Our latest field trip was to Neot Kedumim, a Biblical nature preserve. It’s about halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. At the preserve you can see every plant that is mentioned in the Bible. They also have Biblical animals, and they show you what life was like in Biblical times (like a pioneer village type thing- I felt like I was in Nauvoo).
We saw what several plants from the Bible look like- fig trees, almond trees, hyssop... We learned some things about what different plants symbolize. For example, almond trees symbolize diligence because almond trees are the first trees to flower (so when almonds are mentioned, it’s a reference to diligence). We learned some cool Hebrew things too- the word for diligent in Hebrew is derived from the word almond.
Hyssop symbolizes humility because it’s not a special looking plant in any way and it grows low to the ground. After King David sins, he says “Cleanse me with hyssop.” So it means something like...'make me more humble.' I kind of already knew that the Bible was complicated, but things like this show you how many layers are in the Bible. There’s so much symbolism, and so many things that you can understand better by learning about the culture of the Holy Land.
A major part of the culture of the ancient Holy Land was sheep herding! That’s why shepherds are mentioned so often in the Bible. So obviously we had to try sheep herding ourselves in order to better understand the Bible. We had a herd of sheep that a group of us had to move to different locations.
Me and my herd:
It was kind of fun :)
For lunch time, we cooked a meal Biblical-style. There was pita bread made from scratch and soup; both cooked over a fire. Everyone had different jobs, and my group joked that I should be the one to start the fire. Ha. ha. Because we all know I have wilderness skills. I couldn’t even go to Girl’s Camp because it was too outdoorsy...
Here’s me and two of my friends Kaitlyn and Lauren! Hanging out in the woods while our food is cooking.
The day ended with learning about a Torah scribe. A Torah scroll is a handwritten copy of the first five books of the Bible. They told us that every synagogue has one and that it is a very expensive, prized possession. Here is Zahariah, a Torah scribe, with the 250 year old scroll he showed us.
It takes two years to make a Torah scroll. One year to write it, and one year to spell check. They are still written with ink. You can go to a special school to learn how write the calligraphy, but most scribes learn how to do it from their fathers. Zahariah said that his family have been Torah scribes for about 10 generations. Jews all over the world read from the Torah in Hebrew.
Zahariah demonstrated how the Torah is read. It’s kind of sung/chanted. What melody is used depends on where you’re from. He sang the same verse with three different melodies: Eastern European, Yemenite (that’s where his family’s from), and Sephardic (North African). It was interesting to hear the differences. The Yemenite and North African melodies sound very Middle Eastern and Arabic-ish. The Eastern European tune sounds more Fiddler on the Roof-ish. Don’t you love my accurate descriptions?
It was fun to have a field trip with a Jewish tour guide teaching us more about the Old Testament and life in Biblical times, in the same land where it all happened.