Dr. DeWayne Coxon
People of faith go to Israel to learn more about the Christian beliefs that they hold, knowing they are rooted in the bedrock of Jewish history. They apply that knowledge by giving two days of their tour time to help rebuild the biblical Jewish city of Tamar, an ancient tel that Blossoming Rose has adopted and has been excavating and restoring for over twenty years, under the direction of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Many Christians return to Israel every year, paying their own costs and donating their time to a little known location that is one of Israel’s newest public parks. It was just a sand spot in the Arava, sixty kilometers south of the Dead Sea, where houses were built on the top of the tel of what was Kibbutz Ir Ovot, when they began in 1984.
Dr. Rudolph Cohen and Dr. Yigal Israel asked Dr. DeWayne Coxon, the President of Blossoming Rose, if their friends and partners would join the Israel Antiquities Authority in exploratory digging around the site, that was known then as a fortress encampment called Hazeva. It later proved to be biblical Tamar as recorded first in Genesis 14:7 and many other places in the Bible. Ezekiel 47-48 confirmed that this ancient pile of ruined walls and streets would be the Tamar that would become the southern border city of Israel in the future days of the Messianic age.
These biblical facts resonate with Christians who are serious about understanding more about God’s plan for the Messianic unity between Christians and Jews. That desire for unity drew sixty plus people from Texas, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Canada, Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin to fly to Israel, to work with their hands, to rebuild the ancient walls, and to excavate even deeper into the history of biblical Tamar. This group, who worked in October 2009, was one of dozens of groups who have gone to this site to work, with Blossoming Rose, for the past 22 years.
These people are believers from across the broad spectrum of the Christian Church: Methodist, Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics, Mormons, Presbyterians, Lutherans and other denominations. They first have a love and respect for their Jewish roots and a gratitude for Israel. You can hear many of them say that they are on the tour to “Bless Israel” with no other motives. Their testimonies emphasize, that while they are Christians who believe Jesus was and is the Messiah, they plainly state that without Israel and Jesus (a Jew) they would have no recourse or salvation from the evils of this world and a hope for a life in the world to come.
The question is often asked, “What do you do at Biblical Tamar Park”? The answer is that we simply work with our hands to restore an archaeological site and a Park, pray for Israel, and fellowship with those in Israel who have oversight responsibilities for these projects. All the Christians who visit Tamar experience something different than you would find in a typical tour. They are assigned a semiprivate room when they arrive, (one of sixty available for volunteers) in a modest camp-site type of setting and they eat together in the dining commons. The first one into the dining room in the morning makes a pot of coffee, often brought from the USA. As more come in, they make their own breakfast from foods set out on the bountiful breakfast bar: eggs, breads, fruits, juices, cereals, and if the Israeli are eating, vegetables.
Each of the several groups who visit Tamar and who choose the desert experience, get involved in what is referred to as “In the boots of an Archaeologist,” with a lecture and DVD presentation from Dr. Tali Erickson, a noted archaeologist from the Israel Antiquities Authority. She then takes the group on a tour of the Tamar ruins and explains all the levels of the various ethnic groups who lived there, from the ancient Jews to the Romans, Nabataens, Turks, British and Israeli.
Two or three work/study groups then evolve. Those who want to work at the dig, go with Dr. Tali and take their gloves and tools to the Roman area. Those who want to help restore walls, follow Ami Shahar with their “tuck point and brush tools” to perhaps an Iron Age wall. Those who want to learn how to restore pottery and make pottery with clay go with Orit Aflalo. All three department of the Israel Antiquities Authority – excavation, restoration, and education – are coordinated by the Southern Negev District Inspector, archaeologist Oren Shmueli, who is on-site to be sure that all the work and educational classes meet the standards of the Blossoming Rose/Israel Antiquities Authority commitment of authenticity.
The goal is to have a restored national park at Tamar, a place where Jews and Christian can see the evidence of past generations who have lived at historic Tamar and made it more than a sand pile in the Arava. The vision of Blossoming Rose is to build a welcome center with an audio-visual presentation that will teach visitors the incredible history of Tamar. There is great hope that a major museum will be built in the Park that will display the priceless artifacts (26,000) that have been rescued from the twenty years of excavation that has taken place.
Plans also call for a modern library, three educational institutes, and volunteer housing so that the present efforts will continue to make a bold statement, that the Christian destiny is tightly wrapped around the Jewish teaching of morality and ethical living. Applying these teachings is a process that takes on all types of activities, the Blossoming Rose model only being one of them.
More information is available at www.blossomingrose.org.