Bradyite ties in business, pleasure in last year’s trip to the Holy Land

After a comment made in church, Larry Smith asked me if I would be interested in writing something up on my recent research trip to Israel. What follows are some thoughts and comments from this memorable trip made last year. I had the good fortune to be part of a three-person team that went to the southern part of Israel to study the adaptability of Texas Beefmaster to the Israeli desert region, and compare them to their typical beef cattle. This trip would be the culmination of a project done jointly between research personnel from the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in San Angelo lead by Dr. Ed Huston and Dr. Zvi Holzer and his colleagues at Newe Ya’ar Station in northern Israel. This project was initially written up in 1995 and was jointly funded by Texas Department of Agriculture and the Israel Agriculture ministry. With the events that have taken place in the Middle East recent months, I have found that my time in Israel has become more real to me now than ever. I flew out of Texas in advance of my Texas coworkers, on Aug. 13, to help our Israel counterparts study the around-the-clock pasture activity of a small herd of cows and start an evaluation of their ability to digest the Israeli forage under some fairly harsh conditions. What I would learn from my first-ever adventure across the Atlantic was more than I could ever gleam just from those animals in the study. My first week in Israel was spent nestled on a rocky hillside more than two hours south of Tel Aviv near Beer Sheva watching the habits of our four legged subjects with Pavel. Pavel was to be my working partner. He is a Russian born scientist whom had only recently immigrated to the country with his family, and was only the second person in Israel that I had met. Our first impressions of each other were ones that may have been heavily weighted by ‘cold war’ propaganda. Yet, after sharing drinking water and sunscreen for four days in the desert, you find time to talk and get to know a person a little better. We did get our work done while talking of U.S. politics, voter apathy, teenage children, our Arab neighbors across the valley, cooking outdoors, and wondering how the Russian government could seemingly just stand by while one of its own submarines sank, killing all the crew on board. Our research was done on a cooperating ranch owned by an Israeli native named Zedac. His property was north of a kibbutz called Shomyria and 500 meters west of the ‘green line’ and the Palestinian held West Bank area. Zedac, his wife, four children and 3 herders lived in an area that looked a lot like far west Texas. Their land lay along side of a nationally operated water system, but they only had solar power electricity. I found out that just occupying a given area in Israel might be a war in itself. When I had left Texas, I was not sure just how far we would be from any possible problems. It wouldn’t take long to find out. First of all, snakes in the desert come out just before sundown, and don’t leave your car unattended. On my first Wednesday out in the field, plainclothes policemen roared up out of the blue to check my little rental car for a bomb. I was more than glad that Pavel had learned to speak some Hebrew. I don’t think I would have understood a word that was coming from their blow horn. We were told by the Israelis that we would always go out in the pastures by two’s, and you were to never leave your partner alone. When I asked why, it was simply stated, “For all the reasons in the world.’ I know all those reasons now. On that next Sunday while I was in Tel Aviv greeting my coworkers from San Angelo at the airport, a bomb went off in the Arab village on the hill across from the pasture where we were working. I had never before been through a real ‘road block’ or knowingly worked in the field under so many watchful eyes carrying automatic weapons. When the Israeli defense forces show up, they come in force. I guess now I really know what it means to be under surveillance and to have some one watching my backside. Our work did not take all day every day. It did allow for some time to make short road trips in between data collections. I have never before been afforded the opportunity to visit an area that has so much history and diversity. It was almost like having a time machine at your command and 3000 years in which to search through. In the 3 hours that it takes to drive from the area around Nazareth, down the Mediterranean coast and Tel Aviv, and to the Beer Sheva, you can see banana and mango orchards, date palms, intensive vegetable farms, irrigated wheat and then the desert. I had seen photos of the Bedouin herders with their flocks of sheep and goats, but I would have never thought I’d see a man herd cows in the open on foot, let alone camels. I spent my first weekend with the family of Yoav Aharoni. Not only was he an animal scientist but a very knowledgeable historian about the Roman occupation of Palestine as well as the Crusader period. Yet, being Jewish by birth Yoav catered to me wanting to see places of interest from a Christian perspective. I just wish that I could recall half of the information that he fed me while we drove the countryside around Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. On our second weekend, Zvi Holzer lead us to the old city of Jerusalem, Akko, and then he showed us the more modern Israel of post World War II. One night as we returned to our lodging, Zvi recounted for us what it was like for him to be a survivor of the Holocaust and being sorted off to a ‘ghetto’ rather than a concentration death camp, and how his family came to Israel. After these little side trips and lectures, my eyes were more open to what I was really seeing and who the players were. I could see two peoples all wanting the same homeland for much the same reasons, and neither one seems to have a second option that they are willing to fall back on. I find myself checking the internet news services daily to see where the latest shootings in Israel are taking place, and wondering of the safety of those that I had met if only for a short time. I cannot truly express the feelings of security that I felt when our plane touched down in San Angelo.

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