Daily life

Passover Seder, 2019

passover.001.jpg

The passover seder is one way to rehearse the great story of liberation. It is celebratory and sensory: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste are exercised. Through it all, memories of what God has done in the past are retold. These prompt contemplation about what God is doing now and what God will do in the future.

Thanks to all our friends from the faith community at Crossings Knoxville who participated last night. Thanks especially to Vicki who prepared and served a splendid table. The salad, lamb, veggies, potatoes, and brownies were just perfect.

"You shall tell your child on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt’” (Exodus 13:8).

The photos above were taken by Bible Land Explorer Chris Battle.

No strings attached

Old guys 2.JPG

Wheeling, dealing, and fooling around has been a part of life in Çorum, Turkey, for as long as anyone can remember.

Back in the days of Abraham (yes, that Abraham), the Assyrians established a trading colony here. It was part of a network of trading partners (Akkadian: kāru) centered in what is today the Turkish province of Çorum. The route was an economic lifeline between northern Anatolia and Upper Mesopotamia.

Money was not yet invented in those days; precious metals were the currency of choice. Gold was eight times more valuable than silver. Only one metal was more valuable than gold: amutum. This metal was forty times more valuable than silver! Scholars believe amutum may be iron. Keep in mind that this was, in the parlance of archaeologists, still the age of bronze.

The fun-loving friends pictured above demonstrated to me the value of a good laugh and an old mandolin without strings. I bought it. It proudly sits on a shelf in my dining room today.

Çorum is located in the highlands between Ankara and the Black Sea coast.


*See K. R. Veenhof, Aspects of Old Assyrian Trade and Its Terminology (Brill, 1972): 385.


51875727_1220269901475687_6508264772281040896_n.jpg

A last minute trip of Bible Land Explorers is coming together. Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Galilee are in the mix. Dates are May 25 through June 4, 2019. Late fees have been waived for a short time, but you'll need to grab your seat now if you are going to get it. Inclusive price out of Washington Dulles is $3,963. Other departure cities are possible. Write me at markziese@gmail.com for more information.

Lecture hall learners

P1160076.JPG

Sometimes I wonder how effective the big lecture hall lectures are.

I try to channel my inner undergraduate as I wax eloquently on narrative construction techniques, explore the interplay between history and language, and rise to the challenge of hearing God in the text. Sometimes the feedback suggests “I get it.” Those are moments of celebration! At other times I just get stony stares.

Oh well. We keep at it.

The stony stares pictured above are not coming from lecture hall learners but from third-century (AD) funerary busts recovered at the site of Beth Shean (Scythopolis). This Heartland site was the leading city of the Decapolis and a real treasure trove of Late Roman life in the Lower Jordan Valley.

In this case, we are learning from them.

Funerary busts were erected over tombs across the Greco-Roman world, but they are rare in this part of the world. Carved in soft limestone, they display a mix of traditions, east and west, local and imported. Hair styles, jewelry, and clothing suggest a measure of personalization. Names in Semitic and in Greek languages are engraved on some and give flavor to the cultural blend that marked life in ancient Scythopolis.

You can find this display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.


P1160916.JPG

If you are a museum-lover you really can’t miss the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It contains a treasury of cultural artifacts from thousands of years of history.

We’ll visit the IM several times during our 2019 travel season. If you would like to join us, there are seats available. Find the dates here that fit your schedule and shoot me email me at markziese@gmail.com. I’ll do my best to work you in.


Cookie?

1584.jpg

If you try one, you’ll know why you need to buy the box.

Arab hospitality meets shrewd salesmanship in East Jerusalem. There’s a fine line between the two. Bartering, bantering, coffee, and more bartering can be a part of the shopping experience. Bring cash and know your exchange rate if you are going to play the game. Smile regularly.

Welcome to the Middle East.

Photograph by Bible Lands Explorer Mark Kitts.


46779822_2150685291618132_5596866115000074240_n.jpg

Our next experience in the land of the Bible is slated for March 12-23, 2019. We’ll be doing a study-tour with Master’s-level students in Johnson University’s residency program. Student trips are always fast-paced, high-energy, and full of great conversation.

For a complete list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here.

An archaeologist's rig (part 13)

Greece 144.jpg

Of all the rides featured in this stunning series few have reached the pinnacle of the sublime.

That just changed.

Behold.

If this doesn’t sweeten your Valentine’s Day, you are truly a cold being.

I came across this engineering marvel on the island of Mykonos, Greece, many years ago. If the creator is still alive, I’m sure it is still running. At least parts of it are. In something.


Johnny Magic and travelers copy 2.jpg

While touring in Israel-Palestine, we use a slightly larger vehicle. Our standard coach seats 50, has lots of glass, air-conditioning, wifi, and often is labeled Mercedes. Wheelmen like “Johnny Magic” pictured here (center) are key to our safety and success. I couldn’t do what I do without these dear friends.

For a complete list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details.

Multiple choice quiz

253.jpg

This picture represents

(a) the consensus view of the NFL.

(b) a bad cruise.

(c) the attempt by Jon Weatherly and Mark Ziese to snag some rubbish from the Sea of Galilee.


The correct answer is c (although a was an excellent guess).

Rubbish snagging is a task requiring Ninja-like skills and should only be performed by trained experts. Do not attempt anything like this at home.

And some of you thought that college administrators were just pretty faces.

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer Mark Kitts. He really should apologize.


IMG_3489.jpg

There’s no telling what we are going to get ourselves into in 2019. But if you want to join our exclusive group of Bible Land Explorers you’ll need to contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

To see a list of planned travel opportunities in 2019 and beyond, consult our schedule here.

Through the wood

IMG_7259 2.jpg

Approaching Sepphoris through the wood.

East-West ridges are dominant trends in Lower Galilee. These ridges are formed of soft chalky rocks, that at one point in time, were swathed in trees and topsoil. Today, much of that topsoil has been relocated in valley floors and apart from reforestation efforts (as shown), the trees are gone.

Environmental scientists tell us that the area of central Lower Galilee (as pictured here in the shaded trail between Nazareth and Sepphoris) is home to maquis forest.* Maquis is a technical term used to describe a distinctly Mediterranean biome where summers a long and dry and winters are short and wet. Indigenous trees include the carob, mastic, and a variety of evergreens, with oaks at elevation.

Photo by Bible Land Explorer Susan Ruth.


*See for example, Zvi Gal’s work on Lower Galilee during the Iron Age (ASOR, 1992).


P1210766.JPG

You are not going to find many bananas between Sepphoris and Nazareth (gotta go down into the Jordan Valley for that kind of heat), but you might find an occasional Jesus Trail hiker.

For a complete list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details.

The prettiest ugly fish I’ve ever seen

Fish at Royal Plaza 2.jpg

You never know what kind of surprise awaits you at the kosher tables of the Royal Plaza, Tiberias. This is the prettiest ugly fish I’ve ever seen. Frankenfish! I don’t know where he came from, but it wasn’t the Sea of Galilee.

The good news is when you walk the Jesus Trail with me in the wintertime, we’re not eating freeze dried food from a foil envelope. Nooope. The question at my table is whether the napkins will be paper or cloth.


P1210344.JPG

Our most recent group of Bible Land Explorers just completed a walk along the Jesus Trail, a 65 km trek across Galilee. In addition to an overnight in Tiberias, we bivouacked in Netanya, Kibbutz Lavi, and Jerusalem.

For a full list of travel opportunities in the Lands of the Bible, 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for details.

Living history

Portrait 1.JPG

The painted ceilings in the Jacir Palace, Bethlehem, are splendid. They are relics of a moment in time.

The end of the 19th century was marked by stability in the Levant. The elite of Palestinian society responded in an open-minded way. They continued to build in traditional styles, but incorporated new—and flashy—elements drawn from northern Mediterranean lands. These included ceiling paintings.*

The entry to the palace and its adjoining rooms was adorned with landscapes, abstract designs, and this single portrait. I believe it to be Youssef Jacir, a prominent figure of Bethlehem (died 1888). He was a leader in the local Christian church, the town’s registrar, tax-collector, and historical orator.** He fathered five children; the eldest was responsible for building the Jacir Palace. Not surprisingly, the face of the patriarch was respectfully placed on the ceiling where he remains at watch to this day.

Aren’t the colors magnificent?

A European artist by the name of Marco was commissioned to do the work.


*An excellent source for information about such things is Sharif Sharif-Safadi’s Wall and Ceiling Paintings in Notable Palestinian Mansions in the Late Ottoman Period: 1856-1917. Riwaq, 2008.

**See the history of the Jacir Palace here (accessed 12/20/2018).


48403175_10218504365466379_2407806477713539072_n.jpg

Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine at the start of 2019. We plan to investigate the region Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.

Juliet perch

window.jpg

“What light through yonder window breaks?”

A Juliet perch adorns the face of the Jacir Palace, Bethlehem.


46779822_2150685291618132_5596866115000074240_n.jpg

Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine at the start of 2019. We plan to investigate the region Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.

Palatial

door.001.jpg

The dream-home of Suleiman Jacir was built at the turn of the 20th century. This Bethlehem family is remembered for their generosity as well as their successful business in mother of pearl ornaments.

While a core of Christian artisans remains in Bethlehem, Palestine, it is difficult to imagine this commercial heyday. The downward spiral of the fortunes of Ottoman-era merchants accelerated in the period of the British Mandate. Less than two decades after this stone palace was built the family went bankrupt and was forced to sell the property.


48403175_10218504365466379_2407806477713539072_n.jpg

Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine at the start of 2019. We plan to investigate the region Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.


A place to drink coffee

P1140210.JPG

The Jacir Palace in Bethlehem is an exquisite example of Late Ottoman architecture. Little work is needed to imagine how this space was used at the beginning of the twentieth century. Local and foreign guests of the Jacir family could rest here from the heat of the middle eastern sun. The courtyard is still used today as a place of meeting, drinking coffee, and telling stories.

The surrounding riwaq, or arcade, crouches behind columns of alternating colored stone. The riwaq provides a transition between surrounding rooms and the open courtyard in the center of the palace. Colored stonework continues around a fountain, a stimulating centerpiece.

Balconies to additional rooms are visible on the second floor.

For more on Bethlehem’s Jacir palace see here.


seth.jpeg

Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine at the start of 2019. We plan to investigate the region Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.

A fine centenarian

P7030068.JPG

I’m usually not one to recommend hotels, but if you do happen to visit Bethlehem in the Christmas season, this is the place to hang your stocking cap. The stately manor at the core of the Jacir-Intercontinental Palace was built in 1910 by a well-to-do Arab Christian family. It is located near Rachel’s Tomb, although one is hard pressed to reach that place from here; Israel’s Great Barrier Wall often makes travel in and out of Bethlehem difficult.

The architecture of the structure is a blend of western and Oriental styles. A citadel-like entrance gives way to a lovely check-in area with a sitting room, a grand piano, and painted ceilings. Beyond this welcome area is an internal courtyard space of three stories.

Over the course of time the Jacir Palace has been a family home, the headquarters for the British army, a hospital, a school for boys, a school for girls, and now a hotel. For more than century it has been a familiar landmark in the community of Bethlehem.

I’ve stayed here only a few times but have always found the rooms, service, and food to be exquisite. I’m no cigar smoker, but if I was, the courtyard would certainly be the place to do it . . . while chatting about things that we gentlemen often chat about: riding, fencing, shooting, boxing, swimming, rowing and dancing.

Okay. You can laugh now.


jt.jpeg

We are gearing up for our next walk across Galilee. In January of 2019 we aim to do portions of the Jesus Trail with a small but intrepid group of travelers. I’ll keep you posted. If you are interested in joining another of our 2019 trips, have a look at what we have planned here. If you see something of interest, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com. We’ll do our best to accommodate you (although it may not be the Jacir Palace!).

The tree is up!

P1210408 copy.JPG

The tree is up in Manger Square, Bethlehem!

Actually, its been up for a while. I captured this image a few days after Thanksgiving.

In case you think I’m kidding about the“Manger Square” part, know that it really exists. It is a plaza used for parking and for big events (read Christmas Eve!) in Bethlehem, Palestine. The Square is located directly in front of the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus and the oldest continuously-used church in the world. Now do you get it? “Manger”-square, the Nativity? Ha!

Midnight mass in this plaza on Christmas Eve continues to be an iconic experience. It attracts thousands of worshippers to celebrate, remember, sing, and pray. The gathering is supervised by the Palestinian Authority although access to Bethlehem itself is controlled by the Israeli military.

Compare the Mosque of Omar (on the far right) to the picture I posted the other day (see here).


dead sea bobbes.jpeg

Consider this your invitation to participate in a trip of adventure and renewal to the Lands of the Bible in 2019. For a complete list of travel opportunities, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details. We make learning fun, eat good food, sleep in some respectable places, and send you home with memories for a lifetime!

What's the score?

Air Bethlehems 1 copy.JPG

The concrete wall surrounding Bethlehem is a bitter testimony to one way in which the powerful control the powerless. A little graffiti painted on that concrete suggests another.


46779822_2150685291618132_5596866115000074240_n.jpg

A few seats have opened up on our Johnson University Study-Tour to Israel-Palestine slated for March 12-23, 2019. If you are interested in being a part of this high-energy student trip, contact me immediately at markziese@gmail.com. Don’t hesitate. Our roster must be finalized by mid-December. Academic credit is available.

Ugly Italian beauties

Lemons 1.JPG

Italy’s Amalfi coast is famous for lemons. One cannot walk down the street in Sorrento without catching the whiff. Fragrant fruits—the size of softballs—are grown in citrus orchards and sold for juices, jams, liqueurs, soaps, dressings, garnishes, gelatos, or as treats by themselves. You can eat them right out of the skin!

The history of these ugly Italian beauties goes back at least to the Roman period. Lemons and lemon trees are pictured in paintings preserved on the walls of Pompeii. They were likely brought to the region from the Middle East. Some claim the Jews were responsible, as the citron (etrog, in Hebrew) had ceremonial use.*

Pliny the Elder, a local Roman historian who died in the eruption of Vesuvius, hints at one source, calling the lemon “a Median Apple” (Natural History 12.7, see text here.). Media is an area of modern Iran.

The limone femminello is the oldest variety. It has celebrity status on the Amalfi coast.

And you thought the only lemon to come out of Italy was the Fiat.


*"Four species” of plants are mentioned in Leviticus 23:40 and associated with the Feast of Booths (sukkot). Rabbinic Judaism connected one of these species with the etrog or citron.


City street 4.JPG

We have several travel experiences planned for 2019 (see list here). These are organized on behalf of educational institutions or church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

Open border

Cattleguard.jpg

This may be the border between France and Spain.

There were no signs. There were no guards. There were no lines. There was no passport control.

Actually the only thing that went through my head when I took this picture was “cool cattle guard.” It was only later, as I was trying to figure out when I passed the international boundary, that I reckoned it must have been here. It may have been somewhere even less noticeable.

The line between these two countries was established in 1659. As members of the EU, France and Spain are practicing the dream of the borderless Europe project (admittedly, not without wrinkles).

History teaches that walls and fences are ineffective in shutting down the flow of illegal immigration. What works? Cooperative engagement between prosperous and liberal societies who require and enforce clear rules.

Buen Camino!


P1190836.JPG

We have many travel experiences planned for 2019 (see list here). These are organized on behalf of educational institutions or church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

An archaeologist's rig (part 11)

Security 1990 Rover copy.JPG

Hiding behind the camo is a 1990-issue Land Rover. She helps to keep the city of Rome free from the bad guys. The nearby soldier was protective at first but once he realized I was a true Rover aficionado, he warmed up. Bravo to Italian security!


dsc_0675.jpg

We have many travel experiences to Bible Lands planned in 2019 (see list here). These are often organized on behalf of educational institutions or for church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

Bubble man

bubble maker.JPG

Ropes and sticks produce millions of bubbles (or even one giant one!) in the hands of an expert. This expert keeps the crowd entertained near the Fountain of Four Rivers in downtown Rome (Piazza Navona).

The area is a public plaza today, but people used to come here for a different spectacle. In the late first century this was the site of the Stadium of Domitian. People came to see the “games” or agones (the source of our word “agony”), hence its ancient name, the Circus Agonalis.

Galician soup

20180725_182918.jpg

This traditional soup of the Spanish highlands will fill your belly and stave off the Atlantic chill. What goes in the pot sounds like the old "stone soup" story: beans, potatoes, pork fat or sausage (chorizo), pork bones or knuckles, paprika, garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper, etc, whatever. The one thing that is a must for honest Galician soup is turnip tops!

I know you are thinking of lawnmower clippings about now, but it is truly tasty stuff, especially with toasted Italian bread for dunking.

Galicia is located in the northwest corner of Spain. It takes its name from Celtic folk who settled there in the first millennium BC.

Here's a recipe if you want to try Galician soup in your own kitchen (pull some turnips and poke the link here).

Buen caminó!


3E0C0BEE00000578-4289894-image-a-29_1488911227710.jpg

Consider this your invitation to join us this winter in Galilee, Israel. We will be hiking the Jesus Trail between Jan 8-16, 2019. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is a bargain at only $2,588 from New York. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.