Sorry--I know that was suggestive, but I just couldn't resist. I want to tell you about this week's field trip to the Shephelah--but first, a few thoughts on field trips in general:
1) Every field trip day is about the same scheduling wise. We get up early, eat breakfast, make a lunch, and be ON THE BUS by 8:00 or get left behind (it has happened--not to me, but still). We then run around all day trying to keep all the sites and digs and historical facts straight.
2) Our lunches are always as follows: Two pita sanwiches, one bag of chips, two pieces of fruit, two cherry tomatoes, half a cucumber, and an Ali Baba chocolate wafer bar (which most of us may or may not be in love with). On free days we are permitted a bit of creativity in that we make our own sanwiches (though this can be dangerous, as peanut butter and nutella are usually available as options).
3) We have sing alongs on every field trip. Brother Judd hands out the lyrics and cranks up the volume and we sing. The songs always have something to do with what we are seeing that day. Sometimes the connection is a good one, like this week's selection "Every Goliath Has It's David." Sometimes it's a little distant--like the Smurf Song on the Negev field trip because it was written by a guy with the psuedonym "Father Abraham." That one wasn't such a big hit--all of us were hot and tired and not really in the mood for little singing smurfs at the time. Most of them are really fun, though, and we all enjoy it.
4) I forgot to tell you about an important member of the Lucky Judd Bus crew--Mr. Sparkle. Mr. Sparkle is a plushy, smiling, two foot tall flower that comes with us every time we go somewhere with lot's of crowds. Brother Judd or somebody else holds him high above our heads so that those near the back can easily see where the group is going. Mr. Sparkle was our constant companion in Turkey, and though the leader usually looked a little riddiculous holding a giant smiley flower over their head, he kept a good many of us from getting lost.
5) After several attempts and trial runs, I have come to a very important conclusion: it is next to impossible to do homework on the bus.
Now for this last week's field trip. We visited the Shephelah (pronounched Shfay-lah, two syllables)--the low hills between the coastal plain and the tall Judean hills in which Jerusalem sits. Some amazing things took place in the Shephelah valleys. Samson took a wife from a town we looked out at--Timnah. We stood on the hilltop at Azekah, a great military city of the Old Testament. There the reenactment committee performed a skit of the Samson story, with Dallin as Samson and Cassie as Delilah, which we all found hillariously appropriate. We walked on the ruins of Lachish, where the Assyrians built a siege ramp up the sides of the city to break in and destroy it before attempting and failing to capture Jerusalem. We there looked at a drawing of an Assyrian frieze that depicted the battle. We also read the ominous words of a soldier in Lachish who wrote that those at Lachish could no longer see the signal flares at Azekah--which meant that Azekah had fallen and the Assyrians would be there in only a few days.
We sang hymns in the Bell Caves--including "Ring Out Wild Bells," which few of us knew but was perfect all the same. The caves were carved by punching a hole in the hard upper surface and carving the bell shape down into the soft limestone beneath. It would have been a breeze--the soft stone literally crumbled into my hands as I brushed them along the walls. We also walked down into deep and surprisingly extensive underground sisterns and systems of rooms. One long chamber contianed nothing but dovecotes to keep messenger pigeons in. Others went on for ages, linking to other rooms with small staircases and tiny doors. I felt like I was in the Cave of Wonders, sans piles of gold and jewels. The caverns were also a blessed respite from the weather--hot and with something like 90% humidity, which was miserable even with the blessing of cloud cover (for which we were all grateful--we hated to imagine what the day would be like without it). The cistern stop also included optional ice cream at the gift shop at the end, which I gratefully took advantage of (chocolate hazelnut ice cream bar with whole hazelnuts in it--AMAZING).
The highlight of the day, however, was the Valley of Elah, where young David defeated the Philistine Goliath. Right there, beneath the ridge where the Israelites' encampment would have been, within sight of Goliath's hometown of Gath, we watched a reenactment skit of the battle. Brother Stratford's son Isaac played David and Brother Judd's daughter Amanda sat on Andrew's shoulders and played Goliath's head (the Israelites cut her off and gave her to King Saul at the end). We were then issued slingshots and spent the next half an hour picking smooth stones from the river bed and slinging them into the field beside us. Lorina got a great picture of me slinging like David himself. Sort of. Not really. The picture was cool, my slinging skills were not. I did alright, though--I actually managed a good twenty feet a couple times. The point was, though, that it's harder than it looks. Mary's conclusion was that in order to slay Goliath by slingshot, David must either have been divinely guided or had way too much time to practice while tending the sheep (I'm inclined to think both). The champion was Andrew--he could shoot his rocks halfway across the field no problem. I kept one of the white stones to remind myself of the day and the story of David.
The past couple days have been busy and packed with homework. I turned in one paper, did very well on one midterm, and studied for yet another for Friday. Speaking of academics, I have news to share. I completely ACED my Old Testament Midterm! I got my score back last week. The class average was an 85%. My score... drumroll please...99%! I could hardly believe my eyes. Before the curve it was 95%, so I only got two or three questions wrong. Hallelujah and thank heaven!
That's all for now--I'll write more tomorrow. I haven't got out into the city the past couple days, so I am very ready to book it out of here first thing tomorrow afternoon. The festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles) is going on this week, so I am eager to get into West Jerusalem to buy Chala bread and see festivities (especially the sukkot on people's lawns and balconies). More adventures to come!