Saturday, April 6, 2013

From Bethlehem to the Garden Tomb

Hello from Galilee! 

It's a nice warm cricket chirping sabbath night here! I just got back to my little hotel room that sits on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I spent some time quietly playing the guitar to myself and then I decided it was high time to get caught up on what I've been up to for the past few weeks. 
Life is beautiful.

The day after we got back from Turkey we went on a field trip to Bethlehem. It was really cool to actually be there and think about that quiet night so long ago when the Savior came into the world. Throughout the day I pictured the thoughts going through people's heads as they heard of his birth. I tried to imagine it as a reality rather than a story. I wondered what he was like as a child running through the streets with his friends. I wondered about Mary and Joseph and how much faith they must have had. I wondered how He came to realize who he was. Did he always know? I wondered if I would have accepted Him-- an ordinary man at first glance, as the Savior of the world. The reality of how much faith that would have taken has never hit me as hard as it has in the past few weeks. I wondered about my own life. How often do I witness tender mercies and modern day miracles, yet I fail to recognize them, or quickly move on without acknowledging the hand of the Lord. It is easy to point out the lack of faith in the people from the New Testament, but what about my own faith? 
It was a day of pondering.   
Real quick. Before we went to Bethlehem, we stopped at the Herodian, one of Herod's palaces. 
This is me standing in the cave like basement of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This is the exact place where they believe the manger was. Throughout the day we went to many different sites that claimed the same thing... hmmm. Anyway...
Visiting yet another Shepherd's Field :) 

My favorite part of this field trip was visiting the Mormon's shepherd's fields. We had a short devotional there and then a testimony meeting with our class. After that, our teacher gave us free time to read and ponder on our own (The first time they've done that so far.) I ventured to a flat rock and read the scriptures and pondered. It was wonderful and peaceful.
So peaceful, in fact, that I had to take a nap. But really? How many people can say they've taken a nap in the middle of Shepherd's Field? Not many I'd say.
A few days later we had a free day, so we all drove for four hours to visit Eilat. We spent the day laying out on the beach soaking in the (very powerful) sun, snorkeling (which I learned I am incapable of doing), and shopping. It was good to have a day to relax with no pressure of going into the city to see or do something. All I had to do was lay there. And relax. Awhhhh.
Me overlooking the Red Sea. I never wanted to be a girl that did this pose.... however, against my will I have mastered the stance. Shoot. 
Here we are chilling on the beach after snorkeling almost drowning while attempting to snorkel. I struggled. It was still a really great day. Really great. 
The following Sunday was Palm Sunday. I spent the morning mostly experiencing the Jewish Quarter for the first time. It is quite possibly my favorite place in the Old City. We also walked around the Christian Quarter a bit and then headed towards the crowds surrounding the Pools of Bethesda for the
Palm Sunday Celebration.
Christian Quarter 
 This man was sewing away right in the middle of the narrow streets of the Old city. I love this place!  
The Dream Team 
We stopped on the way to buy some fresh strawberries. Yum! 
And then we stopped again to buy a freshly made crepe with nutella. I'm so blessed to have found friends here who also hold food as their number one priority... 
Kidding. Kind of. 
I bought a palm branch from a little girl on the side of the road for 5 sheks. Turned out to be the pokiest most painful weapon ever. After doing some damage to myself and others, I had to ditch it on the side of the road. I saved a little leaf for sentimental reasons. 
Whoops! Why do cameras even have a fish eye effect? 
It was really cool to be a part of this mass of people from all around the world. Wouldn't you know it, out of all those people, I happened to randomly stand by an LDS couple from Jerome, Idaho. After talking to them for a while and introducing myself, I learned that they know my family and "hear about the Hazard's often." Weird.  
Later on in the week was the Primary Easter Program at the Garden Tomb. It was very short and sweet. And so cool to actually be there as they sang songs and learned about the Savior's resurrection. 
 Three out of the four kids in our class were there. This picture isn't the best of me, but they are cute kids. And Lindee and Suzana are cute. 
Lydia and Jacob showing their true colors. 
We went on a field trip to the Jewish Quarter and walked around and looked at stuff. 
Me and Lindee in front of one of the walls of the Temple Mount I think. I love this girl so much!
My favorite part of this day was standing on the "Steps of the Temple" from the bible pictures. We talked about how this is one of the few places we can say for sure "Christ taught here." That was cool to think about. It was fun to sit on them and enjoy the beautiful view.
 Because it was Holy Week (commemorating the last week of the Savior's life) there were all sorts of events to attend. On Friday some of our due dates were postponed so we could have time to go out and do the Via Delarosa walk. This is the walk that the Savior made as he carried the cross through the old city of Jerusalem before he was crucified. 
There are 13 different stopping points that commemorate different parts of his journey. The ones that struck me the most were the point where Christ fell for the first time with the cross on his back, and the first time Mary saw him through the crowd. How hard it must have been for those who knew and loved Jesus for who he truly was to have to stand back and watch him suffer like that! 
We ended up in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is where many believe Christ was killed and laid in the tomb. It was a day of a lot of walking.
A few days later we went on a field trip to the dividing wall between Palestine and Israel. It was eye opening and made me realize how many rights we take for granted in America. We can travel where and when we want to. We can worship who and how we want to. Those are things that local people have told us to recognize as a blessing.
 From this viewpoint we could see the dividing wall stretched across the land. We are so blessed! 
Finally. My favorite day: Easter!

We got permission to leave the center before sunrise so we could make it to the garden tomb for the 7:00 service. Due to some confusion and misunderstandings, two other girls and I missed the departure time. After running up and down 8 flights of stairs three different times (at 6:30 a.m) trying to get out, we were told by the security guard that we would not be able to go. When Tori came out and told me the bad news, I ran up the stairs (yet again) and talked to the security guard about calling a taxi or something... anything so we could go. After talking to him for a while he called another security guard who personally picked us up and took us to the garden tomb. After experiencing an hour of high stress and being scolded by a security guard (he was very nice, but understandable upset,) it was nice to finally be there! I didn't know I wanted to go so bad until I was told I couldn't. I'm so glad we worked it out because the service was incredible. To be honest, I went in not expecting much. I didn't think I would feel much while I was there... but wow. I was wrong. 
It was simply amazing to see the hundreds and hundreds of people from all over the world gathered there to celebrate the resurrection of the Savior. The music was fantastic and brought such a spirit of love and unity to the service. People were praising jesus and dancing. One guy was air guitaring right there in the middle of the crowd, but not to draw attention to himself. I think that was just his way of showing his enthusiasm for the life and resurrection of the Savior. Everyone has their own way :) I loved seeing all the different cultures and all the different ways to celebrate and worship the Lord. The spirit was completely incredible. I have videos but the internet is too slow to load them. Just know that this was the best part of my week and something I will always remember. 
 After the service.
We spent the rest of the morning in the Old City. We were hoping to go to the Dome of the Rock (since I still haven't been there) but there were so many tourists from Holy Week that we had to postpone it again! Next week. Instead we searched for a pastry breakfast and found the perfect place to sit and enjoy the morning sun. The morning in the Old City is my favorite thing. It's quiet and bright and has a whole different feel to it. We were lucky enough to catch a sort of parade coming from the Church of the Holy Sephulchre. I enjoyed watching the bagpipers and little marching bands as I sat on a bench and enjoyed my delicious cinnamon roll.   
 I have come to really love walking around the Old City just for the sake of walking around and observing the different culture. I've started talking to people more and it's really fun! The above picture was taken at about 9:30 in the morning. A group of young teenage boys out smoking their huka pipes. It's truly a different world here.  
 The open markets. Love them. "Ashara Ashara!" (ten ten!) 
 As I was walking back to the center to get started on a paper, I passed a group going to play the carillon bells. I couldn't pass it up. So I turned around and headed to the YMCA Tower to play easter hymns and other songs for the millions of people in Jerusalem. It was cool, but loud!! I had to plug my ears a lot :) Me and another girl played Ode to Joy and didn't mess up once. I want to go one more time before the semester ends and play Somewhere Over the Rainbow. 
 This is the best picture I have on my ipod camera. 

It has been a great few weeks.
 Experiences are getting richer and richer, friendships closer and closer, and memories better and better. 

Check back very soon for a post about my time in Galilee so far. It's beautiful!

Love you all.
So much.  

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