Friday, January 23, 2009

Israel: Day Two!

Today we started around 6:30 a.m. eating breakfast in the cafeteria. It was yummy, they have great food here, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, cheeses, and several interesting salads and seasonings. The pita bread is also one of my favorites. We stayed around for lunch, then headed over to Ein Karem, the place where John the Baptist was said to be born, and where Mary went to stay those months with Martha. The Church of Saint John the Baptist was pretty awesome.The outside wall has several different huge tile mosaic signs that have the same scripture on them in all different languages.When you enter the chapel, you notice several pieces of beautiful artwork of the Savior, Mary, and of John the Baptist, even one of him being beheaded, that one was kinda sad! Then you go down some steps where they have an alter with a stone underneath that is where John was born, and circumcised, and received his name—called by his father, right before his curse was removed. Saint John is called the “precursor of the Lord” The interesting thing about the paintings, are that in all of them where it shows John the Baptist baptizing Jesus, it shows him being sprinkled with water, which was so interesting to me—because I don’t know how you could read the scriptures literally and think that Jesus wasn’t baptized by immersion. I don’t understand it. I think there was a special spirit that I could feel in this place, and you feel like John was such a special person, a wonderful cousin, and friend to Jesus without a doubt. Also, true to him in every way, and devoted to the gospel that he loved. John was a great man, who ultimately paid the ultimate price for his discipleship. It was an amazing experience.
From there, we walked over to a wonderful quaint little shop where we had the most delicious strawberry gelato. YUM! We passed a place that was called Mary's Well--the only well in the area, and the well that Mary must've surely drawn water from during her visit to Elizabeth. Then, we walked up a steep path to the Church of the Visitation, which is the place where Mary supposedly saw Elizabeth for the first time since she had gotten pregnant. They said that when Elizabeth saw Mary the scriptures tell us that her baby jumped in her womb for joy. What an amazing experience that must have been, and what a joyful reunion, one pregnant at 90 some years old, a miracle in itself, and the other pregnant by Immaculate Conception, an amazing miracle. Cousins, that would play such an important part in each other’s lives! What an amazing time for those two mothers to spend with each other.The paintings and ornamentation of the church were fabulous fresco paintings, some dating back to the 1400’s! I can’t even fathom something being that old! There was also a statue of Mary and Elizabeth standing together, belly to belly—with Elizabeth slightly bigger—what an awesome sight! I hope to be like these faithful women, I hope I can think of them as I raise my children, and hope that God will trust me to raise his children in a way that we will be blessed all of our lives. What wonderful women and wonderful examples to follow. We drove about 45 minutes back into the old city, and passed through the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. It was their Sabbath eve tonight, and they were all going out to the Western Wailing Wall, near the entrance to the Temple Gate, where they pray and sing, and meditate, and read their scriptures. We went there to get a feel for the Jews, and this ritual which is present today better than most days, when several thousand of them gather there to worship. This wall is the only thing left from the 2nd temple, built by King Herod, the temple that was in Jerusalem when Jesus was there. It was destroyed in 70 a.d. by the Romans, and then the site was taken over by Muslims in 600 ad., when the Dome of the Rock was built. It is called the Wailing Wall, because devout Jews come here to mourn the temple’s loss, and pray for it to be built again. Security is tight, to protect the Jews, and make sure they can worship freely. Women and men are separated, women going to the right to worship, and men to the left. They also have fountains there for the Jews to perform the ritual of the washing of the hands before they go to the wall to worship. It was amazing to watch them congregate at the wall, and Bob and Todd, and Sue and I fought our way through the crowd to get to the front, where the wall is stuffed with little papers, each having a prayer written on it. The people stand around and chant, sing, dance, cry, and socialize. They each fight their way to the front, to touch the wall and worship there, reading their Torah. They walk back from the wall backwards, not ever turning their back to it, but keeping their eyes on it as they walked. There were several types of Jews, from Orthodox, to Russian, and secular, which you could tell by the way they dressed. For the most part It is a joyous time for them to welcome their Sabbath and worship their God. It was truly amazing to watch and take part in this ritual. I couldn’t take pictures, because cameras are forbidden in that place, on the Sabbath eve, but that experience is something I will never forget!
We came back to the center for dinner, meatballs and barbecue sauce, curry chicken and rice which was fabulous, with salad and different types of cheese. I was hungry, and the only thing I didn’t like was the cheesecake dessert—it seems other countries don’t have the same taste for SUGAR as we Americans do! I like things too SWEET! We went to Bob and Sue’s room after dinner and played cards until 12:30.

Tomorrow is their Sabbath here in Jerusalem, they have to have it on Saturday instead of Sunday, which is interesting. They do it out of respect for the Jews, and the Israeli Government. It was part of the agreement when they came to the center. I am excited to attend church here—Bob is the Branch President, and I’m sure he does an amazing job. Todd’s parents are truly amazing people—so good and humble. I love them so much. They are showing us such a great time this week, and we are so grateful! What a great day! This was our view tonight from our balcony at the Jerusalem Center. This place is so beautiful!


Natalie said...

Thanks for sharing your Israel experience! I love the pictures and stories.

Ashley said...

Great pictures, Iami you look so pretty!

Kathy P said...

I love the art work of Mary and Elizabeth... That must have been such a special relationship between the two of them.

Thanks for the details... and I love the pictures... Keep them coming!

Kelsey Stenquist said...

Ahh my mom I miss her so much! I'm so jealous of you guys!

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