Ashkenazic Jew, Bethlehem, Cave of Machpelah / Tomb of the Patriarchs, Children IN Israel, Church of the Nativity, Elah Valley, Evidence, Head Coverings, Hebron, Israeli Food, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Life on the Bus, Muslim Mosque, Oaks of Mamre, Passover, Sephardic Jew, Shepherds & Sheep, Synagogue, Terrain, West Bank

Five Smooth Stones

The Philistines, gathered at Socoh, mobilized their armies for battle.

Saul and the men of Israel were encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines.

The Philistines stood on one mountain, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them.

Goliath of Gath, the Philistine champion, standing some nine feet tall, came out of his camp wearing a bronze helmet, a heavy coat of mail, bronze armor on his legs, a bronze javelin slung between his shoulders, a heavy iron spear, with a shield-bearer before him.

He came out before Israel and said: “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us. I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.”

Saul and all of Israel were dismayed and afraid when they heard these words. For forty days this went on.

Jesse, from Bethlehem in Judea, had eight sons. The three oldest were already serving Saul in the army, but David, the youngest, was traveling back and forth from Saul to Bethlehem, tending his father’s sheep.

One day, bringing provisions to his brothers, David witnessed Goliath’s challenge, and then he witnessed the resultant fear of the Israelite army.

He says to the men nearby: “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

David’s brother Eliab reprimanded him, but David repeated his statement until it finally reached the ears of Saul. Saul then called for David, and questioned him. David told Saul that he would go fight Goliath, but Saul rejected his offer, saying that he was only a youth.

David defended himself, saying: “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.  Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul tried to put his own armor on David, but it was too cumbersome. So he took it off, and then took his staff in his hand, stopped at the brook and picked up five smooth stones and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. With his slingshot in his hand, he approached the giant Goliath.

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When Goliath saw David, he mocked him. He said, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks? Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”

Then David gave one of the most memorable speeches from scripture: “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

As Goliath rose to meet him, David quickly ran toward him, taking in his hand one of the five stones from his pouch. He put the stone in his sling, slung it around and let it fly. The stone hit Goliath between the eyes, where it sank into his forehead, and Goliath fell face-first onto the ground.

Without a sword, David had killed Goliath. He ran to where Goliath had fallen, picked up Goliath’s own sword, and cut off his head. When the Philistines saw what had happened, they turned and ran, and Israel and Judah shouted and chased the Philistines as far as Gath.

Now, isn’t that one of the most exciting stories in the Bible? Today, we got to see where it happened. The valley of Elah, just ordinary farmland today, stretched in front of us with tall, green weeds, thistles and mustard plants waving in the wind. Rounded mountains sloped to our left and to our right. A shallow brook ran through the field. To get to where John wanted to film, we had to stomp through those tall green weeds. This is NOT my happy place. I’m not a girly-girl, but I’m not completely a country girl, either. I talked to myself (again, that’s happening a lot lately!) and said “Don’t think about the bugs below. There probably are no snakes in Israel. Or alligators.” So eventually we made it to the middle of the field, where Doug and Rick promptly began sneezing their heads off.

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Drawing us a map
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This doesn’t look nearly as bad as it was!
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Valley of Elah

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After John finished filming his A-roll, and while they were shooting some B-roll nearby, Micah and I walked up and down the non-weedy areas looking for smooth stones. Maybe it’s silly for my only souvenir from Israel to be five smooth stones, but something to help me remember David’s faith and complete confidence in the Lord in the middle of a scary, against-the-odds situation is the best thing I can take home – and share.

OUR DAY

The dining room was still closed this morning while they clean the kitchen and remove all traces of leaven. We ate in the ballroom below, and it was still quite a spread, but no omelets, just boiled eggs, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and some breads. Tsvi told us not to expect any bread after today, too – just matzo.

Some of the talk in the bus this morning was in preparation for the David and Goliath segment.  The guys were talking about a scene from a movie where Brad Pitt plays Achilles and how he runs toward a giant enemy and dodges a spear and twists around mid-air and kills the giant with a knife to the back of his head (or something like that.) Almost all of them chimed in with “remember the part where he…?” “Did you see how they…?” “The best part is when….” I just sat there. I can tell you most of the lines from Sleepless in Seattle, but battle scenes are usually lost on me.

As we drove south, the terrain seemed to grow steeper and rockier. My ears were popping as the road zigzagged back and forth, with Yossi stomping on the brakes a few time to slow us down. We stopped on the side of the road once to see the terraced farming that is necessary to keep the soil from washing down the mountainside.

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As we drove, we asked Tsvi about Passover. He told us that he was a “Sephardic Jew” and his wife was an “Ashkenazic Jew”. He said “it’s better to be a Sephardic Jew” during Passover, because they can eat more things than the Ashkenazic, like rice, corn, peanuts and beans. Apparently Sephardic Jews are more lenient about some things. When asked what a typical Passover meal would consist of, he said it was a big meal. They drink four cups of wine, leaning to the left or the right for each cup. They read the story of Moses, remembering the exodus from Egypt. The first part of the meal, before the main course begins, can last more than two hours. The main meal would usually be carp (which Tsvi said he “hated with a passion”) or chicken or beef, plus a matzo ball soup and vegetables. They also had traditions for children – hiding matzo around the house and letting the children find it (doesn’t sound as fun as hunting candy!)

After our stop at the Valley of Elah (already described above,) we drove a few miles further (north, I think) to Khirbet Qeiyafa. It is a recent excavation, beginning only about 10 years ago. Khirbet Qeiyafa overlooks the Elah Valley, where the battle of David and Goliath took place. Dewayne had A-roll to shoot here. It was quite a hike – Yossi got us as close as he could but we had to walk uphill about 20 minutes before we arrived. And as soon as we got to the top of the high hill, Doug said “We’ve been here!” And it did look very similar to several of the other ruins we’ve visited – at least to the untrained eye!

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Pottery EVERYWHERE!

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Elah Valley below

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Incidentally, the area was deserted except for two men speaking English and conferring over a map. We walked past and let them continue, but later Tsvi got to talking to them and found out that one of them was from Austin and lived only about 20 miles from us. He had come to Israel for a Bar Mitzvah but wanted to see some archaeological sites while he was here. It truly is a small world!

While we were there, a flock (or is it herd?) of sheep came through. There were probably 100 of them, mostly white but with a few black sheep interspersed. We heard their bells before we saw them, and heard their shepherd calling them with a sharp whistle and a noise like you make when you blow a “raspberry”. They ran in circles around each other, trying to get the best bite of the bushes before their companions could. Their shepherd kept calling them, and most of them hurried after him, but there were still a few who remained behind for as long as they possibly could, snacking on the tasty grass. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” John 10:3-4

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Notice the two or three rogue sheep on the left in the bushes…they were the last to heed the call of their Shepherd. Lots of spiritual applications could be made! 🙂

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Next came something else I’ve been dreading: saying goodbye to Tsvi. Since we were going on into the West Bank area, he could not guide us, since he is Jewish. We have all grown attached to both he and Yossi – we depended on them and grew to love them. I honestly had to swallow the lump in my throat as we said not goodbye – but “we’ll see you again.”

We crossed over the checkpoint and did what felt like a “hostage exchange” again like we did in Jordan. New guide named Hisham, a Palestinian secular Muslim. He had very fair skin, and was wearing a Marine camouflage hat. He looked European, and spoke with a thick accent that almost sounded Australian to me. He said he knows the Koran, but reads the Bible (it sounded like he was saying “Bi-yee-ble”) every morning as well. He had spent five years working with the United States Marines in Iraq, translating for them.

I can only speak for myself, but having just said goodbye to Tsvi, I wasn’t feeling too excited about a new guide – knowing how much we depend on the guide to translate, intervene when we needed it, give us facts and not opinions. I was a little leery of him even though he seemed very nice.

We drove on to Hebron, the largest and most wealthy city in the West Bank (and by the way, “West Bank” refers to the west bank of the Jordan River) with about 700,000 occupants. There was a different feel to me – maybe it was my imagination but it did not feel very welcoming. For example, in other parts of Israel, the road signs have Hebrew and English lettering – in the West Bank, only Arabic. Groups of men here sat in doorways, smoking, watching us pass. We arrived there around 1 p.m., but needed to adjust our schedule a bit because of Muslim prayer time. The city was dirty with trash everywhere. Shops on the street showed the latest fashion in Arabic women’s dresses – from the neck to the ankles and long-sleeved.

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Hisham and the new driver (I never learned his name) took us to a restaurant called Abu Mazen. It was clean and smelled nice, but we were ushered past several groups of men into a back area. I don’t know if it was because they were full out front or if they put us there because of our nationality. I never felt scared or threatened as a woman, but I didn’t exactly feel welcomed, either. I asked John to go with me to the bathroom and stand outside, which he did, but as soon as I finished washing my hands, a man came in to the sink area where I was drying my hands. John was just outside, and called my name when he saw what had happened. I don’t know if the men’s room was occupied, or why he came in there, but it’s happened several times since we’ve been here.

They brought us bottled water and a delicious soup that tasted like chicken noodle, except it was some sort of barley or couscous instead of noodles. Then they brought TWELVE appetizer plates with a basket of pita bread. I’m not sure what all of the plates contained – hummus on one, some type of mint salsa (for lack of a better word), one that tasted like our salsa at home, several different kinds of pickles, Baba Ganoush (I’d heard of it – it is eggplant, onions, tomatoes, etc.) and other things I couldn’t identify. I tried some and not others…sorry Mom. We got to choose either lamb over rice or chicken over rice. My chicken was very good – the rice had a saffron flavor which wasn’t bad, but I didn’t love it.

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While we were there another large group came in, with only two women and probably 15 men. Some of the men looked to be Korean. The women were covered. They had a large TV/Video type camera with them as well. I noticed one of the Korean men either taking pictures or video of us. I guess we’re a novelty of some sort!

Today was a little taste of being a woman in a very male-dominant society. I had a scarf in my backpack, and John asked Hisham if I needed to wear it (John told me that Hisham said no, but I was supposed to walk six steps behind him…but John was just kidding…HA.) Again, I never felt threatened. Never felt scared. Just not completely at ease, and somewhat insignificant.

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The entrance to the mosque side – a few steps in here is where I was handed a robe to cover my head.

We left the restaurant and drove to the Cave of Machpelah (Genesis 23), where the Bible says Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah are buried somewhere. I was expecting a cave, but instead found a huge structure built over the cave centuries ago, with walls constructed by Herod the Great. Half of the structure is a Muslim mosque and the other half is Jewish synagogue. There are some Jews who live in the West Bank, but it isn’t the safest place for them – as someone said, “it’s like playing with ants.”IMG_1452

We had to walk uphill (of course) to get to the area we were looking for. Adorable little boys ran up to us with bracelets, wanting money. I had a ten shekel coin in my pocket and gave it to a little boy, maybe unwise, but I couldn’t resist his big brown eyes. Then we had to go through a metal detector and checkpoint before going into the Muslim side of the Cave of Machpelah. Mat had to take the camera off the glidecam and leave it and the tripod behind, I suppose they were viewed as weapons. As we walked up steep steps toward the Mosque, we could see the large Herodian stones. At the door, I was asked to put on a hooded robe. It didn’t have any sleeves. I had to take off my backpack and hold it awkwardly in front of me with my pen and notebook under my arm. Of course the guys gave me a hard time, calling me Frodo, Gandalf, or Little Red Riding Hood, and referencing Assassin’s Creed, but I could tell they felt a little awkward about me having to wear it. I did not like it. I don’t have a problem with submission – it just felt like I didn’t belong or that they wanted to cover me up, even though I was dressed from neck to hands to feet. All of us had to remove our shoes as well. (I was so glad I happened to wear socks today!)

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One of my favorite pictures from the trip. Doug snapped his picture and then paused to show it to him – he was fascinated with the picture of himself.

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I’ve never been in a mosque before and it was vastly different than a church building. Carpets covered the floor with no benches or seats or pews. This one also had monuments set up to honor the patriarchs. It smelled like stinky feet – sad, but true. Mat passed me one time and whispered for me to pull my hood further over my head, because it had pulled back away from my forehead. Later a door opened and the wind blew it back and John hurried to pull it forward. I knew they just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be in any trouble; it was just a strange feeling for me. I was glad to get my shoes back on and leave that place.

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This is Hisham pointing out a monument
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John’s new pulpit 🙂
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Yes, that’s me, Frodo
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The striped buildings in the middle are monuments to Rebekah and Leah, I believe. If I remember correctly Rachel (Jacob’s favorite wife) is buried near Bethlehem.

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We walked around to the other side of the building, went through a similar checkpoint and the same instructions about the glidecam pole and tripod. Then up steps (of course) and into the Jewish side. This time, the guys had to cover the back of their heads with a little disposable yarmulke. I felt more at home here. People were moving around looking at the books. One man, trying to recite his prayer, kept being pestered by his son and daughter running back and forth. Mat got some B-roll here, and John shot some A-roll outside for his segment on “Walking in the steps of the Patriarchs.”

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On the way back to the bus, we walked through an alley lined with shops carrying scarves, cheap Israel souvenirs, spices, and toys. We kept hearing “Welcome!” “Pliss come in!” “Welcome!” The homes here are made of stone and the doors and gates are painted a bright green or yellow.

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Next we stopped at the “Oaks of Mamre” (Genesis 18) but it was fenced up and closed. It was just a big fenced area in the city of Hebron with Herodian ruins inside. Hisham found an opening in the fence, and in we went. We seemed to attract a crowd of little boys wherever we went, and this was no exception. Four or five of them followed us in, saying “pic-sha!” and wanting us to take their pictures. They were cute, and one of them spoke decent English. They were very interested in being on camera while John was continuing to film, so Hisham had to distract them and keep them busy. I noticed rocks in the hands of a couple of them.

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See the rock in his hand? Who knows if he was just playing with rocks, or if he’s been taught to throw rocks. But he was friendly!

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We then made the drive to Bethlehem, still in the West Bank area. Jon had some segments to film on the streets here. The sun was going down and it was chilly. We ducked into the Church of the Nativity (literally, you have to bend over in a posture of submission to enter) and found that a funeral was taking place. Hisham, though, took us right past the crowds and down into a little sunken area where supposedly Jesus was born and laid in the manger. We didn’t stay long. The rest of the crew went in as well.

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Hisham said this was the grand opening of a new restaurant.
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“Church of the Nativity”
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On the streets of Bethlehem. It was COLD that day.
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Going down into the area of the Church of the Nativity where supposedly Jesus was born and laid in a manger.
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To the right, the stone upon which Jesus was supposedly born.
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Visitors can take turns touching the stone.
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To the left in this area, where the manger may have been.

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Hisham then ushered us down the hill into a “Christian Gifts Store” with lots and lots of carved olive wood and expensive (though not great quality) jewelry. We felt a lot of pressure to buy, so I bought a few olive wood trinkets, but was glad to get out of there – it felt shady. Plus, it was extremely obvious that Hisham only wanted us to go there – not some other store.  Doug confronted him a little bit about it, and he said “I do not push…I love this Christian store…I love that it is Christian and you are Christian…they pay me to bring, this is how life works.” A sad commentary on life in this type of society.

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It has given me much to think about, much to be thankful for, and much to pray about as well. So many of these people do not have any employment or any hope. They live in fear and the circles of life go round and round – how different things would be for people if they accepted Jesus and knew His love and shared that love with others!

I have such mixed emotions tonight – not exactly wanting to go back to those areas, but also knowing that these people who live there are souls who are precious to God.

A quote in my notebook (thank you Shaun!!) says “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” And I’m not.

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3 thoughts on “Five Smooth Stones”

  1. Awesome post Carla. We can feel it, straight from your heart. By the way—as soon as I saw the Frodo cape/hood, it occurred to me that if it had been red, Little Red Riding Hood would have been your nickname for the day. 😍

    Like

  2. Carla, I’ve loved your report and have past it on to a few but I must confess I had to look up “how to blow a raspberry”. One of the first forms of communication that a new baby makes. Come home safe.

    Sent from my iPad Chuck M

    >

    Like

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