Saturday, October 31, 2009

Study at Gethsemane

So the other day I had the chance to read all the gospel accounts of Christ in Gethsemane, which was an amazing experience. There is a special private section that is closed off from the main tourist, but for whatever reasons all Mormons are allowed in. So we had access to a large quiet area where we could actually walk around the garden at our own leisure. It was a beautiful place, and very inspiring. Some new questions came up in my mind, which were able to be answered throughout the day with more personal study. It's amazing the kinds of things we are learning out here. How fortunate I am to be able to walk out to Gethsemane on the Sabbath to study. I swear, this place feels like a dream.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


To be completely honest, it felt like most of this trip was for fun and because Jordan is awesome and not so much because it had a ton of Biblical sites. We did see the lookout point Moses had when he first saw the promised land, and we saw were Christ was baptized. But besides that our field trips centered around ancient civilizations and all of the cool ruins. There are some cool sites and stories that I want to write about, but I've been playing a lot of catch up lately on my blog and want to write it all when I feel a bit fresher and more enthused about writing. So more to come on my week in Jordan later, expect this same post to be updated rather than me starting a new one.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Holland's fireside

We had Elder Holland here on business, and he did a wonderful fireside for the district here. All our teachers and staff were running around putting stuff together and making sure everything was just the way it should be. My Old Testament teacher gave me two cool assignments. One was to usher and the other was to give the closing prayer.
So not only was I ushering, but I realized a very important lesson today.  Elder Holland is a hard act to follow, even if you are just saying a prayer. After my closing prayer I ran over to shake his hand and his wife's and the seventy that was there too, I thought it might be awkward but I figured it best to beat the crowd.  Elder Holland and his wife thanked me for my beautiful prayer. Although I've live in Utah for a year now and have seen every session of general conference that I've been able too in person, this marks the first time I was able to shake an apostle's hand. Very cool.
Oh and his talk was amazing.  As of officer in the church he would be very disappointed in any of us if we hadn't permenantly been changed for the better during our stay here.  He got all dramatic in the finger pointing Big Boss Elder Holland way.  He also talked about how there seems to be an extra responsibility placed on the Saints who have literally walked in the Lord's foot steps.  I've thought about that a lot lately, wondering what I'll take from my semester here. Things have been really good and spiritual, but not quite as I had expected. Lately I've been thinking this place feels an awful lot like the MTC(the mission training center, or boot camp for LDS missionaries before they get sent out), and that perhaps the change will be felt more once I go back to the States and into the "field." His wife brought up the Isaiah 52 and how it is our duty for the rest of our lives now to bring good tidings and publish peace after walking on the mount of Olives and otheres here.
His talk was on mercy, challenging us to find little ways throughout our day to become merciful, patient, and long-suffering. His closing remarks involved him connecting Christ staying with the Nephites a bit longer to bless their sick with the sermon on the mount (Luke 6:36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. vs Matt 5:48 switching merciful with perfect) and finally with the mercy seat in the old testament.  Wow!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Yad Vashem

I learned an awful lot today at the holocaust museum they have here in Jerusalem. We had the chance to go through with our Judaism professor, who gave us background on all sorts of things. One that I found the most interesting is that of the Jewish mentality post World War II and how it evolved over time. I'll go step by step through the progression by pictures of statues throughout the area, then finish by saying a thing or two about the museum itself.


Our professor said that at first nobody talked about what happened at all. It was hard for a lot of people to talk about it naturally, but for those who did talk about it could be almost looked down on. The natural conclusion was that if things were really as bad as they said, the notion of "who's bread crumbs did you have to steal to survive and make it out here alive" crept into people's minds. This statue here represents those who submissively followed orders and commands from Nazi leaders.


In stark contrast to the first one, this stands next to it. Representing resistance efforts from within ghettos and camps, those involved in these rebellions were hailed as heroes. For a long time, these demonstrations of bravery were the only ones praised.


If I remember right we were told that in the late 50s the mentality of heroism shifted in the minds of Jews. This statue here represents a man who worked hard for a young school or orphanage from within a ghetto. The idea was that not only violent rebellion is heroic, but those who fought to keep a normal way of life in the face of such horrific events are heroic as well.


This last picture shows a couple rows of trees near the entrance. Each tree planted here represents a different gentile who risked everything to help save the life of a Jew during the holocaust.

The museum itself was a very interesting experience. I was trying my best to compare it with the one in DC, but it's been 5 or 6 years now so it took some time remembering. In DC, there seemed to be a lot of focus on taking you back to Germany at that time and feeling it. They had you walk through a train car that was used to ship people to the camps, and another area had a huge pile of shoes worn by people who lived in the camps. It's impossible to go through the entire museum with dry eyes. Where as here in Jerusalem, there seemed to be a lot of symbolism, respect, and healing. The museum in built with one giant long hall in the center, while exhibits are displayed in rooms on either side of this hall. Railings and such are placed throughout the hall, so that you have to zig zag your way back and forth, walking through every room. The end of the hall has huge glass doors, so as you progress through the museum and the story you're getting closer to the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. At the end they have a huge room with pictures and records of every known person who died in the holocaust, with room on the shelves for every person we don't have records of yet. They also have a little on Israel as well.

These are just a couple of the things at the museum and impressions I felt or idea that I learned. Honestly, I could go on forever about this day. There is so much to go see and learn, it would be impossible to write it all here.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Tonight was a wonderful night. I had an opportunity to usher in Shabbat in an Orthodox Jewish Synagogue. Our Judaism professor took about twenty of us to one of the synagogues that he regularly attends. We got there early by car before the sun went down, and he gave us a quick debriefing outside the building before we went in.

The actual service was much more active than I thought it would be. They had a lot of a capella singing with two leaders up front banging on their desks to give a beat. Ushering in Shabbat is a happy and joyous occasion, and that was definitely the atmosphere in the room. The room itself was divided with women on the left and men on the right. I'm not sure at what age people follow this division, because toddlers seemed to have open access to both sides.

Along with singing, there was a fair amount of dancing as well. One man sitting up front brought his daughter with him. She was full on energy, and coaxed her father into dancing with her during several hymns. Well let's be honest, the cute little girl didn't have to try very hard.

Throughout the service, people stood up and sat down several times. About halfway through, we all stood up and turned around to face the doorway, in a gesture to welcome in a personification of Shabbat.(the imagery used is the idea of Shabbat being a bride) After that, we all joined hands and danced around in a circle. I was next to a guy who was young and very expressive, which helped me to get into it.

Towards the end of the night, we had an 18 year old kid from Brooklyn explaining to us some of the Hebrew and the prayers. It was interesting to note that although they can pray for all sorts of things throughout the week, prayers on Shabbat should only be prayers of gratitude. The guy told us stories of his life, and how turning to his faith a couple years ago saved him.

Afterwards, we chatted with various people in the congregation for awhile. They were all very nice, and a few asked me where I was having dinner that evening. It was cool to see just how many different countries everyone came from. It helped me see the importance of bringing back Hebrew and making it a national language.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I suck

Wow so I really suck. Nothing since Egypt, I was suppose to be getting better about this. Oh well. I'm sad to say this will be a pretty small post, but I think I'll do a better job keeping this blog interesting if I do more frequent smaller posts anyway. Here is a quick list of cool stuff I've done since Egypt. I'll do my best to go back and write about these times as I can. I'm exhausted and will head to bed soon, but here's my past few weeks at a glance.

  • Visited Jericho with it's old archeological sites and such
  • Travelled through Hezekiah's Tunnel
  • Saw wonder General Conference over a 3 week spread on top of normal church services
  • Went to a Matisyahu concert, my first real concert might I add
  • Ushered at a musical performance held at the center
  • Went on a picture Scavenger hunt in West Jerusalem
  • Survived another wave of mid-terms
  • Watched a documentary staring a couple of my professors and realized just how crazy this program really is
  • Ground up some hyssop and herded a flock of sheep
  • Just now got out of an open mic activity at our center. This program is stacked with music majors and crazy talented people, it was a lot of fun.

Well that was a fun list wasn't it? I have a pretty cool little photoshop side project I was working on the other day. Look at this picture, a seemingly perfect jumping pic in front of the oldest pyramid in the world. But to my dismay, I ruined this picture.
Look at that ridiculously pale eye-sore. Man, what is going on over here?

So mind you I've only messed with photoshop for a week or two before I came out to Jerusalem, but I have to admit this looks pretty good. Way to be cloning and blurring tools!
So there you have it, a little quickie on what's going on here in J-town. Hope you all are doing well. And you all I mean mom, who else would spend time reading this blog. lol

Ok so I realize now that these pics became so small on blogger that this looks like nothing, but at the original resolution of my 12 megapixel camera this was a big deal, I swear.