Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Le....twenty-first is too complicated in french. Monday, June 6th

 Monday, our last day of touring, started off at the Mount of Olives. As we all know, Jesus spent a lot of time there. Started at the top and walked our way down the was pretty steep!
Roommate picture!

Jennie had a little too much fun with the camera...

We stopped at the garden of Gethsemane and had communion, led by the same pastor who baptized me the day at the Jordan. We then made our way over to the church on the other side of the street that went with it. The place was beautiful! It was designed to show the "darkness of humanity" and all the light that comes in is through the slightly opaque windows. It was dark, but gorgeous.

 Our third stop was at St. Anne's, a church which was next to "one of the most confusing archaeological sites in the Holy Land". We are apparently not really sure what to make of it all. The area is right for the story of the man who was sitting by the well waiting for the angel's wings to stir up the water and to be the first person in the pool so he'd be healed. Well, these pools were way too deep for that story to take place here, although it may have been in a smaller pool in a nearby area.

The last stop of the touring part of our trip was at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This church is absolutely ginormous and houses many different denominations. As with many of our sites, this may or may not have been the location of what they claim it was. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (or, the Church of the Resurrection) is another potential location of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. According to our teacher, there is no good evidence that it isn't the correct location. But we also don't know for sure that it is. (Whereas the Garden Tomb is almost definitely the wrong location)

People crowd around the stone that Jesus' body was supposedly laid out on. They pray over it and lay their stuff on it. It was a little strange. I mean, I get that it's powerful, but laying your shopping bags on it? That seems a bit odd to me...

 We went into this little corner off of nothing so that we could have access to an area that still had tombs in it. Let me just say that this one little room creeped me out more than anything we've done the whole trip. The leaders talk all about how we might be weirded out by all the idolatry and stuff that these orthodox churches do, but it really hasn't bothered me. I mean, sometimes is flat out gaudy and ugly, but it doesn't seem creepy to me. But this little tomb room gave me the serious willies. I'm not even claustrophobic, but you had to duck into a little doorway and then it was super dark and there was one little candle in there and the little body chambers and I was like "I need to get out of here!" I took this picture and turned right around and left. UGH.

 There was a really long line into this weird little structure, which is supposed to be the tomb (I think?) that they put Jesus in. They've built this strange room around it and you have to wait in the line just to get in there. I didn't bother. But apparently there's just one little piece of rock that still exists in there. But the Sun was shining right down through the window at the top of the arched ceiling in the bigger chamber that the boxed room is in. It had this gorgeous effect in the dark place.

And this is the place that Jesus was crucified (assuming that this is the right location for the whole ordeal). As with everything else in this area, super gaudy and overdone.

We then had the afternoon to walk around and meander in the Old City.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Le Vingtième Jour, Samedi. (The twentieth day, Sunday 6/5)

 The first stop of our Sunday was at Hezekiah's Tunnel, but we did the Canaanite tunnel, which is the dry version of what I'd already done. Basically, it was not as good as what I already did, so I didn't take any pictures.

After that we walked up to the Temple Mount area again. So we've already been there before, but we didn't go to the specific place that we went this time. Because THIS time we went right to where the front gate was, which is the gate that Jesus would have used. And the area directly in front of the arches has been excavated down to the original stone from the second temple. Yea, that means that Jesus stood on this stone. Pretty freaking exciting. Being in this land means that there are all sorts of places that Jesus was near, could have been, is throught to have been, but this is the ONE place that we know Jesus was.
Jesus rock!

Standing on the Jesus rock!

This is just me posing on the steps leading up.

Then we went to lunch, where I went to an Italian restaurant called Mozzarella in the heart of the Jewish quarter of the Old City (??) and had penne with olive oil and garlic. Super tasty! Then I had some delish chocolate gelato. Yum!

Our last stop was a place that had a model of the city and a video about it. The stop ended with an explanation of the ancient alphabet and then an attempt at writing our names...I wasn't very good. When we left that place we walked up on the rooftop of the Old City. It was wild! See, we didn't climb up there, but we simply took a few stairs. It doesn't seem like you're going very far up, but you end up on the roof system. There was a sweet view across the rooftops and also down through a window type thing looking into an alley of the city!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Le Dix-Neuvième Jour, Samedi. (The nineteenth day, Saturday 6/4)

Saturday was only a half day of our touring with only two stops. The first was at Herodium. Herodium was built by Herod the Great because he was superrrr paranoid and felt the need to build several fortresses so that if he ever had to run from his enemies he had places to hide out. Herodium is also the place that Herod was buried and they recently found what they believe is his tomb.

It was really difficult to get up there even just sitting down because my knee hurts still and my jeans were so stinking tight. And then I decided to stand up on the pillar with my weight on my bad knee...poor decision. I was wobbling all over the place and though this pillar doesn't look very big, it would've been a painful fall! Luckily the photographers took the picture really quickly before I tumbled!

 The Herodium ruins were really cool, though. I watched a good documentary about the tomb of Herod during my archaeology class, so I actually knew quite a bit about what was there (just like I knew a bit about Masada when we went).
 Our main stop of the day was in Bethlehem at the Church of the Nativity. This is the speculated place where Jesus was born. Now, we're not sure exactly where the birth of Jesus took place, but traditions dating back before the Byzantine period, which this location is, have a much greater chance of being accurate. We didn't actually wait in the hour long line to see the specific cave that they claim is THE CAVE, but really there's no proof that it's that specific cave anyways. Instead, we went around the back of the cave system and saw some on the immediate back of the cave they've selected. Really, just being in that network of caves is good enough. It is highly likely that somewhere in that complex Jesus was brought into the world. WOW.
The gaudiness of the Greek Orthodox Church amazes/disturbs me...
 I lit a candle in the Roman Catholic section of the Church of the Nativity. I would just like to say that when I went to London in 2007 I lit a candle for my mother's surrogate pregnancy to be successful. When I returned from that trip I learned that not only she, but also the biological mother was pregnant. The family now has two adorable daughters. Sooo I decided to light a candle and say a prayer for my future family. A little early, perhaps, but I figured it couldn't do any harm :)
The bright one right in the middle is mine!
 There are no Starbucks in Israel because they've got the Aroma Café going on. However, in Bethlehem there is a Stars & Bucks Café. Cute.

I didn't realize it before we went there, but Bethlehem is not actually controlled by Israel. It's technically Israeli territory, but is controlled by Palestine. Or...something. Anyway, there is a big checkpoint that you have to go through and it takes forever and you have to make it past the wall surrounding Jerusalem. There was some pretty sweet anti-war propaganda graffiti on the wall though :)

And this one kid from my groups was wearing a shirt that instantly reminded me of Charlie. So this one's for you, Chaz.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Le Dix-Huitième Jour, Vendredi. (The eighteenth day, Friday 6/3)

Friday was all about David. This is an exaggeration of course, but it seemed that most of our sites had to do with him. We were just in the area of his life I guess. That being said, our day started off with nothing to do with David. It was the excavation of Beer Sheva, where Abraham dug wells and all that jazz. There was a cool tower that we got to go up and look down at the site from, which is what I'm standing on in the picture below.
After coming down from the tower, I saw this giant lizard. Lizards are really common here, but this is one of the biggest I've seen on this trip!

At our next stop, we went down into a water cistern (at least I think it was something that was for the water, it always is when it's a cave...) Inside it was really big and echoey. When our eyes adjusted, we realized it wasn't even really that dark down there, but when we first went down it seemed PITCH BLACK and the floor was really uneven and full of rocks. It was scary! Down there we found a lovely crushed scorpion!
Andrea, Me, Taylor (her dad Tracy is lurking)

 After that we went to the location of David's fight with Goliath. We learned that David didn't pick up pebbles, he picked up stones (like the one in my hand in this picture....which you can't see very well because I'm holding it awkwardly :P), and that a slingman was accurate from 100 yards away and threw his stone at 100 miles per hour. Actually, I already knew that because I read it in my archaeology textbook during fall semester. But everyone ELSE was blown away by these facts. Basically, contrary to popular belief, David was not the underdog. In fact, he cheated because he brought a gun to a knife fight.

And honestly, it is currently 11:30 on Sunday night and it was a long day full of walking and my ankle/foot area is super swollen from having my knee wrapped all day and I am just plumb exhausted and I can't remember Friday in any more detail than this. So I guess this is just going to have to cut it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Le Dix-Septième Jour, Jeudi. (The seventeenth day, Thursday 6/2)

 Thursday was our day at Qumran and dealing with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Really, though it was educationally valuable, it wasn't very, at all. Qumran is a community of priestly people who lived out in the desert waiting for the Messiah. They were suuuuper strict about stuff, to the point where you weren't allowed to relieve yourself during the 24 hours of shabbat (sabbath) and breaking the rules had serious repercussions. So we got to visit the site of this community.
 The reason we went to the site of Qumran is that it is right next to where all the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. We could actually look out and see cave four (the cave where most of the scrolls were found) from standing right at the ruins of Qumran.

We had the privilege of having the curator of the Shrine of the Book (the Dead Sea Scrolls wing of the Israel Museum), Adolfo Roitman, teaching us about the scrolls. Apparently he has never done any lectures on the scrolls away from the Shrine of the Book, but he came with us to Qumran for the morning. He was pretty cool, but it was hard to pay attention to anything in the baking sun there. 

After we finished up at the Qumran site, we went to the actual Israel Museum and did more of the lectures about the scrolls there. They had some really cool videos, too. Below is a picture of the scale model of Jerusalem right before the fall of the second temple. Basically, around Jesus' time. The model was HUGE! It used to be in a different location, and it was a yearlong project to cut it into pieces and move it a bit through the city to put it in the museum. Yikes!

And this is a random Jewish man who all of a sudden jumped in and added his opinion to the lecture we were getting in our private tour. He talked for several minutes straight and didn't really even seem to notice that the tour wasn't open to public input. Welcome to Israel, people!

That's kind of all we really did for the day. Like I said, it was pretty anticlimactic.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Le Seizième Jour, Mercredi. (The sixteenth day, Wednesday 6/1)

Wednesday was a free day! Woooohoooo! The best part of my morning was sleeping in :) The bus ran two shuttles to the Old City at 10am and 1pm and shuttles back to the hotel at 2pm and 5pm. 

A bunch of people, myself included, decided that we really wanted to go to Hezekiah's Tunnel on our free day since we weren't doing the water section as part of our program (I'll talk about it later). So we were going to all meet at breakfast at 9 and then catch the 10:00 shuttle. But when I got up to get ready for the day, my roommates informed me that breakfast ends at 9, which posed a problem for our group. I didn't want anyone to miss breakfast, so I took it upon myself to knock on everyone's door and give them a heads up. Well, easier said than done. Of the people going with me, one room didn't answer and I didn't know the room number of another. The only room that I DID get a response from was Jonathan and Stephen's (previously mentioned) and it was rather frightening. Stephen opened the door about an inch and smashed his face into it with crazy bedhead and asked me what I wanted. Needless to say, I told them that breakfast ended at 9 and then got the heck out of there. No appreciation, I swear.

When we got to the city, we had a lovely trek through pretty much every part of it in order to get to the City of David (which, for whatever reason, isn't part of the "Old City") led by my friend Taylor's dad. Taylor is the really blonde girl in several of my pictures, by the way. During our walk, we saw part of the original wall of the Old City, which was kind of neat.

IN Hezekiah's Tunnel!
When we got to Hezekiah's Tunnel, I was super excited! See, I did a project about Hezekiah's Tunnel for my archaeology class with Pastor Paul fall semester, and I felt really intelligent because I knew all about the different things that have to do with it. The tunnel was made during the reign of Hezekiah (duh) as a secret way to get water into the city and pours out into the Pool of Siloam. The actual tunnel kind of reminded me of something out of Fort Knox because it was so dark and clammy. But it also had at least a foot of water rushing through the bottom, more than a foot in some places. Right at the beginning it was up past my knees. It was awesome though. I really enjoyed it. The water was freezing cold and really refreshing! A giant group of people was behind us and they kept getting closer and closer to us until they were only like ten feet away by the time we got to the end of the tunnel. Which isn't really a big deal, except they were suuuuuuuuper loud! :(  At the place where the tunnel part ends is what they thought was the Pool of Siloam, but actually about thirty feet further along there is another pool, more recently discovered, which they believe is the real Pool of Siloam.
Chilling in the first "Pool of Siloam"

When we finished both the trek through the tunnel and the treacherous uphill walk in the baking sun back to the beginning, we decided that we wanted to see the Garden Tomb. The Garden Tomb is one of the locations that is believed to be the tomb of Jesus, but it is pretty widely acknowledged that it is not the right place. Because of that, it isn't part of our scheduled trip. Honestly, I don't really care about a place that isn't where Jesus was crucified and buried, but the others wanted to see it so I went along too. (It was actually closed when we first went there, so we walked back to a hole in the wall place called Lina's for lunch where all they have is hummus and there are a ton of different types of it. I don't even like hummus, but this place was really good!) When we finally did get into the Garden Tomb it was really lush and tranquil, completely enjoyable whether or not it is completely the wrong location. It was also neat to walk into this place that you can think about Jesus being, even if he wasn't. Can you just imagine showing up at this place to mourn for him and finding the tomb open and empty! It would be crazy! We were also able to have communion at the Garden Tomb, which was neat. They served the grape juice in little wooden communion cups which we got to keep! YAY, free stuff!
Cue Drew Saccenti: "The empty cross, the empty tomb!...

...Oh happy day, He washed my sins away!"
After a bit of shopping (really the same spiel as the other day in the old city), we headed out to wait for the bus.  Sitting at the edges of the Old City, I could hear this sick music. Based on the fact that the music was really loud and it was Jerusalem Day, I figured it might be something live. So my friends and I went over to check it out, and I found these three gems playing awesome music. When they started playing "I could have danced all night" I almost died and decided to make a video. I am attempting to post it below, but I have no idea if it's going to play or not. I hope it does!

Le Quinzième Jour, Mardi. (The fifteenth day, Tuesday 5/31)

Tuesday started off heading to the site of a current archaeological dig. Actually, dig is a loose term here, because what we really did was sift. Several years ago, they decided that the secret (/illegal? I think...not sure) mosque in the Temple Mount needed an emergency exit, so they got approved to dig out all of the land from that area, totally destroying the artifacts down there and dumping all the dirt into a certain area. There is now a project going on to sift through all of that dirt and pull out anything of value. I guess over 90,000 people have worked on it since the project began (which was six years ago, I think).

After hour introduction to the history of it all, which unfortunately took a whole hour, we divided into our two groups. The other group got to do the work first, so my group went to see some sights in the area for 45 minutes while we awaited our turn. I'm not really sure why we went to the sites we did other than they were an acceptable distance away for us to get to them and back. We went to the to graves that are considered the sites of the graves of two people that I don't remember. But honestly, it doesn't really matter because there is like a .03 % chance that the sites are legit. Sooo whatever.

There were tons of Israeli soldiers out and about over these several days though, because I guess they spend a fair amount of time getting the military involved in Israeli pride and possession. Makes sense to me. See, in Israel there is mandatory military service required of everyone unless that person is legitimately disabled. Guys serve three years and girls serve two and this service is immediately after high school. I guess after all the stress and tension of it all most kids work for a bit and then go abroad for like a year after that. So people here don't generally starting working on the direction of their life until they are like 24 or 25ish. The reason there were so many soldiers around during these few days specifically is that June 1 was Jerusalem Day (kinda like our 4th of July I guess?) and there were big celebrations. Lots of people were around, but especially touring groups of military.

My group then went back for the archaeological sifting, which was fun though rather anticlimactic. No, I did not make any great discoveries. I can't imagine doing it all day, every day. Ugh. I didn't get any pictures personally, but I believe there is at least one of me somewhere...I'll try to get a copy of it.

columns outside of the entrance to the children's memorial
We then spent our afternoon at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the city. Boy, was that something. There really weren't any places where photography was allowed, but we went into the memorial for the children who died, which was a room full of shadowy mirrors and a few candles that reflected around and made the appearance of something like 15,000 flickering flames. It was crazy. And the actual museum part itself was just room after room of artifacts and information about the Nazi takeovers of all the countries, the different countries' responses, life in the ghettos and concentration camps, death marches, and all of that stuff. We didn't have nearly enough time there, but it was really powerful and heartbreaking.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Le Quatorzième Jour, Lundi. (The fourteenth day, Monday 5/30)

Monday morning was our first day in Jerusalem. We started off our day at the Temple Mount. Now, I've seen pictures of it before, but what I saw there pretty much blew my mind. The Dome of the Rock is just absolutely incredible. There are barely words to describe how gorgeous it is! They basically used all the colors that I think are the absolute most beautiful colors to use together, like it was designed just for me! Except I'm not Muslim, so that probably isn't the case....whatever.

Also, someone pointed out to me that Arabic is written with the tops of all the letters looking like swords and spears. I thought it was pretty amusing. This is the best example, seeing as it's right on the top of the Temple Mount.
Though we are allowed to go up to the top of the mountain and poke around and look at the outsides of all the buildings, we were NOT allowed to go into any of them without converting to Muslim. Which is actually pretty easy to do; all you do is say a certain prayer in Arabic two or three times over in the presence of a couple of Muslims, and you are officially Muslim. That's actually kinda scary to me, seeing as they consider it the "one true religion" and once you convert you are never allowed to go back on it. Yikes! Anyway, our tour guide told us that he once pretended to be Muslim in order to get inside of there, and it worked pretty well until he had to do the prayers and he was really close to the feet of the person in front of him and he said the three worst things in the world happened. 1. He started throwing up 2. He took off his head covering and 3. He used it to catch his vomit in so that he wouldn't get it on the carpet. I guess they started freaking out and probably would have killed him, but the friend who was there with him who was actually Muslim weaseled him out of it, saving his life. But the way that our guide told the story, it was totally hilarious sounding and he forbid us to laugh because we were in "a holy place". Psh. I think he just didn't want us laughing at him, because there were tons of little Arab children running around playing soccer up on the Temple Mount.

After we came down from the Dome of the Rock area (the Muslim part of the site), we stopped at the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall). It is part of the retaining wall that Herod put in around the temple, and is the closest that Jews can get to where the temple was when it stood there. The wailing wall serves as their temple in Jerusalem right now, yes, a wall is their working temple. The women go on one side and the men on the other side, you walk up to the wall and pray and people stick little prayer notes into the cracks. There was a bar mitzva happening on the guy side, so all of the women were standing on chairs looking over the separating wall and cheering and throwing candy. It was pretty interesting to watch.

With that, our time on the Temple Mount was complete and we had a free afternoon in the Old City. Which really is kind of like the Old Port, but actually not at all haha. There are all these windy little streets that are completely covered in these tiny shops and have stuff for sale all around. It keeps surprising me that the "streets" actually are streets, because it all seems indoor, like a mall or something.

Unfortunately, two things are required of women in the Old City marketplace: modest clothing and male accompaniment. I know, lame. So I spent the afternoon walking around with my friends Jonathan and Stephen, both of whom go to the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield. We decided that the first order of business was eating, so we made our way all through the market to find a restaurant we'd seen advertising "BBQ". (And Mama you'd be proud-- I was the one who got us there effectively. Guess I'm not as directionally challenged as we thought!) In retrospect, it really didn't matter that much, because it was the same shop as every other, type of food and they just had barbeque as a sauce option. Dang. And when I asked for it, the guy acted like really surprised like nobody ever gets it! Anyways, I got this GIANT meal that I couldn't even finish at all, which really isn't even like me. The fries tasted like fair fries though, which was a pleasant surprise of home-likeness. 

Not long after lunch, I had to go to the bathroom like crazy. So I asked the guys if they thought there was a bathroom nearby...they said no. About five minutes later I said "If I don't find a bathroom NOW, I am going to pee my pants!" And I think they got the message that time. So Stephen turned around and decided there would probably be a bathroom in the church type building right behind us. In fact there was, and I didn't even mind paying the two shekels to use it. The boys decided to save their money and wait for me on two comfy chairs in the entry way. When I got up the stairs, I was awed by the beauty of a surprise secret garden courtyard. It was totally awesome! After I went to the bathroom I took my time getting some pictures. It was just this lush little courtyard in the inner square of this church administration building. Back in the lobby, the receptionist man let Stephen and Jonathan come back and see it without paying two shekels. I think they were pleased with the stop in the long run :)

It was also in the Old City that I saw the official cutest kittens of all the kittens I've seen on this trip! There were three of them, all orange and white like this one, and they were each only as big as my two hands. They must have been really young; they wouldn't come anywhere near me. They looked potentially diseased, but they were so pitiful and adorable that I decided to pat them anyway, but as soon as I reached out they scattered. So sad! They just broke my heart right to pieces.

The best purchase of our afternoon was Sir Stephen's two shofars. Shofars are animal horns turned musical horns and are used in religious services or whatever over here, or at least they were traditionally. Now I think they're mostly for tourists. But they come in all different sizes and are crazy expensive! Someone on our trip bought one of the big ones for $100. Stephen managed to get two that size for only $120. We were pretty impressed. I'm making him do my bartering from now on. But he had rather bad purchase timing and had to carry around those to beasts for the remaining three hours that we chilled in the Old City. I think it made him feel manly.