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
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.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Happy Yom Kippur! We were allowed into the city today so after morning classes I went in with four friends. They celebrate by worshiping privately so the streets were pretty empty. We were going to stop by some of the historical sites but they were all closed! I really should have put two and two together since most of the sites are run by the government and all the government worker are Israeli, but it was fun to just explore. There were soldiers all over the city, just being on hand, I’m sure, in case of any disturbance. They always say funny things to us girls and as we passed by yesterday we got a “Wuzzup.” That was a fun little taste of home! We made friends with a few of the shop owners we had not met yet, like Bilal who runs a candy stand just inside Damascus Gate. The hottest item on the candy market right now is gummies by the kilo. He has every flavor, shape and size! My personal favorites are the sour pineapple strips with the little bananas coming in a close second. Bilal has an old-fashioned scale where he puts the candy on one side and little weights and measures on the other, adding and taking away until it levels off. I can't really tell you why, but I got really excited when I saw that! I took a picture that I'll post as soon as I can make it up to Hebrew U.
I’ll have to get a picture of the cobblestones of the Old City sometime. Since it built on a hill all the streets are slopping or down. They have steps for pedestrians but they also have a ramp up every level, usually right in the middle of the road. City code for those citizens in wheelchairs? I think not. It’s for the shopkeepers who are hauling in items everyday! They load these wheelbarrow-like carts up with wares and I swear to you I saw two guys pushing one today that was stacked over seven-feet high with boxes! Often it’s little boys who push them and you really have to watch out because they can’t see a thing over their load and they will just run with them through the narrow streets, right in the middle where those ramps are. You learn to hug the walls!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Today was Yom Kippur Eve and it was a lock down day at the center since there was a riot on the temple mount. I had no idea that a holiday like this could cause so much commotion! From what I have gathered, some Jews were admitted onto the temple mount and they began to pray there which spurred violence from the Muslims. How bad it got or how many were injured I haven’t a clue. We were actually on our way into the city when policemen stopped us at Lion’s Gate and told us it wasn’t safe for us today. We got a call from the Center simultaneously requesting our immediate return. Later, safe in the JC, when I was hungrily surfing the internet for any update, all I could find was this glowing review: This week Centenarian Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv ruled that Crocs sandals cannot be worn on Yom Kippur because they are too comfortable. It was a little frustrating.
My grandpa used to say, “Studying philosophy doesn’t give you any answers but it sure sharpens the questions.” I correctly anticipated that my understanding of the conflict here would be the same. Studying the history of the conflict and feeling the hatred between the people so closely heavily saturates the color but I find that the image is not any clearer. Bapa also said that life’s answers are found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yesterday, our Relief Society President, Zahar, gave a fireside about how the gospel has helped her resolve the conflict in her heart, growing up as a Palestinian in Bethlehem. She joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in her twenties while going to school in the United States and after returning home she found that she had to pass the border and Israeli soldiers every Sabbath to go to church. As she worked week after week after week to feel the love that the Savior has for those soldiers she said that she was slowly able to let go of her hatred for the people who have caused death and pain in her family. There is just as much pain being felt on the Israeli side of the conflict. Each time I really look at someone in the city now I find myself praying that they can find true peace and the power to forgive in their faith. Zahar is a living example that with God it is not impossible.