28 November 2008

Galilee is amazing.

I really don't want to post tonight because I don't have all of my pictures labeled yet, and I do not have my itinerary with me so I can't completely do it justice, but I've waited long enough and this does need to be done.

On our drive up to Galilee we made stops at Caesarea Maritina, Megiddo, and Nazareth. Caesarea is right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and is the location of the Apostle Paul's two-year imprisonment before he traveled to Rome.

Not much to say about Megiddo...it'll be the location of Armageddon. Woohoo end of the world.

Nazareth was a nice little town. Our main stop in Nazareth was the Church of the Enunciation, which is unique in its art. Countries from all over the world have contributed mosaics of the birth of Christ, or of the Virgin Mary with the Baby Jesus, and they line the walls both inside and outside the church. The contributions from the different countries were beautiful, and many of them were very much in the cultural style of their own land -- the Asian countries were obviously Asian, Spain's was obviously Spanish, etc. They were really cool.

I would have posted pictures, but the internet is being stupid. I'll move onto a new post.

17 November 2008

An Addendum to the Great Poet

My mother informed me that the post "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors" was not self-explanatory. So let me explain.

We had the opportunity to hear a lecture from an Israeli lawyer about the Separation Barrier between Israel and the West Bank. After the lecture he took us to the wall and we discussed things there as well. Throughout the experience plus the next few days, Robert Frost's "Mending Wall" was running through my head, specifically the lines quoted in the post. I have a lot of conflicting emotions in regards to the Separation Barrier that are basically summed up in the Frost quotation that I posted.

I hope that was enough clarification; if it was not, comment with questions.

How far is it to Bethlehem?

...Not very far.

We went into the West Bank last week to visit Bethlehem University as well as the Church of the Nativity. There are a whole slew of things we could discuss regarding Bethlehem in relation to the West Bank, but I'd rather discuss Bethlehem in relation to religion.

The Church of the Nativity is built above the site where the Christian world believes that Jesus Christ was born. Small tangent, often when we visit these sites I'm rather skeptical as to whether or not the events really did happen where the people say they did. Most of the things we discuss happened so long ago there really isn't any way they can say for certain if it is the correct place or not. However, the Church of the Nativity is different. It was a first century belief that this was the site of His birth, and when Constantine's mother Helena came to the Holy Land in the third century she decided that was correct and the first church was built there.

The church itself has beautiful columns and windows, and the original church had an amazing mosaic floor which is partly visible inside. However, the most interesting part of the structure, to me, is the roof. The roof is a very old wooden structure, and it has been threatening to collapse for a while now. Every tour group that goes to the church is in danger of being trapped underneath a fallen roof, however it has not yet been replaced. Why, you ask? Well, the Church of the Nativity is run by three religions: Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and Roman Catholic. The Armenian and Roman Catholic churches believe that the three each have 33% control of the church, however the Greek Orthodox argue that they have 80% and the other two have 10%. Therein lies the problem: the Greek Orthodox want to pay 80% of the roof replacement bill, but the Armenians and Roman Catholics strongly oppose this as they each are only 33% responsible. Thus, the roof goes unfixed and will remain that way until it collapses on a group of Korean tourists or the Palestinian government steps in and replaces it themselves (which would cause another set of problems as none of the religions want the government to get involved).

It seems like a ridiculous situation, but it is very common in the Holy Land. There are stories like this about practically every Christian site you can imagine.

Once you go through the church you can go down into the grotto where Jesus was born. There is a star on the floor marking his birthplace and a little alcove where the manger would have lain. How the Greek Orthodox know exactly where Jesus was born within the grotto is a mystery to me, but apparently they do. We were also able to go inside the caves where Saint Jerome translated the Vulgate Bible, the first copy to be written in Latin, which is the basis for many versions that we have today, including the King James. There is a statue of Jerome outside the church as well.

All in all, I really liked the Church of the Nativity. I am impressed with the Christian world's desire to commemorate important events on site by building magnificent churches. We have seen dozens already, and we get to see so many more this week in Galilee.

I'll be in Galilee for the next 11 days, so don't expect another post until the very end of November. However, I really will write about Galilee when we get back instead of waiting two weeks like I usually do. However, in my defense, we did have five finals and five essays, plus three field trips and I had to learn two piano pieces. It was a busy two weeks.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors...

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.

01 November 2008

Sorry, Andy, my trip beats yours

The day after our Petra adventure we went to Jerash, the best preserved Roman city in existence. Sorry, Andy, but apparently the best place to see Roman ruins is Jordan, not Italy. You'll have to come out here some time.

There really isn't a whole lot to discuss in regard to the ruins, but we really enjoyed exploring them. Here are some pictures of the specific sites:

This is where they would have chariot races. Our boys raced as well.
And here is the large theatre...
And the ampitheatre where our group danced to bagpipe music with some Jordanian girls...
And the temple...

I Saw Petra

The biggest attraction, to me anyway, from our Jordan trip was our day spent in Petra, the second wonder of the world. Seriously, how could a trip get better than this itinerary:

-Wake up (too early) and walk five minutes to Petra.
-Walk through incredible canyons and rock formations until you get to the Treasury (think Indiana Jones here guys).
-Wander through 2.5 miles of amazing caves and colors.
-Ride a donkey up 900 steps to the Monastery.
-Eat great pita and falafel for lunch.
-Wander back through incredible tombs and caves and stop at the Cathedral.
-Buy jewelery for about $2 each on the way out.
-Take pictures by the "Indiana Jones Gift Shop."
-Eat $1 ice cream that would definitely not be $1 in the United States.

Each of the experiences listed could have a post of its own, but I think the best way to tell you about Petra is to show you.

This is the sign at the entrance of the siq ("siq" means a narrow gorge or shaft). You walk down the siq for a while and then all of the sudden...Holy cow, there's the Treasury. And me, just so you know I was actually there. I took about 70 pictures in Petra, not enough room for all 70, but here are a few really cool ones to give you a little idea of what it was like. The Bedouins in this area of Jordan lived in the caves of Petra up until 1985.

Indie Rock

Thursday evening we returned from our four day adventure in the Hassemite Kingdom of Jordan. It was quite incredible, as are all our trips, and I was surprised by how much more I liked it than Egypt. It was cleaner, more Westernized, and the people were not as aggressive while bartering, thank goodness. I'm getting a little tired of bartering for things. Although I did get three necklaces for a total of $7.

One of our first stops of the trip was Mount Nebo, where Moses looked out onto the Promised Land that he would not enter. There is a monument there of the snake on a pole, in representation of the time when the Israelites were bitten by firey serpents and the Lord told Moses to put a serpent on a pole and if the Israelites would look at it they would live. The view from Mount Nebo is quite fantastic; on a clear day you can see the Dead Sea to the south, the Jordan River running towards it from the north, and past the Jordan into Israel.

After Mount Nebo we went to Madaba, where we visited a church with beautiful mosaics (apparently Jordan is known for its mosaics) and had lunch. The church was beautiful; the mosaic found on the floor of the church is a detailed map of the Holy Land.

Most of that first day, however enjoyable those two stops were, was spent on a bus. We crossed the border at the Allenby Bridge which is only 45 minutes from Jerusalem, but once we reached Jordan we started driving south so as to get to Petra by 7:00 or so in the evening. That was a lot of driving, and I realized as I was sitting rather uncomfortably on the bus that I have been listening to quite a bit of music while in the Middle East that probably isn't listened to by most of the people here. So, I just wanted to give a small shout out to the awesomeness of the fact that in three Middle Eastern countries now -- Israel, Egypt, and Jordan -- I have listened extensively to Switchfoot, Snow Patrol, Jimmy Eat World, and Belle and Sebastian. However, the coolest I think is that since I'm using Megan's ipod on our trips I've been listening to her music, which includes the Tualatin-based band formerly known as Stu's Shoes. I highly doubt they ever thought their music would travel to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. I quite liked the idea of rocking out to Stu's Shoes on the four-hour bus ride to Petra where the next day we would make several Indiana Jones references and our director would wear his sweet hat.