Tag Archives: Mexico

Exegesis of Deborah and Barak

I finished my first semester in the at Pacific School of Religion (PSR) in Berkeley in the Master of Arts in Social Transformation degree program. I am heading to Mexico soon for a two week immersion course in Spanish and Social Justice. At PSR, I am learning a great deal about social justice, spirituality, race and ethnicity, and exegesis – the critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture.  Exegesis is a new skill for me and I am enjoying it, even if I have to become expert on using the Turabian bibliographic citation style, and learning to use words like pericope (an extract from a text) and hermeneutics (theory and methodology of interpretation).  Here is my first exegetical paper from the Rhetorical Use of Texts course taught by Professors Aaron Brody and Sharon Jacob:

Rhetorical Use of Texts, Exegetical Paper 1 – Judges

For my first exegetical paper on Judges, I have selected the passage about Deborah and Barak, in Judges 4:1-10. In this pericope, Deborah is presented in a way that is unique in the Hebrew Bible, and yet both the Bible and scholars seem to underrate her importance. She is introduced as a prophetess and a judge, and we soon see that she is, in addition, an insightful war leader who successfully reverses the declined fortunes of her people. In this analysis, I will primarily use a feminist hermeneutical lens because Deborah’s story is such a contrast to that of most women in the Bible, whom J. Cheryl Exum describes as being “…in a subordinate role, usually as someone’s wife or mother or daughter…”[1] Deborah is indeed the wife of Lappidoth (Judges 4:4) but he is only referenced that once in the Hebrew Bible. She is also said to be a mother (Judges 5:7) but her individual children are not mentioned. As a feminist and professional today, I admire Deborah for fulfilling her traditional female roles (wife and mother) while at the same time being successful in three capacities usually reserved for both men in the ancient world and today (prophet, judge, and general).

Before moving into a deeper review of this pericope, it is important to reflect that the men who wrote the Bible did not consider Deborah important enough to be a referenced elsewhere as a role model. This is an example of institutionalized patriarchy, as described by Exum.[2] Three men in the pericope, Israelite enemies King Jabin and his commander Sisera, and Deborah’s hesitant colleague Barak, are celebrated outside of the Book of Judges but Deborah is not. Jabin and Sisera are found again in 1 Samuel 12:9 and Psalm 83:9. Barak is included in 1 Samuel 12:11 and Hebrews 11:32. It seems that it is more notable to be an enemy or a cowardly man than a successful woman. Or, as J. Cheryl Exum writes, “…the gender code operates independently of the question of who is on which side or which side is the ‘right’ side…”[3] Even Jesus’ ancestor Ruth is only mentioned once outside of her own book, in Matthew 1:5.

Of the three non-traditional roles Deborah fulfills, being a prophet is the least common duty for a woman in the Bible. In his essay on narrative criticism, Richard Bowman presents a table called “Attributions of Divine Presence” in which he lists three options: “The Lord is with X,” “Spirit of God,” and “Acknowledgement by Character.” In the table, Bowman only accords Deborah “Acknowledgement by Character.”[4] He does not mention that Deborah and Gideon are the only two persons in Judges called prophets. Deborah is indeed only one of five women in the Hebrew Bible to be called a prophet (or prophetess). The five honored women are: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Naodiah (Nehemiah 6:14), and an unnamed prophetess in Isaiah 8:3. Lists of female prophets in Judaism can also include Sarah, Hannah, Abigail, and Esther but those women are not explicitly called out as prophets.[5] It seems that Bowman underrates Deborah and her status of prophet. Being a prophet is important, someone worthy of speaking on behalf of God, as in Deuteronomy 18:18, “I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.” Yet, Bowman only writes, “The narrator does not explicitly state that the spirit of God is given to either Ehud or Deborah… Yet, both successfully deliver Israel from the oppression of its enemies, and both voice their conviction that God gave them their victories.”[6] Ehud only mentions God once when he quips to King Eglon, “I have a message from God for you.” Compared to him, Deborah does a great deal more than simply express conviction; she performs as a true prophet, confidently speaking on behalf of God, saying, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you…” (Judges 4:6), and “…the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judges 4:9), plus two references in Judges 4:14.

In her second non-traditional role, Deborah is a judge. Professor Brody said that those called judges in Judges are “Charismatic leaders, ‘judges’ rise to lead in times of trouble then return to former occupation.”[7] In addition to being a charismatic leader, Deborah uniquely functions as an actual judge, “She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment” (Judges 4:5). Bowman writes, “…Gideon doubts his own ability, Jephthah doubts the ability of God, and Samson overconfidently abuses his talents.”[8] Unlike many of the other leaders in Judges, Deborah is wise, and her opinion is respected and sought. However, her wisdom is not celebrated outside of the Judges 4:5 passage, perhaps because good counsel is expected of a capable wife in a patriarchal society, as we see in Proverbs 31:26, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

In her third unusual role, Deborah is a war leader or general. Exum credits Deborah as “…an example of the exceptional famous woman – prophet, judge, and military leader…”[9] However, surprisingly for a feminist scholar, Exum devotes most of her detailed analysis in the section “Deborah/Jael (Judges 4-5)” to Deborah as a good mother figure. Exum criticizes Barak and Sisera for falling short of being hero-warriors but does not go on to laud Deborah for her bravery or wisdom.[10] And yet, Deborah is capable as a general and her actions are worthy of celebration. In Judges 4:6-10, Deborah, who is from the tribal area of Ephraim (in the middle of Israel), summons Barak from the far northern area of Naphtali, north of the Kishon River and Mount Tabor. That is, she wisely picked for her colleague a man who knew the area where they would fight and who could bring an army of ten thousand from the northern tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. Deborah’s original battle plan is to split her forces, saying “’I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and troops; and I will give him into your hand’” (Judges 4:7). However, when Barak refuses to go without her, she patiently changes her plan to make it succeed despite his trepidation. At this point in the story, we get a glimpse of what it must be like for Deborah to be a woman war leader when she says, “’I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman’” (Judges 4:9). I envision Deborah saying this in a patient and sardonic tone, as a strong woman who must make a partnership work despite the shortcomings of her male partner. Her words can be taken either as a foretelling (that is, Deborah sees the future of Sisera being killed by Jael, in Judges 4:21), or a simple statement that if Deborah is with Barak, he will not win glory. In either case, Barak’s accomplishments are dimmed.

At the beginning of the pericope, because of doing evil, the Israelites are oppressed like slaves by a foreign ruler based in the tribal area of Naphtali, “So the Lord sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera…” (Judges 4:2). At the end of the pericope in Judges 4:7, Deborah prophesies that the Lord will sell Sisera, that is, the tables will be turned and Israel will triumph. At the very end of Deborah’s story, it says simply “And the land had rest for forty years” (Judges 5:31). That is, she did her work and did it well. Deborah is surprising not only because of her success in both traditional and non-traditional women’s roles but also because her story was recorded in detail and survived from a time when, as Exum writes, “…the writers of history [were] men, and men have recorded only those events they considered important and have interpreted them from their point of view.”[11] I would argue that feminists and feminist critics of the Bible today should celebrate Deborah as one of the few multi-faceted and exceptional women of the ancient world.


[1] J. Cheryl Exum, “Feminist Criticism: Whose Interests are Being Served?,” in Judges and Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies, ed. Gale A. Yee (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 66.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Exum, “Feminist Criticism,” 70.

[4] Richard G. Bowman, “Narrative Criticism: Human Purpose in Conflict with Divine Presence,” in Judges and Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies, ed. Gale A. Yee (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 36.

[5] Tracey R. Rich, “Prophets and Prophecy,” Judaism 101, accessed 26 October 2018, http://www.jewfaq.org/prophet.htm.

[6] Bowman, “Narrative Criticism,” 38.

[7] Aaron Brody, “Ugarit & The Late Bronze Age – Circa 1300-1200 BCE; prior to Iron I, period of the Judges” (lecture, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, CA, 4 October 2018).

[8] Bowman, “Narrative Criticism,” 28.

[9] Exum, “Feminist Criticism,” 66.

[10] Ibid, 70-74.

[11] Exum, “Feminist Criticism,” 65.


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Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

TechWomen at Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Last week, I enjoyed attending the Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016 hosted by the University of San Francisco. Technovation was the single most popular formal mentoring program mentioned by the Mentoring Standard Certified Mentors (see the “First Mentors – What We Learned” report), so I have heard about its excellence from many sources.  Technovation was founded in 2009 to offer girls the opportunity to learn how to start a company and become high-tech entrepreneurs.  It is now a global competition reaching thousands of girls.  This year’s winners were:

  • First Place, High School: Team A, “OOL” from Mexico
  • First Place, Middle School: California Coders, “Loc8Don8” from the United States

The pitch videos from all of the finalists are well worth watching.  In addition to the awards given to the girls’ teams, TechWomen‘s own Dr. Amel Gouila (Bioinformatician at the Institut Pasteur de Tunis) from Tunisia was honored as The Technovation Regional Ambassador of the year.  In advance of the awards, there were inspiring speeches by:

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Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

USF, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Thoko Miya, South African Master Educator, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Ask Ada, USA Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Angels Tech of Africa, Cameroon Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

HAI Moldova Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

IDF, InDaFridge, Canada Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

TransUG Uganda Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Amel Gouila and the Born to Tech Tunisia Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Ismail Aziza of Palestine and Thoko Miya of South Africa, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Ismail Aziza and Katy Dickinson, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Guido van Rossum and Katy Dickinson, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Marie Claire Murekatete with Rwanda flag, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Dr. Amel Gouila, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Tara Chklovski, Katy Dickinson, Dorothée Danedjo and Cameroon Team, Technovation World Pitch Summit 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Three Border Walls


Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down. …
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
– Robert Frost, 1914

After watching John Oliver’s 20 March 2016 comic-news analysis on the proposed Border Wall, I remembered the lines in “Mending Wall“, the first poem I read by the great American poet Robert Frost.  I have had experience with three border walls in recent years:

Israel-Palestine Wall – Bethlehem, 2016

Between the TechWomen Delegations to Jordan and Zimbabwe, last month a group of us visited Gaza and the West Bank in addition to more usual Israel-Palestine tourist locations such as Jerusalem and MasadaBethlehem is a mixed Muslim-Christian city in the West Bank, typified for me by Manger Square, which has the Church of the Nativity at one end and the Mosque of Omar at the other.  The wall runs through Bethlehem, in one case right around an existing home.

This wall is regularly a target location for violent confrontations between citizens and soldiers, one of which we regrettably observed from two blocks away, as we were preparing to leave the city.  The wall is also a ground for artistic and political communication: it is covered with paintings and graffiti, including some by famous artists like Banksy. In a Bethlehem shop, we saw a traditional olive wood nativity scene – with the addition of a barrier wall keeping out the three wise men.

Israel-Palestine Wall in Bethlehem 2016 . Israel-Palestine Wall in Bethlehem 2016

Israel-Palestine Wall in Bethlehem 2016

Berlin Wall Sections – Mountain View, California, 2010

Two graffitied sections of the 1961-1989 Berlin Wall lived in an office park near where I worked in Mountain View, California, for many years. I used to visit them sometimes during lunch, thinking of the people who died climbing the Berlin Wall trying to get to freedom.  In 2013, the sections were moved to the front of the public library.

The original sign in front of these sections said: “…Between November 9 and 12, 1989 the Wall was breached; not from without with bombs or bullets, but from within by the sound of freedom and the vision of a better life that had drifted over the Wall. The World must not forget that it was America’s resolve and its political and economic ideals that made this bloodless revolution and most significant historical event possible.”  I don’t know if that sign is still with the sections since they moved.

Berlin Wall Section, Mountain View, California, 2010 . Berlin Wall Section, Mountain View, California, 2010

California USA-Mexico Wall, 2008

In 2008, my husband and I flew with friends to Baja California to see the grey whales at Laguna San Ignacio. Coming home, we got fuel and checked out with Mexican customs in Mexicali, then flew 9 miles north across the US border to check in at Calexico. The Calexico general aviation airport is directly on the USA-Mexico border fence.  It was strange to see our two nations that are culturally and economically one family – with a line drawn between them.

California USA-Mexico Wall, 2008 . California USA-Mexico Wall, 2008

California USA-Mexico Wall, 2008

Photos Copyright by Katy Dickinson 2008-2016

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State Plates


I have been playing the license plate game for some months. My game version requires a good-quality photo of each state plate – which is tricky when the car is moving. (Don’t try this while driving!) This is only one variation of the license plate game – and not the most complex. “Preamble” by Mike Wilkins phonetically spells out the preamble to the Constitution of the United States using 51 US license plates – that ambitious project is in the Smithsonian collection.

So far, I have 47 of the 50 United States (missing are Delaware, Maine, and South Dakota), plus some others. There is much variety in plate design even within one state, and some are masked by big license holders – making identification a challenge. San Jose, California, where I live gets many visitors, so driving around a big parking lot usually yields at least one addition.

If you take a photo of a license plate, sometimes a double helix security watermark appears running up the center – to identify forgeries, I would guess. The watermark is clearest on the plates below for Indiana, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming.

Some plates feature background images (mountains, flowers, farms, birds) or a motto (“Grand Canyon State” “Sweet Home” “The Spirit of America” “Live Free or Die”), others have just the dull URL of their Department of Motor Vehicles or government home page. Viginia is the simplest – no images or mottos. My favorite is the feisty motto of Washington DC: “Taxation Without Representation”.

Alabama . Alaska . Arizona
Arkansas . California . Colorado
Connecticut . Florida . Georgia
Hawaii . Idaho . Illinois
Indiana . Iowa . Kansas
Kentucky . Louisiana . Maryland
Massachusetts . Michigan . Minnesota
Missouri . Mississippi . Montana
IMG_1233 . Nevada . New Hampshire
New Jersey . New Mexico . New York
North Carolina . North Dakota . Ohio
Oklahoma . Oregon . Pennsylvania
Rhode Island . South Carolina . Tennessee
Texas . Utah . Vermont
Virginia . Washington . West Virginia
IMG_8049 . Wyoming . Washington DC
US Department of State - Consular . Baja California - Mexico . Alberta - Canada
British Columbia - Canada . Quebec - Canada . US Government
Illinois - September 11, 2001 . Wisconsin - Menominee Nation

Images Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson

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Willow Glen Lions Projects


I am in my second year as the Secretary to the Willow Glen Lions Club in San Jose, California. A Lions Club Secretary is the administrative officer – making monthly membership and program reports to Lions Clubs International, managing the club roster, keeping minutes of meetings, serving on the Board, etc.

Our club was chartered just over a year ago and we have made good progress. Willow Glen Lions  is now in our second year of community service projects which include:

Last night, the Club Board voted funding to begin a new Leos Club for teens in Willow Glen. My husband John and I just created the club’s first business card – preparing for our club’s second Fall Mixer (at Chase Bank on Lincoln Avenue at Minnesota in Willow Glen, 6:30-8 pm on 10 November), and other upcoming activities.  It arrived today!

IMG_4335 DSCN6636 IMG_0103 IMG_1024

Images by Katy Dickinson, Copyright 2009-2010

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Children’s Voices from the Studio

These are stories about Santa Maria Urban Ministry from the children of the SMUM Studio after school program.  SMUM is sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real. I interviewed the kids for SMUM’s Canticles monthly newsletter.

First is Belen who is 8 years old. Belen was born in San Jose, California and still lives here with her family. She has two sisters and two brothers. Her oldest sister is 22; Belen is the youngest. She started coming to Studio when she was 6. Belen comes back every Tuesday and Thursday for homework help because she wants to learn more. When she does not come to Studio, she stays home where it is boring and there is nothing to do. When asked what she would tell another kid about why to go to Studio, Belen said: “This is a cool place where you can do exciting things like math, computers, drawing, and much more.” Belen likes to play outside in the sand box and castle. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

Next is Abigail who is 10 years old and in 4th grade.  Abigail was born in San Jose, California and still lives here with her family.  She has two younger brothers.  Abigail started coming to SMUM when she was in 3rd grade.  She comes on Thursdays for homework help to help her understand her assignments.  Other days, she stays at home and does homework or watches movies or TV.  When asked what she would tell another kid about why to go to Studio, Abigail said: “It is fun because you can have help with homework, use the computers, do math and go on trips at the end of the year. You can play with people and play different games on the computer.  The people are friendly.”  Abigail most likes to do homework, play boardgames, and play outside.  When she grows up, she wants to teach math, science, and literacy.

One of the mentor-teachers is George who is 18 years old.  He is a Senior in High School.  George lives with his parents in San Jose where he was born.  He has a little brother who is 3 and an older brother who is 22.  George needs 40 community service hours for school.  He comes to SMUM because it is close to his house and his friends told him about it.  If George was asked why someone should do community service hours at SMUM, he would say: “It’s a good place to come help because you get to mentor young children.  You can set a good example for them that hard work can help you do good in school.”  George likes to help the kids out – being like a little teacher.  He wants to be an Architect when he grows up.

Jose is Abigail’s younger brother.  He is 7 and a half years old, in the 2nd grade.  Jose was born in San Jose but his family is from Zacatecas, Mexico.  He is the middle child, his younger brother is 2 and a half and Abigail is his 9-year-old sister.  Jose started coming to SMUM last year because his friend told him about the homework program and his Mom said they could go.  “It is a good place to do homework and it is pretty fun.  There are computers and you can play on them and the Internet.”  He likes best to do his homework and use the computers.  Jose wants to be a doctor or policeman when he grows up.

The next is by Samantha who is 8 years old and in the 3rd grade.  She was born in San Jose and still lives there with her little sister and little brother and her big brother and sister.  Samantha started coming to SMUM when she was in Preschool when she was 3 years old.  She comes Tuesdays and Thursdays to do her homework, play with computers, draw, play outside and eat snacks.  She likes best to play with the computer.  “Someone can come here to do a lot of things, to have some fun.  It is not boring.”  Samantha wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

The last story is from Robert who is a mentor-teacher on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Robert is 15 and in 8th grade.  He was born in San Jose; he has one younger  sister.  He started coming to SMUM last year.  He helps with the warehouse and after school programs.  Robert knows Rev. Lawrence Robles and goes to Trinity church where Father Lawrence works.  SMUM is close to Robert’s house.  Robert likes to work in the warehouse filling boxes with  cans and fresh food for the hungry.  He likes to play handball with the other mentor-teachers, play Uno, and use the computers.  “Come to SMUM Studio to catch up with your homework if your parents don’t know how to speak English.  It’s hard to do homework without parents or brothers to help, to support you. ”  Robert wants to be a cop or secret agent when he grows up.

DSCN9285 DSCN9287

Images Copyright 2010 Katy Dickinson

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Bougainvillea in Bondage (Photos)

When we  flew to Mulege, Baja Mexico last month, we saw many lovely bougainvillea vines in full bloom, some trained as small trees with trunks often a foot or more wide. I decided to convert my backyard Barbara Karst Bougainvillea into a small tree. This
will give us a red flowering canopy in the summer and, as the vines grow thicker and develop bark, should also protect the tropical plant against the short winter freezes we get here in San Jose, California. This also allowed us to remove the garden fence which is no longer needed because we replaced our pool with WP668, our backyard caboose.

I started with the vine spread out along a black metal garden fence. Over two days, I compressed the thorny vines into a column using green plastic garden tape. Finally, I enclosed the compressed vines between three black metal panels which are zip tied together. (I removed the garden tape after enclosing the vines between the panels.) My vine is now a 6′ column with a fountain of vines coming out the top. It looks squashed at the moment but it is growing fast. Here is how far I have gotten on this project:

Vine tree in Baja

Mulege Bougainvillea vine tree, Baja Mexico photo: copyright 2008 Katy Dickinson

My Vine Blooming in 2007

Barbara Karst Bougainvillea vine blooming photo: copyright 2007 Katy Dickinson

Step One – Tie it Up

Bougainvillea vine, Step One - Tie it Up photo: copyright 2008 Katy Dickinson

Step Two – Vine In Bondage

Bougainvillea vine Step Two - Vine In Bondage photo: copyright 2008 Katy Dickinson

Images Copyright 2007-2008 by Katy Dickinson

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