This morning a group of us went on a sweet last adventure in the City. We did Tomb of the Kings first, we played sardines in there which was a blast! We then went to the Western Wall for the last time, had lunch in the Jewish Quarter, then bought Falafel near Damascus Gate. We then went and did some slack lining on the seam of the city near New Gate. It was a good time, as usual. It was weird walking around in a place that seems to have become home knowing that this is the last time here. We went back home and packed and said our goodbyes. It was sad and there were tons of tears, I didn't cry. I guess I'm just used to saying bye to those who I love. This experience has taught me so much about who I am, who I want to be, and it has given me a knowledge and cultured sense for this land that I will never forget. I will hold this experience close to my heart.
I have been to the Western Wall a dozen times by this point, but this experience was one of my favorites. It was Friday night which meant it was crowded with Jews welcoming in the Sabbath Day. The last time we came here to do this I was too shy to sing, dance, and clap with the younger Jews. This time I wasn't as shy. I jumped right into the circle of Jews singing and clapping while they circled a table in a march/dance. They accepted me right in and I was clapping and singing, it was an easy melody to pick up and they were just saying "Lye Lye Lye Lye". As I was doing this I noticed something hitting me in the chest as we were circling and jumping up and down. I looked down to see an M-16 Machine Gun hitting me in the chest. The Jew in front of me was in the Israeli Defense Forces. I kept singing and clapping as I thought to myself, "Only in Jerusalem!" I found the whole thing very amusing.
Due to the cold weather and rain, we did not do our field trip today. We went into our classroom and Brother Schade spoke a little bit, but then gave the time to the students who had prepared a devotional for the different sites today. The spirit was really strong. I left the classroom and saw Michael Stallings, he said we need to talk. We went into my room and he asked for a blessing. I will forego details but it ended up being a very spiritual experience for both of us. I then went out into the city with Rachel Hughes and Quinn. We did the Via Dolorosa. It was pretty sweet, there was a spot that is not normally open that had the supposed prison cell of Jesus and Barabbas. We then back to the center, it was rainy and freezing. We missed the last testimony meeting at the Garden Tomb because we thought that it would have been cancelled due to the rain. The highlight of the day was giving that blessing to Michael Stallings, it was heavy!
This morning we woke up early to get to the other side of the separation wall over in Bethany. We visited the site of Lazarus's tomb. There was a shop owner right there trying to sell us old slings, he grabbed a good size rock and just hurled way out into what looked like it would be a neighborhood, but we couldn't see so I assumed it was an empty field. We went into the tomb, then into the church nearby. After looking at the beautiful artwork in the church we went into the garden and listened to different class members give devotionals of the saviors life. This was the first site where Christ was anointed by Mary, Lazarus's sister. We then went to a church that commemorated the site of Jesus mounting the Colt on the mount of Olives before his triumphal entry into the city. We went around behind the church to get a view of Bethany and to see how close it was to the site, but because of the separation wall, it was a half hour drive. It was probably a 15 minute walk. We also checked out some first century tombs back there. It was beautiful back behind that church, the grass was vibrantly green and the sun was coming through the trees. Our next stop was the Church of Pater Noster which had the lords prayer up on the walls in 140 different languages. I looked for Hawaiian Pigdin but they didn't have it. We had a devotional there then walked to the church called Dominus Flevit. This commemorates Jesus weeping over the City of Jerusalem, there is a sweet view of the city from this church. We then walked down and had lunch at the Orson Hyde garden. We then drove up to the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. This is a Catholic church commemorating the site of Peter's denial but also where Christ would have been held and where it was believed Annas lived. I gave the devotional here standing in front of a statue of Peter and the three people asking him about his association to Jesus. I read lyrics from a Thrice song called "like moth to flame" I got emotional while giving this devotional, because it means a lot to me. I spoke of how we all deny Christ, but he still forgives us and lets us back into his trust and care. The thrice lyrics at the end of the song are among my favorite:
I've never been this cold, the fire's gravity compels,
like planets cling to sol, I feel my orbit start to fail,
like moth to flame I come, too close and all my oaths are burned,
as stars begin to run, all my accusers take their turn,
and calling curses down, from my lips lies like poison spill,
and then that awful sound, the sound of prophesy fulfilled,
and then I met your eyes, and I remember everything,
and something in me dies, the night that I betrayed my King.
After this, we walked up to the site of the Upper Room next to Dormition Abbey, there were Pentecostals there doing their thing so we didn't get to have our devotional there, but we did have one outside before going up so it was fine, mainly we wanted to sing hymns there but it was chaotic in there.We then ended the day at Dormition Abbey singing songs in the chapel and down below at the site of the burial of the Mother Mary. This was some awesome singing. We sang Christmas hymns.
This morning I had no idea what I was going to do with my free time, I wanted to go out to the city but I had no plans set. At breakfast a group said I should go with them to the Knesset and the shuk. I agreed to come, then they said, we're leaving in 5 minutes, I had just sat down with my breakfast. So I shoveled down my breakfast, ran downstairs and got my stuff, then ran up the stairs. We didn't all fit in the sherut van so Ashraf our sherut driver called his dad who was a taxi driver. He gave us a really cheap ride to the Knesset. Ashraf's dad was a really nice man. We got to the Knesset and had to rush to make our tour appointment. They asked for our passports and we went through security, they took one picture with each of our cameras to make sure they were legitimate. We then met the other students for the tour. It was interesting learning about the Israeli political arena. We watched a movie on the history of the Knesset, a lot of the things said by the political leaders since 1948 were pretty radical Zionistic ideas...which was chilling. After our tour we walked over to the Shuk, which is a huge outdoor market in West Jerusalem. We walked around, I got a dradle, and we then got some Hanukkah donuts. We then walked to the old city and walked through the city to the Western Wall, I bought a menorah on the way. The Western Wall was pretty cool today, they have a huge menorah right by the wall. We got in line to see the Dome of the Rock. Last time I went to the Dome it was pouring rain, it was nice and sunny this time. We waited for the girls to take their hundred pictures by the dome, jumping pictures and all. Then we went up on the rooftops in the Jewish quarter. We ran into a bunch of Israeli soldiers and the girls took pictures with them. After the girls got falafel and then we went to slack line up by the mayors office on the seam of the city. I didn't do it today, just watched. Rachel Barker and Sophie walked home with me, we stopped by Omar's wood shop . We did some serious speed walking after in order to get back before the sun set, we had time but the girls were paranoid. It was a beautiful sunset.
Our Tour guide and the Israeli Declaration of Independence
Me and Sophie, the seats are set up to look like the Menorah
Today was an awesome field trip. We started at Masada, one of Herod's fortresses. This is located at the southwestern part of the Dead Sea up on the cliffs. There is a part of the cliff that sits like an Island away from the cliff face where Herod built a fortress and palace. This place was awesome, we took the cable cars up then we had a self guided tour of the place. It is massive! The view was awesome, overlooking the great rift valley and the Dead Sea. There was a picture of Michael Jackson on our self guided tour packet where he took a picture when he visited here, naturally I hunted it down and found the place. A few students ran down the snake path while we all went down the cable cars, it was a long hike and they ran down the whole time, they were super sweaty after that. We then went to the Dead Sea and swam/floated in the water. I was giggling like a little school boy. It was so weird to float so much. The Dead Sea is 1400 feet below sea level and contains around 33% salinity where the ocean is about 3.5%. It was absolutely incredible how salty it was. I got some water in my eyes and I was out for 5 minutes. I was paddling around on my stomach as if I had a surfboard underneath me. It was crazy. We then went to Ein Gedi, a site where two wadis deliver spring water that travels from the Judean hills down the great rift valley. There were a bunch of waterfalls which were very refreshing compared to the Dead Sea. This place was awesome, I lost my LA Kings hat here though which is very unfortunate. I was really impressed with the refreshing waterfalls here in the great rift valley, such a dry and desolate place, then all the sudden a sweet set of waterfalls. After En Gedi we went to Qumran, the site of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and the civilization of the Essenes. I love the Dead Sea Scrolls, I am very interested in them and the things we learn from them. The Essenes were kind of elitist Jews who believed that the Sadducees had corrupted Temple worship and that they were the righteous Jews. They had their own community, rules, practices, and policies. We only got to see Cave 4, there are 11 or so caves. We did get to see the ruins of their settlement.
Today Quinn, Michael Barlow, and I cruised all over east Jerusalem, it was super nice because we were just cruising at our own pace without an agenda to keep, just exploring. We started by going to the Separation wall (our only destination for the day). The whole time we were walking we were talking with Michael Barlow about things he was struggling with. On the way to the wall we stopped by a house that was Israeli built then destroyed by Palestinians, super heavy. We got to the wall and took pictures and talked about it with each other. We then followed the wall back up the hill, as we did we bumped into a little pack of Palestinian kids. I thought they were going to a little soccer field we had just past, so I asked if they were playing soccer. They said no, but they said we can play. So we went to a small cement court in front of their apartment building. It had spray painted goals with the word "Goooool" painted inside the goal. We played soccer with them for about half an hour. It was a lot of fun. One of the kids, Carlos, knew enough English to communicate with us. After a short game, we said goodbye to our little friends and kept walking up the hill back to the west side of the mount of Olives. We walked over to the Tomb of the Prophets which was the burial site of the Old Testament prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.The guy there was super nice, he gave us candles to use as we walked around of the old tombs. We then walked down the hill to the Church called Dominus Flevit, which means the Lord Wept. There was a great view from this church of the temple mount and the old city. We then walked down to the Church of all Nations which is where the Garden of Gethsemane is. After a short time spent there we walked through the olive trees in the Kidron Valley which had turned green from the recent rain.
Israeli home illegally built and rightfully destroyed by Palestinians
East Jerusalem (east side of the Mount of Olives)
Israeli Separation Wall Patrol Car
Some powerful Graffiti
Muhammad, Carlos, Ahmed, Muhammad, Barak, and I
The Wall snakes across the hills
Means "The Lord Wept"
View looking out of the Chapel window
This was put up the day after the UN recognized Palestine