Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm out. Peace

This is it, jumping off point. I will be leaving the Jerusalem Center in about an hour and a half and that's really hard to believe. This place has become like home to me and the people here, like family. I am so glad I came. The other night I was sitting in the auditorium, looking out over the city and listening to the magical organ of Walter Whipple and it occurred to me that there was no where else on earth that I would rather have been this semester and probably nowhere else that I was supposed to be. The people I've met here have had such an impact on my life and I can only say, I know that this was all by divine design. I will never be able to convey to you all what this time was like. There is no explaining it. But we strived for Zion here. I will miss it. It was very difficult at times and my life took some funny turns at different points, but the whole experience has set me on the course of becoming the person I've been realizes that I have not yet become...but will...someday. Don't ever waste time or opportunities. Ever.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Red Sea, Med. Sea, Dead Sea!

Been there! Done that! Yesterday we took a trip to Eilat, to snorkel in the Red Sea. The reef there is fantastic, but they have it roped off so you can't actually swim over it - there's probably 3 or 4 feet of water above it and the reef itself is at least 10 feet tall. So at the point where it drops off into the "open ocean," there is a rope that the snorklers follow. So, you're swimming in 12-25 ft. deep water, looking at the reef from close by and trying to convince the fish that you're nice, so they'll want to swim all around you - it worked a couple times. Anyway, pictures of the three trips.

Red Sea

Med. Sea

Dead Sea

This was a field trip last week. The water is warm and feels and looks like baby oil. float - you have no choice. It's really fun. And then there's the mud...

Friday, April 16, 2010

No joke. Best commencement address ever!! We had a gradutation party for seniors who are missing their graduation parties back at Provo, Idaho, Hawaii..... and our keynote speaker was the renaissance man himself, Walter Whipple. So, as we go into the world, we will seek to broaden our minds while exploring the real reasons behind... at and expression of their aesthetic sense or simply the manifestation of biological tendencies?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pictures from Galilee and Petra!!! sans explanations, for now...

Sandstone! We had to scale the sheer faces of many cliffs to find this. Do I sound tough? I think those are little sheep poos on the ground.
Awkward camel.
"The Treasury." Porbably a tomb. I have lots of other awesome pictures too. This is a tiny fraction of a fraction of what is there. Carved out of the side of a mountain!!!
Sunset at Galilee, Tiberias on the other side.
Elizabeth being clever.
Golan Heights. Home sweet home.
Beth Shean! Don't worry, we were totally SAFE as we dangled our feet over a the edge of some 20 feet up.
Seriously, I wanna move here.
In all fairness, that water was so ridiculously cold. Judge-free zone.
Again, I wanna move here. (Golan Heights)
I'm sailing! I sail. I'm a sailor. Ahoy!
The Sea of Galilee
Church of the Anunciation in Bethlehem - the Catholic one, anyway.
Arches! It's the remains of an aqueduct leading to Caesarea Maritima.
The beach at Caesarea Maritima has not sand - just shells.
People do it here too. Tel Aviv. Mediterranean. So cool.
Globe-trotting sandals.
Bummer. Check facebook for a new video.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Good Friday! The understatement of the year

We began the day with 2 hours of New Testament class, which helped us get in the mood fo the Via Dolorosa, which is the way the Savior walked, carrying the cross from His trial at the Antonia Fortress, by the Temple Mount to Calvary, to The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (traditionally). I read John 18-19 as we waited (and this couple from England who, when they saw that I was reading the Bible, talked to me for a bit and included a hearty “Praise the Lord!”) for the procession to be led out by the Franciscan Fathers. We (the Jerusalem Center people) have a long-standing friendship with one of them – Father Angelo, from the Philippines by way of LA. He served to translate the text that was read at all 14 stations of the cross in English. Admitted my group only followed the procession for about 2 stations – understand that it’s so uncomfortably crowded, plus we wanted to go acoustics hopping – a favorite pastime of me and my musicaholic, acoustic junky friends. So off we headed, beginning in Dormition Abbey, where we sang mostly sacrament hymns and were approached by a lovely french woman. I think the best part of all the singing we do in these churches is getting to meet people from all over the place. We continued our safari, stopping at a few smaller chapels along the way and eventually ended up at the St. Anne’s Church, where the Pool of Bethesda was found. We sang off and on for about an hour and a half. I mean seriously, what’s the point of vaulted ceilings and stone walls if you don’t use them? Of course there were plenty of tour groups coming and going and they were very polite and appreciative. We even got to hear a group from Indonesia sing. We made a few videos, and I’ll post them as soon as I have a good connection. I also spoke with a lovely woman from Italy on our way out.

Keep in mind that it’s also been Passover week, so we went to the Western Wall to welcome in Shabbat with the Jews (probably our last chance to do so). I’m impressed by the large number of adolescent girls praying at the wall. But I think that explains the continuity of Judaism because the influence of the mothers is probably the strongest in teaching the traditions and practices of the people and setting the tone of worship and observance in the home. Go, women! Afterward some of us wanted to go to the service and funerary procession that would be taking place at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but since we’re not allowed to be in the Old City at night (keep this in mind), they ordered taxis, which took us from Dung Gate to Jaffa Gate, which is probably farther from the Holy Sepulchre than we already were, and since we were running late, we had to RUN through the streets of the Old City to get there. Slick, uneven stones, stairs, narrow corridors and lots of people – it was awesome. But when we arrived at the Christian Quarter, we found that we couldn’t even get into the courtyard of the church – too crowded. So, we ran around the block to see if we could get in through the Coptic church or the Ethiopian monastery. No go. What are we gonna do? Well, we’re stuck here until 11:00…in the Old City….at night….with nothing to do….(8D). NO ONE EVER GETS TO DO THIS, so we did our best to capitalize on the experience. Someone had been into a church earlier that day that led to the roof, overlooking the courtyard of the Holy Sepulchre church, so by a miracle, we were able to convince them to let us in. We were pretty thrilled by that….but then my friend John and I were poking around on the roof and I was taking pictures of the view of the city while John climbed up a random staircase that led to a door under a dome. This shouldn’t be surprising – there are tons of domes in Jerusalem, but I just wasn’t putting two and two together, as far as this dome’s significance, so anyway John found that the door was only chained shut and could be opened about 10 inches, but the door was 15 feet above the ground and smack dab against a metal rail and the chain was at an inconvenient level…but that never stopped us – I love trying to fit through tight places – so, in a skirt, I squoze (haha – great word) through (and I have bruises on my legs to prove that metal door meant business), and found myself in a very dark, narrow, round balcony. When I stood up and looked over the rail, I realized, I WAS IN THE TOP LEVEL OF THE CENTRAL DOME OF THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE!!!! This is a big deal. No one can get up there. Not even our Ancient Near Eastern Studies professor who is not above paying people off to let him take pictures wherever he wants to, even when it’s not allowed. So, we got John in too and we very giddily and from at least 100 feet up watched the goings-on of the service that it had been impossible to get into. We were joined by a few more students, which scared us because it was dark and for all we knew, it was ghosts or angry priests or some kind of trouble. Pictures!! Then apparently we were spotted and got quick word that someone was coming up after us, so the excitement of living on the edge was intensified about 200 times as we rushed back around to the only door and try to get 8 people out really fast without sending anyone falling to their death. But we did it. Hahaha. So tricky! I think we’re gonna start a club – the 5 Levels of the Holy Sepulchre Club! So, I have pictures and video of the proceedings downstairs. Many of you will know better than I what was taking place. Apparently a manikin representing Jesus was brought in on a cross and taken into the edicule, which contains the tomb. Then the manikin is left in and the cross is carried out, followed by a lot of priests and other officials of the Catholic Church. So, it’s a pretty exciting affair, attracting to many pilgrims and very curious LDS young adults who haven’t seen something of this sort before. Great experience.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Whoops - more Galilee

I'm gonna be in Jordan for the next four days, and I'm well aware of the withdrawls my absence may send you into, so I'm posting the rest of my Galilee escapades. I know it's a lot at once, but here it goes.

Day 4) Another three hour session of Manscill’s New Testament class. We covered the Sermon on the Mount, which we actually got to visit yesterday and learn about. Some controversial things were said in that class, so I was a bit forced to do a little research and also for good reason read the Epistle of James. I did so while sitting with my feet in the water. Cool experience, because I love James and he grew up in this area. So, reading his “general conference talk” of an epistle helped me to remember the importance of faith and works and what pure religion is: caring for and visiting the widows and fatherless and doing your best to keep the commandments and live the gospel. This afternoon we set out to hike to a waterfall in the Golan Heights (a militarily controversial area which used to be part of Syria). The drive up reminded me a lot of Oklahoma – green meadows over rolling hills with a random tree here and there or a bunch around a creek. And there were flocks of gigantic storks in the fields and trees. The hike was so beautiful, taking us down into the Great Rift Valley, to the Jordan River (creek). The trial had us crawling up and down boulders and crossing the creek several times before it came to some great lookout points over a huge waterfall. Once we got down to the water and walked through the bamboo forest to the waterfall pool, some of us overcame trepidation and jumped in. Holy cold. Mountain runoff, my favorite temperature, but you only live once, right, so, we did it. The hike out was quick and we rushed back to the Kibbutz to leave again for dinner. St. Peter’s fish. Really not bad at all. I don’t know exactly how they cook it but the outside was definitely fried crispy – oh yeah, they serve you the whole fish, eyes, brains, fins, and all! Then we drove around the Sea to Tiberius and enjoyed the nightlife. Kalie and I found a great little dock to hang out on down in the little harbor. We lay in the dark, partially lit by stars and neon lights, listening to Jewish and Italian songs on the accordion, talking about Tongan men. Bliss. I realized tonight that the Lord is giving me this time to not focus on guys and romance but to focus on my relationship with Him. I think if I fix that then all other relationships I develop with guys or anybody will be so much better.

Day 5) Already?!? How have we possibly been here that long?! This time I right again from my cute blue chair on the shore of the Sea, but this time the water is perfectly calm and clear. This morning was fieldtrip time for our class. We drove up into the Golan Heights, through the Rift Valley or something like it to Gamla, a lone peninsula jutting from one side of the canyon out into the middle. “Gamla” means camel in Arabic and it’s called that because it looks like a camel’s hump. The Zealots made their last stand here. There are ruins of a synagogue and houses on it. It would be a well-fortified city, affording the inhabitants the advantage over invaders…unless those invaders are 25,000 troops of Roman soldiers. Anyway, the Jews’ city was sacked and probably never reinhabited. This is the episode during which Josephus turned on Judea and joined with the Romans. Anyway, we hiked out onto the gamla and took awesome amazing pictures, but cameras and nothing compared to human eyes. It was like Machupichu. So cool! Then we went to a really cool Talmudic era school and preservation. There were plenty of ruins of the houses and synagogues in the ancient community (7th or 8th century AD, I think), but what was really cool was a completely restored house, complete with roof and furnishings, which was actually built on the original foundation of the ancient house. Neat place. Lots of Jewish families and little boys from the yeshiva touring the place and learning the daily living activities of their ancestors the way we would by going to the Oregon Trail interpretive Center or having pioneer days at school – carding wool and making arrowheads and butter. We also made a stop at a lookout/memorial of the battles that have been fought in the area. The sounding land consists or the most beautiful, pastoral hills beyond the barbed wire fences, on which the “Danger: Mines” sign hang. Such an irony. No wonder Syria wants this land back.

Day 6) Today was a great experience. Sabbath at the kibbutz. Mostly it felt like we were just eating all day. The Galilee Branch meets in a lovely villa, which is aptly sized…for a villa, but quite small for chapel, so the classes had to go to church separately. My group went in the afternoon, but on the way we stopped are Yardinet on the Jordan River, the site where many Christians include a rebaptism in their pilgrimage. We actually witnessed a group doing this. You can rent white robes for $10, be baptized in whatever many you’d like and then you receive a certificate. We passed on that and continued on to our meetings to be “rebaptized” ourselves, as we participated in the Sacrament. (Sidenote: While we were waiting to get back on our bus at Yardinet, a lovely lady waited in the shade with us and it turns out she’s a Maussie! Ten points to the one who can tell me what a Maussie is.) Absolutely phenomenal Sacrament Meeting. I thought our view overlooking Jerusalem couldn’t be beat, but I’m sure that the Sea of Galilee actually provides a much better backdrop for a meeting centered on the Savior and His teachings and sacrifice. Some important and relevant points were made, such as the need to take time to be still (silent and faithful), in order to hear and feel the Lord guiding our lives, as well as how important it is to spend time with the Lord in order to know Him better. I was sad to have not been able to meet with the branch members, but a few of them came to the kibbutz later that evening for a fireside, during which they talked about the beginnings of the branch here and their experiences and answered questions. We were broken into groups for this and the sister who spoke with our group was a physiotherapist, who felt the need to come to Israel back in the 60s and never really left. She’s a Canadian but has been given Israeli citizenship, which is almost unheard of. She said she fell in love with Israel and that’s what has kept her here. Sometimes I wonder if that’ll happen to me. I really love some of the places I’ve lived. The more of the world I see, the more I want to see and feel brave enough to strike out and live in a remote village somewhere. It could be fun.

Day 7) Another lovely day of classroom study, New Testament, of course. We’ve been focusing on the time the Savior spent ministering in the Galilee, so today we discussed the miracles and sermons of His second and third years of ministry. We are flying through the scriptures. Something I like is the when the Gentile women asks Jesus to heal her daughter and He says to her that it is not meet to take the bread from the children and give it to the dogs, she understands right away and is humble as has enough faith to beg the crumbs from the master’s table. I always love the examples of the unlikely believers and converts, compared to those of the covenant who just seem to believe that their race will save them. These are very relaxed days because we get to spend hours on the beach. I was lifeguarding today, which is a no-brainer and almost a no-eye-r, so I spent the hour gleaning clay from the shore. There are ribbons of clay woven through the sand in and out of the water. With a little coaxing, it becomes very smooth and easy to work with, so I’ll bring some back to Jerusalem. I listened in on a conversation with two young jewish women who were American and Israeli, about their open-minded view of the conflict. So interesting. The more I learn about the conflict and each side, the more confused I get, however, one of the girls did say that she thought education would be the solution in the conflict, which I have believed for several weeks now. So, maybe I’m on the right track in my thinking, but still, it’s so complex, that no one thing is gonna fix everything…..but maybe the Second Coming….

Okay, that's not it, but this is way too long already, so I'll post the rest when I get back.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, Carrie!

My lovely friend, Carrier Warner had the good sense to turn 23 yesterday and decided to modify the Jerusalem Center tradition of gelato in West Jerusalem sorta birthday party. It still included gelato and West J-ru, but it also included singing on the streets to raise money for the gelato. So, check out Facebook and the pictures of an activity looking like that. It was so much fun and I think I should probably pick up the guitar or ukulele and see how successful it could be.......maybe.
We made 125.8 shekels! Gelato for the masses!