Let me tell you about a very exhilarating experience that I had during our Sabbath weekend tour (to the north portion of Jordan).
Sabbath Morning we left about 8 am. We actually stopped at the Jabbok river and were able to get out and touch the water. Very nice (and a bit dirty). In 2007, we just stopped at an overlook and took pictures. This was much better.
Then we went to Jerash first. It was nice to see things I hadn’t seen before and it wasn’t as hot because we went there first (again in ’07, I remember it was blistering because we went there late in the day that year). The bagpipers in the Roman Theater played a very nice rendition of Amazing Grace which was nice for Sabbath before seamlessly transitioning to Yankee Doodle Dandy and then Scotland the Brave. I actually didn’t know those went together. Apparently they do.
From there we ate lunch (Yay – Goat-cheese sandwiches).
We arrived at Gadara after another long drive and it was already too hot to stay outside very long so we only stayed about an hour. I did see things I hadn’t seen before there as well so it was fun. It has a very nice overlook of the Sea of Galilee and some nice ruins on the west side of the ancient city.
Dr. Gane spoke to us on the bus from there going to Deir Alla. It was a fantastic message and when it was over we were approaching Deir Alla (Sean says the sister site of Deir Alla is, “Deir Abby”)..
We approached and then we passed by. After the military checkpoint we made a U-turn and returned (again through the military checkpoint) and turned down a side street (mind you, the entrance to the site is just on the main road). We drove on the small side street around to the back side (which does not apparently have an entrance – but does have a dig house and a museum which is somewhere in the area – we didn’t actually see this legendary place but we were assured that it was there somewhere). When we turned back around we almost passed the front again before backing up in front of a locked 4 foot gate. Being the Archaeologists that we are, when presented with a locked gate at an archaeological site of which we have a permit to see, we did what any respectable archaeological group would do – we jumped the fence.
I got some nice shots from on top. About 15 minutes later we all began to descend. I was surprised to see the gate open and a guard. Of course, me being the guy I am (dressed in arab dress) I said, “Shukran” (“thank you”). He proceeded to verbally beat me like a rented mule in Arabic (complete with hand signals). I just kept smiling and told him how easy it was to climb the fence and not to worry about the inconvenience and that there were more people he could apologize too still up on top. I don’t know if he could understand English but he didn’t seem to be very happy with me and kept talking in Arabic. Finally I thanked him one more time and got on the bus. The bus driver got out and talked with him until the others got down from the site. Apparently, he was just embarrassed because he is supposed to be the guard and we all climbed over the fence (including Audrey – about 25 of us). The Dutch excavators saw us from the dig house and came up to say, “Hi”. They were not at all upset that we were there. Everything turned out ok and we finally made our way back to the hotel.
1 hour into the drive (about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Deir Alla) Chris made his way up to the front of the bus to ask for a pit stop (he had been holding it for a while and simply couldn’t any longer). Naturally we all talked about water, waterfalls, drip sounds, etc. I volunteered to hold my kafia for him to stand in the stairwell and use an empty water bottle. Owen said that we could even make everyone be quite if that would help. He turned down our offers of assistance. We did stop (about 15 minutes later) at a McDonalds/gas station (the sun was on its way down but not quite when we stopped). He got out quicker than usual but when he got to the door an Arab family was coming out. He is naturally a gentleman and held the door for one of the biggest (and slowest) Arab families in the Middle East. Poor guy.
We were all hungry but knew there was food waiting for us at the Mariam. Ryan couldn’t wait and decided to buy some fries and ate them on the bus for us all to smell (he was not very popular). We discussed the food we missed (which only made the situation worse) and when we got back to the Mariam we had wonderful sandwiches waiting for us (we went to Mystic Pizza).
Trips like this break up the monotony of the dig week and make the Sabbath a very special time.