This week has been Holy Week, and let’s just say, it’s been one of the best weeks here in Jerusalem. There’s just something exciting about being in Jerusalem over this time! I mean, this is where it all happened! It’s also really overwhelming, because I keep trying to make it feel real, and yet I can’t. I mean, how can I really comprehend that this was the road that Jesus walked on when He went to die? Or that I visited the place where He rose from the dead? It’s all just so powerful, it’s hard to soak in. And I’ve tried to take in every smell, every sound, every song, but yet I still feel like I haven’t gotten enough of it. But no matter what, no Holy Week will ever be able to top this. Just all the festivities, the joy and excitement, and the events have made it incredible. To celebrate it with Christians from all over the world who all come to worship Christ our Lord, together in one holy city is incredible. I just want to package up these memories and put them in a storage box that I can take out whenever I want to, because they’re memories that I want to cherish and come back to.
I’m gonna start back before Holy Week, since it’s been a little while since I last posted. A week and a half ago a group of us went to Hebron. For those of you not familiar with the place, it’s a city in the West Bank that is still occupied by the military. There are 400 Israeli settlers in the city, and there are 2700 Israeli there protecting them. This makes the Palestinians really angry. Plus the Israeli settlers are pretty cruel in the area. When we walked through the Old City, we saw that the Palestinian shop keepers had put up wire about the walkway because the settlers above them throw trash, eggs, etc on them. It was a pretty sad sight. Definitely gave me a different perspective, but I’m taking it with a grain of salt, trying not to let my emotions decide how I feel about the issue. Anyways, we went to the Abraham mosque, which is where the tomb of Abraham and Sarah is located. This is the first mosque I’ve ever been into, and it was quite interesting to see all the elements that I have been learning in my Islamic Thought and Practice class. Then we walked around the Old City for a bit, followed by a stop at a kaffiye making factory. Our final stop was to a glass making shop, where we got to see some employees blowing the glass into beautiful cups and shapes. It was incredible to see their skills! And our tour guide named Majdi, a Palestinian shop keeper who we met in Bethlehem, kept us entertained with his interesting conversations and jokes. We also got to ride in his little car, all 4 of us scrunched in, but it felt so good to be in a car again! After riding buses for the last 3 months, it was awesome to finally be in a car again. A funny moment of the trip was when we were in the car, and Majdi looks back at me and says, ‘Liz, what did Adam give Eve for Christmas Eve’? I think for a bit, trying to figure out if it was a trick question or if he really had an answer, and finally I answer with ‘an apple’. He laughs and says, ‘NOTHING! There was no Christmas! HAHA!’ And then he just bursts out laughing like it was the funniest thing he has ever said, which of course made us laugh as well. Oh Majdi…
On Sunday was Palm Sunday, and thousands of people from all different countries made their way to the top of the Mount of Olives for the Triumphal Walk into Jerusalem. We’ve been excited about this for while, so on the way we were all pumped up and just anxious to be a part of it. We ended up walking down the East side (away from Jerusalem) to the start of the parade, where we met up with a Latino band, with about 20 people with instruments and traveling microphones/speakers. They sang Latino worship songs, but after a while we caught on to them (or at least the chorus) and got to sing along. The parade was led by Girl and Boy Scouts, then we followed behind. There were so many people! And it was so awesome to just see everyone so excited about Jesus! I mean, thousands of people marching towards Jerusalem is just something amazing to be a part of. And the band got a lot of attention, so it was fun to walk beside them and be a part of it. It all lasted about 3 hours, but it definitely didn’t feel that long! Plus it was a beautiful sunny day, which made it even better.
I went to Beit Jala twice this week to volunteer at the Jerusalem School in Bethlehem. I was coaching the girls soccer team, but since that was done now I’m just helping in the library and teaching some classes. I love being at the school because I already have good relationships with the girls that I’m coaching, and I love spending time with them. And I also loved teaching this last Thursday, so I’m looking forward to have more opportunity for that. I just feel so fulfilled when I’m serving at this school, because I have such a passion for creating good relationships with these girls. They’re such fun girls and I appreciate their easygoing personalities. I really hope I have more time to spend with them before I leave. But spending time with them is really solidifying my desire to be a counselor. It seems like that has come up so many times in the past few months. I find myself looking at situations from a psychological standpoint, wondering what I can do to help. And I also think in terms of compassion, which is different than usual. I’ve also had a lot of opportunities to talk to people about my dreams of being a counselor and why I want to be one, and that has really been good for me to express those and by expressing them they’ve really become real. I know that it’s my calling, and I have such a passion for working in people’s lives.
|Clara, Anna & I at Garden of Gethsemane|
On Thursday, a bunch of us went to a Maundy Thursday service at Christ Church, which is an Anglican church in the Old City. It was definitely the best service I’ve had since I left. The music was contemporary, and that is the first time in a few years that I’ve gotten emotional during worship. The Spirit really moved in my heart that night, putting on my heart the enormity of that night and the next day and what that means for my life. It was a very liturgical service, but I find that I’m starting to love the liturgy and tradition here. It just adds so much to the service. After the service most of the church made the (about a mile) walk to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was betrayed that night about 2,000 years ago. We did a devotion there, and then had time to reflect and wander the Garden. Whew, there’s no words for what I was feeling when I looked at Jerusalem from the Garden. I mean, this was the last view that Jesus would’ve had! Granted, different walls, different temple, but this is his last view before being taken into custody. This is where Jesus sat in turmoil, asking for the cup to be taken from Him. This is the start of those events that changed history. Right there, where I was standing. I just sat there, overwhelmed, trying to contemplate how blessed I was to have a Savior that willingly took on our sin, and allowed himself to be taken. I mean, a ten minute walk and He would’ve been in the Judean Wilderness, safe from harm. But He didn’t turn and run, He stood up and took it head on, knowing the suffering that was ahead of Him. If that doesn’t hit you, then I don’t know what will.
On Friday, Amber, Peter and I went to Christ Church for their Good Friday service and then went to do the Via Dolorosa Walk, which was really cool. This is the Walk that thousands of Christians come each year to walk because it’s the path that remembers where Jesus walked on the way to Golgotha. There were a lot of groups carrying crosses, which was a cool thing to see. We were there in the afternoon so the crowds had died down a bit, but it really made things real. However, I didn’t have any huge eye opening moments during that time, but I can’t expect those at every event. I guess I had just been thinking this would be one of those events that would really get to me, but since I walk that path a lot and have been there frequently, it really didn’t mean as much as I thought it would. However, I’m still glad I did it, for it allowed me to picture the street in a different way.That night we did an ancient Triclinium meal, which celebrates Passover, but it just so happened that it was Good Friday as well, which only happens like every 20 years! We all dressed up in togas, ate Biblical food, reclined on the floor and ate ancient style! It was great.
Saturday was a homework day. I finally started on one of my 10 page papers, and got a good amount done, which takes my stress load off a bit. I’m writing about the Dhimmi, which is the Christians and the Jews that were under the Muslims. It’s something that is not very well known in the West, and I’m really glad that I’ve come across it here in my studies because it’s really opened my eyes to the roles of Christians here in the Middle East. I’ll definitely post my paper for future reference if any of you want to learn about it.
Last night we watched the Passion of the Christ. I had never seen it because I was too young to see it when it came out. I knew it was going to be intense, but the reality and brutality of it really got to me. I seriously cried from the time the whipping started till the end. I just couldn’t stop! I mean, it’s one thing to hear a story and read it, but it’s totally different to watch it unfolding before your eyes. I just can’t imagine what it would have been like to really be there. I know I have a better understanding now that I’ve been here and visited those places, but I still have a hard time picturing what it would’ve felt like to see your Savior beaten, whipped, and crucified. And I have such a greater appreciation for Mary too. We in the West tend to try and stay away from everything Mary because of the tendencies of the Catholic and Eastern Churches to put so much emphasis on her. But I think she deserves a lot of credit (at least as much as given to Paul, etc). I mean, she was the mother of Jesus, and she watched him die. I can’t imagine what that would’ve been like. That’s your son, who you tended to when he was a kid and got scratched up, who you followed on his journeys. I mean, that love of mother and son gets lost a bit. And I also just couldn’t get over the suffering that Jesus endured, for us. For ME! He suffered and took on my sin. I don’t deserve any of it, but Jesus laid down His life for me. What a powerful thought.
The next day was Easter. Best day of the semester, by far. I mean, there was no big field study, no awesome ruins, but just the day itself was perfect. I woke up early and left by 5am with a group of us that went to the sunrise service at the Garden Tomb. We had to wait in line, and when we got inside it was packed! For those of you not familiar with it, the Garden Tomb is a place that is a possibility for Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified and buried, but it is unlikely. Archaeological evidence greatly credits the Holy Sepulcher as the more likely place, but the Garden Tomb is a beautiful place that I enjoy going to more than the Holy Sepulcher. Anyways, the service was wonderful. It was definitely a Western service, which made me feel so at home. We sang songs like How Deep the Fathers Love For Us and Might To Save…definitely songs I haven’t heard in a while! And it was just great. The speaker was great, and it was incredible to be in such a powerful place. I’m in Jerusalem…Jesus resurrected here! I mean, how am I so blessed to experience that? It made Easter really come alive!
Then a group of us went to SamBooki, our favorite bakery located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. We got lattes (yes, I’m becoming a coffee snob, even starting to like black coffee!) and sat for two hours in the early morning, just enjoying people watching, the view, and talks of life, future, and theology. It was one of those moments where I look around and say, ‘Wow! I am so blessed. I mean, pinch me!’ It felt so wonderful to spend time with friends just reflecting and thinking about the future. And the Jewish courtyard is such a wonderful place to relax. After that we headed back to campus for a brunch with homemade cinnamon rolls! YUM! Then a group of us went to Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which King Hezekiah built that connected the spring outside the city into the city walls so that they could have water during the siege. It was so cool, and it was incredible to think of how much work it would’ve taken! The water was to my thighs at one point, but the water level was mostly mid-calf for most of it. I think I am going to go again before the semester is over.
That afternoon we had a campus wide event outside, and since it was 91 degrees, it was wonderful! We played some group games like egg on a spoon and water balloon toss, which turned into a water fight! Then we had an egg hunt, and finally we had a barbecue. How good it was to eat American food and spend time in fellowship with each other. We have become a big family after spending 3 months together, and it was so great to play volleyball, talk with each other and just spend a beautiful Easter day in the sunshine celebrating that our Savior was alive!
|Oldie but a goodie – picture from the Dead Sea|
Well, that was Holy Week. It was such a good week. I’m so grateful I chose to come here for spring semester to have the opportunity to be here for it. It really gave me such a real perspective of Passion Week. And the weather the past 2 weeks has been so warm! It’s been in the 80’s, with a few days reaching the 90’s! Now this is what I have been waiting for!
Volunteering at Beit Jala has been good, I’ve had the opportunity to teach a few classes, which has been good. The middle schoolers are definitely a handful, but it’s good for me to have some more responsibility and have to crack the whip a few times! I really miss soccer, but I get to see the girls a lot, which makes it worth it. And it feels great to be helping them out.
Today I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. It was a great way to spend the morning. It was better than I thought it would be. I mean, I was expecting to walk in and be pelted by graphic images and have my emotions tugged at every turn. But it was refreshingly balanced, just giving a good historical timeline of the events. I could’ve spent all day there, but we only had a few hours so we made the best of it. So glad I went.
Tomorrow we leave for Jordan for 4 days…our last field study of the year! Only 24 days till I leave Israel, and 29 till I’m home! It’s gone by so fast, but I’m starting to get ready to come home. Can’t wait to see you all in a few weeks.