This morning, while listening to the hour long news roundup, I heard an item that might have been sensational, had it come from any other place in the world. But being local news, it didn’t seem to have the same effect. A skull was found in a newly discovered cave in the Galilee. And this skull has been dated as coming from someone who lived some 55 thousand years ago. In fact, the cave, which was completely unknown until 2008, contains many items which may teach us about the living conditions and life styles of prehistoric man. What is unique about the skull, is that it could be seen as a typical skull of modern man. And so, we now have another opportunity to try and understand the history of our species; whether man originated in Africa, and then moved out to the rest of the continents on the planet, as well as theories about evolution.
But such a story is less sensational here in Israel, because it seems as if every time someone digs a deep hole in the ground, he comes up with ancient history. And over the years, it has become so common, that we hardly turn our heads when such a news item is reported. I am reminded of a story I heard about in my youth. A friend of ours decided to build a basement in his house here in Jerusalem, so as to add an extra room for his crowded family.
As he was excavating, he came across numerous items that could only have come from ancient times. He showed them to his friends, and most of them thought that these finds had to be over 2000 years old. So a number of the guys got together to help this fellow out. They gathered at his home one night, with carts and wheel barrows in their possession, and quietly, quietly, they moved the dirt, rich in archeological finds, to a vacant lot in the neighborhood. A secret operation in the middle of the night.
And why? Because if the authorities would have found out about this discovery, they would have declared the ground under his house a historical site, and he would have had to put off building his basement for years… probably till his children had grown up and left home. He just couldn’t afford to do the ‘right thing’.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been posting about winter, and the way I relate to the cold weather. But as I mentioned, we do get some breaks in winter, After a week or two of cold and rain, we’ll have a few days or a week of sunshine. And that’s all it takes for the wild flowers to arrive on the scene, bringing with them the spirit of spring. This is the season of the anemone, which are very popular flowers here in Israel. They grow in the fields, and among the olive trees and the cacti… and songs have been written to celebrate them.
Seeing the anemones in the fields, some gorgeous little blue flowers, yellow and white flowers that come and go, I was inspired to go out and enjoy these signs of life stirring. Thought it might be an opportunity to revisit the cows in the light of day. Walking through the fields, in search of cows, we came across many beautiful flowers and plants… among them, the very first of the almond flowers, which are just beginning their season now. Soon they will be seen all over the place… exotic white blossoms with pastel hints. The almond trees in bloom, when seen from a distance, look snow covered.
When finally I found my cows, they were relaxed and enjoying the winter sun which warmed them on this otherwise chilly day. The contrast between the sunny spaces and the shade was almost blinding. They were gathered in the general vicinity of a low pool of water that had been constructed to provide them with drink. I watched as a few of them ambled over to the pool to enjoy the water. There were a few who seemed to look at their reflections in the pool, as Nechama sometimes gazes in a mirror I have in my work room. Though she’s familiar with the mirror, she’ll always stop for a minute, as her reflection registers in her mind. Sometimes, she’ll voice a meow… and I never know if the meow is meant for me, or meant for the possibility that there’s another cat just like her… on the other side of that glass surface.
And gazing at the cows, looking at their own reflections in the pool, I was reminded of a painting by the wonderful Israeli painter, Michael Kovner. It is not really typical of his work, but it is a painting, that after I saw it, was etched in my mind forever. Here it is: