On Faith

Excavations reveal ancient mosaics

July 2, 2013 

Excavations in the Late Roman (fifth century) synagogue at Huqoq, an ancient Jewish village in Israel’s Lower Galilee, have brought to light stunning mosaics that decorated the floor.

The excavations are directed by Jodi Magness of UNC and co-directed by Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Students from UNC and other sponsoring schools are participating in the dig.

Last summer, a mosaic showing Samson and the foxes (as related in the book of Judges 15:4) was discovered in the synagogue’s east aisle. This summer, another mosaic was found that shows Samson carrying the gate of Gaza on his shoulders (Judges 16:3). Next to Samson are riders with horses, apparently Philistines. Although he is not described as such in the Hebrew Bible, Samson is depicted as a giant in both scenes, reflecting later Jewish traditions that developed about the biblical judge and hero.

“The discovery of two Samson scenes in the Huqoq synagogue suggests that it was decorated with a Samson cycle, the first such cycle known in Israel,” said Magness, Kenan Distinguished Professor in the religious studies department in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. “A cycle is a series of scenes about Samson, in which different episodes relating to Samson are depicted.”

The mosaics have been removed from the site for conservation and the excavated areas have been back filled. Excavations are scheduled to continue in summer 2014.

Fellowship donates to youth organization

Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has donated $2,033 to YO:Durham, a mentoring program for youths, as part of the congregation’s social justice mission.

The donation came from the Generosity Sunday collection June 9, a program that benefits a different community organization each month.

YO:Durham, an initiative of Durham Congregations in Action, teaches life skills to youth 15-17 who have needs because of poverty, or because a family member is incarcerated or because of some other difficulty in school or at home.

Unitarian Universalism encourages people to seek their own spiritual paths. The congregations are places where people gather to nurture their spirits and put their faith into action by helping to make their communities and the world a better place.

Although located at 4907 Garrett Road in Durham, Eno River includes members from Chapel Hill and the greater Triangle area. Services are held at 10:30 a.m. Sundays during summer, and 9:30 and 11:15 a.m. during the rest of the year.

Leaders release Moral Monday letter

Here is a joint statement by Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United Methodist leaders in North Carolina about the moral issues highlighted by Moral Monday events in Raleigh.

“As you may know, people have been gathering on Monday evenings to offer vigilant witness on moral issues being considered by our elected state officials. We share their concern for many of the issues they are bringing forth.

“The Rev. Dr. Rodney Sadler of Union Seminary (Charlotte) recently summarized the effect of pending and enacted legislation especially on the poor, the aging and children: ‘As you read this, the North Carolina General Assembly is passing bills that will remove 500,000 people from the Medicaid roles leaving them without health insurance; that will remove 170,000 people from unemployment when unemployment rates remain at historically high levels; that threaten to replace the graduated state income tax with a consumption tax that will adversely impact the poorest North Carolinians who will face increased prices on basic goods; that will force college students to return to their often distant homes to vote or cost their parents their $2,500 dependency deduction. These and many other bills will adversely impact those who can least afford it and therefore demand a fervent response from people of faith!’

“Our concern about the legislative actions cited by Rev. Dr. Sadler is not an act of political partisanship. Rather it is a matter of faith with respect to our understanding of the biblical teachings and imperatives to protect the poor, respect the stranger, care for widows and children and love our neighbors (Isaiah 10:12, Hebrews 13:2, James 1:27, Matthew 22:39, Galatians 5:14). We recognize and respect other Christian brothers and sisters who may seek to apply these biblical teachings in different ways and through different means.

“We speak and act in love and through our understanding that our first citizenship is in the Kingdom of God, and we do so always as faithful citizens of the democratic process. We urge all Christians to witness to their faith in seeking justice and mercy for all.”

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