Sunday, December 20, 2009

Home again...sort of

Well I'm safely on the American continent! I arrived in Salt Lake City after 32 hours of travelling to get one night's sleep and drive off to Mexico!! It's gorgeous here.

My family and I are staying in Guaymas for a week to do humanitarian work over Christmas! So far it has been lovely. We went to church today and felt an abundance of the Spirit despite the language barrier. Sweet people.

I miss Jerusalem terribly and mostly my peeps. Good to be distracted but sad to have no phone service!! I tell you what. You live with the same 80 people for four months and suddenly don't see them EVER. I'm having withdrawals. The only way to solve that will be to really get to work tomorrow!

Onwards and upwards!

Over and out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

starting line

I am so full of emotion. Today is my last in Jerusalem and I feel like a rose that is being picked as a bud. I've grown so much here and I know that I have used every minute the best I could but goodness: four months is just not long enough! My mind is flooded with memories of the friends I've made and the lessons I have learned. They are innumerous. One of my dear friends, Taufik, runs a shewarma shop. As we visited him to bid him goodbye he spoke to us of the power of the human mind. He promised us that we will be able to recall every detail of our experiences here if we meditate upon them carefully. I hope to do exactly that and maybe my mind will blossom into maturity and real understanding of the things I experienced.

Everyone around the center has referred to this week as the last leg of the race but on the contrary I feel like I am standing on the starting line of a 5K for high school cross country. I have a pit in my stomach and every particle of my will is directed against the urge to run and hide in the bus. But there is also an excitement. I've been training here for almost four months and though I am nervous I will throw my entire being into the longest race of all: real life.

As I feel so weak I am reminded of the parable of the mustard seed given by Jesus Christ:

"Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof." Matt 13:31-32

We are so small and insignificant by ourselves but Christ is the light and the life. He has a nice plot of dirt, lots of water and plenty of sunshine. It a beautiful sybiotic relationship because we are nothing without him but he cannot grow a tree without us! He is waiting to plant us and nourish us and if we trust in him we will become something better than our wildest dreams.

There is a short video of my Grandpa Madsen's life and it starts out with his voice,"What you are is so much greater than anything you have yet done; it is incredible. And most of your problems arise not from overemphasizing that but from underestimating it. If you have not yet absorbed a sense of mission you had better open up your pores." Everytime I hear these words, which is many times while I have been here, I feel in my heart that it is true. Heavenly Father has BIG plans for his children. Each one has the potential to be great and if we look to Christ he will enable us to reach that potential.

I know God loves his children with an overwhelming, cosmic-blasting love. I get little tastes of it each day through my experiences. I know that though I am leaving is beautiful, sacred land behind, this love will remain in my heart. I know that my Redeemer lives and even know he speaks peace to my soul and I have the conviction to carry on in joy and faith!

Runners on your mark. Get set. Bang!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two days as Princess Basma's

I've spent time the last two days at Princess Basma's Hospital for Disabled Children. Brooklyn, Teren, LeAnna and Tara are painting a mural on one of the walls and I went along to play violin for the children. They loved it! Arab children simply are not exposed to Western music or instruments in general and every one that I have played for is hungry for it! They all want to touch my violin after and hear different sounds that I can make. It fascinates them. The class I played for on Wednesday is full of kids with impaired hearing. None of them are completely deaf and they teach them how to function in the world without sign language. I tried to play really loud. I think I got through to them : )

Brooklyn and Teren painting the mural.

This is Fatima. She loved looking at the music notes. I don't think any of them have seen music notated before.

This is doing Hot Canary. The laughed so hard at my bird chirps! Who knew that Jr. Miss would come in so handy here?

Adorable children.

When I went on Friday I was able to meet up with Betty Majaj, the director. She and Nanny have been friends for over twenty years and she is one of the women in "Making Their Own Peace." A very strong woman. She uses all of her resources and strength for betterment of the community and these disabled children. I admire her passion and selflessness!

If you look closely on the bulletin board you might be able to see a portrait of my grandparents and the Madsen family Christmas card from 2007. So surreal to see a picture of myself up on a board half a world away from home!

Betty wrote me a note by her chapter in the book.

Day two: I brought Kathleen with me and we did Christmas duets!

Victoria was sweet enough to take these shots while we were interacting.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Playing for Olweia Husseini.
Nanny captured this shot. You can see my shadow on the wall behind her.

Last week Mom and Nanny came to visit! They arrived while I was in Galilee and spent a couple of days in Jerusalem catching up with friends. They met me on Saturday at church in Tiberius and I almost cried when I saw them I was so happy! It was such a joy to share all my new friends with them. It was just like a big reunion of people that I really, really love!

They spent several days in Galilee with us soaking in the soothing atmosphere there. One night Nanny spoke for us at a fireside and the students followed her with a testimony meeting. Everyone was so inspired. Definitely one of the culminating events of Galilee. My fellow students still mention her words often as they comment in class! She is truly and elect lady and I feel so fortunate to be part of my incredible family. One evening we went out to eat with the Goldblatt family. I remember celebrating Hanukah with them when I was eight years old and here with all of my cousins. It was a pleasure to reacquaint! Their son, Elad, is twenty-two and an officer in the army and I had a lot of questions for him about that, so it was a great evening.

I had three more days with Mom and Nanny back in Jerusalem which we spent visiting their friends and reminiscing about the years and years that Nanny and Bapa spent here. One of my favorites was Olwiea Husseini, an incredibly strong Arab woman that Nanny wrote about in her book, "Making Their Own Peace." She made us delicious anise tea and biscuit cookies and I played "Sabrina" for her. She is very articulate and very loving. The visit was short but fulfilling and I left feeling strengthened by being with her. I am planning on returning to visit her again very soon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Jonny and the Sea.

Playing at the Sea of Galilee (courtesy of Sister Dicus who I didn't see there! She just sent this to me)

I have so much to tell from the last post!

When I last wrote I was packing up to spend two weeks North of Jerusalem in Galilee and Tiberius. There was no internet available at the kibbutz there, which is my excuse for the tardiness of this post.

My heart is so full of love for that place! We took the days to bus around to sites such as the Mount of Beatitudes as a class. I spent mornings on the beach, walking and contemplating my Savior. Watching the sunrise and reading the teachings of Jesus Christ. The peace and love I felt from Him on that shore was tangible. It was like a blanket that stayed with me for the rest of the day. My heart was soft and sticky, like honey. At sunset I would pull my violin out and sit on the rocks, playing simple hymns of praise to Heavenly Father. Music was the only way I knew how to express the gratitude I felt: gratitude for the beautiful earth and gratitude for the healing gospel of Jesus Christ. I felt distinctly as I was walking on that beach that I was walking into a future in which I am a new woman: a better disciple of Christ. Late at night we had bonfires on the beach. We read accounts of Jesus calling to the apostles to drop their nets and follow Him. I am surrounded by astoundingly deep individuals here. At those firesides I gleaned greater understanding of the teachings of Christ and the conviction to live by them burned inside of me. We also brought guitars and sang the nights away. I will always remember the laughter, the crackling fire, the big beautiful moon and the lap of the water on that smooth shore.

The time in Galilee was simply glorious.

Friday, November 13, 2009

It pays to be brazen

I just had the most AMAZING evening.

I don't know where to start.

It all started in Kathryn's beautiful mind. She found out about a concert being given by the Israeli Philharmonic: Kurt Meiser conducting with Nicolaj Zneider soloing the Mendelsohn violin concerto. HELLO. We put our two heads together and made it happen! I've been looking forward to it for two weeks and when this evening finally arrived I had the perfect outfit: little black dress (compiments of Lizzie), blacks flats and my new earrings. We were accompanied by the sweet Whipples as well as Naomi and Gill Weinstein, who are Jewish locals. The Weinsteins know many of the musicians in the Phil and they took us back stage to meet some of them while they were warming up (amazing thing #1). It turned out that Kathryn and my seats were in the back row (do not distress) so we marched up to the front and waited till the lights dimmed. Lo and behold there were two GREAT seats in the fifth row, right in front of the soloist (amazing thing #2). The first piece was phenominal. Then a Greek god walked onto the stage...oh wait, it was Nicolaj Zneider! And would you beleive it, he was almost more enjoyable to hear as to watch. No, in all seriousness it was a beautiful interpretation. When he was clapped back for an encore (he must have bowed a hundred times) and quieted the audience and dove into Bach's Unaccompanied Violin Sonata no. 2, Sarabanda. That's when the real magic started. Doing an unaccompanied piece was his only option since the orchestra didn't prepare an extra piece. It is so challenging to hold an audience with solo Bach but he was captivating. It was so masterfully executed and extrememly inpirational. I once heard Robert McDuffie say, "Playing Bach is like stepping into a cool shower on a hot day." I couldn't say it better myself. The audience went wild once again and he was so gracious as he inched off stage.

The lights came on for intermission and Kathryn and I concluded that we might as well live up to our stereotype: brazen American. We marched back stage and found him. He was chatting amiably with another admiring fan and we just stood and stared. It was unreal. He was much taller in person. He graciously signed our programs, posed for a picture and wished us well in our own musical endeavors sending both of us off with a kiss on the cheek. But the fun did not end! We snuck up to the balcony where there were seats behind the orchestra which offered the perfect view of the brilliant Kurt Meiser conducting the Scottish Symphony without a score. As if that wasn't enough of a learning experience I learned a great lesson from my new friend, Mr. Znaider. While we were chatting with him backstage his assistant had been frantically searching for an extra violin part. He combed down his wild, sweaty hair (concerto playing really is a workout) tossed on a pair of reading glasses and inconspicuously set himself up a stand in the back of the first violin section. (P.S. soloists never do this.) It was so inspiring to see him play that symphony in the back of the section with the same passion and finesse that he played his solo, even though he knew that no one noticed he was there. That is truly the mark of a great musician and a person with integrity. He played, not for recognition, but for personal satisfaction and fulfilment. What a lesson to learn!

When the concert concluded, Naomi took us to the back once more to meet Maestro Meiser. Wow. Again, a gracious man. He is eighty-two years old and just underwent a kidney transplant. Even though he was so tired, he took the time to nourish us "seedlings". What a dear, sweet man. That is the sort of gracious attitude that I wish to engender in my career and through my life.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Proof that God exists and loves His children:

And yes this was all the same night. It just kept changing and getting better and better!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Aya and Aseel

Marni posted a bunch of my pics of this day on her blog if you want to check it out!

This is our new friend, Aseel. She is six and we are trying to teach her English. She knows "flower" now.

Marni and me with Aseel's family.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Best Day

I took the day to be blown by the wind in the Old City and here’s what I got:

Best feeling: First stop, handing a plate of peanut-butter cookies to our new friend, Frater Pietrush (Brother Peter) a Franciscan monk at St. Savior’s. His face lit up and he was so happy to try “sweets American way.” Picture the friar in Disney’s Robin Hood and then give him a German accent. Too cute.

Best buy: Merimecko apron for $1.75

Best laugh: Louie (Palestinian-Irish man born in Ogden, Utah and now owns a little restaurant) said God must look at us and say, “Those funky creatures!” Maybe you had to be there....

Best Acquaintance made: David ben Kitty, the kitten who snuggled up to me while I was studying in the Austrian Hospice Gardens. I am waiting to see if he had any fleas that I made friends with as well. So far so good.

Best future outing: Omar at the falafel place close to Damascus Gate. He works at Hebrew University and gave us his number so he can set up a tour for us as well as introduce us to some of the Palestinian students there.

Best idea: taking my raincoat with me. It is suddenly Winter and we were rained on several times!

Best Photo: on its way!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

It's fall here and memories of costume-making and trick-or-treating have tenderly swirled in my mind all day. What I wouldn't give for some hot wassail and chocolate chip pumpkin bread! I hope everyone has had a great Halloween!

This afternoon I finally met some of our neighbors on Mount Scopus. Aya and her family live a short walk from the center and she invited Marni, Adri and me to come visit. Sher is thirteen and baby-sits all of her siblings and cousins which ends up being about eight little children. Her parents were out shopping so Aya entertained us herself by sitting us down and serving us green apple soda pop. Her sixteen-year old cousin, Sherin, showed up a little while later and went gaga over us. She wanted to know everything about American movies and music but it turns out she already knows lots more than we do! None of them can say “Molly” and so they just call me “Miley” which is great since they love Miley Cyrus and therefore think my name is amazing. I really hit it off with the six-year-old, Aseel, who got her hands on my Arabic phrase book and doodled “Aseel (heart) Molly” all over it. Nice little souvenir. Aya’s mom, Nuha, was delighted to find us in her home and invited us to come shopping with her in the Old City tomorrow. On our way back to the center Marni expressed how grateful she is for the past students in the program who acted in a way that paved our way to having these friendships. It is because of those students that they really trust us in that neighborhood. Let’s hear it for them!

Now I'm off to see what sort of costume I can devise out of construction paper and my limited wardrobe for the JC Halloween Party tonight! I'll let you know what I come up with.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Rainy Day

It was raining today but nothing could keep us out of the city on our free afternoon! There is a big food market in West Jerusalem and on Fridays it is bursting at the seams with people stocking up for the Sabbath. What is it that is so charming about being on a busy street with people shouting on every side in a language that you can’t understand? I shouldn’t love it as much as I do. I did pick up on a few things. My favorite was, “Shalom la” which would be a literal version of “hello there.” Cute.

I stopped by a baker’s stand and placed a few pastries in a bag. I had just picked up money so all I had was big bills. When I finally shoved my bag in his face before the people around me (that’s the name of the game, no lines, just the squeaky wheel gets the grease) he declared, “Two shekels!” I will never forget the look on his face when I handed him my fifty-shekel bill. It was like, “Seriously lady?” After I offered an apologetic shrug and smile he unfurrowed his brows and shooed me off with my change, but he was smiling too.

Next we ran into Shimon, a young Hasidic Jew from New York studying in a Yeshiva here. He wouldn’t shake my hand because he refrains from touching any women outside of his immediate family. It was raining so hard so we stayed with him under the little fruit stand umbrella where he had set up a little box. He was yelling to the crowd reminding them to observe the Sabbath and wear their phylacteries. He told us too, but upon learning that we were not Jewish took it back. “Non-Jews aren’t going to be held accountable for not performing the mitzvot,” he assured us. It was great to ask him questions because he is our age, speaks great English, understands American culture and was really cool and articulate. When we asked him if there was one thing he would change about Israel he said a stronger state. As we bid him farewell two other Hasidic Jews came walking up the streets blowing a little horn to remind the shop-owners of the setting of the sun. I swear that place went from Times Square to ghost town in two seconds flat. It was incredible. We walked home in the dead quiet and I was reminded of Rexburg for my first time here. Idaho and Jerusalem: the only two places in the world where you can’t find a shop open on the Sabbath.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Organ Outing

I had the special chance tonight to accompany Brother Whipple to an organ concert in the St. Savior’s Church with three other kids (his car only seats five). His Russian friend Katyana played a work by Messiaen. It was so thought provoking. She is Jewish but played of Christ so tenderly and convincingly to a bunch of Mormons in a Franciscan monastery. Most of the small audience was made up of Franciscan monks and since Brother Whipple performs and practices there regularly he knows most of them by name. Frater Pietra (Brother Peter) took the five of us up on the roof afterwards to see the city at night. It had rained during the concert and the crisp fall air mingled with a dewy freshness as I drank in the sight of electric Jerusalem. The window of a nearby Greek apartment was open and the simple tune of a recorder floated over the roofs. If I’d had my violin I’m fairly confident that I would not have been able to resist jumping down to the roofs and spilling Hasidic improvisations into the night air! Alas: some other time.

We came home to the Whipples’ apartment and discussed music and olive wood over thick chocolate milk. Does life get better than this?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


This reputed to be the largest and most well-preserved Roman ruins outside of Europe but I've been to Europe and I never saw anything this cool! These columns are huge!

We were sitting in the South amphitheater when we were greeted by, get this, Jordanian bagpipers! Talk about culture clash! Arabs in Roman ruins playing Scottish bagpipes. It was so entertaining. Apparently the Jordanian army picked up the bagpipe idea and have assimilated them into their culture and the plaid against their headdresses was so fabulous!

There is a hippodrome were we watched a little reenactment of Roman fighting tactics by actors that were all dressed up in Roman armor. The formations were cool and the gladiators were hilarious (I don't know, is pec-flexing considered hard core in the Middle East? Cause we just thought it was hysterical) but my favorite was the chariot racing! I think the chariots just might have been antiques! I literally thought the wheels were going to fly off at every turn! So cheesy, but fun.

Pictures on the way!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I grew up watching Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail in awe of this city built out of a mountain. I was sure that they used tricky angles to make it look bigger and cooler than it was in real life but was I ever wrong! Indiana Jones does not do it justice. Seriously. Petra left me completely speechless. I can't explain how I felt as the narrow ravine began to open and I caught my first glimpses of the treasury. It was epic.

The treasury. My mind had already exploded by this point.

What most people don't realize is that Petra is not just that one facade (which is actually a tomb, mistakenly called the Treasury by grave-robbers) but a whole city! I could have spend a week there exploring. If you are willing to hike up a couple of miles you find the religious center of the city, the Monastery. It is a lot bigger than the Treasury but lesser known because it is a considerable hike to reach it and the details of the building are not as well-preserved.

Hugging the column so you can see just how massive the monastery is!

There are beduins selling goods all over the city and we stopped to get to know some of the friendlier ones. One woman named Gamala talked to Lizzie and I for a while. When we left she insisted on giving us each a little gift to remember her. She gave Lizzie a bracelet and me a necklace. I am so touched by the love and generosity of these people.

Marni gave this little three-year-old boy her water when she found out he had been sitting in the sun all day long.

The bedouin children are so friendly and happy. It was our goal to make each of them laugh.

The other amazing thing about Petra was the beautiful colors of the stone! Every building was a work of art because of the coloring alone. I had one of those moments where I wished I knew everything because then I could truly appreciate it. Oh wait, I always feel that way! I knew it was incredible from a geological standpoint but I didn't know why. But there may still be hope for me: music and geology are not completely incompatible. Dr. Howard Banister studied the tonal properties of igneous rock formations...although I'm not as interested in that as I am in the metamorphic or sedimentary rock categories. I mean, you can take your igneous rocks or leave them. I relate primarily to micas, quartz, felspar. (Big shout out to the Madsen clan.)

Molly's school of geological understanding:
1) this is sandstone, 2) it is beautiful, 3) the color provides perfect lighting for portraits!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ana Boheb al Rokossa

Tonight we participated in a Ramadan feast put on by Ayman, our Arabic teacher! The food was so incredible! There was a lot of thyme, mint, parsley and garlic. My favorite was the steamed carrots hollowed out and stuffed with seasoned rice. Mm mm good. Of course we had amazing hummus and pita to polish it all off.

Ayman invited a father and son who do the call to prayer in one of the Jerusalem mosques. Call to prayer usually lasts about ten minutes and it is just a solo singer amplified to the whole neighborhood that it is time to pray. There are five prayers a day and each call to prayer has different words. The one at four in the morning (who needs a rooster?) says, "Prayer is better than sleep." How dedicated are they to stinking get up in the middle of the night to pray! Yet another thing to admire about the people here.

The duty to sing the call to prayer is passed down through the family and it has been the privilege of this family for more than five-hundred and fifty years! The sons start learning when they are so young: six or seven. The son that came (now in his twenties) had the whole qu'uran memorized by the age of nine! They don't take lessons. They believe that singing is a gift from God and it comes naturally to those who have it. These men definitely have a gift: it was beautiful!

The call to prayer is sung from minarets, like this one.
Every mosque has one.

After dinner was dancing! Four young Palestinians came in traditional garb and demonstrated to us after which we learned the dance. It was outrageously fun! Most of the dances were circle and line dances but at the end we all just broke out in spontaneous joyful movement (shout out to Mom...).

Left to right: Fatima, Ashley, Naima, Muhammad, Me, Faisar and Lizzie

What is it about music and dancing that brings people together? It's fascinating and so wonderful. Ana boheb al rokossa! I love to dance!

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'm usually not this idealistic...

I had the privilege of experiencing the Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem today. I was deeply affected mostly by the stories. We all know the hard facts, but to take time to get to know the victims from what they left behind. There were a couple of stories that really moved me, but I don't think this is the time to relate them. I emerged with a renewed determination to live with wide open eyes and never passively stand by persecution. One element that I found very disturbing is the chain of responsible persons on a display. There was an interview from the conductor of the train station at the Polish town closest Auschwitz. He was just a citizen working at the train station and he knew where they were headed but sent the train through every time anyways. When someone asked him how it felt to be involved in the murders he insisted he had no part in it. The system was such that either everyone was guilty or no one was to blame. I want to be the type of citizen that always steps up and takes the initiative no matter the cost.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Toil and Oil

You start out with olives. Any olive will do. In our case they weren't even ripe but they fulfilled their purpose, which is? OIL!

We dump buckets full of the olives (which we picked last week, in case you were wondering if they grow in big blue bins...) into the press.

Sorry the internet just dropped and I can't do any more pictures...the rest of the adventure is on its way asap!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Love of God

What a wonderful day!

The Sabbath truly is magnificent.

I delivered a talk in sacrament meeting and I was so blessed with clarity of mind and the spirit as I spoke. The topic was "Leading Others to Christ Through Our Good Works," mostly centering around the life of Jesus Christ and exploring how we can emulate his actions. I used a lot of quotations from Elder Uchtdorf in his address "The Love of God."
I feel God's love for me today as I reflect on all of my blessings. All of you fit into that category! Thank you, each one, for your sweet friendship. I challenge you to see if you can help someone else to feel your love for them, and God's love for them, today.

Friday, October 16, 2009

[under construction]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

[under construction]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I've got photos from Egypt up! No descriptions yet...give me some time for that one : ) I need to go study for a mid-term.

Love and Blessings!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sick Day

Still sick today. Everyone went into to Tel Aviv to spend his or her free day on the beach but I opted to stay behind. I don’t want to be caught nauseated in the middle of a city. So today will just be a chill-ax day. Maybe I’ll finally get this blog updated!

Everything I eat seems to make me sicker but Sister Emmett dropped by some Gatorade and Tums and Sister Allen brought by an electric heating pad, both of which seem to be helping a bit. Thank goodness for surrogate mothers! Also, Brother Whipple stopped by with some world music for me to listen to. All these Middle Eastern modes and quarter-tones are fascinating! I’ll tell which bands end up being my favorite tomorrow.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Grandmother's Intuition

It was a wonderful Sabbath! We watched the rest of conference (sessions three and four) that were recorded from last week. Being half-way across the world makes it so much more meaningful when the Bretheren talk of their gratitude for the modern technology that makes a global conference possible. I feel blessed to be so far away and still receive words from the Prophet!

Nanny called me tonight! I’ve been feeling under the weather, some sort of stomach flu, and wouldn’t you know my grandma would call right away! She lived here with my grandpa in the late ‘80s and it was fun to exchange stories and update her on all of her friends that I have met. I have not met one person in the center that does not know Bapa’s name and doesn’t have a story of a time that his words or actions touched them! Nanny and Mom are coming to visit in November (when they have Thanksgiving Break) and they will be well cared for here, where so many love them!

I’m turning in early to try to get on top of this bug.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Classes ended early today and we are still banned from the city, so Kathleen and I went exploring in the library. We found a whole closet of music! We were like kids in a candy shop! I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed sight-reading and jamming. We just took up residence in the LRC and played music for four hours. My friend, Bassam, the head security guard, popped his head in to see what was going on. We played him a rendition of “Love at Home” and I showed him the picture in my violin case of Nanny and Bapa. He was here as a young man when Bapa was the Director and he had lots of stories to tell. It was such a touching afternoon. In Arabic “Bassam” means “Smiler” and so that is what we are going to call him now. He is a wise man. He reminded me of a truth that I have forgotten, and that is that the older we get the faster the hours, days and months seem to go, only because we grow accustomed to everything around us. As a child, time seems to be drawn out because every second, every breath and glance, are filled with newness and discovery. The key to a long, successful life does not hinge on the number of years we are walking on this earth but rather to the state of curiosity and constant learning in which we walk day to day. This is the explanation I will offer to my roommates next time they ask why half of the Jerusalem Center Library is sitting on our bookshelves!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mountain to Muhammad

Today I ran into Brother Whipple and he asked me if I would be willing to play Sabrina again for the Christmas Concert we are putting on for the community in December. I wondered if it wouldn’t be a little bit odd since it is not a Christmas song but he said, “Oh Molly, beautiful music is appropriate on any program.” Sweet man. He wants to tie families into the program and he thinks it would sweet if I would dedicate it to Bapa again, especially since so many community members knew him. “A nice tribute to the man who so many admire and love.”

I spent most of the morning helping the Okiishis with JC tours. In order to satiate public curiosity about what “those Mormons do up at that University,” we conduct tours almost daily. The service couples direct them and most of the time they run during our classes, but the Okiishis asked for help on Tuesdays. I get to welcome guests in and show them a movie of the center, after which we escort them into the gorgeous Auditorium for a little organ recital by Brother Whipple. Sister Whipple or the Okiishis then take them around the building offering little interesting facts and explaining the facility. Then, like an assembly line, I get to entertain the arriving group. I met some really interesting people! One couple, Lilia and Ruvi, live in a kibbuts outside of Netanya. I told them I’ve been interested in doing some sort of an exchange program with a kibbuts and they said that I would definitely have the opportunity to use my music, whether to perform regularly or teach classes for the children. Wouldn’t that be too much fun? They gave me their contact info in case I ever had questions. Though we are all bummed about being kept from the Old City, I’m learning plenty about the culture just from conducting tours. If you can’t bring the students to the city, bring the city to the students!

Dear Brother Whipple.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Talent Show

We had such a wonderful talent show this evening! I only wish that members of the branch or community had been there to share in the spirit of music. I was completely blown away by the amount of talent we have in this center! There were pianists, guitarists, vocalists, duets, quartets. It was inspiring. I played the theme from Sabrina and dedicated it to Nanny and Bapa. The entire Madsen clan loves that movie so it only seemed appropriate for the first time I played it. My friend, Kathleen Finnlison, is a piano performance major at BYU and she was sweet enough to accompany me. We have been playing a lot of music together in our free time and it so nice to have an amazing musician to work with! We seem to be totally on the same page with our interpretations and then there is the fact that she plays flawlessly. She is definitely one of my blessings here!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sukkot Parade

Today I was able to get out of the center and experience some of the Sukkot activities! There was a carnival in Liberty Park where people from all different countries were gathering to eat, listen to bands, get hair braids and stock up on al their hippie accessories. It was also the starting place of the Jerusalem Parade, celebrating the Israeli occupation. There was a flag for every country and people from each country were marching under their flags in support of a “united state.” The Americans invited us to march with them, but we had to refuse, for obvious reasons. If the center discourages us from wearing clothing with so much as a flag or the name of a city in the United States printed on it, I can’t imagine what sort of trouble we would get in marching in such a controversial parade under the United States' flag!

Auntie Sam: all decked out and ready to rep-re-sent!

I felt like I was back home at the Freedom Festival!

If you look really closely you can see their black kipahs...

Taylor chats it up with the group from Mexico.

A mother playing with her cute little boy.

This little girl was really happy to get her cotton candy!

A yummy juice stand! If oranges don't tickle your fancy, try carrots!

We walked along the parade route to check out all the different groups marching and ended up on Ben Yehuda street. I got my third cone of Aldo gelato (Ferera Rocher and Maplenut) and we had fun roaming around, trying to find a cord for Morgan's electric guitar (he's going to play in the talent show tomorrow). It was the first time my Hebrew really came in handy as we navigated between music shops, which was, of course, satisfying.

Monday, October 5, 2009

October 5

Ali Baba the Albino gecko!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Time Travel

There continues to be some tension in the Old City with the Jewish holiday, Sukkot, going on, so we spent the day in West Jerusalem again. I don’t believe that I have described the contrast between East and West Jerusalem yet.

Whoever says time travel is impossible has not stepped through one of the gates leading inside the walls of the Old City. You are pulled back a century with each step forward. The musty smells and dim light add to the atmosphere of antiquity. It seems that each shop has been handed down the family for hundreds of years and every brick and stone has a story. Most people, especially women, are dressed in the same style their ancestors were, excepting the squeaky new tennis shoes.

In contrast, West Jerusalem is like a modern European city. The visage of Ben Yehuda street speaks only of street performers and shopping trips with the cobblestones and Cathedrals serving as the only indicator of any history. They have all of the same clothing lines we do in America: Adidas, Puma, Gap, American Apparel, Hollister, and the list goes on. The demographic in West Jerusalem is overwhelmingly Jewish and many of these Jews have emigrated from European cities which just adds to the modern undercurrent.

You can find interesting people to talk to all over the city but I find myself rather missing East Jerusalem and the Old City. I hope we are allowed to go back, soon!

Some little girls were playing with their
puppy on Ben Yehuda Street.

We went exploring in the Ethiopian section of the city, above Ben Yehuda, and found this little
gem of a church. We were the only visitors and we sat in there for an hour or so, pondering. The
way the sun was streaming in at that time of day was magnificent! The incense burned there had the most unique smell! The church was circular with icons and colorful prayer rugs in the middle. The dome was painted beautifully and most of the middle portion was pepto bismol pink!

This priest didn't speak a word of English
but he welcomed us in so warmly.
Such a sweet old man.

The beautiful sunshine.

Me! taken by Lizzie.

This was a little building off the courtyard of the church. There was
another priest doing bookwork in that room but I thought the
lounging cat was picturesque.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

General Conference

We got watch conference tonight!! There was this buzz in the air all day in the center. I have never been that excited for conference, or been around people who were so excited! President Monson just said, “We welcome all those who are watching from all over the world, “ and I thought, like Jerusalem?! It was one of those “who would have ever thought I would be here” moments. I haven’t had any homesickness but I did miss my family today. I hope you guys ate a banana split for me, with an extra maraschino cherry! Because of the time difference they are recording the Sunday sessions and showing them after church next Saturday, so I get to draw this spiritual feast out for a whole week. How truly thankful I am that God’s Prophet is on the Earth today and that I can hear his counsel, even when I am on the other side of the world!

Friday, October 2, 2009


Cute old man...smoking hookah. He told
me how just in case I ever want to.

Squeezing pomegranate juice. This vendor
was bartering prices while juicing.
That's first-rate multi-tasking!


Today is Friday and all morning the Muslims are praying in the mosques. Although I do not understand exactly what danger that incurs, we have always been forbidden from entering East Jerusalem on Fridays until 3 p.m. President Brown said that they prefer to ere on the side of paranoia, which would be one explanation. Classes ran all morning but a group of us went to West Jerusalem in the early afternoon. We just explored the area around Ben Yehuda Street. West Jerusalem is well outside the walls of the Old City and it is considered to be the hip modern place to hang out. It’s mostly made up of clothing stores, art galleries, restaurants and ice cream shops. There are a few touristy shops but they are pricier than the merchants in the Old City and stingy on bartering. There were sukkot erected every block or so for the Jewish “celebration of the tabernacles” and the streets were full of young Jewish men carrying palm fronds, citron, and other ceremonial vegetation for the feast.

We spent the later afternoon walking along the Via Dolorosa reading the correlating scriptures with each station. Although most of the Stations of the Cross have been proven incorrect by archaeologists and historians it was nice to partake in that tradition to some degree, and reading the scriptures to remind us of Christ’s life is always an enlightening experience. The Chapel of the Flagellation and the Armenian Church are two little gems that we found along the way; beautiful stained glass. I will definitely be returning to them in the future when I need to reflect and meditate, which seems to happen often here.

There were fireworks in the neighborhood outside the center tonight! I heard them in my room and thought they were gunshots but when I went out on my porch to investigate I saw the lights of the fireworks. I looked with the assumption of finding violence but found instead laughing and hooting. What a remarkable contrast! It’s those moments that have the most profound effects on my mind. I just sat and watched the fireworks, feeling completely at home in this place where humans find peace in their own worlds; in those special little moments with their families and friends.