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.

25 October 2008

Day in Jerusalem

Too many things have happened since I last posted to discuss them all in detail, so I'll give a few highlights from an enjoyable day in the city last week.

This is, if I do say so myself, a rather good picture of the Dormition Abbey. I'm not sure what the original use of the Abbey was, I'm sure there were nuns at some point, however now it is mainly a chapel for worship of whatever Christian denomination owns it, and it also is built over the burial place of the Virgin Mary. Apparently every time the Christians in whatever century it was that they arrived here (Crusade times) found a site they thought was holy they built a church on it. This is no exception, and we were able to go down to the bottom and see what they consider the resting place of Mary. It was unclear as to whether or not photographs were allowed, the guy downstairs did not speak much English, so I waited until he wasn't paying attention to take this picture:
Speaking of Mary, we also got to see the little hole in the wall that is her birthplace. Anyway, also near the Dormition Abbey is the sight of the Last Supper, King David's tomb, and a small Holocaust Museum.

...I would load pictures but my internet is doing weird things, and I need to go to bed so I can get up and study before my Hebrew midterm in the morning. So sorry about the lack of information, however we are going to Jordan Monday through Thursday and I promise to talk about it when we get back. Woohoo Indiana Jones!

13 October 2008

Where is my stick?

We went on my favorite field trip thus far yesterday. Neot Kedumim, Ancient Pastures, a place where we learned about daily life in biblical times.

The idea behind the creation of Neot Kedumim was that people will not understand the Bible if they do not understand the landscape. So, we spent the entire day going around Neot Kedumim and discussing phrases and words commonly found in the Bible (ie. shepherds, still waters, land of milk and honey, the cedar and the hyssop, and bad fruit) and how when we understand what they meant in the context of either herding or farming we can understand the analogies of the Bible so much better.

Our first activity was the art of sheep herding. It definitely takes skill, as well as good leadership. (I was quite tempted to type "leadersheep" but refrained, although I suppose by telling you my terrible pun not using it was moot. Oh well.) Here are some of our group herding sheep. There are some techniques to sheep herding: create boundaries, stay behind the sheep, be calm but aggressive, and make sure to communicate with the lead goat. In this picture they seem to be doing quite well, although all of the groups had some problems. We were supposed to lead them from one circle to another and make them stand in the circles for 30 seconds. The record was to complete the task in 3 minutes, which our guide said was excellent time. I must say, for first time sheep herders I think we did a pretty good job.
So we always have to have an application to our lessons, right? Leadership applications seem fairly obvious: create boundaries (if you let them run amok you aren't leading), stay behind the sheep (lead from the back, give them direction and guidance but let allow them to move forward on their own), be calm but aggressive (don't scare them and have confidence), and pay attention to the lead goat (many leaders have strong people within the group who help them to lead).

Our next big adventure was making an oregano-like spice out of hyssop, salt, sumac, and sesame seeds. First, of course, we discussed what hyssop is. In the Bible it seems to always be paired with cedar trees, "He spoke about the trees, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the rock" (1 Kings 5:13) and we learned why that is. The cedar tree is a symbol of pride, cedars are very high maintenance trees that need lots of water, good soil, lots of care, and really aren't good for anything except shade. Hyssop, on the other hand, is the symbol of humility. It grows on the ground and is quite ugly. It is also used as a spice (like we made) as well as in medicines; whenever someone was cured of leprosy in Bible times hyssop was part of the cure (see Leviticus 14:2-4). This is me, of course, pounding our hyssop spice with a mortar and pestal. Who knew they used those in Israel as well as the Americas?

The whole field trip was really low-key, and I enjoyed the active parts of it. I always like our field trips to see places, but this time it was nice to be able to participate. On Wednesday we will be going to Yad Vashem. I suspect it may be my favorite and hardest field trip of the semester. We'll see.

Never Again

While the Jerusalem Center was being built, James E. Faust (part of the leadership of the Church who was very invested in the creation of the Center) requested that it not only be a place of learning on the inside but on the outside as well. Because of this, they placed three different olive presses on the grounds, as well as hundreds of olive trees. We were fortunate enough to pick the olives last week, and this afternoon we were able to crush the olives that we had picked to make olive oil.

The trees are beautiful. This particular tree is 500 years old and from the Galilee. It was transplanted at the Center in 1987 and as it was dying at the time, the landscaper (who still works for the Center) grafted other branches into the tree to heal it, and it worked. Brother Huntington told us this story and rather forcefully added that it was his favorite tree and we'd better not harm it or fall out of it while picking the olives. Yes, sir. Picking was quite enjoyable even while making sure not to harm the trees, it took 81 students plus four teachers and their wives and the five kids also here about two or three hours each day we picked (we only picked olives for two days) and I'm sure we still did not get them all off the trees. We got a little sticky, and there was a lot of tree climbing involved, but it was super fun. Some of the trees are huge; I sat on the shoulders of a guy in our group who is probably 6'2'' or 6'3'' and I still couldn't reach the top of the tree on which we were working. Of course, if I were taller it may have worked better.

We learned today from one of our professors that there are five steps to olive oil making: 1) Gather olives. Check. 2) Separate the olives for pickling and for oil. In biblical times each family would have had an olive press and there would have been at least one member of each family who was an expert olive separator. We did not separate the olives. 3) Crack or break the skin so the oil can come out.

The cracking is done in this machine. It took five people to push it around, and it took probably 15-20 minutes to get the olives cracked enough to move onto step four. It was fun to move the wheel around, and it was really interesting to watch it rotate; it doesn't roll like you would imagine it too, but rather it sort of scoots along in an awkward non-circular shape that is probably not describable. We had someone going around behind with a shovel scraping the olives down into the middle so that they would get crushed, a lot like the idea of scraping the sides of a mixing bowl when you're making a batter of some sort. And, as I'm sure you can see, it was quite messy.

So once the cracking is complete, the next step is 4) Crush the pulp, which has been gathered in baskets. This part was even more messy than the cracking, we picked up all the olive pulp with our hands to put them into the baskets (which were also disgusting because they had been full of olive pulp previously). Unfortunately, the olive juice appears to stain as well, so some people will now have clothing with Jerusalem stories permanently dyed into them. So it goes.

There were two different olive presses that we used once all of the pulp was into the baskets. They do the same thing, put so much pressure onto the olives that they squeeze out the olive oil, they just have different methods to the same end result. As you can see, we put the baskets of pulp underneath the large corkscrew-like log (I'm sure it has a name, I just don't know what that might be) and then we would rotate it so that it becomes compressed and the olives release their oil. While Brother Skinner was telling us about the olive oil process prior to going out and experiencing it ourselves, he told us that on good harvest years the oil will for a few seconds turn red as it is first coming out of the pressed olives. It only happens with the very first olives and only for a small amount of time, and then the oil will turn back to it's golden color, but he said he has seen it. I was not in the first group to crush olives today, so I do not know if this occurred with our olives this year.

Step is to 5) Let the oil settle. There is water in the holes that catch all the oil and they told us that by tomorrow morning the oil and the water will have separated (we all know that oil and water go through this phenomenon I hope) and they will be able to take the oil off the top. Anciently, people used the olive oil for cooking, cleaning, lighting, heating, and healing, as well as many other uses. We too use oil that frequently, but it is no longer limited to olive oil.

Field Trips are so much cooler than they were in 4th grade

I apologize for my lack of postage the past ten days, and the only excuse I have is three field trips, three midterms, and several Jewish holidays right in a row. However, I hope to redeem myself in the next two hours before dinner.

As I mentioned, we went on a few field trips the past week and a half, and I would like to discuss portions of them. Last Monday and Tuesday we had an all day field trip and then a half day field trip, so we were busy. We visited several Old Testament sites and were able to discuss events on location, which is always cool. We saw where Sampson grew up, Lachish (the second most important city in Judea, and the one that was always conquered second to last when first the Israelites, then the Syrians, and then the Babylonians -- Jerusalem being the most important, of course), and the Valley of Elah where David slew Goliath.Oh look, there's the valley.

The hill to the left of the photo with all the trees is where the camp of Israel would have been, and the hill behind it that is partially obscured would have been where the Philistines and Goliath camped. Visualize them shouting threats at each other across the valley, and Goliath coming down for 40 days and none of the Israelites were brave enough to face his challenge. Being a class excited about participation as well as intellectual discussion, we also went down into the valley and got to sling (sling? Is that the correct verb? TO SLING: sling, slung, have slung. Interesting.) stones into a farmer's field. Poor farmer.

It's really hard to do. Well, not entirely true, slinging stones was very difficult for me to do. Some people were really good at it; some were worse than me and we tried to stay as far away from those individuals as possible so as not to get nailed in the head by a baseball-sized rock. I no longer doubt the validity of the account in 1 Samuel, Goliath could certainly have been killed by a stone to the head if the slinger were strong and accurate enough, and if he had a decent sized stone. Thank goodness I will never be battling the Philistines or 9 foot tall giants.

The next day we crossed the border into the West Bank and went to Jericho. Crossing the border is interesting, Brother Huntington (our director) said that sometimes they stop us and ask for passports and sometimes they don't. They didn't, the soldier (who looked younger than me, and I have been mistaken for 17) just talked to the bus driver for at most 30 seconds and we went through. However, any of the Israeli members of the staff at the center are not allowed to go across the border, which means they cannot come on any field trips to the West Bank.

Jericho was cool on multiple levels. The Old Testament one, of course, is in regards to Joshua. Quick refresher for those of us who aren't up to speed on our Bible stories, after the Israelites wander in the wilderness for 40 years and Moses dies, the Lord tells Joshua (new prophet) that they can enter the promised land. To do this, they must conquer the city of Jericho, but the Lord wants to do it His way which was to have the priests walk around the city once every day for six days, and on the seventh day they walked around seven times. At the conclusion of the march, they were supposed to blow the shofars (rams horn) and the walls fell down. They killed every living thing inside the city except Rahab and her family because she protected Joshua's spies when they came into the land.

Would you like to see the wall that came crashing down? Oh here, I think I have a photo of it. I'm standing in front of the wall, and the break that you see would have been where the gate was. If I remember correctly, this would have been part of the inner gate (they had an inner and outer wall as it offers more protection, although I suppose if God wants the walls to come down it doesn't really matter how many of them you have). Oh, and since I suspect the question might come up, I have not been listening to Megan's ipod (thanks Megan!) at all of these cool sites. The reason for the earphones is that our teacher always has a microphone on to talk to us so that if we're spread out at whatever site it might be we can still hear the information regarding the location and we don't have to try and crowd 40+ people in a very small space. It's a nice use of technology.

The other super interesting thing about the Old Testament Jericho (there is also a New Testament Jericho site, as well as Jericho where people currently live) is that it looks out onto a refugee camp. Coincidentally, it is the same refugee camp where our director, Brother Huntington, went to study during his PhD work; he spent several years with a few other students studying the refugee situation after the Israeli War of Independence, and one of the camps he went to was visible from Jericho. Some refugee facts for you:
  • There are 5.5 million Palestinian refugees in the world and only 4 million Palestinians living in Palestine (West Bank and Gaza).
  • Although settlement between Israel and Palestine has been discussed, part of the problem is that the Palestinians want either the option for the refugees to move back to their land or complete compensation. Can you imagine a country the size of Israel -- or any country for that matter -- compensating 5.5 million refugees?
  • Many of the refugees have the option to move out of the refugee camps but refuse because they have more international mobility as refugees, and if they no longer have refugee status then the refugees have a smaller voice because the numbers will go down.
  • Refugees receive an excellent education. That's one thing the U.N. does well, they come into the refugee camps and set up schools for kindergarten through ninth grade, and they are very good schools. We could see the school clearly from our view at Jericho. It is the building with the blue U.N. flags flying.

03 October 2008

JC Prank

I have ten minutes until class and thought I would share an amusing anectode. At least, I think it is amusing.

Tuesday night we had a "girls night" here at the Center, involving movies (She's the Man), nail polish, loud giggling, and stories about boys. Actually, really only one story about a fiancé back home. The boys were not allowed, of course, so for two or three hours they were off doing who knows what.

After girls night I went to check my e-mail, so I did not return to my room until all my roommates had gone back. I arrived to find one roommate pulling her mattress off her bed and the other two (along with two or three other girls) yelling quite loudly about things I did not understand. When they calmed down enough to talk somewhat coherently, I discovered that three of our four beds had been turned around. Now, why is this such a big deal? Well, each of our beds has a large drawer underneath, where I keep things like pants, pajamas, my flute, etc. The beds that had been turned had their drawers facing the wall, so we could not get into the drawers. It took a while to get the beds turned back as they are rather heavy, and we really don't have that much floor space on which to move them (see earlier post with bedroom pictures). However, we moved all three back as they should be and contemplated why someone would want to turn our beds, and why they only turned three of the four. Because of girls night and the bed situation, we did not actually go to bed until almost 1:00AM.

At 2:00AM I was awakened by an unusual buzzing/beeping sound. I could not figure out what it was, but it sounded as though it was underneath the bed next to mine. My roommate woke up as well, but we could not place the sound and as soon as it stopped we went back to sleep. However, about 5 minutes later it started again and we realized it was some sort of alarm. I got my headlamp and we lifted her bed and looked under it, but could not find anything. We waited for it to start a third time and then thought to check inside her drawer -- and way in the back of the drawer was a cell phone with the alarm set for 2:00AM. I immediately turned to my dresser to get my own cell phone and see if it too was set, but could not find it. We discovered that the phone inside her drawer was actually my own, and upon further searching found another phone in my own bed drawer with the alarm set for 3:00AM. By this time a third roommate was awake, and we spent a while searching for the other two phones. We found one untouched, although I am unsure as to why that was, but the fourth went undiscovered until its alarm sounded at 4:00AM, waking three of the four of us.

Thank goodness for free days and sleeping in until 10:00.

29 September 2008

Holy Camel

Luxor is beautiful. We arrived Tuesday night in time for dinner at our Sheraton Hotel which was right on the Nile River. Can a trip get any better than that? (Actually it could, if we were allowed to eat the fruit and vegetables or drink the water. Only meat and bread for a week, as well as a somewhat constant state of nausea is rather unpleasant. So it goes.)

Wednesday morning was spent in the Valley of the Kings. Becky, I thought of you quite a bit on Wednesday morning -- we got to go inside the tombs of Kings Ramses III, Ramses IV, Thutmose IV, and (of course) King Tut. King Tut is still inside his tomb, which is actually the most attractive feature of that particular tomb, because the tomb itself is not all that spectacular. But the other three were incredible. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures inside the tombs. However, the hieroglyphics were amazing, with so much detail and a lot of color. I was impressed with how well the colors have survived over time. Our guide said that to "paint" the walls they used natural resources and colors from rocks rather than paints, which would fade. Again, it was incredible to see how much work was put into these tombs, that one person could be considered important enough to spend 20 years constructing such a monument to house their monstrous sarcophagus and all of their possessions.

After the Valley of the Kings we stopped at the Funerary Temple of Ramses III as well as the Colossus of Memnon. Again, I was impressed by the preservation of everything, as well as the detail they put into the temple. Example for you:

This is on one of the walls of the temple. During battles in Ancient Egypt, the pharaohs would figure out how many of the enemy they killed by cutting off and counting the hands from dead bodies. This wall depicts the scene: the first guy has all the hands, the one behind him is recording numbers, the one behind him is checking to make sure he has the numbers right. It's a little gruesome, but I guess it's effective. They instituted this method of tracking so the pharaohs wouldn't cheat and say they had killed more people during the battle than they actually did.

After lunch at the Sheraton we rode falukahs down the Nile River to our CAMEL RIDE through Luxor. We rode for an hour and got to see a lot of the city. I really enjoyed this for a few reasons. First, I was on a camel. Second, it was cool to see the people in the city and how they lived and how happy they seem to be even though they live in blatant poverty. Some camel riding pictures...

This next one is of me with my camel, Bob Marley, and my camel driver, Muhammad.
Wednesday night and a good part of Thursday we went to the bazaar in Luxor. It was quite incredible, and we met some really nice people. There was one man, Nasser (like the president of Egypt after King Farouk was taken out) who owned a papyrus store that we talked with for probably an hour. He told us about living in Luxor and all about his papyrus store. It was really cool, and we enjoyed getting to know him and look through all of the papyri that he had. He had a 16-year-old assistant, Mahmoud, who really enjoyed talking with us and taught us some Arabic phrases. The bazaar itself was rather dirty (although not as dirty as in Cairo) and everything that we all bought has a distinct bazaar smell; it's easy to wash any clothing purchased, but a little more difficult with things like the small bongo drum my roommate bought.

On Thursday before spending the afternoon in the bazaar (or the pool, or napping as it was rather hot and we were going, going, going all the time) we visited the Karnak and Luxor Temples. They were beautiful, and again I was impressed by their structure and longevity. It's mind-blowing, really. I can't quite grasp the fact that everything there is so old.

Thursday night we took a sleeper train back to Cairo, which brings us back to the Cairo post on Friday. I'd never ridden a real train before, but I'm quite certain that this was the dirtiest train I will ever have to experience. The dinner was sketchy (thank goodness for the foresight to bring snacks!), there was dust everywhere, and the little sink did not look capable of washing anything. I used a scarf I purchased earlier that day to cover the pillow so I wouldn't have to actually touch it with my head. However, even in its dirtiness, it was quite a cool experience. I slept a lot better than I expected to, and I was not attacked by any Russian assassins or SPECTRE agents. (For those who do not understand the reference, several James Bond movies have scenes in sleeper cars, and inevitably Mr. Bond is attacked in his tiny compartment that looked exactly like mine.)

Cousin Cai, you're named after a pretty sweet city

Just so you know I was actually there...
We arrived in Cairo Monday evening and bright and early on Tuesday we took off for the pyramids. Some sixth grade flashbacks for you all: There are three pyramids at Giza, the great pyramids which are considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. We visited all three. The Pyramid of Kufu is the first, built (of course) by Kufu, the second is the Pyramid of Kahfre (son of Kufu), and the third is the Pyramid of Menkaure (son of Kahfre), so as our guide repeated several times, the father, the son, and the grandson.

There really is not anything I can say to adequately express the magnificence of the pyramids. It was incredible to think how huge and symmetric and old they are. Christ lived 2000 years ago, so the things we see in Jerusalem like the Garden Tomb or the pool of Bethesda are about 2000 years old, but the pyramids were built 2000 years prior to that. 4000 years ago and they are still standing. It's incredible.

After the pyramids we also saw the Sphinx and then went to a papyrus factory, Saqqara, and Memphis. The papyrus factory was really cool and the people there showed us how papyrus is made. Saqqara is the location of the Step Pyramid, the first pyramid ever built. Prior to the creation of the pyramid, when a pharaoh died they would bury him and then build a mastaba, which is just a large box, over his grave. The Step Pyramid was a mastaba with five smaller mastabas built on top of it -- hence the step-like structure. Memphis was the first capital of Egypt and had several statues, including a huge one of Ramses II which has fallen, but is enclosed and visible.

Tuesday evening we took a plane to Luxor, but I want to skip on to our return trip to Cairo. Rather than discuss the trip chronologically I will discuss it by location, so as not to confuse you...although that may be confusing for some. Regardless, I'm skipping Wednesday and Thursday for the moment.

Friday morning we went to the Cairo Museum, which was incredible. We were able to see the Rosetta Stone, all of the gold that was discovered in King Tut's tomb (there are rooms filled with gold jewelery and dishes and a throne, it's incredible), various other ancient artifacts, and an exhibit with 10-15 mummies, including Ramses II (considered the Ramses of the Bible who would not let the Israelites go) and Hatshepsut, the only female pharaoh of Egypt. Again, I was amazed by how old everything is, and how well preserved.

After the museum we spent a few hours at the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar before having lunch at the Hard Rock Café. The bazaars in Egypt were similar to the shopping in Jerusalem, except these shop keepers would almost go down to any price you wanted. However, I preferred the Luxor bazaar, so we'll discuss that when I come back to Wednesday-Thursday.

On Friday we went to the Cairo Citadel, which is the mosque of Muhammad Ali (not the boxer, a very important Muslim leader) as well as the Ibn Tulun Mosque. They were beautiful. We had to take off our shoes, as the mosques are holy sites, and our guide gave us a little lecture about Islam which, unfortunately, we had already heard several times on this trip. However, we loved looking around the mosques and taking pictures.

To the left is the Cairo Citadel, or the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. The decor inside was beautifully ornate, with rich colored carpets and intricate designs in the lighting. To the right is the view from the top of the minaret at the Ibn Tulun Mosque. The minaret is the tower where the prayer call sounds five times a day. There is a minaret very close to the Jerusalem Center, so we get the pleasure of hearing the prayer call often, occasionally at 4:00 AM. Although it is a beautiful call, I prefer it when the sun is up.

Saturday was our last day in Cairo, and that afternoon we drove back into the Sinai by way of the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. The Red Sea is beautiful. We stayed in a dirty hotel just down the road from Saint Catherine's monastery so that we could get up at 1:30 AM to hike Mout Sinai Sunday morning. But first, let's go to Luxor.

I Visited the Torah

We returned from our week-long Egypt trip last night, and it was quite fantastic. However, before I discuss Egypt we need to go over a few Israel visits on the way.

We left early last Sunday morning by bus to drive to a kibbutz near Eliat in the southern part of Israel, about 45 minutes from the Egyptian border. On our way to the kibbutz we stopped at Tel Be'er Sheva, the Wilderness of Zin, and Avdat. For those of you who are unfamiliar, we'll have a quick Old Testament review: Beer Sheba was the southern most city of the Biblical land of Israel; Isaac built an altar there, it was the location of Jacob's ladder vision, and Elijah hid from Jezebel in Beer Sheba. The Wilderness of Zin was a long stopping point for the Israelites during the Exodus from Egypt, they probably stayed there for at least a year and if I remember correctly, it was the location where they were all bit by firey serpents and the Lord told Moses to put a brass serpent on a stick for them to be healed. The Wilderness of Zin is also where David Ben-Gurion and his wife are buried. Observe for a moment the few of the valley from our lookout point. I don't know about you, but if I had to spend a few days in this wilderness, let alone years, I would murmur as well. I think sometimes we tend to criticize the Israelites and think they were ungrateful, and to a certain extent that is true. However, after seeing this particular landscape I cannot say that I wouldn't have murmured either.

Our last stop prior to the kibbutz was cool too. Avdat is a whole bunch of ruins from what was once an excellent trading post apparently; it was right on the trail from Petra to Gaza and people frequently stopped there. We were able to see things like where they would smash grapes to make wine, a baptismal font, and explore various caves. It was really cool.

After our Biblical stops we ate dinner and spent the night at a kibbutz. That was one of the most interesting places I have ever seen. We had a guide take us around so we were able to see various things like the dairy, the infirmary, the school, the cafeteria. Our guide told us that everyone on the kibbutz rotates positions, so you spend a while as a cafeteria worker and then you might become the treasurer for a while, and then you would be on the night watch, etc. The kibbutz covers all living expenses such as food, housing, electricity, and medical (among others) and each family gets a small allotment of money each year in proportion to the size of the family, so a family of six would get more money than a family of three. The little apartments they live in are also determined by the family's size.

It was interesting to see the communal way these people live. It is the best functioning socialist society I have ever seen -- not that I have seen many socialist societies, but we did study them often in school, and they all seemed to have many more problems than this kibbutz does. Our guide told us that in the time he has lived there (some 30 or so years) they have only kicked out two members, one of which was permitted back in later, and currently only have two who are somewhat problematic. Difficulties with only four people in 30 years is rather impressive. I doubt anything like a kibbutz would be possible in the US, or in any European capitalist country for that matter. Israel itself is capitalist, but the kibbutz (and others like it) does not have any problem surviving. I was very impressed by the people there and the way in which they choose to live.

Monday morning we ate breakfast and were off to Egypt!

20 September 2008

Off to Africa...cool!

Tomorrow we're heading to Egypt for eight days, so I'll be internet-less (and blog-less) for a while. Don't worry, I'm sure I'll have plenty to say when I get back.

I think I might have Mrs. Fickes flashbacks while we're there, what with the mummies and the pyramids of Giza.

19 September 2008

Tel Aviv

On Wednesday we only had one class (Old Testament) that ended at 9:15 (it started at 7:30, ugh) so almost all of the students went on a trip to Tel Aviv for the day.

I went on another very Ephrata-like drive, but instead of ending up in the beautiful Jerusalem, or the very dry and bare Ephrata (sorry, Grandma) we stopped at the Mediterranean Sea. Wow. I've seen the Atlantic and I've been in the Pacific, and now I can add the Mediterranean. It was beautiful; we got to the beach around 10:30 or 11:00 and stayed until 2:00-ish. The sand is really fine, and the water was so warm. I don't think I've ever been in water that warm, it was so pleasant. We brought lunches with us, so we ate lunch on the beach (cool) and I read C. S. Lewis for a while after we played in the water. We split up into smaller groups in the afternoon to explore Tel Aviv (I really don't think 81 students should explore together).

I ended up with seven other people and we walked all over the place. We went through several markets/bazaars and looked at different foods and jewelry and things; one girl bought a nice silver ring and some of the guys got soccer jerseys. We ended up getting lost looking for an art fair, but were really close to the Shalom Tower (I think the tallest building in Tel Aviv, if not then it's close) where we went up to the top and looked out on an amazing view. After the Tower we walked through the Russian section of the city, which we figured out when I started seeing matryoshka dolls in the store windows. The Great Synagogue (Grand Synagogue? I can't remember) is very close to the Russian section of town, and the rabbi who was there let us come in even though we were not appropriately dressed (we were fine except none of the girls had head coverings with them, we didn't think about it beforehand). The synagogue was beautiful. The woodwork on all the benches and doors and alters were amazing, and the fabrics they use were very ornate and in gorgeously rich colors.

We wandered back down through the city and the bazaars before they all closed at 7:00 (as it is still Ramadan, none of the Muslims work around 7:00 because that is when they break their fast). We decided to go back down to the beach to watch the sunset, which was the best decision of the evening. Two of the guys with us swam out to some rocks in the ocean to try and watch the sun set from there, but they didn't make it quite in time. Either way, it was beautiful. My first Mediterranean sunset.

We split up for dinner, and I ended up with three other people at a little place called Miguel's Hotel & Bistro, up near the US Embassy. Our waiter was hilarious, he made fun of one of our group when he asked if they had ketchup (apparently on his mission in Brasil ketchup was not always available and he assumed Israel would be the same), and was just very friendly the entire night. I ordered Middle Eastern kabobs, which were really good (the "mushed potatoes" they came with were excellent as well). We made it back to the rest of the group in time for our taxi-van ride to the Center and got in around 10:45. Except for early classes the next day and a sunburned back, the trip was absolutely fantastic.
And here's just one more...

Dead Sea Scrolls

I apologize to those of you who thought I would be prompt; I know I said I'd write about this all week, but it gets a little crazy sometimes.

For the past several weeks (perhaps months, we weren't told exactly) the Israel Museum has had the Isaiah scroll as well as other portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display. This was the last time they would ever be available to the public eye; as of 18 September they have been put into a temperature controlled vault and are no longer accessible, even to scholars, because they are disintegrating so rapidly. This last Sunday we had a free day, and Brother Huntington (the associate director) organized a field trip for anyone interested in seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls. We were all interested, so all 81 students as well as several of the faculty went to the museum.

Most of the museum is currently closed for renovation, but we were able to see a model of the city of Jerusalem as it was when Herod's temple was still standing (where the Dome of the Rock is now). Professor Skinner came along and gave us a fantastic description of the city, showing us specifically where various historical and biblical events took place, as well as how the structures in the model correspond with the city we see every day. This is the view from the city on the southwest...I think. Professor Skinner said the red-roofed houses would have been owned by the more wealthy people in the city (they have multiple floors) and the towers you see in the back right of the photo were part of Herod's castle. He had towers erected in memory of his brother, his best friend, and his favorite wife, who he later had executed. Great guy, Herod.

After looking at the city, we went down into the Book of the Shrine, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were exhibited. They were in a building with a white almost upside-down funnel shaped top. (Observe the photo, courtesy of Israelinphotos.com because I did not take my own.) When they found the scrolls at Qumran, they were contained in jars with lids that looked like this building. The actual building is underground, and right inside there was a long hallway with artifacts that were discovered at Qumran along both sides. At the end of the hallway was a circular room that discussed the Dead Sea Scrolls in detail, as well as their importance. It also contained the Aleppo Codex, the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible, although in 1947 a large chunk of it went missing, including almost the entire Torah. I'm not quite sure how anyone could just lose all five books of Moses, but I guess it happened. Regardless, it was really interesting to learn about how the Aleppo Codex matched so well with the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Isaiah scroll on display is the longest continuous scroll of all 200+ scrolls that they found, and according to Professor Skinner over 95% of the text on the Isaiah scroll matches the King James Version of the book of Isaiah. That's pretty cool.

After the museum we split up into different groups. I went to West Jerusalem, specifically Ben Yehuda Street, with some other people, and we made our way through West Jerusalem and then into the Old City. It was fun, and very very different from East Jerusalem. The West side is definitely more European/American...well, see for yourself.I do like, however, that it is kosher.

13 September 2008


So, we were supposed to go to the Wailing Wall yesterday evening, but due to a variety of things our security personnel did not think it was safe and canceled our trip. It made for a really long afternoon. I had planned to discuss this experience with you today, however, since we aren't actually going until we return from Egypt I thought I'd show you where I live instead.

Here are pictures of our room. I live with three other girls; as long as we keep it clean we have enough space. (Mary, you might have a hard time with this life style.) The door opens up to a little patio and there is a tree in the middle (the hallways are open, so you can see the sky) and then on the other side is the door for our neighbor's apartment. I love having the tree there, and being able to smell the outdoors and hear the birds as I walk to my room at all hours of the day. We live on the third of eight floors, and the main entrance is on level eight: the eighth floor has an auditorium, the library, the LRC (Learning Resource Center?), some administration offices, and the security room; the seventh level has more offices and the entrance to the forum (another auditorium-like room, where we have class); the sixth floor has the computer lab, the lower entrance to the forum, the snack bar (woohoo!), classrooms, and the Oasis (where we eat); level five is the faculty housing and offices; floors four and three are all student housing; and one and two are also student housing, but are currently unoccupied. Since I live on the third floor but pretty much everything happens on floors six through eight, I go up and down the stairs a lot every day. I apologize for the awkward pictures, but the room is at a difficult angle for my photography skills.

Here is the view from our balcony. I must say, it's the best view I've ever had.

The BYU Jerusalem Center itself is quite beautiful as well; it is arguably the best (modern) architecture in the city, and people come from all over to tour the Center. I've seen at least three tour groups in my 10 days of being here so far. It looks amazing set up on the hill with Hebrew University on one side. I don't have any excellent pictures of it yet, but I do like this one. This is how the Center looks while walking home from the Old City.
The Center is the building up on the hill with the arches. And here's one more that's (somewhat) closer...
This was taken from the Rockefeller Museum. The Center is the building with the arches, like before, and to the right is the Augusta Victoria tower, which I discussed in a previous post. Isn't it a beautiful building?

Tomorrow we get to go see the Dead Sea Scrolls (SO COOL) and then I will spend the afternoon shopping in West Jerusalem with my roommates.

Shabbat Shalom.

10 September 2008

How Much?

I just returned from a quick trip to the pharmacy and the post office. Actually, "quick trip to the post office" is not an accurate statement; both of my post office trips so far have been rather lengthy, the first exceeding an hour without actually buying stamps or mailing letters.

The people in Jerusalem are really interesting. I'm sure other cultures are very similar, but whenever we go into the Old City I feel like I am being bombarded. Some is a good bombardment: the colors, the architecture, the history, the little alleyways, the smells (well, not always good), the noises, the clothes, even the stones in the roads are cool. However, the overwhelming bombardment to which I was originally referring comes from the shop owners and is not something I am quite used to yet.

We usually enter the Old City through the same gate, so I'm learning my way around certain areas pretty well. Not very far into the city we start hearing calls from the shop owners who sit in front of their stores: "Mormons!" "BYU!" "Utah!" They definitely know who we are. They also know that we will buy things, and that we will keep coming back, and because of this they are very...not pushy, but a little aggressive. "Oh please, come into my shop. Just come in and look, no charge for looking." But if you agree to go in and look, you get sucked in even further. One of my roommates decided she cannot touch anything, because as soon as she does, "Oh, do you like that? How much do you think it is worth?" When she replies that she doesn't want to buy it, or she doesn't have any money, or she is just looking, or whatever excuse it might be, the reply is always, "How much would you pay? How much do you think it is worth?" Then, if you do begin to haggle with them (nothing is ever at a set price, ever) they just won't quit. I'm almost afraid to talk to people because I'm worried I'll end up buying things I don't really want in the first place.

The other dilemma in regards to talking with the men in the city is the big difference between American men and women's relationships and Palestinian men and women's relationships. Many of the women we see here wear the long dresses and head coverings. Out of respect to their cultural views, we were asked to dress very modestly (long pants and longer sleeves, muted colors, loose-fitting, etc.) so as not to attract attention to ourselves and not to offend them. But, we (as in, we the women at the Center) were also told not to make eye contact or smile at the men because they will take it as a very flirtatious gesture rather than what we intend it to be. These instructions create a bit of a conundrum for the girls at the Center: we know there are certain men we can talk with, obviously, like the shop owners or the administration at places like museums and the post office and things like that, or we could never do anything on our own. But it is very hard to go from looking at your shoes on the street (while trying to see everything and make sure you don't lose your group and that you aren't getting pick-pocketed at the same time) to somewhat aggressive and slightly banter-like bargaining with the men in the city. Especially for people like my blond-haired, blue-eyed roommate; every time she goes out the men hit on her, and she always gets shop owners saying things like, "For your eyes, any price!"

Although it is rather exhausting, I love it here.

The Vantage Point

If tired of trees I seek again mankind,
Well I know where to hie me--in the dawn,
To a slope where the cattle keep the lawn,
There amid lolling juniper reclined,
Myself unseen, I see in white defined
Farr off the homes of men, and farther still,
The graves of men on an opposing hill,
Living or dead, whichever are to mind.

And if by noon I have too much of these,
I have but to turn on my arm, and lo,
The sunburned hillside sets my face aglow,
My breathing shakes the bluet like a breeze,
I smell the earth, I smell the bruised plant,
I look into the crater of the ant.
-- Robert Frost

We went on a geography field trip today, and this Robert Frost poem kept running through my mind. (Mr. Hill, I hope you would be proud that even three years after your class I have several Frost lines memorized and several more that I would recognize on recitation.) I envisioned a beautiful layout of the photographs I took to go along with the poem for you all but, alas, the internet is being particularly slow this evening and will not upload the pictures. Thus, you will have to rely on my descriptive abilities to see what I saw today.

Our stops for the day included Nebi Samwil (the location that the prophet Samuel is buried), the Augusta Victoria tower (built by Keizer Wilhelm and named for his wife), the Seven Arches Hotel, the Judean plateau past the Elias Monastery, and the Haas Overlook south of Jerusalem.

Holy cow.

The point of the field trip was to circle Jerusalem and get a feel for the layout of the land so that when we discuss various Biblical events (battles, migrations, etc.) we will have a map in our minds and understand where the various locations are in relation to us. Unfortunately, I am a terrible map remember-er. However, the view at each of these places was spectacular.

Nebi Samwil gives you a 360 degree view of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Down inside the building is a synagogue and a mosque (you don't see that every day). We were able to go into the synagogue, after we (women) covered our hair with scarves. There were a lot of women praying so we couldn't get to far inside, but it was interesting.

Our second stop was the Augusta Victoria tower. That is a beautiful building: There are great mosaics of Christ and the apostles on the walls and the ceiling, subtle stained-glass windows, and some gorgeous paintings on the second floor. There are two hundred steps to the tower, which means you're very high up, so you are able to see as far as the Dead Sea when the view is clear. Unfortunately, it wasn't clear today.

Seven Arches Hotel was cool. We didn't actually go in the hotel, rather, we went out to a lookout where you can see the entire east side of Jerusalem, the Kidron Valley below, and then the Church of All Nations and the Russian Orthodox Church right next to the Garden of Gethsemane, Hebrew University and our BYU Jerusalem Center on the side of the Mount of Olives, and three cemeteries right below us on the hill. It was quite incredible.

Our spot near the Elias Monastery was probably my favorite stop of the day. It is right on the border of the West Bank, so we could clearly see Bethlehem and Bethany from the plateau. Coincidentally, that particular plateau was part of the war zone during the Six Day War in 1967, and as we were looking out over the West Bank and then could see the edges of Jerusalem behind us, we were standing among the trenches that are still very visible. It was a little surreal, especially considering all the history that was visible from thousands of years ago and then history as close as 1967.

Last stop was the Haas Overlook, where we could see the entire city from the south side (we circled the city to orient us with everything, which I think didn't orient me at all. So it goes.). You could also see the BYU Jerusalem Center from this point as well.

Even if I can't read the map, our day was pretty spectacular. I still can't believe I'm actually here. Tomorrow I promise to discuss our adventures in Jerusalem, especially our interactions with the Arab business men. They are interesting individuals...

Lilah Tov.

04 September 2008

Pilgrim, not Tourist

I don't think anyone can fully anticipate or appreciate exactly what it means to be in Jerusalem until they are actually there. Tel Aviv is approximately 50 miles from Jersualem, which was an hour bus ride, and on the way I was reminded strongly of Ephrata -- very dry, lots of dirt, some shrub-like plants, kind of empty. I was surprised to see trees that I can't identify specifically by name (which is a little embarrassing) but were definitley some sort of pine tree, which surprised me. Pine does not seem like a Jerusalem tree. Regardless, about 30 of the 50 minute bus ride was surrounded by this scenery. All of the sudden, the traffic gets a little heavier (the traffic is another post in and of it self, good grief) and you see that people actually live here, which is also similar to driving into Ephrata. But as you come up the hill the road kind of turns, and suddenly you can see the old city past East Jersualem and the biggest thing there is the Dome of the Rock. It is absolutely indescribable. It has a beautiful gold-covered roof (a gift from King Hussein of Jordan in the 90's) and is contrasted nicely by a tall steeple or two over to the right, and the Jerusalem Center and Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus to the left.

Sorry Grandma. Although similar, driving into Jerusalem definitely trumps Ephrata.

That first night, in our tired, jet-lagged state, we ate dinner out on the patio and watched the sun set over the old city. It's like having a constant postcard as your view. The view is even more magnificent this month: the Islamic holiday Ramadan began just a few days ago; a cannon is shot to signal sundown around 7PM each night, and as soon as it goes off, all of the Palestinians turn on twinkle lights that they use to decorate their homes and break their fast together. So attempt to imagine seeing the Dome of the Rock in Old Jerusalem at sunset surrounded by homes that are glowing with lights. It's absolutely incredible.

Today after some orientation meetings, we split up into groups of eight (there are a total of eighty-one students) and went with one of the faculty or their wives on a four-hour tour of the city. The Jerusalem Center is located in the Palestinian section of Jerusalem, or East Jerusalem. We walked through and saw various homes and shops in the midst of the Kidron Valley. Our guide, Sister Wilson, introduced us to the money-changer who always is willing to work with the Center (his name is Aladdin, pronounced Ah-la-DEEN, not like the movie), and while we were there we met a very funny man who passed out business cards for wood carvings, particularly nativity sets. "You'll want to come very soon before the rush; I like you, I take the Mormons' money." There were several business men throughout East Jerusalem who wanted us to come see their shops, or give us their business cards so that we would come back. I suspect most of us will go back to the nativity set man, and he will take more Mormons' money.

We entered Old Jerusalem on the east side and went through the Palestinian corridor, then the Christian, then the Jewish. It was very easy to tell when you were changing location within the city; although the people look the same, their shops and dress do not. We were able to go briefly into the Church of the Holy Sepulchure (we'll take a tour later), walked past the Garden Tomb (another future tour), and visited an Austrian hospice, where we climbed to the top and had yet another incredible view of the city from the roof. We exited on the east side, taking us to West Jerusalem, which is the Israeli portion of the city.

East and West Jerusalem had some stark contrasts not only in the individuals who occupy the different sections, but in the set up of the city. While the Palestinian section (East Jerusalem) was rather dirty and crowded, with lots of small run-down homes and buildings, West Jerusalem was clean with nice landscaping and arcitechure. It was obvious which people have money and which do not. Apparently there are also different building regulations for the different parts of the city -- they are not allowed to build more than three or five (our guide couldn't remember which) stories high in East Jerusalem, but they can in West. Apparently several buildings in East Jerusalem have been razed because of this law.

In our orientation meetings, the point was stressed that we do not want to be seen as tourists, especially American tourists. The people in Jerusalem think of us as the Mormon students (there is even a sign pointing to the "Mormon University") and they respect us that way. Unfortunately, America (and obviously, tourists) are not always well thought of in this city. We discussed as we saw various holy sites for many different religious sects that most people who have come in years past come to Jersualem on a pilgrimage -- they come because of their faith and devotion, not curiosity. Many people spent all they had to come to this city. Sister Wilson told us of a man she met who told her that he has made the trip to Mecca, and how proud he was of that accomplishment. That is the same kind of pilgrimage: a trip that is truly important, not just enjoyable. It means something more than a nice vacation. That's what we're doing here. Our time spent in the Holy Land is also a pilgrimage; we're here to learn on-site, not sight-see. It is a truly fantastic opportunity.


I hate airplanes.

That being said, the travel in order to arrive in Jerusalem really wasn't that bad. I had several people ask me piror to my departure if I was scared or nervous in anyway, and the answer really was no -- except for flying.

However, there were some perks. Getting to the Salt Lake airport with enough time to sit with my group of 39 other BYU students prior to take off was one, as I met several people I'll be living with for the next three and a half months. I also had plenty of time to begin a book about Anwar Sadat's wife, which is amazing. I highly recommend it, A Woman of Egypt by Jehan Sadat. We also had a five hour lay over in New York; although I do like the city, JFK airport is not my first choice of a five hour lay over. But we had a chance to do more meeting and friend-making before our 11 hour flight to Tel Aviv.

11 hours is more than enough time on a plane, but combine that with the previous four hour flight, a five hour lay over, arriving three hours prior to departure, and an hour bus ride when we finally did arrive and it makes me grateful that the rest of our trips are so close. Yes we are leaving the country, but travelling to Egypt or Jordan from Israel is very different than traveling to Mexico or Canada from certain parts of the US. Israel is just so much smaller.

Either way, we made it safely and no luggage was lost from our flight. (Some was from the other flight, but they had to go Salt Lake to Denver to Chicago to Vienna to Tel Aviv, so it isn't surprising that the airline messed up somewhere. That was a terrible schedule.) Which means I get to tell you all about our first day and a half in Jerusalem, but that seems like it ought to be a different post. Ready?

18 August 2008


When I was probably eight or nine and our family was living in California, the missionaries came over for dinner one evening. I don't remember what we ate or what their names were, but I do remember that at some point in the dinner conversation one of them mentioned the BYU Jerusalem Center. Until that point I hadn't known about it, and it fascinated me. Very close to that time my grandparents took a trip to Jerusalem as well. When I heard the missionaries talking about the Jerusalem Center I knew that was one place I wanted to go when I was old enough -- which, at the time, seemed to be a lifetime away.

When I was 14 and a freshman in high school, I took Mrs. Schmidt and Mr. Louie's Pre-IB Advanced English and World Studies classes. For my five-page paper at the end of the year I wrote about the Arab/Israeli conflict, and read Exodus by Leon Uris as the literary work that went along with the essay. Again, I was fascinated and have spent the last six years casually educating myself about the Middle East. Sometime during those six years the Jerusalem Center was shut down, due to turmoil in that particular region of the world. I was disappointed, but not surprised, and decided I would just have to travel there on my own.

During the summer of 2006 there was a lot of unrest in Lebanon, something I watched with active interest. It was my first term at BYU, and I discovered that they had decided to re-open the Jerusalem Center. I wondered to myself why it was suddenly safer to be there -- Lebanon borders Israel and there was certainly a lot of danger. However, the why didn't matter to me. I started thinking that maybe it would be possible for me to go.

After a lot of defining experiences during the past two years of college, I am about to begin my junior year as a student at the BYU Jerusalem Center. I will be going to Egypt and Jordan; down into Hezekiah's Tunnel, and up to Mesada and Mt. Sinai. I will sail on the sea of Galilee and swim in the Dead Sea. I will see the Wailing Wall, visit the Garden of Gethsemane, and go to the little town of Bethlehem. I will walk the roads where Jesus walked.

I cannot begin to say how lucky I feel that I am travelling to the Holy Land. I don't know how many people get to say they have fulfilled a childhood dream, but in 17 days I will be fulfilling mine. I want to share my experiences with you, and I hope you will enjoy them.