Once again, I have let weeks go by without posting. And by now, there is so much to write about that I am debating with myself whether to split it over two posts, or simply try to be (very) concise 😉 .
Let’s just see how it goes, shall we?
I’ll start with the eighth, and final, field trip in the “929 on the map” series, to which I have already referred in several posts.
This last field-trip was devoted to the Book of Isaiah – the longest book in the Bible, with the exception of the Book of Psalms. Unlike the preceding books, Isaiah doesn’t tell a specific historical story linked with specific historical places – except for Jerusalem. However, the book is replete with agricultural references and references to nature, and, in particular, the kind of agriculture and the kind of nature to be found in the countryside around Jerusalem. Isaiah was a citizen of Jerusalem. Consequently, when searching for a metaphor, or a simile, he found them in the landscape he knew – as, for example, in Isaiah 1:8 – “And the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.”
Or again, in that same chapter, verse 30 – “For ye shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.”
Or, most famous of all, the Parable of the Vineyard, in Chapter 5 – from which it is clear that Isaiah was perfectly familiar with the work of the vineyard.
For this reason, last month’s field trip, instead of taking in the various archaeological sites connected with the Bible chapters being read that week, concentrated on Biblical landscapes and agriculture. Thus, we spent the whole day at Sataf, just a short drive from Jerusalem, close by the picturesque village of Ein Kerem. Sataf is a popular place for outings on weekends and school holidays, especially with Jerusalemites – although, strangely enough, this was only my second visit to the site.
This trip was at the beginning of May, before the real summer heat set in, so there were still plenty of wildflowers to be seen:
The ubiquitous sabras, or prickly pears, were also in flower:
“Sabra” is the name we give to native-born Israelis, who are popularly supposed to be prickly on the outside, but sweet-natured and soft-hearted within, like the fruit of the cactus for which they are named. Ironically, the plant itself is not native to Israel!
The sabra fruit, rich in vitamin C, is a popular snack among Israelis. The cactuses grow wild all over the country, but there are also cultivated sub-species.
Popular, too, are the wild berries:
The views from Sataf are spectacular:
The agriculture in the Judaean hills was – and still is – terraced agriculture, used in hilly or mountainous terrain to minimise soil erosion and surface runoff.
One of the outstanding agricultural images in the Bible is that of the watchtower in the middle of the vineyard. There is a reconstruction of such a vineyard, with its watchtower, at Sataf, but there are also the remains of an ancient watchtower, such as that which might have sheltered the Shulamith maiden, as she guarded her brothers’ vineyards (Song of Songs, 1:6)
and also of a winepress:
We learned the difference between ba’al farming, which is dependent on rainfall, and shalhin agriculture (which uses channel-fed irrigation).
The former method served mainly for such crops as almonds, grapevines, figs, pomegranates and olives – fruits which are universally identified with the language and landscape of the Bible.
A curious fact: although almond trees are to be found the length and breadth of Israel, and the Land of Israel is known as the Land of the Almond Tree, whose flowering symbolises the end of winter here, it is not one of the Seven Species named in the Bible as the special products of the Holy Land.
We also learned the meaning of the Biblical expression “a sealed fountain” (ma’ayan chatum – מעיין חתום) as used in The Song of Songs 4:12. This is a natural spring, whose waters have been diverted for the purposes of irrigation, by blocking the external opening of the spring, as seen here:
There is much more to see at Sataf and it is not surprising that the site is popular with both hikers and picnickers. In fact, when we hosted the Zamir Choir from Bayreuth here in Jerusalem, four years ago, one of the highlights of their visit was a hike and picnic here.
I will leave you with a glimpse of the wildlife to be found at Sataf – this beautiful butterfly. I hope you have enjoyed our all-too-brief visit. As for the rest of my news, I will have to leave our singalong performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, as well as my choir’s end-of-season concert of music from the British Isles, for next time. After all, we do have a saying in Hebrew which, roughly translated, means, that one doesn’t mingle one cause for rejoicing with another.
Or, to put it another way – why have only one party when you can have two?
Enjoy the butterflies 🙂