Sunday, February 26, 2012

Random Pictures

Dr "Henry Jones" Huntsman "Jr" With His Hat

Hezekiah's Tunnel

Pool of Siloam

Overlooking Bethlehem

Pretty Clouds

Very Dynamic Failed Jump Pictures

Hangin' Out In Avdat

The "Crystal" Archway (Her name is Crystal too)

Grinding Hyssop

At Neot Kedumim- Biblical History Site

A 200 Year Old Torah Scroll

The Bell Caves- Formed from Mining Limestone

First Flower of the Spring

Exiting a Tomb

Elah Valley- David and Goliath Battle
A Typical Market Street

Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount

Fair Warning in a Bakery

Noah's Ark at the Biblical Zoo

Just Before He Kissed Me

In the Aviary at the Zoo

A Sign Outside the YMCA

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Murderous Midterms!

So...Here's the deal. Midterms are no easier or less stressful in the Holy Land than they are in Provo. The difference is that there are at least 40 other people in the same position as you at all times, and in some cases it is as many as 82 others. It makes for an interesting group dynamics. For example- as we passed out the exams in ANE this morning people would spontaneously giggle at nothing, which would set others off laughing. Study sessions pop up everywhere, and people have been known to burst into song or have dance parties in the laundry room to blow off some steam.
In the last 48 hours I have turned in a quiz for Old Testament, a midterm paper for Palestine and taken a midterm in Ancient Near East. The study guide was 137 items (including long lists of Egyptain, Assyrian, and Israelite rulers) and that is not including the map section of another 30 or so items. I got together with my roommate Amanda and my friend Annalise last night and for 3 hours we came up with the most ridiculous mnemonics to differentiate terms. Things like "Minoans- king Minos built a palace. Sounds like minnows- they were sea farers and invented flush toilets (to flush the minnows)." Or "Amenhotep III- A man in a hot tub: love oriented, had many wives, peaceful time for Egyptians" Not to be confused with his son "Amenhotep IV- Religious reformer who said amen to that and changed his name." We were laughing up a storm, and it helped  on the test a lot. I did well- not a perfect score, but it will be perfectly respectable. In the next 48 hours I will turn in a paper for and take an exam in Old Testament. But the paper is done, and the exam only adds 3 lessons to what I studied last weekend. So, no matter how hard they try---I WILL SURVIVE!!!

The best thing about this past week was that all the stress and pressure reminded me that not only does Heavenly Father pay attention to me, but he puts people in just the right place and time to give me the support I need at that moment. One such experience was a friend who had just been sent a devotional given by Brad Wilcox called His Grace is Sufficient. If you have just a minute, take a look. It was so good for putting things in perspective.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Typical Week In the JC

So according to my recollection, I have yet to talk much about life in the Jerusalem Center.

The schedule of a normal week is as follows:
Sunday- A free day, which I generally spend in the city. I usually start out in West Jerusalem, the Jewish sector, but I always seem to end up at least stopping by the Old City to shop and wander. I am on the hosting committee, and every Sunday night the JC hosts a concert, and my job is to make sure we have four students welcoming patrons at the doors.
Monday- Field trip day. Trips are to areas nearby, lasting from 8 am to anywhere from 12-5:30 pm, depending on the destination. Last week we went to the Shephalah- low hill country between the coast and the mountains, with five valleys that connect the two- the only routes capable of supporting armies during the time the Philistines were battling the Israelites. This week we will go to the City of David, just south of the Old City. The highlight of the trip will be a trek through Hezekiah's Tunnel, a waterway under the city.
Tuesday through Friday- Classes usually 4-6 hours a day. I personally don't go into the city during the week, though there are many students who do. I find enough to do reading for classes and talking with other students.
Friday Afternoon- After a busy and tiring week going break neck pace and reading several hundred pages of dense text, I take Friday afternoons off. Sometimes I watch a movie, I have gone shopping for snacks a few times, but mostly I spend the time talking with people, one of my favorite past times. Friday nights the center hosts a movie night. So far we have watched two Indiana Jones and the Ten Commandments.
Saturday- the Sabbath. One of the best day's of the week. I have never felt the Spirit as strongly so many weeks in a row. Brother Jackson, in charge of field trips for the school, teaches Sunday School (we still haven't figured out how to call it Sabbath school, it just doesn't roll off the tongue the same way). I always look forward to class- he has such a wonderfully simple way of teaching. And his material for the hour is contained in the Book of Mormon and a 3x5 card. That hour just flies by.

The only other bit of information that may fit into this category is meals. There is little variation in food. For breakfast I eat cold cereal (what I call Nutella Squares, for lack of knowing their real name. It is cocoa with a cream filled center), fruit, and cream of wheat (amazingly creamy and one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted). Lunch is the most variable meal- it has a salad, fruit, and on Friday's we get cold cuts on deliciously crusty bread. Dinner is the most predictable thing in the world. Options are potatoes, rice, chicken, meat, fish, salad, and a dessert. The repetitiveness has begun to be tiresome, but the food is good, and the desserts are consistently quite tasty. I supplement the boring meals with hot chocolate or hot milk and a pita with Nutella, which is supplied by the quartful.

So there you have it. The wonderful world of the Jerusalem Center on a daily basis.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Amazing Week in Jordan

Temple of Hercules in Amman

Roman City of Jerash
My Top Picks- Ferraris at the Kings Automobile Museum

We just got back from our first out of country field trip. We spent four days in Jordon exploring everything from ancient Nabatean ruins, to a Roman city, to the modern area of Amman (the capital of Jordan). I feel like every time we go on a field trip, it becomes my new favorite place. The whole trip involved a ton of driving. Driving to Petra was completely out of the way, we drove three and a half hours down one night and four hours back the next day. It was worth every minute. We had a Jordanian tour guide the whole time, which is required by law. He was very knowledgeable, but his accent and pronunciations made it difficult to understand, and he talked for a LONG time about every subject. By the end it was difficult to follow what the original thought was. Regardless, it was amazing.

The first day we crossed the border, which took about two hours and three check points. We went to Mount Nebo, which is where Moses saw the promised land, but could not go into.  I mentioned before that we saw the Wilderness of Zin, where the Israelites lost the privilege of entering the promised land. One of my big learning moments was how close they were the whole time. I just finished reading Numbers, and many of the places they mention the Israelites traveling and camping were never more than 30 miles from the Dead Sea!

We also went to a Greek Orthodox church in Madaba that has the world's oldest version of Google Earth. The floor of the church is a mosaic depicting the Holy Land in the 6th century. We then stopped by Machaerus, where traditionally John the baptist was beheaded by order of Herod Antipas (to save face in front of his birthday party guests).

The next day was a trip to probably the coolest place I have ever seen. We spent most the day in Petra, the place where the finale of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was set- that giant stone building at the end of a canyon?- yeah, it's real! Our guide talked to us as we traveled through the siq- a canyon used as a great defensive measure during the time of the Nabataens. When we got the Treasury (don't be fooled by the name, all the buildings were mausoleums), they let us loose for the rest of the morning. I got to ride a camel, hike up to the Monastery (another mausoleum), and ride a horse for the last stretch back to the bus.

Petra was an experience that taught me a lot about perspective. It was chilly when we left in morning, so any time we got into a patch of sunlight, it felt so good, and we loved it. After hiking straight up a mountain for an hour, that same sun was bright and hot, and we were sweating and thirsty. At one point in the siq, our guide told us to remember to look back and see the view behind us. I am glad he did, because there was a big difference in how things looked just by turning around and seeing where we came from. The entire city was filled with Bedouin people trying to sell all the same items to us, whether it was trinkets, colorful rocks, or camel rides. It made me think about the huge difference between my lifestyle and theirs. These are people who can't afford to let their kids go to school because they need to sell postcards for a dollar to earn money. Talk about a change of perspective.

The next day we went to the King Abdullah mosque and spent an hour listening to our guide, who is a practicing Muslim, talk about the history, culture, and religion. The women were required to not only cover their hair, but put on "dementor robes" as someone put it- long black capes with a hood. I learned more from him in that hour than I have learned so far in my Palestine/Islam class. I never knew how much they believe in Jesus Christ, not as a divine being, but a prophet who will have a significant role in the final battle against evil. Their explanation of the end of the world has some striking similarities to LDS theology. Learning about other religions from practicing members of the faith is fascinating.

The thing I love about this program is that my teachers make a point of giving us time to be spiritually fed as well. We spent time at the Jabbok river near where Jacob wrestled with an angel and his name was changed to Israel. As Brother Huntsman was talking about Jacob sending all his family ahead and the symbolism of "wrestling with the Lord," a herd of goats appeared at the top of a ridge on the other side of the river. That was pretty cool. After we sang a few hymns (another reason I love Bro. Huntsman), he gave us some time to sit and ponder. It was a wonderful place. It reminded my strongly of the park in Fort Jackson. It was so nice to see grass and listen to running water again.

Dad- I have you to thank for my next experience. I remembered a talk Dad gave multiple times when I went with him as district speaker. He read Psalm 73 and went through it line by line and discussed what it meant and the context around it. I turned to it and had such a feeling of reassurance. Being here, I feel like I really have left all my troubles behind me. Problems from home just doesn't have a place in Jerusalem. But I remember how they felt. It is amazing how getting away from the everyday puts things in a different light. In that moment, I felt like the Lord was telling me that right now, I get a chance to rest from my labors, but when the time comes, He will be there from me. I can't get caught up in what others do or have that I don't, because in the end, if I am faithful, I will have a great reward.

We spent the evening in the city of Jerash, the best restored Roman city anywhere. I have never seen so many columns standing upright, they make for such a majestic atmosphere. We got some time to walk around, and I had fun taking pictures.

Roman Theatre in Amman
I had another great moment in a Roman theatre in Amman. We sang some hymns, took some pictures, went to a little theatre, and sang some more hymns. Our group sounds fantastic- balanced four-part harmony that stays in tune, at least with each other. I have become the resident pitch-giver since I always bring my pitch pipe with me. Brother Huntsman now announces a song and then says "Where's Crystal? I need a _____". Today we sang Joseph Smith's First Prayer, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, and Come, Come Ye Saints. As we sang the last song, I thought about how we were singing in the ruins of what had once been the greatest empire on the world, a song that commemorated the saints who welcomed in the last dispensation. After all these years and all these kingdoms, soon the Lord will return to rule the earth.
Jordan River

We went to the Jordan River on our way home, to the place people go to celebrate Jesus' baptism. We talked about the mission of John the baptist and how he was willing to fulfill his calling to the best of his ability, but when it came down to it, he was humble enough to admit that he was unworthy to touch the shoe of the Messiah. Brother Huntsman also talked about remembering our own baptism. More important than the event, we should remember the covenant we made that day. He also quoted a friend who questioned why, if we talk all the time about things we love and are important to us- our family, those we admire- why don't we talk about Jesus more?

Monday, January 16, 2012


This trip is completely shattering my conception of Biblical history. Today we spent the morning in Jericho. There is a lot of debate about the defensive status of Jericho during the time Joshua arrived. Basically, VeggiTales is wrong- it was not a giant steel box in the middle of a flat desert. At the very best, it would have been a smallish town defended by walls that has been attacked ages before and never really rebuilt. So much for the French peas throwing slurpees. In the past, students walked from Jerusalem to Jericho- a reenactent of the good Samaritan. I guess it took them about 6 hours, and the country is perpetual hills and nothing to look at except rock and sand. They can't do it any more due to security risks, but we went up to a monestary in the middle of the wilderness where Christ spent 40 days fasting.
Elisha's Spring in Jericho
A Monastery in the Judean Wilderness
By Elisha's Spring

My insight for the day stems from this close up investigation of the Judean wilderness. Driving through, it is so desolate. But standing out in the middle of it on the top of a hill, there is a harsh sort of beauty. We spent a few minutes walking along a ridge, and the thought that came to me, "I think these rocks sound the same now as they did when Christ walked here." As strange as it sounds, it was nice to make that connection. And as we were reading the account in Matthew 4, Bro Huntsman got to verse 3 "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bbread" and picked up a stone from the ground. Talk about powerful imagery. Being out there completely changed my mental image of Lehi's vision too. As my teacher pointed out, this is the wilderness that Lehi knew and walked through to leave Jerusalem, so it makes sense that it may be what he saw in his dream.

There are so few places here that are the same as they would have been in Christ's time.  I guess I took things like the Sacred Grove and the Kirtland temple for granted because I grew up where leaders wanted to preserve sites as they were. The christian rulers response to finding any site that may be related to Christ was to build a chapel. I had never known this type of worship before. Here they build a monestary, a chapel, or a sanctuary. There is no less respect for it, but it was a way to protect holy sites from destruction during invasion and a way to  preserve it for pilgrims.

Someone asked a while ago about scarves here. I have paid attention the past few outings, and here is what I noticed. Headscarves are usually either one solid color or a flower print pattern. The colors are fairly conservitive- each one stays in the same color scheme I haven't seen any rainbow patterns, or anything on opposite sides of the color wheel, for that matter.  There is no noticable indicator of who wears patterns and who wears solids. On a related note, I have gone into the city several times and seen schoolage girls wearing what is clearly a uniform, including a headscarf, and then they all have different styles of jeans on. My best guess is that they put on the jeans as soon as school is out, but don't bother changing all the way. I thought is was an interesting depiction of westernization in a country that maintains it's classic formality.

Monday, January 9, 2012

I am Learning SO Much!

I am beginning to learn about driving in this country. It is a new experience, and I am OK that I am not resonsible to drive while I am here. First of all I have to address my parents- don't worry, I am being careful. I write this for your entertainment and engihtenment on another culture, not to scare you. :)
All the roads, except the two highways that leave the city, are two lanes with no curb. And sometimes no sidewalk, it really depends. Think NYC neighborhood type roads. Second- there aren't any actual delegated places to park, so people park of the side of the road. Remember, no sidewalks, no curb. Then, if the side is full, they just park next to the already parked car. This leaves the streets very narrow. Today, our bus driver menuvered passed a bus parked double deep around a truck headed the other direction. It was impressive to say the least. When it comes to driving, there is a lot of honking. I still don't know if it is simply a way of informing people of your location, or they are just horn happy. As for pedestrians- they cross the street at any convenient point, and cars continue on "at that same speed to fly" and assume the person will be out of the way be the time they get there. So walkers learn to look carefully and move fast.
I went to the Israel Museum on Sunday to start my first paper and assignment. It was amazing. I can't wait to go back. They have a 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period. Right next door is the permenant exhibit for the Dead Sea Scrolls. I could spend an afternoon in that room alone. They had early human art and tools, some really cool Hebrew writings, and a section devoted to artifacts from the time of Christ. That included a wine jug with Herod's seal, a stone with Pilot's name carved into it, and the heelbone of a man who was crucified. That was a chilling and enlightning moment. I have had one image of a crucifiction all my life based on videos portaying Christ's life. His hands nailed to the cross and his feet nailed to a platform. Maybe there was more than one way the Romans did it, but this man's feet were on either side of the cross and then nailed in. Sorry it that is gruesome, but I thought it was facinating, and horrifying at the same time, and just such a new thought. This whole trip is forcing me to reexamine everything I had settled so nicely in my mind as "the way it was."
One of my favorite pieces in the museum was a mosaic that portrayed David as an Orpheus. For those of you who don't know, I have taken several classes that cover Greek and Roman mythology, and I find it facinating. I thought it was great to see things like that crop up in real life instead of on a powerpoint in a classroom.
There were several things that my teacher pointed out on the worksheet as items from the time period Lehi and Sariah would ahve been living in Jerusalem. One of the plaques next to women's combs, perfume bottles and makeup said that women then had beauty rituals much like women now. Right below that were several hordes of silver, containers full of wealth. I understand better now what Lehi's family gave up to travel to the promised land. I had never given a moments thought to what Sariah must have had to sacrifice coming from a position of wealth and status. The wealth Laman and Lemuel left behind has come up before, but when I saw that pile of silver in broken jug, I could understand from a temporal perspective why they complained. It was history coming to life in front of me. I have never enjoyed a museum trip so much. Well, except the science museums that let you touch stuff and do cool experiments...
Today was our first field trip. We will be going out nearly every Monday to see nearby sights as a class and have instruction time with our professors. We traveled all around the outskirts of Jerusalem and saw it from the north, east, and south. I am really glad we did, because I now have a mental image of how things fit and the lay of the land. Brother Huntsman, our Old Testament teacher, is in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and LOVES to sing. So we got to sing hymns at several of the sight- a Lutheran church, the hills outside Bethlehem, and the site where the prophet Samuel is celebrated. At the first site, he wanted us to sing, but missed the starting intervals, so I sang the first line and the group got started. On the bus he found me and asked if I would be willing to help with starting the a capella music when we sing on field trips. Then he asked if I would choose hymns to sing at the start of Old Testament. So I got myself a job. I am glad. I think it will be fun to come up with hymns that roughly match the scriptures we are reading.
Wow, so I just looked back and saw how long this is! I really wish I could upload pictures, becuase I am starting to have quite a nice collection. Maybe I can get over Hebrew University across the street sometime soon where I have access to better internet.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy Sabbath Saturday!

Merry Christmas! … What do you mean? Of course it is Christmas! Well, Orthodox Christmas, anyway. I must say, 19 years and I never knew there were two Christmases.
Also, happy Sabbath from the Holy Land. This is my first Saturday Sabbath, and it is a strange sensation to know that I can go out and about tomorrow and play when it feels like Sunday tonight. People over here are very sensitive about calling it the Sabbath, especially the little kids. I have been catching myself saying Sunday all day today. It was a wonderful bit of perspective to realize that I have spent most of my life celebrating Sunday instead of celebrating the Sabbath, something I will get a chance to work on.
Church today was wonderful. I had such a wonderful experience singing hymns while looking out over the city. It was so much more real here. We sang “O Savior thou who wearest a crown of piercing thorn, the pain thou meekly bearest, weigh'ed down by grief and scorn. The soldiers mock and flail thee; for drink they give thee gall; Upon the cross they nail thee to die, O King of all.” As we did, I thought about the fact that I was looking at the place He was crucified. It was amazing. And not far from where I sat, He rose from a tomb and fulfilled the greatest act of love the world has ever known. The thing that was even more amazing was that I knew all this before I came to Jerusalem. I didn't need to see the place to know it was true. Of course, being here helped, but it didn't develop my testimony; it strengthed it.
I got to conduct music for the Primary kids today. Oh goodness- they are so adorable. My favorite moment was when the teacher wrote the word “agency” on the board after giving clues about it and one little girl said aloud “I don't even know what that is!” I actually really loved listening to the lesson, the women teaching was wonderful. We sang songs about choosing the right after a really well done lesson about agency. It was obvious which songs they knew and which they didn't. By the end I was figuring out how to help remember the words, but the beginning was a challenge.
I must say- going to church with my professors is a very interesting experience. Brother Huntsman, my old testament teacher, is a very vocal Sunday School participant. My other professors were silent though. It hasn't happened yet, but I thought as my Ancient Near Eastern Studies professor announced the program for sacrament, “I wonder how I will feel when I have a big paper due, or if looking at them later in the semester is going to remind me of all the work I have to do.”
I walked around the Mount of Olives this afternoon. The weather is really warm during the day, and it was beautiful and sunny. The city has bought a plot of land surrounding the JC and turned it into walking paths and a playground in an attempt to stop development on the hill. The result is that the Center stands out beautifully in the only substantial patch of green in the valley.