Sunday, January 25, 2009

Israel Day Four!

This morning, we left with two other missionary couples to go up to the YMCA building right outside the city gate of Old Jerusalem, to play the Carillon Bells. There is a large bell tower at the top of the building, and one of the missionary couples that Bob and Sue work with at the center go up there to play the bells every Sunday, from 11:00 to noon, and ring in the noon hour on the bells. We were actually allowed to play songs that go out and can be heard for miles away in Jerusalem! They were telling us that we were playing for hundreds of thousands of people! No pressure! The organ has big wooden handles that are connected to bells up in the belfry, with notes on them. You have one person play the top hand, and one play the bottom hand and it sounds so beautiful. It was an amazing experience. First, Sue and Sister Squires played “Frere Jacques”. They are experts by now! It was flawless. Then, I played with Sister Squires, and we played “I am a Child of God”. Can you imagine—all of Jerusalem listening to “I am a Child of God”? How awesome is that!! It’s a good thing they don’t know that song—I did make a few mistakes (have you heard that saying, “you can’t unring a bell)! After that, Todd and I played “Ode to Joy”—super simplified version, and pulled it off without a mistake! YAY! Then Brother and Sister Squires played a few beautiful pieces together that were enough to bring tears to your eyes! They have learned to play them beautifully. When it was noon, it was time to do the GONGS—so Bob, Sue, Todd and I played 3 gongs each to ring in the noon hour. It was so much fun! Truly an experience of a lifetime!
From there, we went up to a lookout point up on the Mount of Olives near the Seven Arches Hotel. It was here that Yassar Arafat came several times to sign peace treaties with the Israeli Government, and a rather famous hotel. You can look out over the whole city, and you get an especially good view of the Kidron Valley, the valley that Jesus will come through on his way to the city of Jerusalem where he will enter through the Gate Beautiful. You can also see the Temple Mount, and the excavation they are doing where they have actually dug down deep enough to find the steps that Jesus would have come to the temple on. There is a huge Jewish Graveyard on the East side of the road, and it was interesting to watch the Jews come and pray at the graves. Instead of leaving flowers, they leave rocks on the graves. Right across the street on the Muslim side, you see the Gate Beautiful, which has been filled in for centuries, this is to prevent Christ from coming through this gate.
We drove by the Orson Hyde Memorial Park on our way down the mount, it is a beautiful park that has been set up for the use of Jews and Muslims alike. We also stopped at a little fruit stand that Bob and Sue frequent. They have such beautiful fruits and vegetables here, the land is much more fertile than it once was. We also went to the grocery store to get some food, since the students have gone to Egypt, so our beloved cafeteria is closed for the week! WAH! Oh well—hopefully we won’t starve! (yeah right!). Also, here is a picture of us at the pita factory that they go to to get pitas. These ones were fresh and HOT! Yum!
From there, we stopped by Omar’s Olive wood factory in Old Jerusalem. He is an olive wood dealer that caters to the LDS crowd. He started to tell us stories about his work, and how he loves the LDS church, and he loves the LDS people. He said that his son has graduated from BYU, and that he almost joined the church, but being a Muslim, has had his life threatened many times just for being kind to the Christians. He said that one of the leaders of the church once told him, Omar, we’d rather have you not be a member of the church and be alive, then to be a member and be dead. Then he told us a story about meeting President Hinckley, and presenting him with a special carving of Lehi, kneeling in prayer. He said that the prophet told him, “you should always call him “Father Lehi”, not just Lehi.” I thought that was amazing, and almost didn’t believe him, I thought he was just trying to sell more of his product with these fabulous stories, but then, I looked up on his wall and there is a picture of him with President Hinckley! Not only that, but a picture of him with President Benson as well!—WOW! What a treasure! We spent a lot of time there, looking at his olive wood. He has several pieces that you can’t find anywhere else in the Old City, including some that are copies of Hansen Classics, also Greg Olsen, figures of Nephi, Captian Moroni, the Christus statue, and the BYU cougar! They were truly beautiful pieces of art. We have had such a fun day!

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