Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Welcome to Israel

Can you believe this is my back patio view?

The Dome of the Rock looks like it’s only a few feet away. We hear the Muslim Call to Prayer five times a day, every day. It is a strangely beautiful sound. It’s strange having religion floating around the air, as if I’m part of the prayer just by listening.  We were eating lunch on the grounds of an Austrian hospice the other day and through the window of a building right across from us we could see the man who was doing the call to prayer over the loudspeaker.  The sounds didn’t seem as foreign or the language as harsh as I watched the person they came from.

The second day in Jerusalem we went on a walking tour of the city which I was so excited for. It’s absolutely crazy how much history is in this city. We walked by a church and my teacher mentioned in passing, “Oh, that’s the church commemorating  the spot Stephen was stoned.” Last year at this time I was taking a New Testament class reading about Stephen’s stoning. I would have never ever guessed that a year from then I would be walking in the actual place that happened! I had about a thousand of those moments along the city “overview” walk. 
This is the St. Stephen Basilica where they commemorate the spot Stephen was martyred. It is an absolutely beautiful church. I hope I get a chance to go to a service there.

During the overview walk we also wound up at the church of The Holy Sepulcher. I have been so excited about coming to this church but when we suddenly showed up in its courtyard it kind of took me off guard. I  had wanted to do more reading about it but it was fun to be guided around by our teacher who had spent  a lot of time there.
There are all kinds of people and monks there.
At one point there was some kind of ceremony that went on inside the church. One priest was speaking in the alcove up by the altars and then other priests surrounding the walls would suddenly start singing. I loved it. I love to watch people and so I sat there listening and staring and taking pictures. I’m excited that I can go back just watch all the pilgrims coming to see  Christ’s tomb and where his body was laid. 
There have been thousands of people who have come to these sites. Brother Huntsman always reminds us that even if these places aren’t the exact sites, the faith of the thousands of people who have come here make these sites sacred.

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