The treatment for rabies is not what it used to be.
Not so long ago it consisted of twenty or more painful shots into the abdomen delivered by a needle the size of a fencepost. This treatment is now obsolete, as I have (thankfully) discovered.
The bus was nearly at capacity with 47 persons when we rolled into the airport. In a similar way, our hearts and minds were full. Old friendships had been enriched and new friendships had been forged over the course of the past two weeks. We hugged and shared goodbyes, knowing that as we returned home, we did so as changed people.
Twenty-one Bible Lands Explorers from the United States and Mexico hit trail this summer in Israel-Palestine. In eleven days they managed to cover the ground from Dan to Beer-sheba. More importantly, these pilgrims came from from very different locations and stations of life. They gathered as strangers, but parted as family.
The lanky surgeon leaned back on his stool. His feet touched the floor. His head touched the wall. Thus elongated, he grimaced, then pronounced, "it's avulsed."
"Avulsed," of course, is doctorspeak for "you ripped that sucker clean off the bone."
Given the prominence of the phrase "sheep and goat" in the Bible, the propensity of contemporary herders to run "sheep and goat" together in the biblical heartland, it is striking to find "sheep and goat" together at the top of the Rocky Mountains. However, one must be cautious in carrying the analogy too far.
I was sorting unlabeled photographs this evening and came across a lost set. I shot them nearly ten years ago at the site of Tell Jalul, Jordan (immediately east of the town of Madaba). It was mid-summer, 2007. I remember the moment quite clearly.
I stand on top of the tumulus (burial mound) of a once-great Phrygian king. This earthen Ozymandias has no sneer, but rises, tired and worn, from a sea of gold. Hills roll away from my feet and disappear over the horizon. I tell myself again, this is modern Turkey. It might as well be Eastern Colorado. The wind whistles just the same.
Mediterranean shrublands ring the Mediterranean seaboard from Palestine to Spain and create the most familiar landscape to the reader of the Bible. Here, winters are short, mild, and wet, while summers are long, dry, and hot.
We park the RHD (right hand drive) vehicle on the “wrong” side of the road and walk to the lookout. The mountains of Western Cyprus unfold. It is magnificent. One does not expect such vertical drama on an island. Clinging to crumbling slopes are some of the oldest trees on planet earth. I rehearse my paradigms. It is “highland forest” in Mediterranean style: windswept, cool, dry. Scientists use the term biome to describe regions with unique constellations of climate, fauna, and flora.
The Biblical text swarms with life. Goats, trees, bees, and bears form part of a background against which prose narrative tells stories and poetic passages draw inspiration. Occasionally, the created order steps forward and occupies center stage: a lion mauls, an oak tree snares, a donkey speaks! Such moments are brief though, and nature returns to its more familiar role.
One cannot walk through the Palestinian village of Bayt Sahour without contemplating the phrase Migdal ‘Eder. The words themselves are simple enough to translate; pulling them down to earth and hoisting them back into the air, however, is another matter.
This story begins 18 years ago on the road between Ramallah and Jerusalem.
I was driving a vintage Fiat 127 in heavy traffic when the truck in front of me suddenly slammed on his brakes. Despite my cat-like reflexes and the best of Italian engineering, I slammed into the truck. His bumper was bent. My Fiat was less robust. Some aluminum got crumpled. Again.
It didn’t take long. I reclined, alone, in the ever popular Coptic Guest House in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter. David Abulafia’s heavy tome on the Mediterranean Sea began bobbing above my head. It sank to my chest, then to the floor. Overwhelmed by the obscurities of Luwian hieroglyphs and two weeks of pilgrim responsibilities, I slipped beneath the waves, a human Akrotiri. I was exhausted. Darkness fell.
The squad crosses the road. They are intent on the march, despite a lack of herd and shepherd. That some are speckled, spotted, or streaked makes me smile. After all, this is the village of Haran, the exilic home of Jacob the trickster (see his shenanigans in the text of Gen 30:25-43). It is a place where goats, sheep, and humans have co-existed for millennia.
The rutted road that climbs up from Çevirme demands a shift from wheels to legs. Leaving the comforts of settled life behind, we pick our way into Ağrı Dağı’s foothills. I look right and contemplate a flat-roofed structure of stone and mud. Two women eyeball our group as we follow Celîl around the corner. I make note of the moment; this is the edge of the permanent. We enter the world of the mobile. Bones and ankles take the place of brakes and axles. Before me is the summer grazing ground of Kurdish pastoralists.