Sunday, June 24, 2012

Away to Jordan

Leaving the country tomorrow.
I'm going to Jordan, our next door neighbor, and I'm excited to see "the" site where Jesus was baptized and Petra and Mt. Nebo. I probably won't be seeing too many of my Jewish friends for a few days though.

Tel Aviv

Old Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv Israel

Luckily, I bought a very literary savvy guidebook about Israel. It gave me quite a poetic introduction to Tel Aviv which my fellow Tel Aviv travelers mocked when I kindly read it out loud to them on the bus ride there.  It begins, “ Tel Aviv encapsulates the essence of modern Israel. If Jerusalem represents past yearning down the centuries by Jews longing to return to their biblical roots, and the promise of the future redemption when the Messiah comes, then Tel Aviv is emphatically about the present. Tel Aviv is about the pursuit of material gain and pleasure…..Tel Aviv is hedonistic while Jerusalem is holy. Tel Aviv is sexy while Jerusalem is sacred.”
I’d say it’s a pretty good summary.

The day at Tel Aviv on Old Jaffo Port was good for my soul. I didn't go to Tel Aviv the first time one of the groups went, but a few of the girls who went the first time said riding bikes up the beach was good for their souls. So once we got into Tel Aviv the first place we went was "Wheel Bee" Bike shop.

We spent a good couple hours riding up and down the beach....saw a few men in speedos who maybe should consider never wearing a speedo again....and  a man doing yoga poses while he waited to cross the street. They had street light for bike crossing, with a tiny bike green light and red light which was cute and which we usually ignored. We also got caught in little shops like this as we rode along.

The beach was glorious. I'm not really a beach bum as many of you know--the extent of my swimming abilities is usually the kiddy pool at the American Fork Rec center. But the Mediterranean Sea was bath water temperature so you should be impressed that I stayed in the water for close to an hour and a half! Most of my sunscreen floated away in that time and now I look like a tomato. All well. Who doesn't love an extra 850 freckles and a peeling dandruff scalp?

It was hot enough that the only thing sounding edible was ice cream....the ice cream shop we found had snickers ice cream and mars bar ice cream and eating them stacked on top of each other was one of the better decisions of the day.
P.S. I also didn't notice that Andy was creeping in the back of my photos until I got home and uploaded them to my computer. This is a common game that comes with all BYU study abroads, I think :)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This Week

This week has been stressful and crazy with 4 exams and 2 papers. But besides studying there have been some other great parts. Here’s a few moments of my week.

Pancakes with peanut butter and bananas for breakfast. Spreading peanut butter with a spatula because they do that here in the middle east. Laughing at the couch the Palestinian boys put outside the back gate. Sweating in crevices like the back of my knees. Watching Life is Beautiful. Going through the back door of a Romanian church and finding the kindest nun, who was interrupted by her iphone ringing. Crying, I was laughing so hard, at Avery’s life-coaching stories. Learning which direction was north and finding out I’ve been wrong for the last two months. Watching the Torah being unveiled at a morning prayer service. Reciting the names of the entire Hebrew alphabet with a Jewish woman in the Yeshurun Synogague in the women’s section. Eating a free lemon popsicle in the heat. Singing He Is Risen at the Garden Tomb. Reading the Lord’s Prayer in French at the Pater Noster church. The smell of olive wood shops. Walking through Mea Shearim, the ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood finally since I’ve been waiting to do this for the last two months. Learning that Homer wrote in the 8th century BCE which is during the time of Hezekiah, kind of crazy. Wading through Hezekiah’s Tunnels in shorts! Reading the first chapter of John for the first day of New Testament class, a class that will be taught mostly in Galilee in the places these events took place. Catching the sun right before it set.

Me'a Shearim, West Jerusalem

Some Familiar Ladies in the Holy Land

These ladies showed up at the church the other day, and I was excited to see some familiar American Fork faces in Israel! Sometimes you forget that life keeps going on the other side of the world. They were doing a speed tour through Israel and by the time I saw them they had already been to Galilee and Nazareth and everything up north and making their way down the country. It's hard to tell from maps sometimes how SMALL Israel is. The entire country is smaller than Utah. We drove 4 hours to Eilat a couple weeks ago which is on the very bottom tip of the country. 

For one of my last personal progress projects during my senior year, Jacque helped me make humanitarian quilts and we spent the time talking about Israel as we pinned edges. I would never had imagined that a few years down the road we would be in Israel together at the same time! Life is so unexpected sometimes.
They were so sweet and brought me these lovely treats:

M&M's are not found in Israel so they brought me a little piece of America which they "smuggled" in with a deceiving envelope that was supposed to keep everyone off track of the true contents of the bag. It didn't work for long. After I started sharing chocolate with a few select friends word began to spread. Let's just say I threw away the empty bag by the next morning. They were greatly enjoyed by many. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dormition Abbey and Coenaculum

Dormition Abbey commorates the place where Mary “sleeps” (dormir …..look familiar Lou? :) and by sleep they mean died. The church is really stunning both inside and outside.

Then this guy jumped in our picture as he was walking by. It was pretty funny. Usually you do that when you are in Jr. High but I guess some people enjoy these jokes during mid-life.

There was some kind of devotional or practice going on. All these young guys were singing and they sounded really awesome. I wish I could post a video for you, but it hasn’t worked every time I’ve tried.
Mary is commemorated downstairs below the chapel and there were more groups down there singing which was fun to listen to as well. We tore ourselves away from the group upstairs when we heard the group downstairs singing.
We went next door to the Coenaculum, which is one of the two spots that claims to be the place of the Last Supper. It’s a beautiful room—it’s empty and bare and kind of dark but I liked it. It was easy to imagine the Last Supper there.

They had this interesting Tree of Life sculpture hanging out at the back of the room. I liked how they fused real branches into it with the gold tree. I’m not sure what the meaning is by placing the Tree of Life in the room of the Last Supper, but it’s an interesting idea, I think.

 I find all Tree of Life symbolism fascinating. It shows up in all kinds of contexts and I’m trying to understand how it shows up in Christianity and how it shows up in LDS doctrine because I feel like we push its symbolism to a whole new level in the Book of Mormon. But I don’t feel like the symbol is exactly the same every time its used in the scriptures, it doesn’t feel like the same Tree of Life in Exodus and Revelations and 1 Nephi to me, but I haven’t pinned down all the differences. If anyone has any insight, I’d love to hear it.  The other day we went on a field trip where a Torah calligrapher showed us the process of making Torah scrolls and at the end of the presentation he mentioned that the wooden part of the scroll is a symbol of the Tree of Life. So now I’m trying to sort that out in my mind. In my New Testament class last year, my teacher showed us a picture that was in a cathedral somewhere of Christ hanging on a cross, but if you looked closely the cross was the Tree of Life and Adam and Eve were at Christ’s feet.  So interesting. It’s kind of amazing though how different religions use the same symbols. I think it can be something unifying even in places like Jerusalem where everyone seems to want to mark their differences from each other in a very explicit way. But even if we don’t interpret the symbols in the same way, I like that there are connections.
Here’s the Torah scrolls that the Torah calligrapher showed us with a Tree of Life on each end….

The Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb is also a popular destination spot on the Sabbath. It’s crazy how green and lush the Garden Tomb gardens are. Jerusalem is just as dry and deserty as Utah (minus the sage brush)  but this is a little piece of paradise in this city of stone and dirt. It’s kind of weird how the tomb looks the same as the picture in the back of our scriptures—the one they use for primary lessons on Easter. It’s kind of weird being somewhere you’ve never been before and feeling like you’ve been there many times already.  I’ve had that experience a lot during this adventure.

We came as a class the first time I was here and took a little tour from the Evangelical volunteers who run the garden. Our tour guide was hilarious. He was a short little British man (on the right side of the tomb in the picture above) who loves Mormons. I think it’s because we love Jesus and he really loves Jesus . He wanted us to say “Hallelujah” after everything he said and he wanted us to say it louder and louder the more excited he got during the tour.
This is inside the tomb where Jesus would have been laid if this is the right burial place. Even our tour guides didn’t try to claim that this is for sure the right place. It could be here or it could be where the Orthodox Christians believe it was in the Church of the Holy Seplucher.
This might be Golgotha “the place of a skull” where Christ was crucified. It’s interesting how the rock makes has a skull-like formation with the cave holes, but since no one is sure if this is the site of the crucifixion than it could be just a coincidence.
This is the best picture I have where you can see the skull, so just ignore how dark my face is and look over my head and you can see the two holes side by side that look like eye sockets. I need to get a better picture next time I go back.

Garden of Gethsemane

I feel bad that my blog about my summer in Israel has so far been 85% posts about Turkey. So I decided to do some posts about the main sights in Israel since I’ve been neglecting them.
One of my favorite sites is the Garden of Gethsemane. 
They have a garden area on the side of the Church of All Nations where the olive trees grow. It’s beautiful inside but tourists aren’t allowed to go behind the fence, only our friend Fiz the gardener is able to go back there. We love Fiz. He has been taking care of the garden for 17 years.  He told me “My father, he here 42 years before me.” So Gethsemane gardening has been the family business for a long time. Fiz  always tells us about all the languages he speaks. Besides Hebrew, Arabic, and English he says, “I speak Spain. I speak France. I speak Italy.” He said to me one Sabbath, “For you, rosaries from the garden, from the olive trees.  Next week, ok?” He gave me a rosary necklace with olive wood beads which he claimed were from the garden and it has a little metal case with garden “terra,” which is some red dirt. I’m sure he gives that little gift to a lot of people but it’s the thought that counts.

The Church of All Nations is really beautiful too. There are mosaics under class on the floor from the Byzantine church that was there before this church. We like to sing in the church. There are some really good singers in my group and we always have people come up to us afterward and thank us for singing and the priest loves us. He always lets us sing, week after week. We love to sing Be Still My Soul, I Know That My Redeemer Lives, I Stand All Amazed around the rock that traditionally was near where Jesus suffered.

And there is a fabulous view of the Dome of the Rock from the Garden.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Passover Google Exodus

I can't really get onto YouTube here but you should look up "Passover Google Exodus." Our teacher showed us this video in class and I don't know if it's just because of the excess amount of time I have been spending in the Old Testament but I died laughing at this video. Look it up.

My One Jewish Curl

If I put on a kippa do you think I could pass as an Ultra-Orthodox Jew with my hair curling naturally like that?

Turkey: Troy

Even though I wasn’t a fan of The Odyssey when I read it in twelfth grade English class, it was still pretty exiting to go to Troy. Since most of it is ruins, the best part was the Trojan horse-- which looked like a giant toy tree house horse.
Here's a wall....and some more ruins.....and some more rocks......
Here's a cool mud brick wall :) jk It is kind of amazing how strong these walls were though. They look wimpy but they've lasted hundreds of years and they were hand mixed with mud and straw. 
And my other favorite part of Turkey...squatters!! I was so excited to see these guys again. I've really missed them. It was funny to see all the girls freak out when they saw squatters. But I guess last summer I would have been the same way.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Turkey: Pergamum

Pergamum has the steepest theater of the ancient world. It was kind of dizzying to be on the little stone rows at the top of the theater and look all the way down, down, down, to the very bottom.

The Temple of Athena here was pretty impressive, not to mention that it was a gorgeous day. Do you believe me now when I say Turkey is absolutely beautiful?

Turkey: Ephesus

I thought Assos was my favorite “Pauline” location but then I got to Ephesus and was blown away. They’ve done a lot of reconstructions here which I really liked because I could imagine it as an ancient city much better than some of the other locations that were basically a big pile of rocks. There were actual streets and half constructed buildings which was awesome.

The toilets. Apparently the ditch in the front had water in which to clean yourself with, which was one of the more sanitary practices of the times…better than using the hand you didn’t eat with…. haha

The most impressive building was the interior wall of the Library of Celsus. Some parts are original and some parts are reconstructed, but it is still really amazing to see.

I remember in my New Testament class reading the story of the people of Ephesus yelling “ Great is Diana of the Ephesians” (Acts 19) at Paul’s companions for two straight hours in the Great Theater. That seemed like a really long time. After seeing how big the theater is, I realized how intimidating that would have been to have to face thousands of people screaming at you in rejection of your message.

The theater is behind Stephanie and me. It is huge! 
(P.S. Do you recognize this picture from the church site pictures in your scriptures?!)

There was a film crew in the theater when we got there with actors dressed up in Roman clothing, which was awesome.

The temple of Artemis (Diana) which was in Ephesus was huge, grand temple and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. What’s crazy is that the only thing left is one reconstructed pillar. (The pillar is in the middle of the picture, in the middle of the grassy area).
 The temple of Artemis attracted lots of tourists in its heyday and one of the stories in Acts about Ephesus  which made me laugh was the man who got mad at Paul for bringing the message of Christianity because it hurt his souvenir business which sold statues of Diana. It’s just funny how the world doesn’t change that much even after 1,500 years.

Here’s one image of Diana from Ephesus.