This week was characterized by bus rides. I went to a lot of different places including some places where I hadn’t planned to go. Figuring out the bus system involves a lot of learning though trial and error.
Shabbat in Ofra
My first trip started last week. Some friends of mine, who are Orthodox Jews, invited me to spend Shabbat with them in Ofra, a community about 20 miles from Ariel. I left on Friday afternoon, taking the last bus before Shabbat.
I arrived in time for a tour of Ofra before Shabbat started at 4:30 pm. During the tour we stopped at the cemetery so that I could visit a special tomb. When we excavated at Khirbet el-Maqatir, we found a hiding system from the Great Revolt with the bones of women and children who had died at the hands of the Romans. After we analyzed and recorded the bones, we gave them to the people of Ofra to bury in their cemetery. It was special for me to visit their grave again.
After Shabbat started, we walked to the Synagogue for evening prayers. After that, there was a nice family dinner. I spent the night in the guest room.
On Saturday morning, we went to the Synagogue again for a 2-hour-long service which included prayers and Bible readings. Following the service, we had another scrumptious meal, then a walk in the countryside. After that, everyone retired to their rooms for an afternoon nap. Shabbat ended at 5:30 pm with a candle-lighting ceremony.
The first bus back to Ariel after Shabbat was scheduled to leave Ofra at 7:10 pm. I got to the bus stop in plenty of time. I waited until 7:40 pm, with no sign of the bus. Finally, a bus pulled up. It wasn’t the one I had planned to take, but I recognized it as another bus that also goes to Ariel. I got on board, only to realize that it had just come from Ariel and was headed to Jerusalem. That’s how I ended up taking an unplanned trip to Jerusalem on Saturday evening. I finally got back to Ariel after 10:00 pm.
KAMAT and Jerusalem
On Sunday, I headed back to the bus station bright and early for a trip to KAMAT. KAMAT is the Judea-Samaria branch of the Israel Antiquities Authority. They are the ones who give us a license to dig at Shiloh, and that is where we store all of our antiquities from Shiloh. I went there for two purposes. I needed to retrieve a couple of our Shiloh finds in order to have them drawn for publication. I also needed to measure and take a sample from a bulla that we found in the Shiloh excavation.
My bus ride took be back to Jerusalem. From there, I changed busses a couple of times in order to finally arrive at KAMAT. I accomplished my errands at KAMAT fairly quickly and retraced the bus route as far as Jerusalem. It was early afternoon by this point, and I decided to explore Jerusalem.
Sometime last year I had read an article about the discovery of Caiaphas’ tomb, and since then, I have wanted to go see it. It is just south of Jerusalem. I thought it would be a nice walk. The problem, though, is that I am really bad at navigation. Despite using Google Maps, I spent several hours walking a distance that should have taken 30 minutes. At one point, I discovered part of the second-temple water system that took water from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. That was cool. I finally found the area of Caiaphas’ tomb. I wandered around for a while, but I never found the actual tomb.
By this point, it was starting to get dark. I caught a bus that took be back to the bus station from which I could take a bus to Ariel. As I arrived, the bus to Ariel was pulling out. I waited an hour for the next bus, and then I waited some more, because the bus didn’t come. Finally, around 7:30 pm, the bus finally arrived and I rode back to Ariel.
The next morning, I was up bright and early to catch another bus. This one, however, was a tour bus. Ariel University requires undergraduate students to take an “Israel Heritage” class as part of their general education requirements. This class includes some touring, and I decided to tag along.
The theme of the tour was Hasmonean sites that had a connection to the history of the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks. Our first stop was a lookout site where we could see a large portion of the countryside in which the Maccabean battles occurred.
The next stop, a site called Khirbet Sheikh ‘Isa, was my favorite. This site was founded in the Iron Age, and they had a wine industry there. This is apparent not only because there is a wine press there, but also because of the presence of about 30 silos carved into the bedrock for wine storage. They are very similar to those at Gibeon, another Iron Age wine production center. The site continued in usage through the Persian period, and was an important site during the Maccabean revolt, which made it applicable to this tour. Later, either during the Great Revolt or the Bar Kokhba Revolt, the Jewish people living at the site reused the ancient wine storage silos as a massive hiding system by carving tunnels to connect them. We crawled through the system of caves and tunnels, which was a lot of fun.
Next, we stopped at Nebi Samwil, which is a candidate site for biblical Ramah. It had archaeological strata from a number of periods starting in the Iron Age. I found two tombs that were interesting. One was clearly an Iron Age tomb. I couldn’t really get a good look inside the other one because it had a square sealing stone blocking the way. There was a spring there, called Hannah’s Spring, which was also interesting. There was a mikveh carved into the entrance to the spring, and also a cave with mangers in its entrance.
Our final stop was at the Hasmonean Village. This is a life-sized reconstruction of an ancient village from the Hasmonean period. It features houses, workshops, olive presses, and a synagogue. I thought that they did a good job of portraying an ancient village, but the place was a bit run down. I suspect that they don’t get a lot of tourists.
The tour bus brought us back to Ariel at a reasonable hour, and that ended my bus journeys for the week. I spent the rest of the week studying, catching up on laundry, and working on getting my Green Pass.
Green Pass/Student ID Update
Thank you to those of you who have been praying about the Green Pass. It is still a work in progress, but I was able to finally get ahold of the Ministry of Health. They wouldn’t talk to me in English, but my friend Leah talked to them in Hebrew. They updated my record and told me that I should be able to easily renew the Green Pass once it expires. That means I still can’t apply for my Student ID, because my current Green Pass is expiring in a few days. However, as soon as it expires, I’m hoping that I can renew it and then apply for the Student ID. I just have to take things one tiny step at a time!