Study Leave—Week Six

The past week has been a delightful mix of experiences.

The week began and ended with new chapters being completed. This means that half of the new book now exists in draft form, and I have some growing sets of notes for several of the other chapters. I seem to be on track to have the book finished by the end of my sabbatical. The HODOS online community that I set up in January 2001 is proving to be a great forum for exploring my ideas for the new book, and I am finding that some of the material that I generate in those discussions can be used in the book. This was certainly the case over the last few days, so I deferred plans to work on the coin chapter and followed the creative energies to complete the first draft of chapter 7, “Calling Jesus Names.”

Most of Saturday was spent at Iqrit, a depopulated village where the people return once a month for a liturgy and community day. The church was packed, and afterwards I stayed on to mingle with the locals. After an informal picnic lunch, the music and dancing began. It was a lovely time to share with them all.

Early Sunday morning I headed south to Jerusalem for a few days working in the coin department at Israel Antiquities Authority, arriving in time to catch the Arabic service at St George’s Cathedral. This was a very productive few days, and I am now beginning to prepare the detailed numismatic descriptions of the individual coins from 2012, 2011 and 2010. My goal is to work back to close the gap in the records since 2000, but I am starting with the most recent seasons.

While at IAA I was able to speak with Yardenna Alexandré, who was responsible for the excavations at Mary’s Well in 1997/98 as well as the 2008/09 excavations across the street from the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Her detailed report on the Mary’s Well excavations has now been published by IAA, and I was able to get an informal verbal report on the unpublished finds from 2008/09. Having access to the scholars working on the digs and with the coins has been such a valuable aspect of my study leave. By week’s end I had also received my copy of the excavation report from the Franciscan excavations at the Basilica in the late 1950s and early 1960s, so I hope to have a good grasp of the major Nazareth sites soon. An essay on the archaeology of nazareth has just been accepted as a chapter in a book being edited by a colleague, so now I need to  pull together my ideas about that topic. I am looking forward to that as Nazareth is such a significant place for me.

On Wednesday afternoon I had an extended meeting with people from the local Sabeel community to plan shared events, including their participation in the Bethsaida dig again this year. they do an amazing amount of community work, with more than 140 events in 2012. This year they are especially focusing on interfaith relations, to reduce the tendency among local Christians and Muslims to isolate themselves from one another.

In the evening I enjoyed a concert of classical Arab music, performed by a local music and choral ensemble. This was a fund-raising event for a new unit at the Nazareth English Hospital, and the music was superb. This video of a similar concert in 2012 gives a very good sense of the event I attended.

Most of Wednesday and all of Thursday was devoted to writing. By the end of Thursday I had the first draft of chapter seven completed, as noted above.

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