Saturday, January 31, 2009

Israel Day Ten!

Today was our Shabbat (sabbath) here in Jerusalem—Shabbat Shalom! The Jerusalem Center has a beautiful room to meet in that overlooks the Old City and today we had a fabulous view. Pictures just can’t do it justice, it was truly beautiful. The students weren’t here, they are in Egypt this week, so there were only 20 or 30 people there. You can’t help but feel the spirit when you sing the hymns in this place. There is a beautiful organ, so the music is so beautiful, and it is so close to where the Savior lived, and ministered to the people. The hymns take on a whole new meaning, and the spirit is so strong in this place. It was a beautiful Sabbath service.After church, we took a quick drive down the hill to the Orson Hyde Memorial, and the Garden of Gethsemane. We went to the memorial park first. It’s just a city park, that anyone can come to, and unfortunately, you can tell that people don’t always respect this beautiful place. Some of the park had trash and graffiti in it, and it wasn’t very well kept up. The city owns this park, not the church, and sometimes the students will clean it, but it always ends up trashed again. It’s really too bad, it’s a beautiful location, right above the Garden. It amazes me to know that Orson Hyde dedicated this land way back in the early 1800’s for the returning of the Jews to their homeland. That is exactly what is occurring right now—how could they have known the events that were to occur, if it weren’t for revelation? What a blessing it is to have a prophet in these latter days who can help us to prepare. Are we willing to listen to him?
We walked down the road further and went into the Garden of Gethsemane. The Garden has a church, The Basilica of Agony, built over the place where they say that Jesus knelt to pray, that was beautiful. It had several beautiful paintings, and this rock by the altar, that they say is the rock where he knelt.There are olive trees out in the courtyard that are truly ancient olive trees, maybe even dating back to the time of Christ. The bases of the trees are HUGE. If only these trees could talk—what a history they have been a part of! I thought about the apostles and how they slept as Jesus suffered for the sins of the world. How could they have known what he was doing? How could they have comprehended it? It’s hard for us to understand exactly what happened in this place, it’s just so amazing. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind about the magnitude of his suffering, but I am so grateful to him for his sacrifice for my sins. I am especially grateful for his example when he said, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” One of the monuments in the garden had this quote, “O Jesus, in deepest night and agony, you spoke these words of trust and surrender to God the Father in Gethsemane. In love and gratitude, I want to say in times of fear and distress, ‘My Father, I do not understand You, but I trust You.’” I loved that. If I will just trust in my Father in Heaven, even when it’s hard, he will take care of me. Bob got some olive tree branches so I could give a leaf to each of the grandchildren to put in their scriptures. What a neat experience, and one I will never forget. This place is truly amazing.When we went back to the center, the other couple missionaries had prepared dinner and invited us over. It was turkey breast and all the fixins, including homemade rolls! YUM! Isn’t it terrible that this was my absolute favorite meal while I was in Israel??? I’m sorry to say, that Mediterranean food wasn’t exactly my favorite--this is one vacation that it wasn't all about the FOOD! The fruits and veggies were great, but I’m a meat and potatoes girl at heart! We sat and talked for a few hours, and I was so impressed by the couples that are serving in this place, they are remarkable people! The church is lucky to have such awesome people who volunteer their time and leave their families to serve. It just tells you how dedicated they are to the gospel that they love, and I am so proud of Bob and Sue for the awesome job they are doing!

Call To Prayer...

Every day, 5 times a day, in Jerusalem, and around the Middle East, calls to prayer go out across Muslim communities through the use of minerets. These are tall towers that have loud speakers on them and people sing through them to call on everyone to pray. They even call out for prayer in the middle of the night. I decided I am glad that in the U.S., we don't have minerets (I guess people must set their own alarms or something). This is one thing I won't miss, but was pretty cool none the less...enjoy!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Israel Day Nine!

Today, we started a little late, we have been pushing so hard, we decided to sleep in until 9, which was nice. We had to stop by the branch building in Galilee before heading out of town. This is the only property that the church actually owns in Israel. It is a cute little house in a nice neighborhood, and apparently it cost a lot of money and sweat to get it looking this way! It is a nice little chapel, which serves this little branch.It is interesting to note that they have Russian, Spanish, and English speakers, so when they sing their hymns it is quite interesting! They also have a sign up for the hymn number to be in Hebrew--hoping to have to use it someday when proselyting will be allowed in Israel. We should all be praying for that day! The church has a balcony with an amazing view of the Sea of Galilee.
We started out by stopping at Yardenit--or the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized. This was actually a beautiful place, I didn't think it was as commercialized as some of the holy sites have been. They do have huge places to get baptized, as thousands of believers flock to this site every year to be baptized in the spot where Jesus was baptized. A flock of doves flew over the river while we were there. It was truly amazing to see, and to think about the Savior being baptized near this place, by his cousin John to fulfill all righteousness, and to set a perfect example for us to follow. It was a good time to reflect on the covenants that I have made, and to remember the Savior, and why we are here.
We drove to Nazareth next, and decided that we should’ve left earlier when we drove into town around noon. Nazareth is mostly Muslim, and Friday is their day of worship, which sometimes means they have political and religious rallies on Friday afternoons. When we drove through town, there were hundreds of people gathered in the center of town listening to a man speak. I don’t know what he was saying—I will just say that it didn’t sound nice…and people didn’t look like they were going to be very nice, or very helpful to us. In fact, we pulled over to ask directions, very near to the place where this gentleman was talking (well, more like screaming), and Bob rolls down his window and this guy comes running down the street toward the crowd with a big spear with the Palestinian flag on it running right by Bob’s window. We decided to forego directions, and get the heck outa there! This was the only time I really felt uncomfortable on the entire trip. So Nazareth we didn’t really get to see much of.
We headed out of town and saw Mount Tabor, a huge dome shaped mountain and decided to drive to the top to see the sights. This is the mountain where some people think the Savior was transfigured before his disciples, Peter, James, and John, and where Elias and Moses appeared to them. The other option is Mount Hermon, where we were a few days ago. The views from the mountain were so awesome! You could see for miles and miles around in all directions. It was such a pretty day, the weather has been so great since we got here!

We headed out of town so we could make it to Caesarea before it was too late to get in and on our way out of town, what do we see but the golden arches! We just had to stop and eat at an Israeli McDonalds. Let me tell you, that at home McDonalds is probably one of my least favorite places to eat—but that Big Mac and fries tasted like heaven today! Let’s hear it for 100 grams of fat and American junk food! HOORAY! We also were able to pull off the road and take a look at Megiddo, an ancient battlefield that has been the site for some of the bloodiest battles in the history of the world, and where most Christians believe the final war will be, Armageddon. It’s surreal to think about what will happen at this place, just a bunch of agricultural fields now, peaceful and quiet. We arrived at Caesarea around 4, and were afraid it was too late to get in, but were surprised to find out it was still open, and we even got in for free. This place was another of King Herod’s building projects, and one thing you find about King Herod—he was a master builder. I can’t believe how much of this place is still standing, and still so magnificent. It’s amazing how much vision he had, and how huge he made things, he truly spared no expense. Caesarea was another play place for the Romans, Jews, and Samaritans of that time. It was also the place that the apostle Paul was brought before the Romans as a prisoner, before being sent to Rome for his trial and eventual death. It has a huge amphitheatre that could hold 20,000 people, and an amazing coliseum that was used for chariot races. You could imagine sitting in the stands as the horses raced by. What fun that must’ve been! Caesarea was also a huge seaport for ships traveling here trading goods. It was amazing to see the ruins here, and see how long they have lasted, and how well they have held up for these thousands of years. Another amazing thing is the aqueducts that they built to get enough water to this place. There are 40-50 miles of this huge aqueduct system in place that brought water here for the people here. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip—and I think a must see spot in Israel—just incredible!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Israel Day Eight!

Today we traveled to Haifa, up on the coast by the Mediterranean Sea. First we stopped at a cemetery by the seaport, called Templars Cemetery, where the first missionaries to come to Israel (then Palestine), are buried. Their names are John Clark, and Adolf Haag. This cemetery also has the first convert to the church from Israel, named Georg Grau.It turns out that having missionaries here as early as the 1800’s helped the church to get its foot in the door in Israel when it came to building the Jerusalem Center, so this is a very important place in church history. Here is a quote from a website HERE that talks about John Clark's history:
"His death was a great shock to all members of the family. Uncle John was distinguished for his love of books. My mother, (Annie Clark Tanner) considered him the scholar of the Clark family. He accepted a mission call and died while tracting in the Moslem area of Haifa, Palestine."
My last reference is to the remarks of Michael Christian given in my ward's sacrament meeting, September 8, 1991. Michael, along with others of the Clark Christian family, had just returned from visiting his parents, Clark and Laurel Christian, in Jerusalem, where his father was teaching at the Brigham Young University Learning Center. Michael was the last speaker. The others had talked about historical sites, but Michael talked about the building and the opposition from the people there in building the center. He said when Orson Hyde first dedicated the Holy Land in 1841 he felt there would be a Church Learning Center in Jerusalem. Wilford Woodruff mentioned the same message. President Kimball was there when the Orson Hyde Park was dedicated, and he felt the need so great that he searched out nine locations for the proposed center. He was inspired to pick the one on the Mount of Olives. The Church then started to make arrangements to begin building.
The Jewish people and churches caused trouble. They asked why our church should be allowed to have a building there, that our church never had been established there, and they did not want us there either. Then it was discovered that two Mormon missionaries were buried in a cemetery in Haifa, which proved our church had representatives in their country years before and had indeed established a foothold in the Holy Land.
As Michael spoke, goose pimples started up my back for I knew one of the graves was my Uncle John Clark. He was so anxious to do missionary work he went into a home where they had smallpox, contracted the disease and died there. My Grandfather Clark had a headstone of a half-grown tree put on his grave signifying only half of his life had been lived. Though my Grandfather Clark was unable to bring Uncle John's body home for burial, staying where it was served as a witness for truth, enabling our church to establish a learning center in Jerusalem. The scriptures tell us that by witnesses He will prove His word and the two missionaries were witnesses. The building was started with much opposition. In fact, when it was half built it was necessary that President and Sister Holland be sent there to talk with government officials. The eight-story building was completed in a magnificent location overlooking both the new Jerusalem and the old city of Jerusalem. "
They had a nice book to sign, telling why you were visiting the cemetery that day. There were many people who had come here to remember these missionaries, it was very touching.
It was an amazing place to visit! We went up into the city to the San Francisco Observatory, which was a beautiful view. This city looks a little more modern, and the views of the Mediterranean are just breathtaking. We also drove up to the grounds of the Baha’i shrine on the hillside of Haifa. The gardens there go 3 or 4 blocks up the hillside and are amazing. I can’t believe the work that went into making these grounds beautiful. It looked like LDS temple grounds would if they were here. Just gorgeous! We were able to get out and walk the grounds, and take pictures from both the top and bottom of the gardens. On our way back down, Michael pointed out a place that they were repairing, that was hit in 2006 by a Kitusha Rocket during the war with Lebanon. The building was just leveled, and they were rebuilding it, but he also pointed out the building across the street, that was riddled with holes from the shrapnel that the rockets are filled with. He said that during the war, the people of Northern Israel would have approximately 3 minutes to get to shelter each time a rocket was fired off. During that time, the air raid sirens would go off, and you would have to take cover. What a crazy way to live—can you imagine? Let’s hope we never find out.
We stopped for lunch/dinner—(linner), at a mall in Haifa. It was pretty neat to see a regular shopping mall, with tons of people. They don’t really have shopping malls in Jerusalem. We ate our first Schwarma (grilled turkey pita), and our first Falafel (fried chickpea balls) with hummus and toppings. They tasted okay—but truth be told , I was missing my American food by now!
On our way back to Galilee, we stopped in Nazareth at night just to look out at the city, and see the view. It is just a small city, on the hillside and it was beautiful at night. We got back to the hotel at 9:00, and we were so exhausted! I had a very good night’s sleep! Yeah for the Holiday Inn!
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