Friday, May 6, 2011

Chillin' with the Israeli Soldiers

Okay so here is the sparknote version of the past week!

The first fieldtrip we went on was to get use to the geography os the land.  It's interesting because Israel is actually really small.  The area of the country is about the size of New Jersey.  And from North to South it is like driving from Logan, Utah to Nephi down south.  This is a land of hills and valleys, and so we took a bus to many different look out sites.  The first stop was to the ancient site of Saul's Palace where David played the harp etc.  There is an unfinished building on the mount than King Hussain who ruled over Jordan started the building of a home, but it has been left unfinished.  
Chadwick=the smartest guy ever when it comes to Biblical geography

My Old Testament Class

Ashlyn and I 

Standing in the abandoned building

A stone that was part of Saul's palace

Another place we went to was Augusta Victoria chapel.  It is just east of the Jerusalem center and is one of the prettiest buildings I have ever been in.  It is a church that was built in honor of Kaiser Wilhelm II's wife, for Protestants.  We were able to climb the 200+ stairs up the bell tower for another beautiful overlook.  As a class, we also were able to sing hymns in the chapel which was an amazing experience because the acoustics of the building made it so the words would echo all around us.  Even though we are not able to talk about the gospel with people in this country, being able to share the words of the hymns with them I think is away to share our testimonies.  

Depiction of Jerusalem that was on the ceiling

The decorations were influenced by the Muslims

This is my Old Testament teacher pointing out the gyro symbol

View from the Bell Tower
So the past two days have been very school related.  Also known as 4-6  hours of classes a day and hours of reading about the history of this area.  I never knew that I could understand the history of this area but it's actually really interesting.  We have a Jewish instructor and an Arabic instructor, and it's interesting to see their two different views on the history and current happenings of the land.  I'm also in a Hebrew class which I love!  Our instructor said by the end of this semester we will be able to read all of the 10 Commandments in Hebrew....I'm not so sure about that, but we'll see.

The tradition here is that most people gain at least ten pounds.  One would think with the none stop walking we do to the Old City and back that that would not be the case.  But here is the problem....Pitas are the best things ever!  The "Oasis" is the cafeteria here in the Jerusalem center where we eat all our meals.  The chefs rock at making authentic meals for us.  Basically it is a feast every single meal.  Some of my favorite foods are:  falafel (chickpeas crushed with seasonings rolled into balls), cucumber/tomato/cheese mix, every variation of potatoes known to mankind, and hummus!  

The other day, a group of us walked the "Ramparts" which consists of walking on top of the ancient wall of the Old City.  It was an amazing experience, because I was able to see the residenctial areas of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem has many different areas like the Jewish sector, Armenian sector, Christian sector etc.  Here are some pics from that walk!

Cats are everywhere

The BYU-Jerusalem Center

Some of my newly made friends!

The red poppy which is what is refereed to in the scriptures in the verse, "See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do  not labor or spin."

          Today was probably the craziest day so far.  As a class we went to the Western Wall.  A little background on this site is that this wall was part of the surrounding wall to Herod's temple.  However, Herod's temple was destroyed, so the Jews see this remnant of wall as a really holy site.  So to start the Sabbath which here is on Saturday, every Friday night Jews congregate to this wall to pray.  I was able to go to the wall, which was interesting.  You first have to pass security, and then the women and men are divided.  Most of the people there were actually teenagers it seemed like.  I always think of teenagers hanging out at the mall on a friday night, but I think this is a better option!  I was able to touch the wall, after getting through the crowd.  At the wall many people write scriptures on little pieces of paper and tuck it into the wall for luck.  Obeying Jewish customs after touching the wall, I walked away backwards, because they believe that you never turn your back on something holy.  From then on it was a party!  Some of the girls in my group joined these Jewish girls in dancing.  I'm pretty sure we all looked kind of awkward as we joined them in a dance while they chanted a song in Hebrew.  To give you an image of this, think of that dance where they go in a circle holding hands in "The Fiddler on the Roof." 
           It was touching to see how accepting the worshipers were to all the visitors aka. me that were there.  After leaving the "strictly women side" we joined a group of Israeli soldiers.  These soldiers look intimidating thanks to the machine guns they carry everywhere, but once you get past that aspect they are really nice to talk to.  They invited us to play a game with them.  Most of you know this game.  It's the one where you stand in a circle and one person goes around while everyone sings "ride ride ride that pony" except they were saying it in Hebrew.  Then the person in the middle picks one person and dances in front of them, then back, then side.  K, I hope you guys know what I'm trying to explain! haha.  So we all clapped as the soldiers started.  But after a few times girls from my group were getting chosen to dance in the middle.  And eventually I am proud to say that I was able to dance in the middle of the circle of Israeli soldiers/BYU students.  
I'm really coming to love the people here.  Yes, there are differences, but there are definitely more similarites.  I am growing to have the upmost respect for the cultures/beliefs here.  Jerusalem means "city of peace" and it is so true.  Before coming here I thought this area as a place of anger, contention, and hate.  Even though there is contention, there is so much respect for cultures and the many types of people that reside here.  Jerusalem has a very inviting spirit, and I'm so blessed to have 4 months to learn as much about it as I can!

1 comment:

  1. Jenessa...thanks for the great update. The pictures and descriptions were amazing. It sounds like a totally different world and culture. Love you! mom