Monday, January 3, 2011

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Belated Easter

Happy Easter everyone! I know, I know, I missed it, but chronology doesn’t really bother me too much. When I got accepted to the program, Easter was one of the best events I looked forward to—it didn’t disappoint (although, I must admit I missed our family traditions quite a bit).

Let me begin with Palm Sunday, this is generally the starting point of our celebration at home anyway. We were scheduled to have class all morning, but after a bit of complaining and some professors sticking up for us we were able to shift some things around. There is a traditional celebration done here every Palm Sunday. The Christians begin on the Mount of Olives at Bethphage Church. Bethphage is a Catholic church that like most has all the official gear. There is a rock inside that apparently Jesus used when he got on the donkey.

There were thousands gathered there. We bought palms and all marched together; it as a moving experience for me. Oh and just for your information, there is an unofficial competition with who can get the largest palm. I was pretty sure I had it all wrapped up, but there was at least one that was larger than mine. Still, second is pretty good.

For part of the time we were singing and dancing with some of the evangelicals from somewhere in South America—their songs always come with drums and are really catchy. There were other times that we sang our hymns as well. One moment in particular comes to mind when we were singing Nearer My God to Thee and people from other groups began to sing with us. There were people from Korea, Norway, Germany, all singing with us. It was a wonderful unifying moment. We marched through Lion’s Gate and to the First Station of the Cross.

During the week we focused on a couple of other things in classes (not relating specifically to the life of Christ during that week). We did get to visit Bethlehem, which is in the West Bank. For the sake of time I will refrain from discussing the West Bank much, but I will post a few pictures from my trip there so you can get an idea about the idea.

This is the separation wall that divided East and West Jerusalem. It is kind of a scary deal. While this section isn't the part in Bethlehem it is pretty much the way it is all over.

For our trip to Bethlehem I decided to sport my Pro-Palestine gear. It was a great plan. Everyone on the street would yell how much they liked my shirt. People would tell me that they like Americans, just not America. I guess I can understand that.

This is inside the Church of Nativity. The spot that I am touching is the supposed exact location of where the manger was. There is actually some pretty good evidence of it, so who knows. I was a really neat place to be though.

This picture I found interesting just because of what it is. We visited a university in Bethlehem that is for the Palestinians. It was interesting to be able to interact with them. They had a panel discussion where we could ask them all sorts of questions. We did get in a little trouble because one of the people from my group called the shootings at the Jewish school an act of terrorism, thus inferring that they were terrorists. It was rather touchy. Anyway the picture is of a hole in the wall from some Israeli rockets launched at the university. They keep this hole there as a reminder. Really the whole situation is fascinating, but like I said, I really don't want to get too much into that.

The other great thing about going to Bethlehem was that we got to spend the evening on the Judean plains where the shepherds were when the angels announced the birth. It was wonderfully cold, but spectacularly beautiful.

The rest of the week we were prepping to go Galilee. We were actually scheduled to go travel on Easter morning. We all were a little upset about that—I mean honestly, who planned it like that? We were able to negotiate a few other activities to compensate. The night before we went to evening mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and on Easter morning we got up at 4 am to go the Garden Tomb. It was an interesting contrast as one can imagine, Catholic vs. Evangelical.

I have a couple pictures from the Garden Tomb. I hope they give you an idea of what it was like.

Well, that is rather long, but somehow I still feel very bare bones to what we did that week. I hope that we can talk about it more when I get back.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gone Fishing

Everyone--I am going to be gone to Galilee (the site of so much biblical fishing) for the next ten days. I am unsure if there will be internet for me to use or not so chances are there will be no updates on my blog until I return. I know that this is severely disappointing to many of you, especially since you were all anticipating my account of Easter here. I am afraid that will have to wait. The combination of waiting for pictures to load on a slow internet connection and my lack of actual written material have hindered the publication of such a blog. I will give a better account when I return.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Indiana Jones and Last Crusade....Gross Over Generalization

We have all seen the movie a hundred times. Well, I got to experience it (more or less) first hand. Of course I realize that there are some among you who would argue that just going on the ride and Disneyland is firsthand, and in all reality, you have a very good point. This is a brief idea of what we did in Jordan though.

We began our trip by crossing the Israel/Jordan border near Jericho. This involves the crossing of the Jordan River. I never realized this until now, but the supposed site of Jesus' baptism is very near the locations of three miracles. The first was the parting of the Jordan so that the children of Israel could enter into the Holy Land. The other two are when both Elijah and Elisha parted the Jordan. It makes for an interesting parallel, especially considering that John is the forerunner of Christ.

The below site is a the remains of a couple of Byzantine Churches dating back to the 5th Century. They were built over the supposed site of baptism of Jesus. The water originally flowed directly from the Jordan (from up to down in this picture) resulting in a font that was full of running water.

This is me on the banks of the River Jordan on the Jordanian side. The river really isn't that large, in fact it often looks more like a canal. Anciently, it was a lot larger. The Israelis pull a lot of water away from the river so that they can irrigate in the desert areas.

After the Jordan River we went to Mt. Nebo, which is the mountain where Moses looked upon the promised land. I hope the picture below helps explain where everything is in relation to the summit. Luckily we didn't have to actually hike up it. We drove up and just walked a short way. I will be honest and tell you that it really didn't look all that great from up there (and bear in mind it is spring here). I suppose it was better than from where they came.

Just FYI. Jordan has the best Coke in the world and I don't even like Coke. There was something about it that just made you want to drink more and more. We each probably downed three at lunch. I really don't know why.

These are a few of the pictures from Petra. As you may or may not know, Petra is the site of the the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Also Petra was voted the second Wonder of the World in the latest polling to determine the Seven Wonders of the World. It was an amazing place. Very similar to southern Utah, but a southern Utah that has been inhabited for millenia. In the movie, you see a building cut right out of the wall. That of course is there as is another one that is very much like it. There really isn't anything inside. Of course they don't let you go all the way in--they just say there is nothing more to see down that dark tunnel in the back. Blast--I really should have checked it out, guard or no guard. There is a lot more than just that there though. This was an amphitheater that was also carved right into the cliff walls.

Many years ago the entire area was lived in and protected by beduoins. When Jordan began to really use Petra as a tourist site the government moved the beduoins from the land and built them a city. The beduoins are kind of like Native Americans in that they just kind of get moved around whenever it is convenient for the other people of the country. They do sort of still hang around in Petra though. They live in the caves which are prevalent in the area. The next picture should give you and idea of what I mean.

To get up to the monastery we decided to ride donkeys. Riding said animal resulted in countless jokes which because I wish to keep my posts family friendly will remain unwritten. I only mention it because I don't want you to think that it went unnoticed. I took a video that I am sure Luke will love, but videos take time to load so a picture will have to do. I called my donkey Tonto, I am not sure what his name really is, but I liked Tonto. He was probably the fastest of all the donkeys with a real competitive streak. Anytime another donkey came close he would race ahead so as to always be in the lead. It was only slightly frightening because we were going around steep cliffs on a very narrow path.

After Petra we went to an old Roman city known as Gerash. The spelling is different, or at least I have seen four different versions. Most of the ruins are from the first century. Part of the visit included a gladiator/chariot show. Nothing like a little blood and guts to really make you feel at home in Jordan.

The next picture is really kind of stupid. There wasn't a lot for us to do at night in Jordan. It seems that anything really worth doing was off limits. We did however go the mall--Mecca Mall. It was huge and contained a lot stores with nothing I could afford or even ever want. Reminded me of about every other mall in the States. I include this picture to merely relate to you one of my most embarrassing moments of my trip so far. We were messing around in some stores taking stupid pictures when I decided to show off my incredible basketball skills. It seems harmless enough right. Well actually the basketball hoop was attached to rather precarious shelf. Once I touched it the whole thing came crashing down. I managed to catch the shelf from completely falling but everything else was sprawled out on the floor. The store manager just happened to be walking by. I just kind of looked at him and smiled. The rest of the people pretended not to know me. I left just as soon as I could and never looked back.

Ok, that was my gross over generalization of Jordan. I hope it gave you a flavor of what my trip was like. The people there in Jordan were really quite wonderful. They really didn't try and rip me off or anything--at least not a lot. Anyone who is willing to treat me like that is a friend in my book.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Free at Last

It was a breath of fresh air (Jerusalem fresh) today as we walked out the gates of the Jerusalem Center and back into the city. This post is mainly by way of announcement. The lock down has ended, which is great because my secret stash of food has long since been depleted and I was beginning to wonder any of the new plants springing up would make for good eats. I am now content with life and have enough treats to help me survive the long hours between dinner and breakfast (I guess I should really just go to bed earlier).

The security situation in Jerusalem appears to have improved greatly. They were expecting some sort of repercussions, but none came. Generally both sides exchange blows in order be the last one to hit the other. A Palestinian shop owner presented his theory of why there were none today. He said that an attack of this nature always happens around Easter. He believes that somehow the Jews were behind the attack in order to keep the Christian pilgrims from coming here. I wanted to ask him if he thought the U.S. government was behind the attack on 9/11, but we didn't have the time. So take that for what is worth.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Secert Tunnels

For some reason I have been fairly lax about updating my blog, I am hoping to remedy this. Hopefully you will be seeing a few more updates from me in the next couple of days.

I have decided to throw chronology out the window. Instead of trying to talk about what I have been up to these past few weeks, I will write instead about last night. It was a class field trip to the Western Wall. We are still in lock down mode here, so I am really glad we were still able to go.

So I am pretty sure that most of you have seen the Western Wall before, but the section we got to see was so much cooler than you normally see in pictures. The below picture is our the outside section that pretty much everyone has seen.

We went through what is called Kotel Tunnel. After the Jews left Jerusalem, the Muslims came and took over the Temple Mount to build the Dome of the Rock. When they did, they pretty much changed the entire landscape of the area. It use to be that a market street ran next the the wall. When the Muslims came, they raised their homes and built them right up against the wall. The basements were used as cisterns to store water. I am not entirely sure why this was done, but it was.

A few years back the Israelis began secretly excavating the site. Now bear in mind that there are Palestinian homes above them. They tunneled under all the homes from one side of the Temple Mount to the next. Then one day they just popped out the other side in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem. This of course resulted in a lot of problems and bloodshed. Things are a little better now, but you still need to be escorted by Israeli soldiers from the Muslim Quarter back to the Jewish side.

The tunnel itself is amazing. There is one stone (shown below) that weighs approximately 600 tons. It is amazing that it is even there. Supposedly, even with our modern technology we cannot move a stone of that size.

There is also a really cool spot in the tunnel that is the closest point to where they believe the Holy Holies was. There is a small synagogue there. Below is a picture of that arch over that portion of the Western Wall.

So I have developed a terrible habit of touching everything here. I believe it comes from our history professor, Dr. Seely, who also has the same habit. Just the same it is great to feel like you have touched stones that people in the first century (or earlier) built, carved, or leaned against.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Security Update

I just wanted to let everyone know at once what the security situation is like here. Due to the problems in Gaza, there have been some issues here in Jerusalem. It is not as bad as you might expect. Hamas (in Gaza) is slightly different than the group that controls the West Bank, and many Palestinians here don't approve of some of the things Hamas is doing. However, there have been some strikes and a couple of days ago there was a shooting in West Jerusalem (the Jewish side--we live in East Jerusalem). I am sure that many of you have read about it in the news. We have missed a lot of the major problems because we have been in Jordan and we also spent a day down at the Red Sea--all of which I plan on posting about. Lately we have been locked down here in the Center and that isn't likely to change for the next couple of days (it is day to day though). I believe things will change for the better. It often seems we walk a razor's edge here. It seems that everyday we pray for peace in Israel. Not only for the people's sake, but also so that others can have the opportunity of coming here to study.

Anyway, I should have a couple of post up soon, but I just wanted to satisfy any curious people out there that may have been paying attention to the news.