Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Homeward Bound... and a wee bit homesick

No, I'm not coming home... I'm talking Biblical home here. But before I catch up for the past couple days, I thought Mom and Dad would appreciate the fact that I got a little bit homesick yesterday. We went on an awesome field trip yesterday - details to follow - but the hour long drive there, the land around looked just like the Ranch and I got a little bit nostalgic. Then, later that day when I opened up my Picasa to organize my pictures for the day, it automatically opened up to the pictures I scanned for your Christmas present a few years ago. So I spent a few mins perusing pictures of Mom and Dad's wedding and early days on Beverly Street. I hope everyone is well at home... I miss you all! Its all I can do not to buy a ton of presents for everyone here!! I've already got about 5 million things I want to get for you girls... Ben is proving difficult... but my eyes are peeled for something perfect!

Ok... now the Homeward Bound bit. One of my first nights here, I was accompanying a friend, Heather (she has an absolutely amazing voice!!!!) and she asked me to play the old folk song Homeward Bound (Simon and Garfunkel remade it later) that Grandpa Williams used to have me play for him. I haven't accompanied anyone in that song since he passed away and as I was playing it for her I could feel him very close! Our field trip yesterday was to the Negev... the dry flatlands almost desert that the people of the Exodus wandered around for 40 years. On our way there, Brother Woods sang a few lines of Homeward Bound to us, making the connection that we are going back to the home that was promised to Abraham and how we are entitled to the promises he made. Brother Woods reminds me a lot of Grandpa Williams too... the veil felt very thin at times during the day.

We visited the Bedouin Women - nomadic people who still live a very simplistic... although more modernized... lifestyle. They showed us how make yarn, dye it, and weave these beautiful, elaborate materials. It was so primitive but so beautiful! In a few years when I have a bit more spending money, I'm going to order some of the pillow cases they made.

Next we went to Tel-Beersheva, a town that is mentioned many times in the Old Testament, because all 3 of the patriarchs were known to have lived there at one time or another. Every place I go, I'm learning so so so much, there is no way I can write it all down! But at Tel-Beersheva we focused on the significance of Alters in temples.... mostly because they found a 4 horned alter there. Wow! The thing that struck me at this site was the view that I was looking at was the same one that Abraham looked at as he left to sacrifice Isaac, the same one Isaac looked at as a young boy, and the same one that Jacob looked at some point in his life. As I stood in the streets of the city and tried to imagine what it would have looked like back then, the feelings that these great prophets and fathers and sons had to have been experiencing as they stood there (or somewhere really close!!) it made the scriptures so much more real! After wards we went into these amazing cisterns way under the city. I couldn't believe that these man made caverns were made so anciently ago... it gives me chills thinking about it!

My favorite site of the day though was Tel-Arad. Arad is mentioned in the scriptures as well as the Canaanite city that prevented the Israelites from entering into Canaan. Again, standing on top of the hill looking over the land that Children of Israel would have been camped in, I could just visualize a young women back then, standing somewhere nearby where I was and seeing this massive group of people approaching her home city. It is so easy to empathize with Biblical characters being here in this land and understanding how things are here... I can't even describe it! What fear must have been in her heart and the hearts of the leaders of Arad seeing the Exodus, how discouraging must it have been for the Israelites coming from the lush area of the Nile to be camped here in a relatively ugly place (I thought it was beautiful, but I can see how some might find it harsh and unappealing like it's described in the O.T.). But perhaps the coolest moment came for me when we looked over the layout of a complete Israelite temple that had been excavated from the site. I've seen drawings of what it was supposed to look like before, but it became so real to me. Honestly, I've always pictured a huge area making up the temple, but it was fairly small. About the size of the kitchen, dinning, and living room in my parents house. But I could feel the history as I looked at the rocks comprising the walls. I can't wait to go through our temple and compare the Israelite temples to what I learn there! I can tell I've got SO MUCH TO LEARN still! It's exciting!

Sunday I finally went to the Dome of the Rock! I remember learning about it back in High School. My teacher did such a good job explaining it and impressing into us the importance of the sight... I remember turning to Steph and we promised each other we'd go there. I got to chat with her for a few minutes yesterday and she was so excited that I'd been there! I can't wait for her to get home and we can share all the amazing experiences we've had abroad now! Anyways... the Dome of the Rock... it was even better than I had originally imagined! The tile is exquisite and the buildings surrounding it are gorgeous ruins of Roman looking architecture...except for the Mosque of course! I'm going to have to go back 4 or 5 times at least while I'm here to even start to take it all in.
Ok that really is me... 

If you turned around from where the above picture was taken this is what was behind you. From left to right: Matt, Me, Kimberly, Chris

After the Dome, Matt, Dillon, Kimberly (my amazing roommate!), Christopher, and I all set out to explore the Old City. We decided to try and find the 4 synagogues. But, somehow we ended up in the Christian quarter... I led us down a few random allies and up a few random stair cases and before I knew it we had found our way into a courtyard that I"m pretty sure was on the roof of a radiating chapel to the Church of the Holy Seplechure. Just as we came out on the roof... the bells started chiming. It sounded just like the Sound of Music. I would love to live in a city where real bells chime on the hour, there is something so majestic and peaceful about it. Next we found our way onto the rooftop of a couple houses that had an amazing view of the Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Seplechure and a mosque I think... Anyways, it was smack dab in the middle of the Christian, Armenian, and Jewish quarters... I'm pretty sure. It was such a cool view we decided to have lunch there. Right as we sat down, the Muslim call for prayer starting going off right above us, then about a minute later the church bells from the church of the Holy Seplechure started chiming. It was a very confusing and at the same time beautiful. I hope I can find my way back there sometime!
Rooftop in the middle of the City with me in the middle!

After the rooftops we climbed down and went exploring under the city, we went to Zedekiah's Caves, where the stone for the first temple was quarried. They were cool... but honestly the coolest thing for me was the fact that we were under such a bustling city!

Finally, the best part of the day was at the end... we visited Omar's Olive wood carving shop. They are exquisite! I'm wrestling with whether or not to buy this beautiful statue of Christ pulling Peter out of the water. It's expensive! After Omar's, we went exploring a bit more and finally found one of the synagogues we'd started out looking for. But then we discovered a breathtaking overlook of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. We dubbed it our new lunch place and had a very hard time pulling ourselves away from the spectacular view, the somewhat peaceful atmosphere and the benches that were great for our sore feet!

We found another rampart walk and started going around it, but ran out of time. Fun story - We were getting pictures and I was supermanning out of a rampart window to get a cool pic. I couldn't get very far out though. Matt thought he'd be nice and hold onto my legs so I could lean out further, well he lifted me up when he grabbed my legs and I thought I was getting thrown over the wall. Terrifying. The boys I was with all found it incredibly funny however. We had to race back to the center to make it in before sundown, but we made it in time for a gorgeous sunset and a big list of things to do next Sunday!

Today, the only thing I have to report is that I made it through all my classes (6 hours worth) without falling asleep and I got a bit of a tan (as much as I tan) as I studied/napped on my balcony today. Sunny 72 degrees today... sorry for all y'all back in Utah!

Well, goodnight from Jerusalem! As always, love you all!!

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