I am sorry I have been such a terrible blogger…in my defense the internet here is very very slow here and it takes a few hours to get pictures to upload…so this is going to be a picture free blog entry, and sometimes they don't even upload.....like now!!!! ANYWAY
The past while has been amazing. We just got back from the shepherds field trip. It was so great we went to a shepherd’s field outside of Bethlehem and read scriptures that apply to the birth of the savior, and we sang Christmas Carols. It was such a great time to reflect on everything I have learned about the savior since being here. I have always known that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world and He atoned for my sins and died on a cross for me. That he grew up in a Nazareth and he taught, and preached in Galilee where the sea obeyed his words “peace be still”. I know that He is the son of God and that He was resurrected. After coming here I have learned about how people living during Christ’s time would interact with him. I learned that he was a devout Jew who kept all the laws that Jews observed during that time. I also learned about how compassionate and loving he is through his miracles. When the soldiers are going to stone the woman who has committed adultery the savior comes and tells them let him who has no fault cast the first stone and they all leave. He then stoups down to console her and tells her that her sins have been forgiven. He has so much compassion those he stoups down to her. I love the use of that word and the imagery it portrays. I know that He stoups down for each and everyone of us when we are in need of comfort. He is always there, and He will never leave us! I love the savior so much and I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to learn of him and draw near unto his words.
We went to Jordan which was incredible!!!!! We got to go to Petra…yes like in Indiana Jones. It was so cool there not only was there a treasury but if you keep on walking there is an amazing monetary and there is also and alter on top of one of the mountains that you can hike up to and the view is incredible!!! We also went to Jerash which is an ancient roman city in Jordan. The Amp theater they have there is amazing!!! And it is so well preserved. The city of Amman which is also the capital is very westernized. They have a HUGE mall. I think it was 3 stories…maybe 4, and they had pretty much all American shops kind of crazy cause I hadn’t seen a real mall in months!!!
We then came back from Jordan and had finals the next week which caused the all the center to discuss only 3 topics. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict and every date, resolution, intifada…anything involved with that. Anything in the Old Testament (which resulted in many bible jokes….that we all find hilarious, but they are really not funny at all). And any thing Jewish….I think there is a strong possibility that I may know more about Judaism and the birth of the religion (which we found out can not be pinpointed to one event of cause…like almost everything else in Judaism) than probably the majority of American Jews know. Oh also we would pass secret notes in brother skinners class in Hebrew, which in theory wouldn’t really work because he speaks Hebrew…anyway that was that!!! After finals finished up there was much rejoicing by all the students!!
Then we got to go to GALILEE!!!!!! Galilee was so amazing. We went to the Mt of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Caesarea Maritime, on a boat ride on the sea of Galilee The City of Dan (at the city of Dan we got to see the 3 arched gate that was the same gate Abraham would have passed through), I got to eat a whole fish with the head and eyes still on it…and it was delicious. We stayed at the Kibbutz Ein Gev which was right on the water probably about 100 yards from the Sea of Galilee. We also had a lot of free time to swim and enjoy swimming and scripture study. I loved being able to sit on the beach and just read my scriptures and write in my journal for hours. The experience was amazing and I think one of the highlights of my trip. I received so much insight on how the Savior lived his life, not just what He taught but also the customs of the time and how other people interacted with him. I am so grateful that we have Brother Andrew Skinner, and Brother Kent Brown as two of our professors and mentors here. I have learned so much from them. And I am so grateful for their willingness to share what they have learned after years and years of studying.
I also gave blood yesterday…..it was good, and I didn’t get sick or anything!!!! YEAH then that night we had an informal talent show. There are 8 red head girls in the program which is crazy!! So Elise decided to teach us an Irish dance and it was great….I tried to keep a very serious face the whole time but I don’t know how that worked out…haha
We also have been putting together a book of reflections that we are going to get bound when we go back to the states. It is compiled of everyones insights at different sights, or different things that you have learned or just something you realized is import while here. Here is the paper I wrote. I wrote about the influence we have as Latter Day Saints in the Holy Land, and what we need to do with this experience we have been given to give back to the community that gives so much to us.
Through my experiences while living in the Holy Land I have learned what an incredibly unique group of people we really are. We all have been told growing up that we are a peculiar people. We stand up for things that most kids our age wouldn’t think twice about. We not only stand out physically based on our dress standards, but also our way of life and mindset is different than most people in this stage of life. Being in the old city I feel like we stick out even more, not in comparison to the locals but the tourists. I find this as one of the biggest compliments we could receive while being here. I have felt the impact that we have had on the people here through slight comments in passing.
Rachel Curtis and I were walking out of the Garden Tomb as we were leaving a man selling beads standing near the exit stopped and asked us if the Mormons would like to buy a necklace. Rachel told him no thank you and then asked how he knew we were Mormon. He told us that he could see it in our faces. Another time I have been effected by the locals comments was when Karyn, Matt and I were making our way to go to the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension a man standing in the entrance to an over look of the city from the Mount of Olives asked us if we were Mormon. Matt turned his head to tell him that we were. As we then began to walk away he said God bless you. This simple statement got me thinking. People really do notice us, and they really do care about us. We bring something to the table here that is unique and different. I don’t think it’s possible to put your finger on it, but it seems to be a mix of respect of others religion and practices, while still standing up for our own, and the ability to give people time and allow them to get to know us and what we are and who we are without being able to say it.
Another interesting experience I had was while on the Kotel Tunnel Tour. Our tour guide reminded us of a very important task we have due to the nature of our stay here in the Holy Land he said “While you are discovering Jerusalem and Discovering Israel you are bringing back what you study here back to where you live in the west coast and North America. It’s so important, and most people don’t know exactly what’s happening. They know what the newspapers say and that they need to do this and that. Even my grandfather, I went to visit him in Canada a year ago he said you are Jewish you don’t know anything you need to bring the western wall and bring it over here to Montreal, pray in Canada have peace and that’s it enough fighting. But it’s so complicated…thank you grandfather.”
After listening to what he had to say I realized that we not only have a duty as Mormons, but also as Americans who have been given this opportunity to not just visit the sights for a short while, but to truly engulf ourselves in the culture and learn about this conflict from both points of view. Being able to be here and have the opportunity to learn and understand the conflict from the people it affects the most is truly remarkable. One thing that I have decided to do with the knowledge and understanding I have gained while at eh Jerusalem Center is to share it. I know before I left I got mixed opinions on what to expect and watch out for while I was preparing for my stay in the Holy Land. It was mostly full of westernized stereotypes that have been portrayed by the media, and now I realize that it only covered a very small percent of both parties involved. I fell that I have been given the opportunity to share what is really going on here in order to clear up some peoples mixed up views of the Middle East.
When I signed up for this program I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My expectation of what the program would be like was to have a great summer, learn about other religions as well as my own, and grow as an individual. I had no idea I would learn of the huge significance I have as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints while I was in Israel a place that allows me to speak nothing of my religion. While being here I have more deeply understood how closely my interactions are looked at. While we are students at the Jerusalem Center we are constantly being watched and observed by everyone in the city. Through our experiences here we can touch others lives without even knowing it.
Youth Conference in Big Bear
2 years ago