Living & Learning

Today it is 66, sunny, & absolutely beautiful here in Jerusalem. Let’s say this bit of sunshine is a blessing after a week of rain and cold. It’s amazing how much sun can do for your mood, and motivation! My favorite place to do homework is outside in the garden where I can listen to worship music, soak in the sun and enjoy my reading. I’ve had a lot of time to spend alone with God lately, and I’ve enjoyed the quietness of those times. My relationship with God is being shaped and molded in new ways, and I have gained a hunger for the Bible like I never have before. Going to these places that we read about just brings the Bible to life. It’s not just words on a page anymore, it’s a place and a memory that I have stored in my brain. The Psalms are especially becoming special to me because there is so much in them about the land of Israel, and  to read them and understand the context of the author’s writing. I think the biggest thing that’s changed since I left is just my desire to be intentional about my relationship with Jesus. 

All ready to go!

This weekend was one of the best weekends I’ve had here so far. We decided on Thursday that since Friday was a free day we should go do something, and Dr. Wright gave us the idea of hiking the Wadi Sorek, which is a Wadi West of Jerusalem. Friday morning we went out to the Old City and bought fresh pita, peanut butter, fresh fruit and dried fruit and we packed up and took a bus to the new train station. From there we walked on a dirt path until we found a horse trail that led us beside the railroad tracks. After a mile or so we were able to walk a path by a stream bed and we followed that for the next 5 or so miles until we decided to set up camp. The only unfortunate aspect of the trip was that it down poured for 20 minutes before we set up, so by the time we got into the tent our bags (including our warm clothes for the night) were soaked through, and a few of us with borrowed sleeping bags spent the night shivering. However, the next day was absolutely beautiful and we were able to hike several more miles in the sunshine and enjoy the scenery.

 

View of the east side of the Wadi

The area that we were hiking did not feel like Israel at all. The whole time I felt like I was hiking New England, or maybe evenNorthern Michigan. It was green, wooded, and full of orchards and fields that were strewn along the bottom of the Wadi. We got to see shepherds out with their flocks and little villages along the way. The best part of it was just being amidst the nature and having all day to experience and take in our surroundings. It felt great to get out of the city and just revel in the beauty of the Hill Country and spend some quality time with friends. This was my first time rustic camping, along with backpacking (I carried about35 lbs on my back), and it turned out to be a great first time experience. I’m still not a huge fan of peeing in the woods, but you gotta do what you gotta do.J We ended up hiking 16 miles, and I was exhausted when we got back on Saturday. A warm shower and getting off my feet worked wonders, and I was ready to go by the next morning for our field study to Samaria.

 

I woke up bright and early on Sunday to make it to the bus by 7. I was a bit more tired than usual and less talkative (even more unusual), but nonetheless I was excited because field studies are always my favorite time of the week. We first stopped at a lookout near Shiloh and learned a bit about the Biblical examples of what had happened in Ephraim and Manasseh, most importantly the conquest of Joshua and the portioning of the lands to the tribes. One of the interesting parts of our talk was how the Samaritans in the land believe that they are God’s chosen people, not the Jews. They go by the Samaritan Pentateuch, and believe they are God’s chosen people because of Deut. 11 and 27, which talk about the place of blessing to be at Mt. Gerazim, part of Samaria. The modern Samaritans do not call themselves Jews, but Samaritans, and still live only by their Samaritan Pentateuch and their traditions. Next we visited Shechem, more specifically the church on top of Jacob’s Well. This is the setting of the story in John 4 of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. We got to go explore the church, and we even were allowed to pull up water from the well and drink it.

 

Shechem

After that we went on to the Tel of Shechem, which was my favorite part of the day. This place has a fantastic view of Mt.Ebal and Mt. Gerazim, I find the city fascinating, especially because it has been called the uncrowned queen of the North. This place has everything: resources, access to trade routes, springs, good soil, yet it was never as important as Jerusalemand was only the capital of Israel under Jeroboam for a short amount of time. The major reason that it didn’t stay the capital was because it was hard to defend, but I still find it hard to understand why such a well placed city was not more important or talked about in the Bible as Shechem. It’s history even goes back to Abraham, who planted roots there, which in Joshua’s time helped out the Israelites. The site itself was remarkable because there was a sliding door gate system – which was already there in the Middle Bronze Age! It always amazes me to see the advanced fortifications that they had even back then. Imagine having to slide a stone door back and forth!

 

Roman theatre

After Shechem we went to Samaria (or Sabastia, as Herod had renamed it). This site had a heavy Roman footprint (but it goes back to Bible times), and we were able to see the Roman city wall, a Roman theatre, and the Roman basilica. Walking through the site and seeing the columns and the Roman architecture amazed me! I just kept thinking about how old these pieces of stone were, and how much I wish I could see what it had looked like in its prime. My favorite part of the site was the Roman theatre, mostly because it was still intact and well preserved. We spent a lot of time talking about King Omri and his son Ahab, because Ahab had built this palace after Samaria had become the capital of Israel. A lot of our learning thus far has come from the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, and I’m starting to gain more of an understanding of those books (which before have been quite unfamiliar to me) as a result.

 

Our last stop of the day was to Shiloh, the place where the Ark of the Covenant was until it was moved on toJerusalem. There are many Biblical stories about Shiloh, including the story about Eli the High Priest and his two sons and the story of Hannah going to Shiloh and Eli blessing her after her prayer for children. We got to talk about different theories of where the tabernacle might have been because there are 3 different theories. I’m finding that a lot of things here in Israel are not for certain (like the places of Biblical stories), but it’s always good to be able to look at some theories and make your own opinion about them.

 

Roman Pillars

That night after the field study I was exhausted from my weekend, and a group of us ended up watching Gladiator (on VHS, no less) to finish up the day. That movie was made greater by the fact that I had seen Roman ruins earlier in the day, and I could put an image of Roman life into my memories of the site. I think I will start watching more movies like that because I can have some point of reference to go off of now.

 

The past week has been fantastic. I’ve gotten to visit the Citadel of David Museum (has models of Jerusalem throughout history) and do the Rampart’s Walk. I’ve had time to do homework and hangout with friends. I’ve also made time to spend quiet moments with God each day, spending time in the Bible reading a chapter of 1 Corinthians a day and listening to worship music for about a half hour. I find my faith to get stronger each day, and it still amazes me how being in this place can have such an affect on my spiritual life. I’m just thankful for all of the changes and I keep praying each and every day that God will draw me closer to Him during this experience and open my eyes, heart and ears to what He has to teach me.

I started soccer practice this last Tuesday, and it went great. We have 21 girls who want to play (which is out of a school of 75!) and all of the girls were enthusiastic and just grateful that we are taking the time out of our weeks to come coach them. I have a guy named Ross with me who is helping me coach, and we now have practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m struggling a bit with only being a few years older than these girls (they are in high school), but this is a great opportunity to practice my leadership skills and develop confidence in my skills. I’m so appreciative for the girls and their motivation, and I look forward to pushing them in the days to come.

 

Classes are going well. I’m getting a bit frustrated with the European style of teaching (only getting graded on a midterm and an exam) because I have no idea how my grades are going to end up, but I’m trying to just plug away at the readings and try to wrap my head around everything that I am learning. I’m starting to enjoy my lectures and actually am really getting into one of the books I am reading about the Orthodox Church. Midterms are next week, and since we have a 3 day field study this weekend to Judah/Philistia/the Negev, it’s going to be an insane next week and a half. I’m devoting this week to homework and studying and then after that it’s my birthday, and the group from my church will be here! So I just need to push through until March 7th! I am pumped for my church group to come. My friends are getting tired of me talking about it, but it will be so nice to see some familiar faces, especially when I have things to show them here. And side note: this is going to be the first birthday that I turn a year older before Jenni! I’m pretty sure this will be the best birthday yet! J I finally get to be the elder twin…take that Jenni!

 

Israel really is a magnificent place. I love the people here, the culture, the history, the geography…EVERYTHING. There’s so much to do and to learn, and I find myself fascinated by all that I am taking in. There’s a reason why God chose this place, and I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to explore it and therefore find out more about God in the process. There’s things that I miss about home, but going back home is going to be a big adjustment. I think I have forgotten how to drive a car! I know that I will appreciate things like hot water and consistent internet when I get home, but I am sure going to miss the beauty of this place.

 

I’ve spent a lot of time here reflecting about my past and my future, and I am finding out a lot about myself that I didn’t know. One thing is that I love to be calm. No matter how much my natural tendency is to rush through everything, my whole being is so much happier when I can be calm and collected and let life come to me, not try to control it. I know that it is a completely different situation here, and easier to relax and let myself be more patient. However, this is a change I want to keep when I go back because I feel like I can actually enjoy life and not try to rush through it.

 

I have fallen in love with Psalm 63 this past week. It was our floor’s verse this past semester, but it has completely new meaning now that I’m here in Israel. I’m working on memorizing it, and I find myself running through it in my mind when I look out into the city of Jerusalem. I also really like Psalm 65 because it is about what we are learning in our Physical Settings of the Bible class, and it’s really awesome to see that God created limestone and hill country, and that there are reasons to why we study it. 

 

PS – my internet is terrible and I don’t have enough of a connection to upload photos. If you check back in a few days I might have time to go to a coffee shop and upload pictures to this blog. If not, just check out my Facebook! 

 

Shalom! 

Liz

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Refining Fire

These past two days have been exhausting. Out of 48 hours I have spent 23 of them out in the field. That’s 23 hours of class time! Crazy. It’s wearing on me though, and even though I got over 9 hours of sleep last night I am spent. I feel like I’m starting to hit a wall. Up until now I’ve been on cloud nine, just enjoying being here in Israel and making the most of every moment. However, the past few days I’ve been pretty down. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m missing home or because I’ve had a few academic disappointments, but nevertheless I’ve had a few tough days. I’m really trying to get out of this funk because I don’t want to waste anytime that I get here because I only have 2 1/2 months left, and before I know it I’ll be home and wishing that I would have made the most of these days. Thankfully I have great friends who are doing their best to get me back in my groove and back to my normal self.Okay, well enough of the negative, here’s some of the great things that have been happening here. Last Monday my Parables of Jesus class took a field trip to the Museum of the Great Samaritan and got to talk about the Parable right there. It was a great experience because my professor is a Jewish Rabbi, so he really gets us to think about the parable and ask questions about it. I enjoy the class because it’s open discussion, so I get to hear different opinions and learn about the parables in a new way. The Museum was full of mosaics and those are always a cool sight. The best part of the day was climbing on top of some Crusader ruins across the Museum. We climbed up the hill and stood atop the ruins while being able to see Jerusalem in the distance. That was a great moment because this was what I was expecting when I came to Jerusalem! Plus the weather was phenomenal, and being able to sit in the sun and explore hundreds of years old structures made the day fantastic.

I (FINALLY!) made it to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher this week! This is the place that remembers the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It’s a magnificent church, and it is ginormous! We walked into little rooms full of caves and then wandered deep into the recesses of the church. We didn’t wait in line to go inside where He was supposed to be buried, but we did go up and see the place that remembers where Jesus died. It just really hit me that this is the place that my Savior died. It was one of those moments where I’m struck by the enormity of where I’m standing. I almost felt like dropping to my knees and worshiping the Lord, but I instead just thanked the Lord for what He did for me that day.

Hiking Mt. of Temptation

On Saturday we had a field study for my History of the Church in the East class. This is the class that I’ve been struggling with, but I am learning so much because it’s all new information to me. It’s so interesting to see the differences in the Church of the East and the Church in the West, and I’m really getting a view on it that is not taught in the West. I feel like the Church in the East is looked on negatively in our churches in the West, but there is so much we can learn from them. We had to read a book called Mysticism in the Church of the East, and it really opened my eyes to the role of spirituality in the church, and how much we lack it in the West. I would suggest the book to anyone who wants to understand the mysticism in the East, and get a stronger understanding of the relationship between spirituality and theology.

Romanian Monastery

On that day we visited 11 monasteries. Yes, 11! It was a day that was packed full with information, but I appreciated all the variety we got to see in all the churches. The monks and nuns were hospitable, and we got to see the beauty of these places all around Israel (we visited some in Bethlehem, Jericho, and Abu Gosh).  We hiked up the Mount of Temptation in Jericho to a monastery. The father there is an older man who is in bad health because he has been mugged numerous times by the youth of Jericho. Quite sad situation, actually. However, the monastery was built out of the rock on the side of the mountain and full of caves. The father told us that he doesn’t have much food and water, but all he needs is Jesus and he is happy. That really touched my heart. Here is this man, giving all he has to God, and people are taking away all that he has. Yet, he can still turn back and thank God and most of all, be happy. WOW! The father also took each of us aside and blessed us with a cross and touched it 5 times on our head and had us kiss it. My professor said in the 20 years she’s been going there he has never done that! We finished the day in a Vesper’s ceremony at a monastery in Abu Gosh. It was all done in French, and it was absolutely magnificent. The singing and liturgy were beautiful, even though we couldn’t understand it. It was a time for us to meditate on God and listen to these dedicated followers of Jesus sing praise to Him. What a powerful night!

Judean Wilderness

That next morning we woke up early and heading out for a field study to the Old Testament area of Benjamin. We started out at an overlook of the Judean Wilderness, where Dr. Wright explained to us stories of the Bible that had taken place in the Wilderness. It was quite funny because at that moment some men from the Bedouin tribe started to ride up on their donkeys and camels to sell us stuff. It’s crazy that they knew we were there just by sensing something was different in the air. I guess that is what happens when you live in the desert all your life. After that we descended down to Jericho, the city of palms. It had been raining and frigid cold in Jerusalem, but when we got down to Jericho there was blue sky and the sun was shining. (The weather here is crazy! It goes from 35 degrees and rainy one day to 65 and sunny the next). We stopped to see the remains of one of Herod’s palaces and a lot of us waded through the rocky creek in bare feet to actually see the remains. I ended up with only a wet pant leg and sore feet, so it was worth it! Other people were not as lucky.

Peter, Amber & I drinking coffee at a monastery on our way to Jericho

After that we stopped for bus lunch (my favorite food here by far) and then went to the Tel of Jericho. Here we got to talk about the story of Jericho on top of where it actually happened. This one really came alive for me. I could almost hear the trumpets in the air and the crumbling of the walls. This was definitely one of the coolest moments of being here so far. Seeing the geography of the land and understanding why Joshua chose to conquer Jericho first opened my eyes a lot. I have a completely different view of the Bible story now because I can picture the event in my mind and everything that was around it.

Jericho!

The last stop of the day was the Tel of Gezer. This place was cool because we could see for miles, all the way to Tel Aviv. Gezer was a place of great importance in the Old Testament times, and it was so fascinating to hear of the stories of the empires that tried to control it. The only reason that Solomon gained control of it was because Pharoah gave the land to one of his daughters and then gave his daughter to Solomon. This is the only example of Pharoah allowing his daughter to live in the place of the husband that Pharaoh gives her to, which shows how powerful Solomon was at that point.

Being here in Jerusalem is such a blessing. Every day when I find myself wanting to complain about not having hot water or the internet crashing, I remind myself that I have absolutely no reason to complain because I’m sitting here in the most beautiful place on Earth. No matter how down I have been the last few days, I’m not allowing myself to wish I was anywhere else but here, because here is where I want to be. There is so much to learn and to grasp from studying the Bible here. I already am rethinking how I look at the Bible and how my faith is lived out. I see it as a refining fire: it can get really tough, but I’m going to come out stronger in the end. No matter how tough the classes are or how dumb I feel amidst all these intelligent and older students, I will come out stronger. And that’s all the reassurance I need right now to get through these struggles.

I start soccer practice tomorrow! I’m terrified, yet so excited at the same time! This is the first coaching position I’ve ever had, and I’m intimidated that these girls are just a little younger than me. However, I know that this is an opportunity to minister to these girls and walk alongside them. I can’t wait to play some soccer and gain relationships with them over these next couple months. Prayers would be appreciated!

Here is a passage about Jerusalem that I can completely understand now: Psalm 102: 13 – 14 ‘You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity.’ Wow, the stones are dear? And even her dust? Amazing!

Shalom,

Liz

Changes

Right now I’m sitting in the JUC library, listening to music and reflecting on my day yesterday. I really enjoy times like this, where I can relax and focus on what God is doing in my life. Being here can be sort of an emotional roller coaster at times, but I find it refreshing to work through all those emotions and figure out what I want to take from them. There’s so much to think about and reflect on, so I’m already growing and finding out more about myself that I never even knew. It’s crazy how being in a different place can change you so fast! I’m becoming more independent, relaxed, and patient. I’m starting to take things in one at a time and enjoying moments as they come, instead of planning out every minute of my life. I find that I am less stressed and happier because I’m not dwelling on what I cannot change. I’m living my life to the fullest and making the most of every moment I get here because I know this will be over before I know it! 


Yesterday we had another field study to the approaches that go to Jerusalem. First we went to Mount of Olives and got a great view of Jerusalem in the morning (complete with dew over the Dome of the Rock) and located what was on the horizon line. We have a test tomorrow so we really listened when he was locating what we would need to know for our test. It’s good though because now I have all the hills and valleys ingrained in my head and could point them out to people if I needed to. It was cool to get a different view of the city and to see the city that I am starting to love in such a fantastic light. We also got to explore this Russian Orthodox church that remembers the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a beautiful church and I had already seen it from a distance, so actually going inside was great! It still amazes me how beautiful the churches are around here! I haven’t been in a church yet that isn’t exquisite in its architecture! We walked down the Mount of Olives and on the way walked through the place that remembers Jesus weeping over his city. 


Once off of the Mount of Olives we passed over the Kidron Valley and stopped at a monument that stands in front of a tomb. There we talked about types of Architecture (Corinthian, Doric, and Ionic) and how we can tell what time this monument was made of because of it’s mixture of Doric and Ionic architecture. This is very unusual because architecture is almost always consistent through a building, so it was explained that this was most likely made between the 1st and 2nd century. The reason there could be mixed architecture was because Jerusalem was the frontier at this time, and although you would never see buildings with more than one type in the heartland of Rome and Greece, it was okay to do in Jerusalem. 


After this we got on a bus and headed off to Herodian. On the way we drove around Bethlehem and got a great look at the agriculture and farming around us. A lot of our studies have been focused on the land and geology and how that affects life around it. You can see where the towns stop before the Wilderness and the difference between farming and shepherding lands. We’ve also spent a lot of time talking about the different kinds of limestone that characterize this land. The kind of living conditions change with the limestone. For example, when there is chalk limestone there are not many people living there because water runs right over it and the chalk stone is terrible for building. 


When Herodian comes into view, it looks just like a volcano! It’s truly a magnificent sight! Herod at that time wanted to rise above all other high places in the horizon so he artificially raised this hill and built a magnificent palace on top of it. We ate lunch about halfway up – which consisted of pita (my new favorite bread!), fixings (pb & nutella, mmm!), fruit and Turkish Delight. We got to eat while getting an amazing view of everything around us. There is nothing like enjoying good food while marveling at God’s creation. When we went up we got to talk about how this was the land where David was a shepherd, and also the conditions that he endured while out there. No wonder God chose a shepherd to do His work – a shepherd already knew how to endure hard conditions! One of my favorite parts of the talk was when Dr. Wright spoke of Psalm 23, a famous psalm of David. This passage comes to life because we can see where David would need green pastures and God to lead him because the terrain he was living in was treacherous and could be quite scary to a teenage boy. 

Star that represents Jesus’ birth (No flash on my camera – sorry about the quality)

We got to explore the top of the Herodian palace (it was also used as a fortress) and see the baths and where the garden used to be, along with where the banquet hall (later turned into a synagogue) and towers were. I wanted to see what this would have looked like back then because it had to have been magnificent! The towers were 5 stories! The more I see of Herod’s work, the more I want to get in the head of this guy! We have talked a lot about who he was and his work, but this man was a genius! There were even tunnels in the hill, which led down to cisterns where they would collect the water that would run off of the hill. Herodian is by far my favorite place that we have visited thus far. 


After leaving Herodian we headed into Bethlehem where we visited the Church of the Nativity, which remembers the birth of Jesus. It’s becoming very common here to see that we don’t know specifically where a lot of these famous events in the Bible times actually happened but we have places that ‘remember’ them. While we do have clues that lead us to believe that it happened at a specific area or place, a lot of the places that we have been are places of remembrance, not the exact pinpoint of where that event happened. Nevertheless, we waited in line to see the star that symbolizes the place of Jesus’ birth. It was amazing to think that this was where my Savior was born! Things like this are definitely starting to hit me, and I’m glad that I can start to appreciate these places and what they represent. 

Cistern in one of the tunnels at Herodian

We then headed home, and everyone was exhausted. A group of us ending up watching the Prince of Egypt, and I have a newfound love of that movie! It was great to hangout with some great friends and sing along to this fantastic movie! The best part was to see that the makers of  this movie had actually been historically accurate! They even went as far as to use the old Hebrew script on the Ten Commandments that Moses is holding at the end of the movie! Talk about paying attention to detail. 


I really love being here. I’m past the crazy tourist stage and it’s really hitting me that I’m actually living here! Along with that comes a frustration with all of the tour groups (with gaudy matching hats) blocking the roads! But I guess that just comes with the territory. I love this city! It has such a depth to it that I’d never imagined. I’m at peace here – which is so unusual for me! I really don’t miss America all that much. I miss the people there, but I could get used to living here. One thing that I don’t like around here is how I’m treated as a woman, but I’ve learned to adapt to the culture and safety precautions. It can be quite frustrating when men yell out things to you as you’re running (even if you’re with a guy or two) or what they say when you walk by. I’ve just learned to never make eye contact and ignore what they say, even though that goes against everything in me that wants to be hospitable and say hi! 


I really love my friends. Without them, this experience would be totally different! I don’t think I have ever laughed as much as I have here with these people. Our friendships are based on funny youtube videos, inside jokes and shared laughs. Yesterday we decided to take creeper photos of people (like close ups of their faces) and we got some good laughs on the field study from those, even though at times our laughing got us in trouble. I really do love all the people here, and we’re starting to become like a big family. Then I have the close friends I love to hangout with. Our normal weeks always have a few movies in the student lounge, a night or two on the town and time together studying. It’s nice to be close to people and know that people care already. I guess that’s what happens when all of us are living together. 

Solomon’s Pools – built during time of Herod

I love the food here! Although I don’t really like falafel all that much, the rest of the cuisine has been great! We have two Arab chefs, and one of them knows I don’t like cheese so he makes sure to make things without it for me. Last week he even made pizza without cheese for me – I am getting spoiled! We have found some cool places to eat, and my new favorite bread is Challah, which is what we eat at Shabbat. We use it for the communion, and without a few minutes the whole loaf is gone between a few of us! It’s delicious, I really need to find a place in America that makes it! 


I have a lot of plans for the rest of the semester. In two weeks a group of us want to go camping on the Jesus Trail and do a lot of hiking. Then in March my church comes (arriving on my birthday!) and I really can’t for them to come and to show them around. It will be nice to see people from home! I have a lot of little places to show them as well, so it will be cool to show them the love that I have for this city and bring them to places they wouldn’t have normally gone to. At the end of March my roommate Amber and I are going to Jordan to visit some of her friends who are studying in Ammon. And we also have Passover, which is going to be so amazing to experience that here, along with Easter! I just can’t wait for these festivities! 


We heard this passage last Friday at Vesper’s and I loved it! 1 Corinthians 1: 26 – 31, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” Amazing, right?


Shalom, 
Liz

Awakenings

I sit here at my desk in my room and I’m absolutely exhausted. I don’t even know where to begin with this day because it consisted of 10 hours out in the field learning about Jerusalem. This is the first day that I am finally feeling the weight of being in Jerusalem and the enormity of the history that surrounds me. This past week it’s been easy to walk around the city and get a falafel, hop in a few shops or get gelato in the new city, but I walked right by centuries old remains without even a glance. All through our walk today I was hit by the magnificence of Jerusalem. There is nothing like the hills and valleys, the Dome on the Rock, or the fascinating architectural remains that are littered all over the city. There were many times when I scanned the horizon and let my mind wander back to the time of David or Jesus and imagined what life was like back then and I felt such a peace that transcends all understanding because the God who was here when David ruled and when Jesus walked these streets is still the same God of today. I can’t even begin to fathom that! And the intricacies of what is left behind of those times just gives us more hope and trust in my Father, who still watches over the city of Jerusalem. 



Broad Wall

 The first stop was to the Broad Wall (or Avigad’s Wall as it is sometimes called) in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. This was the wall that Hezekiah ordered built under thee threat of the Assyrians. It’s a thick wall, as the name suggests, and was put up hastily due to lack of time. We can tell that it was put up quickly because of the unevenness of the edges, which is unusual because the walls are expected to be uniform, especially on the outskirts of a city. It was almost 8m tall and was located at the north of the city, which is where most attacks come from because it is heading down the valleys, not up. 



Next we went and got a good horizon line view of the South Side of the Old City, where we could see the City of David right below us and Jordan in the distance, along with Mount of Olives to our left and Mount Zion to our right. Dr. Wright explained about the psalms of ascent, and how the psalmists were so attached to the city of Jerusalem. My favorite part of this section is when he read the scripture Psalm 125:1-2 which says, ‘Those who trust in the LORD are as Mount Zion which cannot be moved but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem so the LORD surrounds his people from this time forth and forever.’ This really hit home as we were looking at how these mountains really do surround the city and how they always have. It’s such a great promise, and one that I can now visualize and put my hope in for I have seen in my own eyes the comparison. 

Southern Wall

Next we descended down in the City of David and looked at the remains at what is suggested to be David’s Palace’s remains. I say suggested because there is still a debate going on here about whether or not there is enough evidence to substantiate that this was the Palace. However, it was still fantastic to see where someone important would have lived and how there was even a rounded stone with a hole on the bottom of it (I hope you can figure out what that is meant for), which was very unusual back in those days! We also got to imagine what David’s life would have been like, and it was also very easy to see how David would have seen Bath-sheba bathing across the Kidron Valley in the village of Silwan. That really made that Bible story come to life in my head! Then we descended further and saw the terraces that are mentioned in the Bible as Millo, which held up the sides of the valley and had to constantly be filled in. 


The next part of the day before lunch we explored the ancient water systems. We got to go down into the tunnel that leads to Warren’s Shaft, and go down and see the entrance into Hezekiah’s Tunnel which connects the Gihon Spring with the Pool of Siloam. I think Hezekiah’s Tunnel is amazing because it was pure genius! When Jerusalem would get sieged, the water would be located outside the city. Hezekiah then decided to build a tunnel from the Gihon Spring so that the city could have water even when they were under siege! I am hoping to actually go through it sometime when it gets warm! 

Remains of Robinson’s Arch

After walking up from the City of David back to campus (uphill all the way, of course), we had a great lunch and spent the second part of the day exploring some of the sites from the New Testament. This was definitely my favorite! We got to see part of the Southern Wall Excavations and talked about the history of Herod and his rebuilding of the Temple. This Herodian Temple actually took 46 years to build, and was the biggest open-air courtyard temple at that time. Some of the rocks that are in the foundation (the wall around the Dome of the Rock stands above it today) weight thousands of tons. It was so hard to imagine how they could not only carve out these rocks and carry them from the quarry to the temple site, but how they got them on top of each other! The most amazing part of that wall is the remains of Robinson’s Arch, which was the most dramatic entry to the Temple at that time. Today you can see where it jutted out from the wall, and to think that somehow they got those rocks to stay up there is just mind-boggling! 


My favorite part of the day was when we walked from the Southern Wall Excavations around the corner to the Southern steps. Back in ancient times this was the main entrance to the Temple and when you stand looking South toward the City of David the view is incredible! Dr. Wright painted a picture of how the people would have seen markets to the sides of them and the City of David directly South. There is also a view of the Mount of Olives to the left and the Hinnom Valley to the right. Rabbis would come to these steps to teach their students and also the public. Both Jesus and Paul taught at these steps, and at that moment I was like, WOW! I am standing where Jesus preached. How is it even possible to fathom that? This moment was when it got real for me. I wasn’t just standing on old steps, I was standing where God’s Word was told! 

Bethesda

Our final stop was to the place called Bethesda. This is the remains of a pool that we are not quite sure what exactly it was used for. It is thought to be the pool of Bethesda in John 5 where the angel of the Lord would stir up the waters and the first handicapped person in the water would be healed. Another theory is that is that it was a healing place used by a Roman cult, or that it was a mikvah (cleansing pool). No matter what it was used for, the pool looked awesome because it was so deep and there were arches that were well above where the water would have been. After we finished talking about the pool, we went up to St. Ann’s Cathedral, which is remembered as the place where Mary was born. In the Cathedral we were asked to sing a hymn, which seemed a bit odd. However, the moment we started singing it was magical! The acoustics in that cathedral are phenomenal, and our group sounded like a choir! After the hymn was done we could still hear our echo for a few lingering seconds. 


That day was actually Sunday (I didn’t finish my blog), but I’ve had some time to reflect since then and it’s been great to see how much I am learning. It’s finally becoming real that I am in the place where Jesus walked. At the beginning I had kind of expected there to be this big moment where it would all become clear, but it’s not like that. It’s been more of a learning process where my faith is starting to intermix with my knowledge and also the emotions that come along with being in this place. I’m very excited to see where I go from here and how much more I learn from each field study. I can’t believe how much I have grown as a person already since I have left home, and I feel like I’m growing into my own skin and taking my faith on as my own. It’s great to have background and history to the faith that I’ve been brought up with as well. It makes it all seem more real! 


On another note, last Friday we had our first Shabbat dinner, which is where we all dress up and the kitchen staff prepare a fantastic meal for us. We got to learn about the traditions of Shabbat and also sing a few songs in Hebrew. The best part of the dinner was definitely the Challah bread, which is a delicacy! It’s only made on Shabbat, so this Friday we are going to visit the local bakeries and get a loaf for ourselves: it was that good! After Shabbat we had a Vespers service with some worship and a few words from Dr. Wright. It was a great night as a community and I look forward to Shabbat’s to come. 




One thing that I appreciate here is how close you get to people when we’re all in the same situation. All of us are missing people back home but are excited to get the most out of this experience. That means walking into the Old City as much as possible (amongst the homework) and going out at night in the New City. Some of the best parts of being here is the laughs I’ve shared with friends and the building of new friendships. I had been planning on watching the Super Bowl (it started at 1am here) but when we got to the place it was full and there was a minimum amount you had to spend to stay there, so a few of us got some gelato and went back to get some sleep. I appreciated it the next morning at my 8:30 am class! 


I get to go to the Beit Jala school this week on Thursday to get to know some of the kids and put out some posters for the soccer team. I would appreciate your prayers as this process is starting out. I hope that I get some girls to show up to a meeting next week! I am very hopeful about this opportunity and am excited to try something new! 


Classes have been great this week. I find myself being challenged to think in new ways that are way above my normal trains of thought. Some think I may have a slight disadvantage here because I am the youngest and many of the other students have 2 or 3 more years of college experience than I do. However, I find this to my advantage because I am being challenged to work harder and advance my thinking skills in order to keep up with the demands of the class. I am already making connections between classes that I might not have thought about before and retaining knowledge better than I have. My History of the Church in the East class is quite difficult, but I’m going to work hard at it so that I will learn something. I am even starting to enjoy the class, which is a big change from last week! 


Finally, here is the verse I’ve been pondering this weekend. 1 Corinthians 2: 4-5  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.’ This is what is keeping me grounded, because although I have all this new knowledge, it means nothing without God’s power. 


Shalom! 
Liz 

Routines

Ahhhhh…life is good right now. I know it’s just a cliche, the whole ‘life is good’ phrase, but it just really fits where I’m at right now. I’m loving my classes, I have a solid group of friends, and I am so excited to learn more about God. The last few days I’ve had time to sit back and think about all the blessings I’ve had these past few weeks, and they are numerous! A supportive family, travel safety, friends, delicious food, and fantastic classes, just to name a few. Three years ago I never would have imagined that I would be spending the last half of my freshman year studying the Bible in Jerusalem, or that I would be doing with it with such a great group of people. I really am thankful for all that God has provided for me. I’m doing my best to take a moment each day and thank Him for them, because without Him none of this would even be possible. 

 
I am now done with classes for the week! Woohoo! I do have a field study (11 hour class in the field) on Sunday, but I still have tomorrow and Saturday to get a bunch done and spend some more time exploring the city. My classes are definitely going to be intense, but I like a challenge. I think what’s best about them is that they are making me think outside of the box. For example, my Islamic Thought and Culture is being taught by a practicing Jew. Interesting, right? That’s actually my favorite class because I’m starting to understand their culture and I’m intrigued by how the Islamic religion came about. My next favorite class is Parables of Jesus and Rabbinic Meshalim, which is a seminar class. That means that’s it is mostly a forum for discussion, and I have already enjoyed reading some of the Classical Jewish Literature and trying to understand them as a class. That class is taught by Rabbi Moshe, who all of us are enjoying already! Those two are going to be my easiest classes, and they are only once a week which is a schedule I enjoy! 
 
The two classes that are going to be difficult are my Physical Settings of the Bible class and the History of the Church in the East. Physical Settings is a lot of reading and map work, along with 6 tests and a 10 page paper. I don’t remember the last time I wrote that long of a paper, so that will be a challenge. However, I’m just trying to think of it as two 5 page papers, and then it doesn’t seem so daunting. However, I’ve been told that this class is one that you will remember the material because almost half the class is out in the field studying what we are talking about in the class. We also go to so many different places in Israel and Jordan, so I will enjoy being able to visit these places and learn about them at the same time. History of the Church in the East is a class that I have no background in. I sat for the entire 2 1/2 hours with a confused look on my face, along with about half the class. The teacher has a thick German accent, and it doesn’t help that I have never even heard of a lot of the material she is teaching. I’m going to stick it out though because I know that if I work hard at it I will actually be able to learn something from the class, and it will be rewarding at the end. 
 
It’s definitely a relief to have the first week of classes over with! I always dread the syllabus shock and worrying about if I will have friends in my class. The friends part was easy because there’s only about 32 of us on campus, so I have many of them in all of my classes. We have all been doing group outings this week, which has made the days a lot more fun than just doing homework! One day we went to the New City and ate gelato while searching for the army surplus store. It turns out it is a bunch of knock-off Israeli army gear, but it was worth wandering around looking for! And last night we had cookie night (happens every Wedsnesday), then we all shared our favorite youtube videos, and we finished the night by watching Indiana Jones on the projector. Then today we went shopping in the Mamilla Mall, a Westernized underground mall with places like A&F and Billabong, and then hung around eating gelato for an hour. I think it’s these moments that make this such a great experience already. Being able to goof off with friends and enjoy a new city: there’s just nothing like it! 
 
I’m looking forward to our field study this weekend because we spend 11 hours learning about the Old Testament and New Testament Jerusalem. It’s going to be amazing to hear Dr. Wright teach us about how the city has changed over the past thousands of years. I always gain a new appreciation for it whenever I hear him talk because his passion for this city is evident. 
 
Okay, so here is some exciting news: I might be coaching a middle school girls soccer team at the Beit Jala school in Bethlehem! I am participating in field study, and I decided to work with the Beit Jala School, which is a school run by Christians in order to be a ministry and also give them an American education. Last night I was talking to the couple that runs the school, and I asked if they had any opportunities with sports. Terry (the husband) then asks, ‘You know anything about soccer?’ And of course, I told him that I had played growing up and into high school. He then proceeded to tell me that he had at least 4 girls come up this past week and ask if they could have a soccer team and he told them they could if they found a coach. And then there I was! What a cool God thing! Although I’m a bit nervous about coaching a real team (with actual games), I am so excited about this opportunity that I have before me! Hopefully I can get enough girls to play so that we have a team! Prayers will be appreciated as this process is just beginning. 
 
Well, that’s my week. I know there’s not as much to talk about as the whirlwind Europe travel, but it’s really nice to actual feel at home and be settled in. I’m getting into a routine, and that is helping manage my stress. 
 
Romans 15:13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
 
Shalom, 
Liz