Monthly Archives: May 2014

Choosing a guide; Losing a guide and friend

During my first two or three tours I remember guides asking if I had been “here” before. Actually I have had guides that made up answers to things they did not know, but I did not use them again. Finding and keeping a good guide became an important part of planning a good tour. In the comments to follow I will limit myself to Israel.

My first tour was a few weeks prior to the Six-Day War in 1967. The Old City of Jerusalem and the West Bank were still part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. We crossed from Jordan into Israel through the Mandelbaum Gate. Today the Grand Court and Olive Tree hotels stand nearby. After the war I continued to use Arab guides, all of whom would designate themselves as Christian (usually Lutheran or Greek Orthodox). My two favorite guides for many years were John and Anise. Both were knowledgeable in the events of Scripture and the places of these events. And both of them were good in handling a group. As these men reached the time of their retirement I had to scurry to locate other guides. One year all of the young Arab guides were called in for training by the Israelis. I had a Jewish young lady who had led only two tours prior to mine. I had to do a lot to help her with the group and the information.

In the mid-80s I began to listen in on other guides when visiting various sites. I looked for someone who was knowledgeable in the Bible and the history of the sites. I wanted someone whose English would be understandable to visitors from the United States. I would introduce myself to guides I though might be good with my groups, and we would exchange cards. I needed someone who knew the land and the book, and who was informed in archaeological matters.

In looking through old group photos I find two guides that begin to dominate. Eliemelech Ben Meir was my guide in 1994, but I see Yehuda Guy in some of the photos as late as 1998. I liked both men, and we worked together well I thought. They were both willing for me to make additional comments and explanations for the benefit of the group.

In looking through old group photos, the first photo I find with Elie Ben Meir is a tour twenty years ago in May, 1994. Elie is helping me hold the tour banner. I see that Yehuda continued to guide some groups for a few years. Some years I had two tours to Israel. Eventually it was also Elie guiding some tours. Elie told me that he was introduced to me by my Arab guide Anise whose health was failing.

Ferrell Jenkins 1994 group with Elie Ben Meir.

1994 Group with Elie Ben Meir.

Over the past twenty year period Elie and I became good friends. In addition to the group tours I have made several personal study tours to Israel. Almost always I would be in touch with Elie. He brought his wife Maxine and the young daughters Adi and Danya to have dinner with the group in 2000. From year to year I would see them grow into beautiful young ladies. (I have a few digital photos made on a Sony camera that used a 3½ inch floppy drive, but the quality is too poor to use.)

Elie was not what we might call a “religious” Jew. He told me that on his first visit to Israel he stayed at a “religious kibbutz,” but by the time that stay ended he decided he would not be “religious.” Elie and Maxine wanted their girls to learn the Jewish customs, but bacon from the Armenian butcher would not be uncommon on a weekend morning. Some of the members of my groups would ask me how could Elie know the Bible so well and not be a Christian.

Elie’s family lived mostly in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. When he visited his mother or sister he would give me a call and talk a while. During the mid-2000s I told Elie about my mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Then the time came when Elie wanted to talk with me about a similar condition his mother was enduring. His trips to the USA became more frequent to assist his siblings in the care for her. I ferried items that Elie or his family needed from the USA to Israel − some special hair-care product for the girls or some beef jerky for the family. Even when I stayed over to visit sites I had not yet been to, Elie and one or both girls would come to the hotel and eat with me.

Elie enjoyed Bluegrass Music. Sometimes, as we drove away from the Tel Aviv airport at the beginning of a new tour he would ask, “Does anyone in the group play Bluegrass?” He kept his guitar in the storage area under the bus so he could pick a little in the evening at the hotel.

On Elie’s last trip to the USA he went to Cleveland to visit family. He left me a call on May 7, but I was already in Turkey by that time and did not receive the call until May 30. On the same day he sent me an Email with this heading and message.

Adi Meyerson, bass | Spring ’14 Ensemble & Recital Series | New School Jazz – New York City – The New School.
Hey Ferrell!
In case you happen to be in NY City!
Hope you and Elizabeth are well!
Sincerely,
Elie
http://events.newschool.edu/event/adi_meyerson_bass_spring_14_ensemble_recital_series_new_school_jazz#.U2rftO29Kc2

Elie was really on his way to NYC to hear his daughter perform. He had sent me other clippings about her.

By May 14 Barry Britnell was forwarding Emails that he received from Maxine because Elie was to be Barry’s guide in early June. She wrote,

There has been a tragedy and Elie had a serious stroke on Sunday night and is now in hospital in Cleveland in critical condition.

I was also receiving updates from Susan who was in touch with Elie’s sister Lynne in Cleveland. Elie had been having headaches for a few days when Lynne took him to the hospital. At some point he had a stroke. By May 18 the outlook did not seem good. Maxine sent Barry, John Barnett (I have not met John, but Elie always spoke highly of him), and me the following Email on May 24th.

So sorry to have to bring you the sad news that Elie passed away on Friday night 11:30pm. He died peacefully with all his siblings, daughters and myself by his side. Much love to all
Maxine

The complete obituary from the Cleveland Plain Dealer reads as follows:

MEYERSON ELIE MELECH BEN MEIR (MALCOLM MEYERSON), beloved husband of Maxine (nee Rabinowitz). Loving father of Adi and Danya. Dear brother of Jay (Jacquie) Meyerson, David (Honey) Meir-Levi, Lynne (Jacob) Meckler. Cherished son of Evelynne and the late Bernard Meyerson. Graveside services will be held Sunday, May 25 at 11:30 a.m. at the Mt. Sinai Cemetery, (SOM Center and White Rd.), Mayfield Village, OH. Family will receive friends at the residence of Jacquie and Aaron Meyerson,… SUNDAY FOLLOWING SERVICES UNTIL 8 P.M.

Elie had a number of qualities that were admirable. He was always ready to recommend the businesses of Moslems and Christians that he thought were honorable people. He warned his groups about those he thought were less than honorable. He always insisted on Fawzy (of Bethany) as the driver for my tours. Fawzy is an excellent driver whom I have known since the days of working with Anise. Elie knew woodworking. He spent time at that during those hard years of 2001-2005 when practically no tourists visited Israel. He did the electrical work for Yigael Shiloh in the City of David excavation. Elie had on his phone the personal numbers of acquaintances such as Sam Wolff (Gezer) and Eilat Mazar (City of David).

On my tour in 2013, Elie and Fawzy invited me to eat with them at Jericho. Here is the photo I made of them. You can see that Elie was a young man. I remember talking with him about his age and retirement, but I will not try to depend on my memory for that.

Elie and Fawzy in Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Elie and Fawzy in Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I extend my deepest sympathy to Maxine, Adi, and Danya, whom I have met, and to other family members whom I have not met. I think the hundreds of persons who have spent about 10 days listening to Elie help turn the Bible places from black and white to color, one of his favorite expressions, will share my sentiment.

 

 

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The Zeugma Mosaic Museum

This morning we made a short visit to the Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep. This museum contains many of the mosaics and some statues from the Roman city of Zeugma. Much of Zeugma has been covered by the waters of the Euphrates River due to one of the dams built by the Turkish government to provide hydro-electric power and water for irrigation for southeastern Turkey. Archaeologists worked diligently over a period of years to preserve as much of the material as possible. The small mosaic below has been called Gypsy Girl. When I first saw it in 2007 I thought it would rival the Mona Lisa. That was in the old museum. Today the small mosaic is  displayed in a dark room, perhaps to create more mystique. In my judgment it is not as attractive as before. My photo below was made in 2007.

The Gypsy Girl from Zeugma. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins..

The Gypsy Girl from Zeugma. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Otherwise the display of the mosaics is beautifully done. Perhaps at another time I will be able to post some of those photos.

This afternoon we are utilizing our time in the Gaziantep airport. Our flight for the day was cancelled and we were not notified before coming to the airport. Such is travel.

Yesterday we had a few sprinkles, but this afternoon it is pouring rain at the Gaziantep airport.

 

 

A visit to Harran – home of Abraham

This morning we flew from Istanbul to Gaziantep in eastern Turkey, picked up our rental car and headed east to Zugma. This is a Roman period town that has been mostly flooded as a result of a dam built on the Euphrates River.

We continued east to Sanliurfa, and then south to Harran (some English Bible versions use Haran). Harran is located in biblical Padan-Aram (Genesis 25:29, et al.). Abraham and his family lived in the area (Genesis 11:21). The city has a long history which I will not go into now.

For the past two hundred years the people who live here have built mud brick conical, beehive-shaped houses. I have also seen some of these houses in northern Syria.

At the present time very few people still live in the beehive-shaped houses. For touristic and educational purposes some of the houses have been reconstructed to show how people used them for dwellings.

If you have seen the houses at Haran over the past few decades, you may think that these in my photo look entirely too good.

Having been here twice before, I must admit that I was a bit letdown when I saw the condition of the town today. On the north side of town a large number of new houses have been built. Some apartment buildings now stand on the west side. One young man told us that very few of the residents keep sheep. Most, he said, are involved in raising cotton on the plains about Harran.

Beehive-shaped houses at Harran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Beehive-shaped houses at Harran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

A visit to Nicaea in Bithynia.

Today  my friend Leon and I made a 10 hour trip from Istanbul to Iznik, Turkey. Iznik is the name of ancient Nicaea (Nicea) in Bithynia. This is a region of Asia Minor into which Paul was not allowed by the Spirit to travel. Instead, he was directed to go down to Troas where he received the call to come over into Macedonia.

And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. (Acts 16:7-8 ESV

Bithynia is across from Istanbul on the south side of the Sea of Marmara. It is a beautiful mountainous region with valleys filled with olive trees and fruit orchards.

The Epistles of Peter are addressed to saints living in Bithynia, but no specific towns are mentioned (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1).

The Roman province of Bithynia. BibleAtlas.org.

The Roman province of Bithynia. BibleAtlas.org.

The modern town of Iznik utilizes the layout of ancient Nicaea. Nicaea was the site of the first and seventh of the ecumenical councils held between 325 and 787 A.D. Hopefully I will be able to write more about these councils and their importance in the history of Christianity at a later time.

For today I wanted to share a photo I made of a little lighthouse in the fresh water Lake Iznik.

Lighthouse in Lake Iznik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lighthouse in Lake Iznik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some Museums in Turkey

My Ancient Crossroads Tour of Biblical and Historical Turkey is compete. Yesterday most of the tour members returned home. A few had other plans of travel before returning.

There are some wonderful museums in Turkey, but many of them are undergoing restoration at this time.

We missed seeing the main section of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara due to restoration. A nice,  small section containing mostly classical materials was open, but the great collection of Hittite materials (our reason for going there) was closed. According to an article in the Harriyet Daily News it reopened last Friday.

The Archaeological Museum in Antakya (Antioch of Syria, Acts 11, 13) was almost bare. Only a few of the lesser quality mosaics were on the walls. A new museum will open soon. I had told the group that we would see some good Hittite materials there, but they had already been moved. Incidentally, the Church of St. Peter and the Simon Stylites Monastery were also closed for renovation.

We did better at the fabulous museum in Antalya (Attalia of Acts 14:25). The Roman period statuary from Perga in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13-14; 14:25) is housed there.

In Istanbul we were able to visit the Ancient Orient section of the Archaeological Museum. The museum containing material from the classical world was closed. An excellent selection of materials was housed in a small area of the Museum.  The third floor, where artifacts from Palestine are housed was closed. Our appeal for entry failed.  There is where some very famous pieces are housed − the Siloam Tunnel inscription, the Gezer Calendar, the Herodian Temple inscription forbidding gentiles from entering the Temple, et al.

The Ancient Orient building houses a large number of bulls, dragons, and oxen from the procession street of ancient Babylon. I think it is second only to the Pergamum Museum in Berlin. There are excellent Hittite materials, including the oldest treaty between nations. It is the treaty between the Hittites and Pharaoh Ramses of Egypt after the battle of Kadesh on the Orontes. There are several pieces from the Assyrians, and a clay cylinder from the time of Nebuchadnezzar.

Here is a picture of one of the basalt Hittite column bases from Sinjerli. It is a double sphinx, dating to the 8th century B.C., that came from the entrance to Palace III.

Hittite Column Base from Sinjerli. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Front view of Hittite column base from Sinjerli. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Below is the side view of this column base. Note that the figure of a lion shows a human head and wings of a bird. This provides a good illustration for the apocalyptic imagery in Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Revelation.

Side view of Hittite Column Base from Sinjerli. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Side view of Hittite Column Base from Sinjerli. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

These are the Hittites with whom the ancient Israelites had dealings. Solomon imported horses and chariots from Egypt and Kue and exported them to the Hittites (1 Kings 10:29). See 2 Kings 7:6 for another reference to these people in the days of the prophet Elisha.

All things considered, maybe it didn’t turn out so bad after all.

Excavations at Derbe

The first excavations ever have begun at the ancient city of Derbe. Derbe was visited by the Apostle Paul and Barnabas on the first preaching journey (Acts 14:20-21). Paul returned with Silas on the second journey (Acts 16:1).

Today our tour group visited Kerti Hüyuk, the site widely believed to be ancient Derbe. Several squares were opened on the top of the mound in 2013.

Recent excavation at Derbe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, May 14, 2014.

Recent excavation at Derbe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, May 14, 2014.

The report in a Turkish newspaper quotes Associate Professor Mehmet Tekocak of Selçuk University:

So far the excavations have unearthed ancient wall remains. “There are brick and stone walls. We found graves and skeletons inside the walls. Anthropologic works will reveal the ages and genders of these skeletons and how they died. Works show us that this place received a lot of damage, and most architectural materials were removed for use in other places. This place was seen as a kind of stone quarry. We found the remains of a church-like structure, and we believe that we will find new structures as excavations continue. Even these remains alone show us that a Christian society lived in this tumulus,” Tekocak said.

There is no hint as to the age of the church-like structure.

See the report in Hurriyet Daily News here. We look forward to future reports from Derbe.

HT: HolyLandPhotos Blog.

Another blogger

Just learned this morning that Brian Johnson is blogging during the tour in Turkey. He has visited other parts of Turkey previously and spent a semester at Jerusalem University College in Israel. The name of his blog is Byteofisrael.blogspot.com. Since he is involved with computers in his work, he is doing something unique for us. He began today charting our trip on Google Maps.

Scroll back a couple of posts for others of our group who are blogging.