May 31, 2010

Day Eight: Bethlehem.

(Soldiers outside the Western Wall)

Today we returned back to Old Jerusalem, and saw the Western Wall. The reason that this wall is so sacred to Jews today, is because it's the last remnant of the Second Temple, after it was destroyed. This wall is also called the Wailing Wall. It's definitely a place for Jews to pray, cry, and even celebrate Bar Mitzvah's. I found it odd that tourists were allowed to go into this sacred area. I mean, the Jews will be crying out and praying, and then come these loud and annoying tourists, disturbing concentration with the flash of their cameras. I felt like I was intruding for sure; to my left a girl buried her face in her Bible, rocking back and forth in swift motion, and to my right a girl was slipping a crumpled peace of paper into the cracks of the wall, her very prayer to God. The cracks of these walls are filled with folded paper, so filled that by late morning they're already starting to pile up by the root of the wall. And what happens over-night when the wall shuts down? These prayers are dug out from the walls and are swept away forever. The whole "writing your prayers on paper" is an interesting concept; it's unique and intimate in a way. But I don't believe that you need to write your prayers out in physical form in order for God to hear.
(There's a wall that separates the men and the women, and all the women like to peer over it)

(Bar Mitzvah!)

("Tie them as symbols on your hands, and bind them on your foreheads" Deut. 6:8. The Jews take the Bible very literal.)

(Just your everyday Orthodox Jew)

As we were walking the narrow Jerusalem streets, I was approached by a young guy asking me, "are you looking for a husband like me?" Don't worry, I let him down easy.

(Old Jerusalem)

Then we went to see the Dome of the Rock, up close and personal! It's said that this is where Abraham went to sacrifice his son Isaac. And the very rock that was used is located inside the dome. (Hahaaaa) But we couldn't enter the dome because we weren't muslim.

(Somebody decided to go tenting out by the Dome of the Rock?)

We then went to Bethlehem Bible College, which is surprisingly enough located inside Bethlehem! It was here where I have never been so tired in my life. Seriously, it was like 1 in the afternoon, and my eyes were going cross-eyed. It was absolutely ridiculous. While everybody was inside the gift shop, I, being sick of shopping, was outside with some people just talking, and suddenly the topic of my broken sandals came up. They told me to go get my sandal from the bus and then see if the college's office has glue for it. (since the gum was beginning to wear out). So I stepped outside the gate and onto the street, and just past a huge group of young palestinian male soldiers, I could see the big purple bus right in my line of vision. I turned right back around and went back to the group saying "There is NO way I'm goin' out there by myself." Haha, I'm such a coward. But then my friend Helen came with me, bless her soul, and then for some reason we ended up weaving through this group of soldiers over 3 times. It was hilarious. So when we finally got to the bus, my bus driver ran out to buy super glue and then glued my sandals back together, like brand new! It was the nicest thing in the world. And ever since then, the hottest gossip on the bus was that our bus driver was a hero. :)
(The wall separating Palestinian and Jewish territory. You even have to show your passport to get across)

(I was so tempted to transfer here. Not.)
(I totally have this flower in my house! Minus all of the sand and dust)

(Hilad and Helen fixing my sandal)

(Haha. It's true though, Israel doesn't have Starbucks. They tried it once, but it went out of business pretty fast)

Then still inside Bethlehem, we went to the "birth place" of Jesus Christ himself. The Catholics have this tradition of whenever they find a location of significance, such as this one, they drop a church on it and fill it with brass and candles and mosaics and just shrine it all up. So the birth place of Jesus was practically a glimmering fireplace, rather than a manger in a stable. It was kind of ridiculous. Oh, it was also in this church where Charmaine and I were stalked again. We spotted these guys before we even entered the church and knew that something was up. So as we were inside the church listening to our tour guide explain a few things, these guys became a part of our group, standing on the other side of the circle, across from us. I didn't really see this happening, since I try not to make eye contact with sketchy guys, but Charmaine turns me to hiding her face behind her hat saying "JENNI! They're taking pictures of us!" Sure enough, they were snapping photos! A guy from our group noticed this happening too, so he made an effort to stand beside us and to protect us. So as the group was moving on to the next room, these guys were STILL following us. There was a point where they were right behind us, like inches. So now that they were way too close for comfort, one of the guys from our group told security, and security already knew what was happening, so in an instant they dragged the two creeper's out of the church, and we never saw them again. I just wonder how many of their photos of me are floating around on the internet right now...weeeeird.

(See what I mean?)

(Jesus' birthplace! What I like to call, the fireplace. Hahaa...)

(Foolin' around in the church)

(Soooo wonderful!)

Then still in Bethlehem, we went to the Shepherd's field, which was where the angels came to the shepherds telling of Jesus' birth. Here, we all sat down overlooking these rolling hills and fields and just shared and prayed with each other. I find it amazing how God chose to have Jesus born in the lowest of all places; a withered manger surrounded by dirty farm animals and straw. And then he chose to spread the word of this birth by means of low-class shepherds. God send the angels to the richest of kings. God didn't have Jesus born to a queen. This can only amaze us, and teach us that God can use anybody to fulfill his plan. Even you, and even me.
(The Shepherds Field)

(Haha how fitting.)

(They're probably on Youtube or something)

(Back to Jerusalem!)

(This is me, just lovin' life.)

May 30, 2010

Day S E V E N

Today started out well, as at breakfast a waiter named Yousef asked me if “I was free to go out tonight”, as in…a date! I bet you my whole life savings that if I had brown hair, this never would’ve happened. I would be a nobody. (no offense to my brunette readers) It’s just my blonde hair I’m tellin’ you. Oh, and about that date,  after thinking it over long and hard for about half a second, I had to turn him down. It’s not like I’m living in some fantasy Marykate and Ashley movie where it’s totally normal to run off with cute foreign guys; I am living in a world of reality, where I have had my fill of newspaper headlines and news reports to know to always expect the worst. Haha, you heard it first! From a true pessimist…

(I like to call this one, the Times Square of Jerusalem)

Today we went to the Mount of Olives, which was just a lookout point practically, and then walked to the Garden of Gethsemane. This was nothing like I had expected. Not even close. Just like how I had preconceived the Jordan River to be, you know…somewhere far out, desolate, well I was wrong again. This garden was in the middle of Jerusalem city, with horns honking as a background soundtrack bonus. Thankfully, this garden was surrounded by a high stone wall, so there was only one way in and one way out. When we got inside, I was expecting to see a lush green garden with exotic flowers of every color, vines caressing the gray stone walls, and for some odd reason I even imagined there to be mist drifting through the olive trees. (that’s the wild imagination of Jennifer, for you) The garden was very tourist-friendly. There were made pebble pathways, benches to sit, an olive tree here and there, and the flowers were quite sparse. But you know what? That was OK. The point of visiting this garden wasn’t to see it and judge it based on our own understanding. The point of visiting the Garden of Gethsemane was to remember what Jesus had to go through during those long and agonizing moments of prayer before being imprisoned. Here in this garden we were given the chance to just sit, reflect, and pray. Read to us was the passage Luke 22:42, where Jesus is crying out to his father, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” These are honestly the most powerful words to me. Not my will, but yours be done. To put it bluntly, it makes me feel…terrible. Here Jesus is putting his whole life into the hands of God even though he knows that things are going to get pretty bad. If you knew that you were going to be tortured in disgusting and horrific ways, would you tell God, “not mine, but your will be done”? UGH. That takes 17,000 oceans and a mountain of faith. This frustrates me and amazes me to no end.
(A muslim graveyard)
(The Dome of the Rock and I)

(My lame attempt at photography)
(Group photo!!)

(The door into the Garden)
(Garden of Gethsemane)


We then went to the Israeli Bible Museum, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are actually located. Yesterday was where they were found, today is where they are located right now. Yes, we saw the actual ones! Pretty cool.
Next in my journal I wrote, “then we went to eat lunch.” And that was the end of that paragraph. Who does that? Who can be so incredibly vague like that? Why would somebody even waste their ink on that? Haha.

That afternoon, we walked through Old Jerusalem. This was so cool. Before entering this old city, we were warned to leave ALL valuables on the bus and to practically link arms with the person in front of you, because it’s so incredibly crowded and crazy. Apparently the pick pocket-ers are crazy. Haha my pastor actually told me this story that when he was in Vietnam, he was standing on the sidewalk talking on his cell phone, and then some guy on a motorbike sped by and snatched the cell phone right out of his hand. Hahah. And here I thought stuff like that only happened in the movies!! So Old Jerusalem was really cool. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. To help your imagination out a little…have you ever seen the movie Aladdin? If you haven’t, then shame on you. It’s a Disney CLASSIC. Anyway, Old Jerusalem looks exactly like the street market where Princess Jasmine wanders off to, minus monkeys and turbans. Narrow, narrow streets, tapestries hanging on either side, jewels, dresses, lamps, fish, bread…like wow. It was awesome. Eventually we made our way to a church, where I can’t for the life of me remember its importance. My apologies. All I remember was being followed AGAIN… Haha. But no worries, I’m getting used to the whole creepy stalker thing.
(Old Jerusalem streets)
(Holdin' on for dear life)

(Irwin inside of the church- Haha)

Oh and my sandals totally broke too. The bottom layer of my sandal was flopping around so I ended up limping down the streets rather than walking. My tour-mates noticed my limping, were probably embarrassed of me, and came up with a solution. Gloria put gum in between the layers. This makeshift glue did the trick, I’d say. Two hours later, somehow EVERYONE on the tour knew that I had a broken sandal. They kept coming up to me and asking how my sandal was doing; it was like the hot gossip of the day or something. Haha it was hilarious!
(The path Jesus took while carrying the cross)

(Jerusalem landscape)
(Jerusalem city shot)
(Everybody has barred windows because of so many break-ins)

That evening we attended a church service inside of a mall, called the King of Kings church. This was super cool, because it had people from all over the world since it included a majority of messianic Jews, we sang a few songs in Hebrew. I’ve come to the realization that Hebrew is such a beautiful language. It’s like poetry to my ears. We were all so exhausted during this church service, Charmaine actually full-out fell asleep. Haha. But I’m proud to say that I was too intrigued by this service that I was wide-awake. Phew!
(Great church service)

May 29, 2010

יום שש ...or Day Six.

The journal entry I wrote for this day was about half a page. (Sad, I know) So I will do my best to think up some crazy details.

We began our bus ride to Mesada with Psalm 139. If you don't know what verse that is, then shame on you. Haha kidding. To be honest, just now I had to look it up on my online Bible 'cause I had forgotten what it was. Haaa. Anyway, Mesada was pure amazing-ness. It's a fortress situated on the top of a 1,300 foot high cliff, built by Herod. Seriously, this place is in the middle of the Judean desert, middle of nowhere. I don't even want to imagine what it must've been like to build such a fortress in 40 degrees celsius weather.
(Hmm..looks just like the gravel pits by my house)
So to get up to this magnificent fortress we had to take a cable car. This was super fun and not scary at all. I've been on many cable cars in my lifetime; therefore, there is no fear. You can actually hike all the way up, which I WAY rather would've done. I mean, think of all the exercise and sun you could get.
When we got up there, we immediately whipped out the Bamba snacks. Our tour guide filled us in on that fact that the birds up on this cliff are suckers for Bamba. (Bamba is like a peanut-butter version of Cheetos, minus the cheese flavour. I know it sounds pretty disgusting, but it's actually pretty addicting. Who knew?) It was an awesome feeling being thousands of feet in the air in the middle of the Israel desert feeding birds. I felt adventurous.
(on the ground)
(in the sky!)
(Larry the professional bird feeder)
(Look at all his jealous friends)

(I am SO excited!)

(The men)

(About a quarter of our group)

After spending an hour exploring the fortress, we took the cable car back down, and then went to the Dead Sea!!!! I'm proud to say that this was my 3/4 body of water conquered on this Israel trip. (Med Sea, Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea. And later this week will be the Red Sea!) Some cool facts about the Dead Sea is that it's 2000 feet below sea level. It is actually the lowest place on the face of this earth. It's salt content is 38%. This is HUGE compared to the Med Sea whose salt content is only 4%.
I absolutely loath pool/spa/beach locker change rooms. Ick. Modesty definitely isn't valued there, when it really should be...for certain people at least....if you know what I'm talking about...
So the shore of the Dead Sea used to be right next to the spa building. But since every year the dead sea shrinks up about a foot every year, the walk to the shore gets longer and longer, and the building is further and further away, and the water gets saltier and saltier. It's kind of funny. So first we covered ourselves in Dead Sea mud, rinsed off, then cautiously waded into the Dead Sea water. Cautious is the key word, since you DO NOT want to get that water in your eyes. You would probably die from sheer pain. It's almost as bad as getting shampoo in your eyes (man, that's the worst). But don't worry, a few people from our tour got the water in their eyes and they came out alive, fortunately.
And since the water's so dense in minerals, you FLOAT. It's the coolest thing. It's like all gravity has left the earth.
It's said that after entering the Dead Sea, you come out 35 years younger, so everyone on the tour was worried that I was going to disappear completely. (Hahaa) To be honest, all I felt was dirty and I couldn't wait to have a shower. Haha.
(Rinsing off)
(Floating, for real!)
Our last stop of the day was at Qumran which was where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The highlight of this stop for me, was definitely when I was in the gift shop and this guy comes up to me and asks "Poland?"
"Polish. You're polish, right?"
"Try Canadian. Haha"
"Ohh. See, I was lingering around here waiting to hear an accent from you..."
We ended up talking for the longest time, which was fine with me, since I'm already so sick of gift shops. He had the most interesting life story. He's a dentist from New York, who also serves in the American Army. (which I expected after noticing his apparent huge-ness) Not to mention, he's a REPUBLICAN. Which is awesome. We had way too much in common. I told him everything I hoped to get out of life (go to Bible school, travel, write, get married) and he admired me for actually having goals and believing in a higher power, and all in all, he was very encouraging. That's what this trip has been all about really, just encouraging. I was also flattered that he mistook me for a European.

Today was such an excellent day. I came out not only with a massive sunburn, but a large collection of (cheaper than North America) Dead Sea products. Ha ha.

(The Dead Sea scrolls located in the caves long ago...)
(Dead Sea Scrolls were found inside of these jars?)
(I wore a towel the rest of the day...thanks to my sunburn. Dork alert!)