33 – Wildlife in the desert and the potter’s wheel

Near the south end of the Arava, Israel’s south-eastern desert, is Hai Bar Wildlife Preserve/National Center for Biblical Wildlife http://www.natureisrael.com/haibar.html   They are re-building the population of native species named in the Bible but “lost” to the land through centuries of drought, unrestricted hunting, and whatever else. It’s a work in progress, because some species struggle to adapt… much like China’s panda’s who don’t survive when released into their natural habitat.

Here are 4 to see, including the cranky one who attacked my car.

As with many birds, males ostriches are colorfully attractive.


It seemed my presence aggravated this female ostrich (Job 39:13; Lam 4:3) – she attacked my (rental)car, but fortunately didn’t leave a dent.

There are baby ostriches a-comin’.  She or one of the other gals must have been friendlier at some time; perhaps with the fetching pink, black, and white dude in the first photos.  The huge eggs will take around 45 days to hatch and both papa and mama will take turns sitting to warm them.


Below are Addax, a type of antelope, translated assorted ways depending on the Bible translation


The next are onager, a type of wild ass, usually translated “donkey” in English Bibles  (many references). They were far away and it’s a bad video, too long, so take a quick look, but I included it for you Bible-knowers who will remember Balaam riding the donkey who sees the angel in their way.  Perhaps these fellows are ancestors of that donkey.

Here’s the Bible story – um, sort of.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPE1gwBLbz4 

Finally, check out these White Oryx’ great back scratchers!  They’re also a type of antelope (Deut 14:5; Is 51:20).  They star in this video with Israel talk radio in the background, just for fun; don’t ask me what they’re talking about!!

A Few More Differences  Israel – U.S.

  • Israeli’s don’t leave a voicemail message, or seem to check theirs. However, they return calls to numbers that have called them, even numbers not recognized, and expect the same.  It’s just the way it’s done.
  • Israeli traffic signals flash green before changing to yellow.  It helps!
  • While U.S. drivers are likely to hurry through the light before it changes to red, most Israeli drivers stop for yellow as though it were red.
  • At the end of the signal, most U.S. drivers seem to be momentarily cautious before entering the intersection after it changes to green, but the red light flashes before changing to green here and Israeli’s enter the intersection the Moment! it changes.  You can count on being HONKed at if you’re not immediately moving to a green light.
  • No right turn on a red light.  Ever! That’s a tough habit to break.

I have graduated to (almost always) being able to put gas in my car without having to ask for assistance. That means navigating the various computer instructions at different stations, entering information required (assorted combinations of my ID#, the car license, how the charge will process on my VISA, etc).  It’s still such a new phenomenon that I can’t resist doing the Snoopy Happy Dance each time I succeed.

a few shots in my farming community neighborhooddoes anyone know why the birds crowd together?  Family groups?  Good buddies?  Or are they like strangers who crowd together in an empty theater?

This farmer obviously wants his Thai workers to enjoy their time off!


The community’s mailboxes.  There were more at my college dorms and we had an exceptionally low residence-on-campus program for the 20,000 students!

The Hands of the Potter – a nearly missed opportunity

My hostess on the farm mentioned several places to be sure to visit during my stay in this community, so I took phone numbers and names.  Later that afternoon one returned my call and 15 minutes later I was in her ceramics studio/shop.

Her craftsmanship was impressive and she explained (in Hebrew!!!) the why’s and what’s of her collection/items for sale. While I couldn’t pass an exam on the specifics, I was delighted to find I understood reasonable chunks of her narratives! I think.

Better yet, she mentioned teaching a class that evening, so I asked to visit. When I returned for the class an hour later, both students were at the 2 electric “wheels,” one shaping a mug, the other a small bowl. 

The pottery teacher alternated from one to the other, explaining, demonstrating, guiding their hands to model pressure with a tool or a finger inside the vessel. I understood enough of her interaction with her students to realize why her Hebrew had been clearer than most: a teacher at heart gracefully simplifies to the student’s level.

My heart became a collage of learning-memories.

At first I was envious of hands-on teaching. I thought of countless attempts at pie crust and cakes from scratch – failed projects I’d tackled from a recipe alone, without skilled hands to guide mine.  Learning to make my own clothes by trial and many costly errors.

Then my Memories found me, times of being taught for which to be grateful.  A few:

  1. voice lessons detailing how to use my instrument to its capacity
  2. dance partners patiently guiding me to “feel” their lead
  3. my mother teaching me how to make macaroni and cheese for a girl scout badge
  4. a favorite prof teaching teaching-strategies in graduate school
  5. Bev Powers, my counselor, teaching me to this day how to live as who I am

I regret not taking advantage of opportunities for fear-based reasons, like not taking, or fully participating in, classes in high school – art, ceramics, drama, chorus – because I didn’t know how to do something.  DUH! That’s what classes are for.

Not always knowing when to ask for help or bother someone with our troubles is universal, right?!  What do you think?

I realized my own not-trying occurred primarily during my years of childhood and adolescence, but not entirely. While the trip through Europe and Israel alone at 19 (blog 32) cracked open a door to risk… released confidence…and a sense of not wanting to miss opportunities, I see that the fears holding me back as an adult were about earning/keeping (“important”)critical people’s approval.

They certainly knew so much more than I did. If they didn’t see my potential, how foolish would I be to even try? That door has opened more with the years, allowing me to GIVE IT A SHOT.  Sometimes to disappointment, but not every time.

Hindsight is glorious

Back to the potter’s wheel:

The teacher’s hands made it look so simple, easy. The students struggled not because of anything other than inexperience and learning curve.  For one, this was a second lesson, while the other had had several lessons months ago. Can aptitude even be revealed before we give it a good try, with effective instruction and guidance?

The clay resisted the students.  An odd lump refused to yield to pressure. Later, the other student suddenly found herself holding half of a vessel, the clay in her hand having separated itself from what remained, now spinning wildly and threatening to fly of off the wheel.

Failure?  Absolutely NOT.

Learning? Big Time.

The teacher’s words were gentle, her hands knowing when to guide theirs, when to simply rescue, always explaining.

Then I smiled at thought of my high school sweetheart, Tom, who taught me how to write for a class report.  Literally, how to structure sentences.  It was humbling, but that lesson was the best equipping for college I received, proved to be crucial to my career, and developed into a lifelong interest.

Risk-taking-to-learn reveals abilities and NON-abilities.  When in your life might a (better?) teacher have made the difference, or unlocked skills to a higher level?


Calling it what it is has taken a lifetime

Back again to the potter’s wheel

The hands at the wheels were covered with clay from the vessels in process.  It was intimate, the potter and her vessel.  Even the most simple bowl or cup required skill, concentration, time and energy, with clay-crusted hands.

The teacher prepared a handful of clay by throwing it on the hard surface again and again, again –  WHAP WHAP WHAPWHAP.  I was the clay: thrown hard to get the “gas” out, being made into something solid, something real.

These days, I have several precious friends who are wrestling with their worth – to God, to friends, in life. Whether simple bowl or more complicated 8-stemmed Menorah, we are in the hands of the Master Potter.  And loved while being remolded.

Much of my life I’ve embraced the concept of being clay in God’s hands (Jeremiah 18).  The 2 hours in the potter’s studio, watching a seasoned craftsman, deepened my understanding of being molded-by-design-for-purpose.

Also, the process of being SMUSHED for remaking.  Still not my idea of a good time.

This greater knowing is peaceful within, because I’ve come to trust the Potter.

Holocaust Memorial Day

was January 27 – remembering liberation from the camps. The recurring theme for me is (No surprise!) COURAGE.

This link includes interesting bios of several survivors, now living in Denver. http://mizelmuseum.org/program/eyewitness-to-history-a-holocaust-survivor-speaks/   They are choosing LIFE rather than destroying their lives with resentment (or denial) of their suffering and loss.

Films with Courage to live ~ Courage to love

Sometimes movies inspire me towards courage. 

Hidden in Silence  Living in the remote desert, 1½ hour drive to a theater rules out my (rare) desire to see a movie.  One evening I searched the internet and found a WW2 movie that I hadn’t seen. It rang within me because of the heroine’s COURAGE, thankfully without battles and war scenes  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIFI_MneBQg&spfreload=1  Let me know if you watch it, what you think.

Defiance is a movie I found at the library years ago…. It’s a true story, intense, and intensely inspirational. Violent.  Based on one family’s leadership of over 2000 Jews hiding about through several years of WW2 in Poland’s forest http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/education/newsletter/28/bielski_brothers.asp


You’ve Got Mail  I admit the romantic me responds to the courage in Tom Hanks’ determined, for the good, pursuit of Meg Ryan. It was a gamble more likely to fail than succeed, and I appreciate the character putting his heart on the line.

The Age of Adaline is about a woman whose injury in an accident results in her not aging. At All.  She lives her situation with grace and learns to live with short relationships, since after some number of years, anyone expects their friend or sweetheart to age.  The concept is heroic to me because, well, instead of lamenting that her life isn’t “normal” or even typical, she lives it, adjusting her expectations and pursuits.

Adaptation to new versions of ourselves  – whether chosen or forced upon us – requires choosing life over regret, failure, disillusionment

Braveheart – Great courage inspires me, especially for the good of those who need help.

Bucket List – the surprise precious friendship of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman!


One afternoon I explored a nearby archaeological site with a name the Bible readers may connect in the wrong direction: Tamar.  The name of the daughter of King David who was raped by her (half) brother.  euuuuu.However, in this case, Tamar is the name of a way-station, confirmed by archaeologists to date back to King Solomon’s Empire (around 1000BCE), (Gen 14:7; 1 Ki 9:18; Ez 47:19; Ez 48:28) and the Ottoman Empire(1300-1500CE), and of course today’s Israel.  It may even have been a way-station in the days of Abraham.


A 4-room home – what remains of it – stands here.  (the panorama shot makes it appear curved, but it’s squared and straight)Alone, in the barrenness of old stone structures and dry sand, I heard the voices of life.  Building, loving, crying, bearing babies, carrying water from the nearby spring, offering hospitality to travelers.  I wondered about predators then.  From what did mothers protect their young?

I live so comfortably, even when I’m not comfortable.  I’m acutely aware that I have no capacity to even imagine what their lives were like.  And yet, imagine, I do.  Better to imagine than sign up for some sort of bizarre survival excursion to experience living as they did. It’s enough heartbreak for me to know some in today’s world live lives only somewhat more comfortably than did they.  My life, my heart, is full, thankfully, and filled with thanksgiving.  Without experiencing everything possible.

The more I learn the less I know.

my prayer these days?  fill my heart with what You want me full of.  

oh, and please show me what to do with it.



If you were reading along on this journey in the first year of living here, you might remember the wait through scores of numbers for my turn in Jerusalem’s main post office.  As it turns out, outside of the big city, a visit to the post office and government offices is, well, “small town easy.”  It took 5 minutes to apply for my Israeli passport. No one waiting. Quiet office. It took longer to find a parking space.

The school at which I volunteered in the Central Arava includes all 800+ students, from preschool through high school, and their very own mini-farm – animals and two large greenhouses filled with colorful arrays of veggies.  I spent two or more mornings each week with the kids, as a teacher’s helper in the farm area. The children work together for projects, learn to prepare and sell produce, care for animal families (goats, chickens, guinea pigs, rabbits), go bird watching and other outdoor excursions on and off of school grounds.

They are curious and fun and happy, and they take care of one another. Some were interested in this new face, and then more-so or not-so-much when they realized I couldn’t speak or understand well. Others brought me classmates who spoke English, having immigrated as families from elsewhere.  Some naturally spoke slower, patiently offering correction of my vocabulary or grammar – probably future teachers.  The youngest counted or asked questions in English to show what they knew.  Since they spend most of their day in the traditional classroom, their time at this school farm is a favorite for most, and I enjoyed the “side” of them that I saw.

Some gravitated to the pens with the animals.  I imagine they were working out the rough things-of-life that are softened by holding a fuzzy rabbit. Rubbing the scratchy head of a baby goat as though he were a dog, feeding the fish, catching the baby guinea pigs.  Does it give their souls a break from whatever bothers their hearts?









They were more affectionate with one another than American children. Hand-holding, arms around each other, leaning in to see or speak with body contact. Not sexual, but comfortable.  Perhaps a manifestation of small community? the farm school area’s relaxed atmosphere? fewer lessons about the danger of (big city)strangers? other ideas?

A deep hole was needed for a project and some (mostly boys) were eager to use the shovel to help.  I felt their moment of realization that it’s so much harder than it looks, digging into the dirt, lifting the too-full shovel.

Picking vegetables, learning about the roots and weeds, peeling countless cloves of garlic for yummy pesto.  They work as a team, mostly, to prepare the food, and if they’re not selling it at the fair, they’re consuming vast quantities of the just-picked veggies from their farm: munching on raw cabbage, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower. . . without dipping it in anything!!!

Work Dodging:  a few in the older classes usually managed to do no real work, instead flit from one working group to another, always below the radar of distracted teachers. I guess that’s universal!

This city gal had never before pulled a vegetable out of the ground, so I was way out of my element.  The immersion in Hebrew and the loving energy of children, the warmth of the teachers. .  .  I should have paid them for the opportunity and the fun.

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