Last Sabbath, Saturday July 31, we had a great fireside. Our Relief Society president gave it on charity through conflict. Our president is a Palestinian, and she is the only Palestinian member that is allowed to pass through the check points and wall in order to come into Jerusalem to come to the meetings. She has grown up her entire life in Palestine, and she decided to come to BYU to get her Master’s Degree in statistics which is how she found the church. After she got her degree she returned to her home to work, but like I said she wasn’t able to get through the check points to come to our meetings for many years. She would often have to sneak in, and she risked her life many times in order to come meet with the saints and take the sacrament. Luckily, she got a job at the UN which gave her a pass into Jerusalem, so now she can worship with us. Anyways, she is an amazing lady who is completely converted and dedicated to this gospel. She talked about having charity for your enemies. She said that to have charity for those who harm us we need to pray for them, forgive them, and love them. I have definitely learned about this concept while being here in the Holy Land just because of some people who have harmed me. I’ve applied these three things to my life, and I want to testify that it works! I love this person so much, and I just pray that they have peace and the spirit in their life. Overall it was just a great fireside that helped me realize that I have learned (in a very small way) to have charity and love everyone regardless of how they treat me.
Sunday August 1 was one of our last free days here in the Holy Land. On Saturday I made a list of everything I wanted to do before I left Jerusalem, and a few of my friends and I outlined our entire day so that we could fit everything in. We woke up early in the morning to go to the church services that are held at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher every Sunday. Because the building is shared by three or four different denominations, they have to share the space for their services. We were able to watch two Roman Catholic services and also an Armenian service. It was super interesting to see how others hold their services and worship the Lord. They were very different from what we do, but they were good in their own way. After the services we came back to eat breakfast and then go paint a mural at a school for disabled children. Every semester the students sketch out a mural and paint it during the last week. We were the first group to go, and I got to paint a purple crocodile and a blue giraffe. It was such a fun activity, and we are making that learning environment much more enjoyable for the kindergarten class that will meet there in the fall.
That afternoon we went into West Jerusalem and hit up Domitian Abbey. This site is supposedly where Mary lived after Christ died and where she is buried, but it’s also a memorial to all of the women in the bible. They have this huge plastic dead Mary that lies over her supposed tomb which is just so funny. After that we went into the Old City and finished up some shopping that we wanted to do (yes more shopping). I got an oil lamp that the virgins would have used in the parable of the ten virgins, and I also bought some frankincense and myrrh. I’m excited to be able to use these things when my family acts out the nativity for every Christmas to come. The next site we went to was the Sisters in Zion convent. The name is deceiving – I don’t know if there’s actually a convent there, but underneath the building there are stones that were from the original Roman road during the time of Christ. So basically this is the place where they think Christ walked from Pilate’s to Herod’s and then back to Pilate’s trials. You can even see some of the games that the Roman soldiers would have played still carved into the stones. That was our long and hot day, but I got done almost everything on my list done! All I have left is to buy slings, go to the garden tomb one more time (which I’ll do on Tuesday and Wednesday), buy a schwarma, and go to Tel Aviv (which I’m doing tomorrow). Things are definitely winding down!
Monday August 2 was one of the most interesting days of the program and by far the hottest day of the entire semester! We left very early in the morning to drive down about 3000 ft to the Dead Sea. Our first stop of the day was at a place called Masada. Masada was the last hold that the Zealots had during the First Jewish Revolt in 70AD. These Zealots were so against Roman occupation that when they knew that they would be overrun by the Romans the next day, the entire community committed suicide on one another! They think that about 9,000 men, women, and children were all slaughtered that night. Kinda gruesome, but I guess it shows how devout they were to their cause… Anyways, after that we actually go to go to the Dead Sea! It is such a weird experience to be in that water. It hurts so badly if you have any cuts or your skin is open in any way. I even just had dry spot on my skin and I was in so much pain! But as soon as you get in an immerse yourself you float! There is nothing you need to do to float – even if you try to sink you can’t.
I also covered myself in the Dead Sea mud (which is used throughout the entire world to soften skin), and I can vouch that it works. My skin was as soft as a baby’s bottom afterwards. :) Haha. When getting into the water it feels like you’re swimming in a hot tub of lotion just because the water is so hot and thick due to the salt. We figured out that it was about 115*F which is a little toasty. After we got done swimming (and I was in and out of the water after about 5 minutes), we went on a little nature hike up to a waterfall at a place called En Gedi.
Our last stop of the day was at Qumran which is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Overall the day was really fun and interesting even though we were all drowning in our own sweat. One super duper nice thing that the administration did was allow us to wear shorts! I can’t imagine how hot it would have been if I would have had to wear long pants. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised at how well everyone handled the heat. Pretty much everyone had a really good attitude about it so everyone had a great time. That night I started studying for my three finals that I had this week. Oh joy.
Tuesday August 3 we had class in the morning, and that afternoon I just stayed in and prepared for my Ancient Near East final. Well, we were supposedly studying, but we probably took more breaks than we actually studied. That day the BYU Arabic students also arrived. If you are an Arabic major, you have to do a semester in Cairo in order to get your degree. The students that have been in Cairo this past semester are here for this coming week. It’s kinda fun to have new faces around the Center. Otherwise, that’s all I really did that day.
Wednesday August 4 we had our last class of the entire semester! We had two hours of New Testament with Brother Manscill. I have seriously loved, loved, LOVED learning about the New Testament from this man. I have fallen in love with really studying, cross-referencing, and hearing the words of the prophets about the concepts taught in the scriptures. As I studied for my New Testament final that day, I was actually having so much fun because I was learning so much about my Savior, His teachings, and His life. My teacher has had a lot to do with my falling in love with the New Testament. He is such an amazing man who teaches and testifies with such power. I look up to him so much, and I know that I could go to him with any question or problem and he would do everything he could for me because he sincerely loves each of us so much. And like I said his lectures are great. I got his lecture slides from him, and I went through each one, pulled out the quotes that I liked, and started compiling a document with awesome quotes that I can use later on in life. It’s up to 8 pages so far, and I’m sure it will be getting even bigger as time goes on. I told my teacher that even though I am really concerned about getting all As, I would be okay (not fine, but okay) with getting an A- or something in his class just because I have learned so much that it’s worth it to me! That really shows you how much I love that class. Anyways, I studied most of the day again which I completely loved.
Thursday August 5 was my Ancient Near East final. I’m not sure what my score was, but I’m sure I did just fine on it. It’s always good to know that your hard work pays off in the end. That afternoon was again filled with studying which I again loved. I know, I know, I am such a nerd and I completely admit it! I don’t feel as nerdy admitting that I love studying for a religion test so that makes me feel a little bit better. My friends and I did go out for a few minutes that afternoon and got some treats at the corner store right outside the lower gate to the center. It wasn’t a long outing, but at least I left the compound! That night I spent probably two or three hours going through more of my teacher’s slides and pulling out awesome quotes. Again, so nerdy, but so worth it!
Our Private Study Room
Yesterday Friday August 6 I had my New Testament final at 10:00 am. I think I told you that his midterm was completely ridiculous! I think he saw that we needed a little bit of help in our grades because this test was much, much, much nicer. Again, I know that I did really well even though I don’t know my score. So yes, I am planning on getting a 4.0 for both semesters even though my grades won’t be out until I get back home. But, still, I know that I did well which I am very thankful for. Heavenly Father has really blessed me in that area which I completely recognize. We also had our New Testament field trip exam that afternoon, but I didn’t even start studying for it until about an hour before, and I only studied for about 15 minutes. Let’s just say that it is a pass/fail class, and even so I got 100% on the test. To celebrate our victory over this summer’s classes a group of us went to West Jerusalem to find some sweet challah bread, but unfortunately all of the bakeries were either out of bread or closed for the Sabbath. Some people got ice cream or gelato instead which I think is way better than bread anyways. :) Haha. After that we went into the city, did some shopping, and then came back to the center. Last night we had the Community Outreach Concert which is a concert performed by the students for the members of the community to show our appreciation to them for their love and acceptance. Jane and I sang the song ‘For Good’ from the Broadway play “Wicked.” For those of you who don’t know, it’s basically about how certain people in our lives completely change us make our lives so much better. It was a very poignant and pertinent song for this entire experience. We apparently had most of the students tearing up which was what we were going for.
Later that night my roommates and I all just stayed up talking in our beds in the dark for like two hours. I love my roommates so much! We all get along so well, and there has been absolutely zero drama which is almost unheard of for an apartment of four girls. They are so much fun, and I can’t wait to be friends with them in ‘real life’ back at school.
Today Saturday August 7 was our last Sabbath in the Holy Land. It is also our Fast Sabbath, so tons of students got up and bore their testimony in our meetings today. It was such a great opportunity to hear my friends bear their testimony of the Savior and tell about how it’s grown so much over these past few months. We are all definitely different people who are more focused on the Savior and being like Him. Elder Holland gave at talk when he came here last October, and he said something like, “If you go back home the same person you came you are a disgrace to me. You are expected to be something more and better than you were when you came.” And yes, he used powerful words like that. I feel like I have changed a lot since coming here, and I pray and will try with everything I have to keep what I’ve learned and become here a part of who I am back home.
My Roommates and I Outside the Center on the Sabbath
That’s been this past week for me. You will all be getting one more email of this adventure sent from me when I get home this next week. Thank you all for reading these, and hopefully they’ve given you something that you needed that day. I can’t wait to see you all in a couple of days!