Learning history through our Avot
“My Friend Avram” is a historical fiction written for a young audience. The Novel brings the story of Avram to life with a rich tale woven from Chumash, Midrash, and history. While reading “My Friend Avram” the student is taken on a wondrous adventure through the historic environment and the inner light of Torah.
I have laid out some historical lessons and activities that can be explored in the classroom or at home while reading “My Friend Avram.”
Mesopotamia: The land between two rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates
The fertile crescent
• Identify the region on the globe that corresponds to the map of the fertile crescent. Identify the Mediterranean Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Back Sea and the Red Sea. Identify the Nile river; notice how it flows into the Mediterranean Sea.
• Identify the Persian Gulf. Identify the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. Notice that the Tigris River flows into the Euphrates, which then flows into the Persian Gulf.
• The land between the two rivers is called Mesopotamia “the land between two rivers.” Early nomads first settled in Mesopotamia. They learned that they could grow plants from seeds for food. These plants needed water to grow farmers learned to bring water to their plants by digging ditches, called canals which brought water from the river to their fields. This is how they irrigated their crops.
• Farmers began to build houses with bricks which they made from mud and dried in the sun. They built houses close together so that they could help one another. These were called villages
• They tamed animals and used them for meat and clothing. They grew grain for bread and made pottery. They also built boats, and villages began to trade with each other.
• Some villages became rich and feared that they would be attacked by robbers so they build stone walls around their villages. These became cities. ( Cain build the first cities, It says in the Torah “he was a city builder”)
• One of these earliest of cities, was the city of Jericho in the land of Cannan. It was 10 feet thick and 13 feet tall, with a circular tower on one side to see if enemies were approaching.
• Explore by making small mud bricks with an ice tray.
The land of Ur Kasdim (Abraham’s birthplace) is called Mesopotamia:
Between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers was a country called Sumer (modern day Iraq). The people living in the area were called Sumerians.
The Sumerians were simple in their every day appearance, the men of Sumer often had long hair with a part in the middle. many also had long beards. They wore wrap around skirts and felt cloaks, eventually they wore wrap around long skirts with large shawls flung over the shoulder. The right shoulder and arm were left bare.
Sumerians women wore their hair long. They would braid their locks into one braid, which they wrapped around the top of their heads. They wore long shawls which covered them entirely, but the right arm and shoulder left bare.
The children of Sumer had few rights, the authority of their parents was supreme. Children were expected to obey their parents in all cases. Those children who chose to disobey their parents faced being disinherited or sold into slavery.
The Sumerians did not build with stones, since it is hard to find good building stone in the river valley of the Euphrates river. Instead they built their ziggurats, houses and city walls out of mud-brick.
Ziggurats were large temples that the Sumerians built for their gods. They spent a lot of their time building these temples.
The ziggurats were very high buildings. The Sumerians built them by making a big flat platform of mud-brick, then they made a slightly smaller platform on top of the first one, and another on top of that, until the platform was just a little bigger than a temple, then they would build their temple at the top.
• Irrigate: to bring water to crops to help them grow.
• The Mesopotamians invented a machine called a Shaduf to water the crops, this was one of the first farm machines.
• The sumerians began big irrigation projects, digging canals and ditches to bring water from the Tigris and the Euphrates to the land between them so people could grow food there. In this way more people could live in the same amount of land.
• Lets build a irrigation canal in the garden
• Build a shaduff
• The wheel is one of the oldest and most important inventions. It was originally used as a potter’s wheel.
• The wheel was later used for carts, wagons and chariots
• Create pottery from this time era, experience using a wheel!
• The chariots were invented by the mesopotamian people, they could get around places faster than walking.
• The chariot has a platform for someone to stand on with wheels. A horse or an ox would pull you along.
• Chariots were used to take important people around the city.
• Build a simple wagon with wheels and axles
• Mesopotamians used boats to transport their goods along the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. They invented the sailboat for greater control of their boats and steering.
• The Sailboats were also used for fishing in the river.
• The Mesopotamians invented a Type of writing called “Cuneiform” the word Cuneiform meant “wedge shaped”
• Cuneiform was written into tablets of wet red clay that came from the banks of the river, they molded the clay into square tablets. Using a sharp marsh pointed reed called a stylus, they carved their picture writing onto the clay tablet. Then they would bake the clay tablet until it was hard.
• Most of the writing Mesopotamians did where pictures drawings of animals and humans.
• Writing was originally made for keeping track of what they bought or sold.
• Very few people learned how to write. Men who learned to write were called scribes, and they had important jobs, like being organizers and administrators for the government, they were often very powerful men. Most women did not ever learn to write.
• Make clay tablets (cuneiform blocks), carve a stylus for writing, and write out your name using cuneiform letters.
• The Mesopotamians invented a money system using clay tokens for trades. They were different sizes and shapes.
• The Tokens were put into a clay vessel with the number of tokens pressed on the outside.
• Trading with clay tokens
• Mesopotamians experimented with ways to count, measure and solve mathematical problems.
• They were the first people to give place value to numbers , and recognize the number zero.