After a late arrival to our hotel Thursday night, we woke up bright and early on Friday with four sites on our agenda. We started in a garden where we saw replicas of both olive presses and wine presses. Although not historical pieces, seeing and understanding these replicas makes it easier to identify and understand when we see the remains of presses at other sites. We then visited Beth Shemesh where the ark of God passed through on its way back to the Israelites after the Philistines had stolen it. From there we visited the site of the battle of David and Goliath and got to hear an excellent dramatic retelling of the story. And finally we stopped in Maresha which had a fascinating tunnel system beneath the village. From there we headed south towards the desert and spent the night by the dead sea.
Today we hiked the trail to Masada and learned about the fortress of Harod the great. We traveled farther into the desert to a tourist site to learn more about the nomadic Bedioun people. Here we rode camels and heard a Bedioun legend. We also visited the city of Arad and continued to learn more about the people who once lived in this place. After returning to the hotel we got to swim, or rather float, in the dead sea.
What captured me most today was not the excavation of a giant fortress, though I am fascinated that due to the very dry climate and lack of bacteria and fungi, the excavators found food still in storage in some of the rooms. And while a very fun and unique experience, it wasn’t floating in the dead sea that captured my attention either. It was after we got off the camels and sat around in a tent to hear Bedouin legend that I found myself captivated by what was being said—coming to better understand pieces of the culture.
One element of culture that I always enjoy exploring is food. Food is heavily impacted by both culture and region so changes so much from one place to the next and drastically influences the way of life of the people. For example, Jewish people follow a kosher diet so in Israel it is rare to find pork at a restaurant or meat and cheese served in the same meal. Also, in Israel there are many olive trees and fig trees so at every meal there are fresh figs and a variety of olives. I don’t think hotel buffets are the best way to experience authentic Israeli cuisine, but there is a nod towards it and the hotel does obey Kosher rules and serve food that is fresh and from the area. This pattern, of course, continues across most every country and culture.
Food came up today in the Bedioun legend we heard. First in the simple explanation of Bedioun hospitality. If someone appears at the door, they will receive hospitality of food and a place to stay for a minimum of three days, no questions asked. And second when a dying father gives advice to his son: do not trust anyone who will not share their food with you. Immediately my mind started jumping to lessons I have learned and experiences I have had in other cultures surrounding food. The confidence in the Native American culture that no one will go hungry because the neighbors will always care for them and make sure they eat. The community style of eating in India where everyone takes from the same bowl and shares together. My friend in China who bought a snack and proceeded to share with everyone so ended up with only one piece himself. We tried to give some back and he replied, “No! Food is for sharing!” Or in Cambodia where the most common way of asking how are you is by asking have you eaten and inviting them to share a meal together.
I was once again in awe today of the ways that people care for one another, particularly when it comes to food. Inviting someone into your home and providing them not only food but also shelter for a minimum of three days, no questions asked? I’m hardly willing to share the extra snack I bought or my leftovers from a meal. And the father’s advice: do not trust someone who will not share their food with you. It got me thinking, what sort of person is it that shares their food? It’s a little boy who trusts Jesus and gives his five loaves and two fish. It’s the men walking on the road who invite a stranger to a meal. It’s a Samaritan man who sees an injured Jew and provides him both food and shelter until he is well. As a Christian I am called to share my food. To show hospitality to everyone around me and to trust that when I do, God will provide enough for me too. The nomadic Bedioun people are Muslim. And the Indians Hindu, the Chinese follow Confucian teaching, and the Cambodians Buddhism, but its from them I continue to learn more and more how to be a Christian and live out the lifestyle I am called to. I am so thankful for this opportunity to learn about another culture and share moments and ideas that are sacred to them!