeing we managed...


The alarm clock started at 3.30am. We are very close to the temple mount and so can clearly hear he loud speakers starting up with the daily Quran reading prior to Dawn prayers.  Lucky us.  Convents have no air-conditioning, so you don't want to close the double-glazed windows to keep out the noise. Our fan is broken.

An early start to go to the western wall tunnel.  We had breaky at 6 am, and the quality of the light was beautiful (took some photos across our view of the old city).  We have excellent views from here. It is so central to things.  Mornings and evenings are delightfully cool. 

For this trip and the following one to the temple mount we needed to make certain we were dressed modestly - no knees or shoulders showing.

It's very moving, women praying there because the archaeologists have found a gate that is closer than the Western Wall to the presumed location of the Holy of Holies, therefore it is considered as close as they can get to God.  It feels terrible to intrude on them, although very interesting archaeology.  Its amazing that the ground level has risen so much, although with the history of destruction makes it logical.

We went up to the temple mount. You are not permitted to take bibles or religious materials as they have had difficulties with Christians going up there to pray for the mosques to be destroyed.  Jews (orthodox ones anyway) are not permitted to go up there as they may inadvertently step on the place where God lives.  The mosque is built in an octagon, which was an early Christian style.  Apparently when they first built churches, rather than meeting in homes, they added up the letters of ιχθυς (fish) and it came to 888.  Hence an octagon was the shape they preferred. we had great views over the city and to the mount of olives.      As I walked around I looked for really big paving stones that looked weathered, because those are more likely to be left over from the Herodian Temple.  Who knows that I might not have stepped in the footsteps of Jesus?  He was at the temple, after all! 
We walked out past the golden gate. This is the one that the Messiah is supposed to come through. The moslems have closed it and now use it as a room so that the messiah can't come in that way.  Of course, we know that he already has come through it.

We then went to the archaeological park at the city of David. They are excavating some houses that were built into the walls of the city.  They are tiny, the distance between walls constrained by how far palm branches could hold up a mud and straw roof until it dried.  They have also found a stepped stone wall that held up a platform for a bigger house. Maybe David's palace?

They still hope to find things in the archaeological record that might point to David or Solomon. David took over the Jebusite city without conflict, so there is no destruction layer, but there isn't any indication of a change in occupation, either, or the grand structures that Solomon is supposed to have built.  Keep digging, guys!

At this location we also entered into the water source tunnels.  There is an earlier Jebusite shaft where the women would have lowered jars down into the spring. We saw where the spring gushes out, very dark and difficult to take photos.  There is also a small tunnel where they dammed up the spring, and then the water would have risen to a point where it flowed along to a more convenient location. It was narrow, with not much room for feet, but wider where shoulders were - not regular walls by any stretch of the imagination.  At various points where there were low spots in the roof, they'd attached cushioning, I thought that would be a great idea for Chris, but there was only one place where I needed to duck.  Some of us may go back to do the "wet" tunnel if we have some spare time one afternoon.

We then had a short bus trip to one of the possible sites of the pool of Shilom (Siloam).  More rubbish than water at this point, but there were stepped structures round it.

Bus back to town for lunch in the central square area.  We had a walk around and found slushies, the remnants of the old wall, and the Roman Cardo.  We gathered at the appropriate time only to visit the remnants of the old wall and the Roman Cardo.  We then headed for the burnt house, which was really interesting.  We had been told we’d have to wait for an English session, so I headed off to use the facilities.  Thankfully I told my ‘buddy’ because they headed  in while I was away and at least they knew where I was (and so did everyone else!).

The burnt house is an excavation that is now in a building, and they’ve made a multi-media display about the fall of Jerusalem.  Incredibly well done, with screens for projection and the filming done on a set resembling the layout of the house and it has reference to the few items discovered there.

The last stop was the Davidson Centre.  This leads through to the southern steps of the temple, where they have dug down to the Roman era foundations.  It was getting pretty hard to keep going at this point and quite warm - we kept looking for seats in the shade everywhere we went.

Came home for a lie down - very foot sore.

Later we headed out with Greg to a little cooperative where they sell work done by Palestinian women.  Lots of tablecloths, various liturgical dress components, bags, etc.  Some of it excellent work.  Mum really had to think hard about which she’d bring home with her.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Okay, okay - try this. First Day of our Holiday

12/13 June  HOME - JERUSALEM
The longest day of my life.  I'm not entirely certain when one finished and the next one started.  We started on the lunchtime bus to Brisbane, followed by a transfer to a bus going to the airport.  One young asian traveller hadn’t been told to change buses for Toowoomba at the Transit Centre, and was rather confused to end up back at the airport where he came from.
Ran into Ken at the airport, then met some others near the check-in.  Greg made it at the time he’d said, but most of us had checked in by then.
Planes are cramped, and sleeping with little ability to recline isn't conducive to actual sleep.  Watched half of Downton Abbey in between drinking and looking at any lights that came up as we passed over Indonesia, Singapore, India, etc. Possibly slept for 3 or 4 hours, but not much.  Of course, chasing the sun (or rather the dark) meant that it was 15 hours through the night, we arrived in the dark at Dubai, then were in Amman by about 9.30 am. 
We were met by a lovely guide, Gehan, who gave us lots of information, possibly too much for our tired minds, but we kept asking questions.  It was really hard to get photos in the bus, desert hills with no planning.  House, desert, house, new road, tents and camels, irrigation business.  Stupid digital cameras take too long to switch on and be ready. I would never try to keep a herd (what is the collective noun?) of camels on a town block not much bigger than ours.
We descended into the Jordan valley.  The country changed a lot, more irrigation for one thing. You can see the hills of Israel in the distance, and our first glimpse of the Dead Sea as we came across. It was very blue and doesn't really look dead at all.  There is a constant haze in the distance, whether pollution or simply dust, or a combination of the two.
Crossing the border from Jordan into Israel took some doing.  I'm not certain which of the checkpoints were Jordanian to get out, which were Israeli and which we're Palestinian authority, but there were lots of them, most with guard houses, razor wire and concrete defensive structures. We came over King Hussein bridge. No water, tiny stream. Not much work in crossing it today, I think the Bible is making a big fuss about nothing - I'd be more worried about snakes in the long grass than the depth of the water.  And I definitely wouldn't be trying to dig around for 12 stones to build a cairn to celebrate the event.  Then again, if God's telling your illustrious leader to do something, it probably makes sense to just do it.
One of the crossing places we got VIP treatment, waiting in comfortable seats in airconditioning, with continual offers of drinks while they scanned our luggage and did something with our passports.
The Ecce Homo Convent is interesting, with many stages of building within it. This means lots of stairs. It's also within the old city, which means a tractor comes to take your luggage, and you walk up and through the Lion Gate to get here.  Most of this part of the city is made up of buildings that have been pulled down and then re-erected many times. Arches that were once impressive become much smaller as the ground level rises within them as each occupation layer is built upon the last.
By this time I'd lost my ankles entirely.  A short lie down with legs on Mum’s port on a table at the end of my bed, then a shower before going our for an orientation walking tour.  The architecture is amazing. A very old city that has been destroyed and resurrected many times, some stone re-used so that you get a price of decorated pediment in the middle of a wall.  Other places an arched opening is "bricked in".  Some stones are so old that you can hardly see the decoration any more.
Dinner started with a cool cucumber soup, which sounds a bit weird, but was really refreshing. Then salad and stewed "granny" meat, with a very light chocolate cake for desert.
Early to bed was essential.  Dinner at seven was about 2 am our time with only a few hours sleep the night before.

**For some reason, blogger won't let me upload photos from my computer.  I haven't tried since this new layout existed.  I have no idea how to get my photos on any of the media that it will permit me to upload to.  So the chance that I'll be sharing scores of photos on my blog?   ....Hmmm.

****Got the photos to work!  So there you go!