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

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