Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friendship as a Hobby

Shabbat Shalom! Church today was wonderful. There are five violists here in the program. We all collaborated to give a musical number and it really was glorious. Those girls are so kind and unassuming and, with our combined efforts, the Lord really touched the congregation.

In Relief Society we were discussing the importance of fellowshipping and extending our hearts in friendship to those around us. There is one woman in the branch here who works in some peace organizations and she said several years ago she was eating at a dinner next to a woman from Germany. They were discussing hobbies and after this sister presented the typical answers (traveling, photography, reading, crafts, etc.) the German woman replied, “My hobby is friendship.” I found that so powerful. I want to spend enough time and effort befriending and loving people that I can call it a hobby.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Western Wall

Tonight was the only night that we will ever be allowed in East Jerusalem after dark. We went on a fieldtrip as a group to the Western Wall to see the welcoming of the Sabbath. All the boys wore slacks, white shirts and kipahs and the women wore long sleeves and long, dark skirts as well as scarves over our heads. The women and men are separated but it was such an amazing thing to hear all of the songs being sung and the joyful dances. I was able to join in on “Shabbat Shalom” (thanks, Brother Baron!) but the rest of the time I just drank the scene in. There is so much power in the strong tradition of this people. The Wall has been hallowed from all of the profound pleading and praising to Heavenly Father. I could really feel it. It is easy to feel the love the Lord has for all of His children who so humbly lay their lives before him.

I wonder sometimes how they feel to have tourists witnessing all those things that are sacred to them. I’m sure they are used to it, but it must be frustrating at times. I am so grateful that I have the chance to worship in peace and privacy and I admire them for their diligence.

There was a shooting in David's City while we were at the Western Wall. None of us heard it or anything and we are totally safe, but when we passed through that area on the way home there were armed guards everywhere and the air was buzzing. It reminded me that I am so grateful for the men and women in the United States military who have kept me safe. I hope we were all able to ponder on our love for our country, and the freedom it grants us, on this significant anniversary. May God bless America.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Much is Required

Kipahs, for sale in the Old City.

King David's Citadel.

We got to spend some time in the Old City today, in between classes, and we decided to finish an assignment we had to visit David’s Citadel. It used to be David’s Palace and now it is a little museum of the history of Jerusalem. Very fun and informative, The best part was this little cartoon in Hebrew that went really fast though the chronology and it was crazy…all these little bible people scurrying on and off the screen and little crusaders and stuff.

After the citadel I had my first falafel in twelve years! It was delicious, of course. Another cool thing I ate today were the eggs from breakfast: they cooked them with fresh dill weed chopped up in them! Odd combination, right? I totally loved it! Definitely incorporating that one when I get home. There are spices everywhere, not only being sold in the city but just growing around town. At the citadel they had bushels of lavender growing like weeds. It smelled so divine!

In Arabic I learned that “Habibi” means “my love,” when spoken to a man. Good to know. Put that on the “never say in public” list. I also learned that, like Hebrew, they have a special suffix for duality and there are no vowels in the written language. We visited Shaban (one of the merchants) again today and his little boy, Mohammed, was there. Today was a holiday from school and the seven-year-old was “helping” is father around the shop. Mostly he just laughed and played around with us. He was adorable! He is already practicing salesmanship and he tried to sell me some jewelry. Instead I convinced him to get a picture with me. He is only seven and he doesn’t speak very good English but he did tell me that he is fasting for Ramadan even though he doesn’t have to at his age. That’s one tough little kid.

I was also introduced more fully to the life of the Mohammed in Near Eastern Civ. today. I know that God works through righteous men all over the world and in all eras. I am grateful to be able to study about him and glean what I can from his experience.

The best part of the day had to have been the concert tonight. While I was ushering I met an older Jewish couple, originally from New York, who had been living in Jerusalem for the past ten years. They were really interested in what I, as a student, had to say about the JC. They have been coming to concerts here for years but never once talked to a student, so I was glad to give them that opportunity. The community is very curious about us because they see that something is different. A tour guide in the citadel had us pegged as soon as she saw us. She said, “I know the Mormon girls because there are so modest and wholesome.” As we walk through the Christian quarter we are always hearing comments like, “There go the beautiful Mormon women!” Of course, those kinds are not directed to us in such a respectful way, and we never respond, but the amazing thing is that they really do recognize us. It brings to mind the scripture D&C 82:3 “For unto him whom much is given much is required”. I recognize that I have a legacy to uphold and I feel honored to be given the opportunity to do so.

The concert tonight was Brazilian Jazz! So flippin’ fun because I played violin in a jazz combo last semester and we did some Basso Nova. I stayed afterwards to talk to the musicians and we chatted about the different Brazilian beats and styles. They were so cool and encouraging…they even gave me a free CD before I left! I feel so blessed to be making such wonderful associations. It was a great day and a better night! Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Aaron sneaked this one. I didn't even notice him taking it.

Jessica, me and Laura on our way up to a Greek Orthodox Abbey.

Laura and Jessica try to get get their bearings outside of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Aaron, always the photographer.

The cats are everywhere, this one just happened to pose for me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Haiku

Studying into the night

Merits a reward:

Aromatherapy mmmm.

(this pretty much sums up my day...'til tomorrow!)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Love for Dinner

Today was a good day to recover from the sunburns we got on the fieldtrip yesterday. Six hours of class and eight hours of reading! In the words of Sharon Creech, “My brain feels like a squashed pea.” (Heather, are you reading this?) We met two more of our teachers today: the Jewish, Ophir Yarden and Palestinian-Christian, Adnan Musseni. They teach Modern Near Eastern Studies in Judaism and Islam respectively. Free time just dropped to nil but that being said, I am a true believer that the more we learn about the history, culture, geography, politics and theology of the area the more rich our experiences will be. We’re going for quality sightseeing, not quantity. I just wish they would apply that concept to the work load but it looks like we will be expected to read an average of 200+ pages a day with our combined classes. My creative, hands-on, music major mind has some whiplash but I’m sure I’ll adjust soon enough.

The most cultural experience I had today was dinner where I ate the best taboule on this side of the planet! It had pomegranate seeds in it! Pomegranates harvested, by the way, from trees here at the center. No big deal, just meander outside; pick a pomegranate; eat and study in a slight breeze while overlooking the city. Did I say I was sick of studying? I forgot. I’m in Jerusalem! They also had stuffed artichoke hearts. The sweetest part (besides dessert) is that most of the kitchen staff is Muslim and they are fasting for Ramadan everyday while making our meals. Again I am struck by the fierce dedication. We are fed out of pure love!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Field Trip

Today we went on a field trip designed by our professors to familiarize us with the geography of the area. We bused around to five significant lookouts in order to see Jerusalem and the surrounding areas from every direction. Again I was struck by the vast amount of history that made the Holy Land sacred even before Christ’s time. We discussed some of the Bible stories that occurred in each area we saw: Ruth and Boaz, Abraham coming from Hebron, Zacharias in the temple, Elijah running from Carmel. How the scriptures come to life! Seeing these notable locations and realizing that they look and feel just like normal places reminds me that the prophets of old were just normal people; normal people that trusted in God and through the enabling power of the Atonement were made exceptional.

Most of the lookouts were bell towers in Lutheran churches and it was a bit of a flashback to Europe. We went over the Christian saints, symbols and icons and I am embarrassed at how much I had forgotten since last summer! While we were in the tower of St. Victoria Augusta we had a view of the West Bank, and probably the only view we’ll have of it since we are not allowed there or in Gaza. The Church just deems the political unrest too tumultuous in those areas. Although I have understood these conflicts in concept for some time, I am still shocked at the sharp reality of the tension. This isn’t Kansas anymore…and feeling it in person has convinced me of the complexity of the situation.

It was a long day in the sun, but rich to an anxiously expanding palette.

One of the beautiful stained glass windows in Augusta Victoria
Church of the Ascension.

On the Mount of Olives.

Lizzie and I at the Seven Arches Overlook with Jerusalem behind us.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Good Samaritan

Free Day! I spent the morning doing homework (I have 173 more pages to read before Wednesday) and then a bunch of us went into the city at eleven. We can't leave the JC without our lanyard which has our keys, phone and most importantly ID card. We swipe our card on the way out so they know we're gone and on the way in so they know we're home! The security crew here is extraordinary! They are really patient with us loosing stuff and getting lost...and they keep us so safe! The head security man comes to the center every night in the middle of the night and sneaks over the wall to see if his people will catch him, that way they arealwayslooking for somebody! Genius, huh?

The city was a lot less crowded today and we explored the Christian Quarter for the first time. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was so fascinating! I won't bore you with a history quiz, but look it up if you're interested. It is like a microcosm for the religious fervor and tension that resounds in the city. We took a photo excursion through East Jerusalem for the rest of the afternoon and happened upon a heavily-trafficked street where a car had stalled, blocking traffic. Everyone was honking adamantly but not one person was offering assistance. Aaron jumped right out there to give him a hand and then other guys started following him until ten of them pushed him up and over the hill where he could get out of the way. I thought it was great to see an American, usually viewed overseas as selfish and disruptive, lend the first hand. One more point for BYU!

We met some very nice merchants that we will be visiting again. I've learned a few more conversational words the only trouble is knowing when to greet them in Hebrew and when in Arabic! It is a very sensitive situation.

Tonight I ushered at a concert in the JC. I was chatting with guests before and met eight people from Paris! It was so fun to brush up on my French with them. The recall rate has slowed down a bit but it really comes back as you use it! The concert was a small, Jewish, a cappella choir and the title was, "Negro Spirituals." Need I say more? It was so fun!

To bed.

Aaron took this. He has some sort of little kid
charm...every time I try to photograph them
they wave their hands and say, "No, no."

A bunch of us girls in the Old City.

Aaron the photographer, always on the hunt for a good shot.

Aaron helps push the car uphill.