We then had an Ancient Near East studies class, which was mostly just introduction into what archaeology is and how it will be affecting our class, as well as a basic history overview. Then, Friday afternoon, a group of us went out into the city. We tried first to go to the Dome of the Rock, but learned that it was only open to visitors on Sundays (and even then, you can only go to the plaza area). So we left there and went to the Western Wall. We people watched for a while- a Jewish ceremony had just finished, so there were plenty of interesting people to see. We then decided to put prayers in the Western Wall. This was a really incredible experience for me. I’ve wanted to put a prayer in the Wall for years, so putting it in and standing at the wall for a few minutes contemplating was a very spiritual experience. We then all backed up from the wall, and headed out of the Old City.
We made our way to West Jerusalem, but soon ran out of sidewalk, and had to walk on the small barriers on the side of the road, which was fun. We eventually made it there, and slowly made our way to Ben Yehuda street. There we found a comforting symbol of home- the Golden Arches of McDonalds. We called the Center to arrange a taxi to pick us up there and went in to get ice cream. Which makes my first official purchase in Israel a McDonalds ice cream cone, haha.
Saturday is the Sabbath here, so not a lot happened besides a lot of scripture study and napping. Then today, Sunday, I was able to go to church. On my application to come to the Jerusalem Center I had to indicate that I was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Thus, all of the professors and service couples here were aware of my special circumstance. This is rather unusual for me; normally I don’t really make a big deal out of my religious affiliation and I blend in with all the other students. However, because of my unique faith, Dr. Huntsman offered to take me to a service at the Church of the Redeemer, a Lutheran Church in the middle of the Old City. I gladly accepted, and we were joined by his daughter Rachel and also Rick Elliot, the organist for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir who has been in Israel for the past few weeks. We walked to the chapel, which Dr. Huntsman said has been around since the 1130s! They held a lovely service there. It was really powerful to be attending church in this city where Christ once lived. Taking communion and hearing, “Christ’s blood, shed for you,” is a completely different experience when you know that Christ’s blood was shed close to where you’re standing. We sang some of my favorite hymns, and had a very nice time. On our way back to the Center we stopped in at various churches and went to the Pools of Bethesda. It was neat not only getting to see these things, but also having Dr. Huntsman as a personal tour guide.
|Rachel and I in the chapel at the Church of the Redeemer (picture stolen from Dr. Huntsman's blog...)|
I can’t believe that we haven’t even been here for a week yet. The way that time moves it seems like we’ve been here much longer than that.Have a blessed Sabbath,