Study Leave—Week Five

This has been a quieter week in some ways, but quite a productive one as well.

The weekend part of the week saw an overlap between the Western Easter and the final days of the Pesach holidays. The country seemed to be on holiday mode pretty well much of the time, although I was challenged by the inability to buy anything with yeast: including (of course) pita bread, beer, and pasta. It is not just that observant Jews do not buy such products. Rather, the stores will not allow anyone to buy them, irrespective of your religious outlook. Consequently great sections of the stores are covered in plastic sheets to indicate that these items may not be purchased. Even the British Pub themed restaurant where I ate on Saturday night was not serving beer. Must be tough on their core business. (I have since learned that locals stock up with these items in advance of the holy days.)

With so many holidays to be observed there were opportunities to visit some beautiful places, such as the Lake Huleh wetlands and the Banias Springs. There were also opportunities for lunches with friends in Nazareth, where the quantity of food served far exceeds my capacity to devour it (although I try), and is always spectacular.

One of the highlights of the week was the opportunity to visit the small chapel where Charles de Foucauld spent many hours in prayer during the two years he spent in Nazareth. The friend who took me there prays in this chapel every day, and it was a privilege to be given that glimpse inside his private life.

Last Saturday I had an opportunity to walk through the excavations at Tiberias itself. This is a city founded by Herod Antipas in 20 CE and continuously occupied ever since. The excavations have revealed a first century theatre as well as a Late Roman bath house that features in some of the rabbinic texts. The ruins are adjacent to the main road and close to a popular beach area. Most passers-by seem entirely unaware of the history so close at hand.

While visiting Nazareth on Wednesday I called by the Sabeel office and happened to be there at the same time as a group of 15 or so Swedes, all members of Friends of Sabeel in Sweden. It was lovely to cross paths with them, and kind of fun to be partly in the position of welcoming them to Nazareth.

In between all the sight-seeing and the lovely meals there has even been some opportunities to work. I have been able to track down quite a bit of literature related to the current book project, and by week’s end to complete another chapter for the book. This is the chapter that looks at Galilee in the time of Jesus, and at a few of the key places he visited. In particular, it has a couple of pages on the archaeological evidence for Nazareth during the first few decades of the first century. I may need to revise a few sentences in light of some places I am yet to be shown (although I think not), but at least the chapter itself is now done. In the week ahead I will shift my focus back to the coins project, not least because the next chapter I want to write will deal with the coins that are relevant to my study of Jesus in first century Galilee. This is certainly a good place to be located while working on such a project.

On Thursday evening I had an opportunity to meet up with the Australian tour group led by David Pitman, from Brisbane. It was good to do that, and quite a tonic to hear their Aussie accents. Even better was the chance to see some familiar faces of friends from home. Still, it was a wicked pleasure to say as I left them , “Well, I am heading home to Tiberias now!”

About gregoryjenks

Academic Dean at St Francis Theological College, Brisbane, and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University.
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