Saturday, June 5, 2010

This Week in the Holy Land - May 30-June 5

Well first off, I want you all to know that I am safe here in the Holy Land. It's been a tense situation the past couple of days here, but we are safe. (If you don't know, the Israeli government opened fire on some Turkish sailors trying to give humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. They killed 9 people and injured about 40. Here's the link to a great article if you want to learn more and haven't been following the news: Anyways, we weren't allowed into the Old City for a couple of days because the vendors were on strike, but as of Thursday afternoon we were able to go back into the City. Things are still tense, especially because another ship is supposedly coming from Ireland, so we'll see what happens. I am safe though and loving life here in the Holy Land!

Okay, Sunday May 30 was a free day.

Monday May 31 was our field trip day. We went to a lot of random and obscure places that are found mostly in the Old Testament, but two of them were notable. We went to teh valley of Elah which is where the Israelites were fighting the Philistines and where David slew Goliath! It wasn't that cool to look at, but just being there has a special feeling to it. I mean, we hear that story from the time we are super young, and I've been there now! How super cool!
We also got to try "slinging" some rocks with slings similar to those that David used. I wasn't too good at it, but I got some good air on those rocks. :) Haha.
The second notable thing was Micah's cave. This doesn't have any Old Testament or spiritual significance, but it was notable to me because it was the first time that I've ever been "splunking." The hole to get into the caves was pretty small, but it was quite spacious once we got in there. It was a good adventure to say the least, and I am definitely excited to go splunking again.

Tuesday June 1 I had my first test here at the Jerusalem Center. It was my Old Testament midterm, and I did well on it. It was good to get the first one out of the way.

Wednesday June 2 I had my Hebrew midterm. I ended up getting 109%! Haha. Too bad it's only a pass-fail class! I love that class just because it's so easy. I feel like a first grader. :) Haha. Anyways, we had 6 hours of class that day. It was super long, but I survived. And that night we had our Arab folk night which totally made up for our long day of classes. Our Folk Night consisted of hearing the a reading of the Qur'an (the Islamic scripture). It's not so much as reading as it is singing, but they don't think of it that way. We also heard the Call to Prayer (which is when Muslims project through a loud-speaker a reminder to pray five times a day) from people who do the Call from the Al-Aqsa mosque which is the mosque associated with the Dome of the Rock. This mosque is pretty much the third most important mosque in all of Islam, and we had the opportunity to hear the men who do the Call to Prayer there. We are so privileged. After that we had a great authentic Palestinian dinner. We then got to learn how to do Arab folk dancing! We had some young dancers come and show us how to do their dances.
We did pretty well, except we didn't really learn the dances. :) Haha. We had a good time though. It was a very long day, but I quite enjoyed it.

Thursday June 3 I had 8 hours of class which included a two midterms! I thought that 6 hours was bad, but 8 hours with a midterm at 8:00pm at night wasn't too desirable either. Let's just say that day all I did was study for my midterm and go to class. Oh so exciting I know.

Friday June 4 included a lot of different things. That morning we had class, and then I made a cake for my friend's birthday. Oh man it smelled so good and like home again! After lunch I helped with a service project. We make about 10,000 humanitarian aid kits every semester and I am able to help organize and run that endeavor. It's way fun to get outside ourselves and have a good time together. That afternoon I worked on my take-home midterm which is going to be about 20 single-space pages, so I wanted to get working on that. Friday evening I was able to go to a synagogue for Sabbath evening services. It was a very different and interesting experience, but it was really cool too. First off, before I came to the Holy Land I just had this stereotype of an orthodox Jewish person as one of those people who wear all black, wear funny hats, and have the hair locks that they never cut. But we went to an orthodox synagogue and no one there was dressed that way. We, as members of the church, wear better clothes than they do when they go their sabbath services. We wear similar clothing, but ours is nicer. So that didn't fit my stereotype. Second stereotype that was wrong was the fact that I assumed that the people who were going to be at synagogue would be older or have families. I was quite surprised, however, to find that there were many single young men and women who attended the synagogue on their own. This shouldn't have surprised me because I practice my religion on my own as well, but I just figured that no other religions did that. (yes that is me in my ignorance) Third stereotype was the building of the synagogue. The synagogue we went to was just a Boy/Girl Scouts building. Nothing fancy. Nothing elaborate. Just a plain Jane building. I expected it to be very clean, very orderly, and very structured, but that wasn't true either. And I would say that my stereotype of the synagogue service was wrong as well, but before I went I don't think I really had a stereotype. The service consisted of reading/singing a lot of scripture led by the rabbi and a little bit of personal prayer time. While they are reciting these scriptures the people sway back and forth for some reason - I think it's because they try to prostrate themselves before God, or something like that. Anyways, it was a different experience. One thing really did impress me however. These people are so devout! They love their God as a personal being who knows them and loves them as well. They follow so many small and, in my view, constricting rules all because they love God and want to serve Him better! They truly do love their Lord, even though their view of their God is very different from my view. They try, with all of their might, to follow God they way they know how to follow Him. I guess this is true of every church, but I am always amazed every time I come into contact with people of other faith. Nevertheless, every time I come in contact with other religions I am always so grateful for my religion as well. I am so grateful for the truth that I have and the blessing that the gospel is in my life. I just took a small moment yesterday during the service to thank Heavenly Father for all that He has given me including the opportunity to learn about other religions and also the great blessing of having the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am so grateful and lucky to have this gift.

Saturday June 5 was shabbat again. We had district conference today so all of the Saints that are allowed to come were here for the meeting. The meeting was translated into 3 different languages - Hebrew, Spanish, and Russian - which is something that I've never dealt with before. The theme of the conference was about the Temple. Usually in Utah if the topic is the temple the talk usually focuses on the need to go more often. However, there wasn't any mention of that in any of the meetings held today. Most talks focused on the need to hold and renew a temple recommend even if using it isn't feasible. The closest temple to Israel is the Freiberg, Germany temple which is about 1800 miles away! So yes, the large focus of today's meetings was the need to be worthy of and hold a current temple recommend even if the people here can't use it very often. Today just made me really miss the temple, and I probably want to go to temple very soon after getting home.

One thing I'm super excited for is my trip to Eilat tomorrow! Eilat is an Israeli town right on the border of the Red Sea, and I've heard that it has some of the best snorkeling around the world! It takes four hours to get there so we are leaving at 6:00 am and getting back around 10:00 pm. It also costs about $45, but that's totally worth it! I am so excited to go tomorrow.

So yep, that's been my week. Like I said, it was dull because of the amazing amounts of class but yet exciting because of the cultural experiences I had this week. I really hope you are all doing well, and I would love an update from any/all of you! Keep the faith!

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