Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sea of Galilee

Day 2 in the Galilee region was called the 'Sea of Galilee field trip'. Everywhere we went, we were right on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Our first stop was Capernaum. Jesus moved there from Nazareth when he began his ministry. Most of the miracles recorded in the Bible that weren’t in Jerusalem took place in Capernaum, or close to it.

When archeologists discovered the ancient city of Capernaum, they found remains of a fourth century synagogue that were built on top of the remains of the first century synagogue. 

It’s possible that this was the synagogue that Jesus taught in.

Here’s the fourth century synagogue.

Archeologists also found remains of a house (right next to the synagogue) that has been worshipped as the house of Peter since the first century. In the first century, they can tell that a church was built over the house. Now, there’s a modern church built over those remains. There’s a glass floor in the church so you can look at the ruins underneath it. For some reason, I forgot to take a picture of this church. Oops. The church looks like a spaceship because it’s a weird shape and it’s raised off the ground to show off the ruins.

Here’s the lovely view of the sea from Capernaum.

Our next stop was the Mount of Beatitudes, which is the supposed location of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s a beautiful place! You can see the Sea of Galilee in the background. There was a pretty Catholic church there.

There were a ton of tourists at Capernaum and the Mount of Beatitudes. We’re used to seeing lots of tourists in Jerusalem, but these places were very crowded with church groups. There were especially a lot of French tourists! I enjoyed eavesdropping on them,

Right around the corner is the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes. That’s a mouthful. Here’s the inside of the church.

The most famous part is this mosaic, which is from the 5th century.

Just a few years ago (sometime in the 90s, according to the haircuts of the people in the video they showed us), a first century fishing boat was discovered in the Sea of Galilee. We went to a museum to see it. It’s pretty much perfectly preserved!

After seeing a real boat from Jesus’ time, we got on our own boat to take a ride across the Sea of Galilee.

All of the credit for getting a perfect picture of the flag goes to my friend Kaitlyn.

It was a peaceful ride across the Sea of Galilee. No storms :)

Friday, July 26, 2013

That time I shopped in Nazareth...

After Jordan, we were only in Jerusalem for a week before going on a another trip. We spent about two weeks in the Galilee. It was our last big trip out of Jerusalem. On the way up to the Galilee, we of course stopped at several sites. There’s never any wasting time here!

The first site was Bet Shean. Another ancient city, yayyyyy! I have to say, I’m getting a little jaded about seeing ancient ruins. Oh, some columns, casemate walls, and a cistern? Cool.

But I’ll probably appreciate these pictures more when I stop going to ancient places every day of my life. So here they are:

Look, I dyed my hair!

The next site I was a little more excited for: Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up!

The biggest Christian church in the Middle East is in Nazareth. It commemorates the Annunciation (Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary).


Something cool about the church is that it has artwork of Mary and Jesus from tons of different countries. Here’s Mexico, France, and China. It was fun to look at the different depictions that were all culturally connected to the country that donated them.

Also in Nazareth were two little churches built near the remains of the first-century synagogue of the town. I didn’t get any pictures of the first one, but it was a tiny little Crusader church. The other one is an Arab Christian church. See the Arabic under the painting on the right?

Along with that...Nazareth used to be a mainly Arab Christian town. Violence and contention between Arab Christians and Muslims prompted most of the Christians to leave Nazareth and move out of the country. Hey, not all of the issues in the Middle East revolve around Muslims and Jews!

Evidence of the contention that still exists..

Just so you know guys, if you’re reading this and you’re not a Muslim, you’re a loser. That’s the Church of the Annunciation in the background.

There are lots of Jesus-themed souvenirs in Nazareth. Nativities, rosaries, etc. I, however, bought red stilettos. Not random at all, right? I really hope one day someone asks me where I got those shoes so I can brag about buying them in Nazareth. “Where’d you buy your shoes?” “Oh, just in Jesus’ hometown.”

Before going to our hotel we went to an overlook point to get a view of the whole region of Galilee. This was my first look at the Sea of Galilee!

Guess what! We drove a few hours to get to Galilee, and our bus didn’t even break down once! We’re not in Jordan anymore.

Then we got to our hotel, which was right on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It was a pretty great view to see everyday. We were all excited to get to the hotel! Someone did a survey of our bus, and the average amount of sleep was 3 hours. We had two papers due that morning. No one procrastinated that at all!

Via Dolorosa

Every Friday, a group of Franciscan monks leads a procession down the Via Dolorosa. Via Dolorosa means ‘Way of Suffering’ in Latin. It follows the traditional path that Jesus took on his way to the crucifixion. There are 14 stations that commemorate different events along the way. Here they are:
  1. Jesus is condemned to death
  2. Jesus carries his cross
  3. Jesus falls the first time
  4. Jesus meets his mother
  5. Simon helps Jesus to carry the cross
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls the second time
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
  9. Jesus falls the third time
  10. Jesus' clothes are taken away
  11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
  12. Jesus dies on the cross
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb
Here’s the church that’s the starting point of the walk:

You stop at each spot and the monks read an account of what happened there. They read it in English, Spanish, and Italian. On the way to the next station, there’s a song that people sing in Latin that everyone seemed to know except for us. Go figure. It sounded cool though!

All of the stations are marked by a little Roman numeral. It’s on the big circle. You would completely miss it walking by if you didn’t know about it beforehand.

It was a huge group of people that went on the walk- maybe about 100. We were all walking through the little narrow streets of the Old City, so it was pretty crowded.

Here’s (part of) the group:

Monk party:

I loved it, it was fascinating. It’s fun to hang out with monks and experience some Catholicism. It was a cool reminder that we’re living in a city where Jesus walked. We’ve walked down these same streets in the Old City almost every day for the last 3 months, and this added some meaning.

This week also marked the beginning of Ramadan. We got to see some decorations. At night it’s all lit up!

The Wall

A few weeks ago we went on a short field trip to see the Separation Wall and to learn more about it. The wall started to be built by the Israelis during the Second Intifada. Intifada means uprising in Arabic. The Second Intifada was the uprising between 2000-2005 when there was lots of terrorism. The First Intifada was during the late 80s and early 90s. That’s why the BYU Jerusalem Center was closed from 2000-2005.

To control the security situation better, Israel started building a physical barrier- the wall- to separate Israelis and Palestinians. It divides Israel and the West Bank. To get to the other side, you have to go through a military checkpoint. It’s still being built, and it’s not done yet.

There were other factors involved as well, but it helped terrorism basically come to an end. Now it’s safe enough for me to be here!  

Between 2000-2003, 73 suicide bombing attacks killed 293 people and injured 1,900. The first segment of the wall was built in 2003. Between 2003-2006, only 12 attacks were carried out. Since 2006, there have only been 3 bombings. And none since 2008!

The problem associated with the wall is that it restricts the freedom of movement of Palestinians. In some cases, the wall separates Palestinians from each other and makes it very inconvenient to see family and friends, or prevents children from attending schools that are a lot closer to home. Sometimes people accuse Israelis of purposely building the wall to give themselves more land, and intentionally taking land away from people that has been in their family for generations.

The bottom line is that it’s not a perfect solution to the conflict. Israel always intended this to be a temporary solution. It was a desperate attempt to stop terrorism. Israel is not building this just for fun.

I believe that everyone has a right to not live in fear. The death toll during the Second Intifada was about 1,000 Israelis. Israel has a population of about 7 million. Think how big of an effect that would have on the U.S. if percentage-wise that many people died in terrorist attacks.

As awful as it is for Palestinians to live like that, I’d rather that innocent people are inconvenienced or even imprisoned than innocent people are murdered.

To get an idea of how Palestinians feel about the wall, check out some of the graffiti. Pretty interesting. There are comparisons to Nazi ghettos and South African apartheid. They also like to turn the tables on the Israelis and call them the terrorists. Okay. 

Notice how it’s all in English. If it was in Arabic, nobody but people who already agree with them would be able to understand it.

I was there! 

Anyways, it's a pretty depressing place to visit. To me, it was depressing both because you can see how much it negatively affects the lives of the Palestinians, and also because I believe graffiti comparing Israel to Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa is extremely unfair and pretty offensive.

Christmas in July

Why was it Christmas in July? Because we went to Bethlehem, of course! It’s only 10 miles outside of Jerusalem.

Before getting to Bethlehem, we stopped at the Herodion, which was one of Herod the Great’s palaces.

Hanging out in Herod’s palace!

Here’s Herod’s swimming pool. There’s an island in the middle to relax on.

In Bethlehem, we first went to the Church of the Nativity. It’s the oldest continuously-operating church in the world. Since 565, this has been an operating church. It was built to commemorate the exact location of Christ’s birth.

Outside of the church:

The church is in Manger Square. This is the view across the square from the entrance of the church. That’s a mosque across the street.

Inside the church:

See how ancient it looks? The columns came from the original church that was built here in the 300s by Constantine.

Here’s the altar. 

Downstairs is the alleged exact location of Christ’s birth, marked by a star :)

How often can you take a picture in front of a sign that says ‘Birthplace of Jesus’?

After the Church of the Nativity, we went a little bit outside of the city to some sites that commemorate the shepherd’s vision. 

Here’s a Greek Orthodox church:

It's so colorful! The painting of the shepherds is on the top right.

And a Catholic church:

I loved the paintings in this church.

Then we went to a real shepherd’s field just outside of Bethlehem. I know it was real because of the sheep droppings.

This is probably very much what the scenery looked like for the shepherds on Christmas!

Bethlehem is actually a pretty big, modern city that looks like it would be fun to explore more. In Jesus’ time it was just a tiny town. Bethlehem was also exciting because it was in the West Bank, so you got to see things like Palestinian flags and politically controversial signs.

More than anything, it was really just cool to be in Bethlehem!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Trip to the Knesset

On our first free day after getting back from Jordan, a small group of us went to tour the Knesset (the Israeli parliament building). It was the equivalent of visiting the U.S. Capitol building. This is where everything that’s important happens in the Israeli government! Israel has a parliamentary government, so the Parliament/Knesset is even more important than the U.S. Congress. For example, the Knesset elects the President and Prime Minister.

Outside the Knesset building:

Can you tell that it’s an Israeli building? :)

They have this light-up board inside that shows which Knesset members are in the building. There weren’t that many there on this day because it wasn’t a voting day.

There are 120 members of the Knesset (modeled after the 12 tribes of Israel). Israel isn’t divided into any voting districts. All members of the Knesset represent all Israelis. Also, there’s only one house in the Knesset.

Here’s a room where they have committee meetings.

The plaque in front of me says ‘Knesset member.’ I’m very official.

There was some cool art in the reception hall (where ceremonies are held) by French Jewish artist Marc Chagall. There were three giant tapestries that represented the past, present, and future of the Jewish people. 

Here’s the main room of the Knesset: the voting room!

Can you tell the chairs are in the shape of a menorah?

So that's the Knesset! It was interesting to learn some more about the Israeli government.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Elias Feinzilberg: Part II

About a month ago I wrote about a speaker that came to the Jerusalem Center, Holocaust survivor Elias Feinzilberg (read that post here ). During his presentation he spoke Spanish because he lived in Guatemala for a few decades. Two of the students here translated for him and got to know him a little. Elias invited them over to his house to talk more, and guess who else he!

I guess Elias really understands BYU students, because after he came to talk to us he googled his name to see who wrote about him on their blog. Lots of students blog here, because we don’t have access to facebook. I like that 95 year olds google themselves.

He found my blog and really liked what I wrote about his story. That’s good, because I had no idea that he would be reading it! He actually emailed it to his entire extended family to read. I was wondering why that post had so many more views than all of the other ones...

Elias asked the two translator guys to invite me to come hang out with him because he liked my blog so much :) When I talked to him he even asked me if I was a journalist! That was very nice, because I don’t even edit these posts. They’re really just for me to remember the details of the things I’m seeing and for my family to keep up with what’s going on.

It was really fun to talk more with Elias about his life! About 8 of us went over to his house. They all spoke Spanish, so Elias mostly spoke in Spanish to everyone. But he knew that I spoke Hebrew and not Spanish, so a lot of times he would translate things into Hebrew for me (he speaks both languages fluently).

I got to ask him questions in Hebrew too, and ask more about the concentration camps that he was in. Afterwards he gave me a copy of his story handwritten in Hebrew, and some information in Hebrew about the Chelmno concentration camp where his family died.

Speaking Hebrew to a Holocaust survivor about his experiences= such an amazing experience to have in Israel.

After we talked about the war, Elias said “Well, that’s depressing to talk about. We should have a dance party now.” 

So we did! He got out his record player (first one I’ve ever seen in person!), and we all danced. 

Thanks Elias, it was fun to get to talk to you!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Seven Jordanian Buses: Part 4

On the 4th of July, I woke up in Amman! It was Day 4 of our Jordan trip, and our last day there.

First we went to the Odeon, which is a huge Roman theater. There are really good acoustics in there, and our tour guide told us to sing some American songs. I never thought I would listen to the national anthem in a Roman theater in Jordan...

This site was actually in the middle of the city. A big group of 80 (white) Americans started to attract a crowd. Like the people we talked to the day before in the park said, there aren’t a lot of white tourists who come to Jordan. We were kind of an anomaly. People started gathering around us and taking pictures until our tour guide shooed them away. It was fun to feel exotic.

It reminded me of Paris, where Asian tourists would always take pictures of me unashamedly. One time five Japanese men took pictures of me while I was standing in line for the bathroom at Versailles. That was weirder because people in France are white. But that’s my life in foreign countries, apparently. 

You’ll never guess what we had for lunch this day...KFC! Yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken in Jordan. That was pretty Fourth of July-y. I was a little scared to see what the Jordanian interpretation of KFC was, but it was a lot less scary than most of the meals we had there.

The last site we went to in Jordan was the Jordan River. We went to a place that Christians have worshipped as the baptismal site of Jesus since the first century. Even though no one knows where the exact place was, obviously, it was really cool to be there! I have touched the Jordan River!

I saw a few people baptizing themselves there on the other side of the river. I would not have done was not clean water. On the other side of the river is Israel. If you tried to swim across you would probably get machine-gunned down. Okay, that might be an exaggeration. But there were soldiers there watching everyone. They don’t mess around with security in this part of the world.

It was also the hottest temperature that I’ve EVER had to walk around in. It was way over 100. I’m so glad I live in Wisconsin and not the Jordanian desert.

On a related note, let’s discuss how my skin now has pigmentation. Let’s compare a picture from this day with the first week I was in Jerusalem.

Haha. Although I am in the shadows a little in the Jordan River picture. Thanks to going to the beach in Tel Aviv and walking around in Jordan’s sun this week, I’m probably the tannest that I’ve ever been. 

Though it wasn’t that hard of a record to break.

After the Jordan River, we headed to the Israeli border to go back home to the Jerusalem Center. Sadly we couldn’t cross the border just by swimming the river. Bus #6 came through and actually worked all the way to the border crossing. On the Israeli side of the border we got onto bus #7, since our bus couldn’t cross the border with us.

We ended our day with an America party at the Jerusalem Center. The cooks barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs for us. You were supposed to come dressed as a famous American of history, so there were some funny costumes. My favorite was Helen Keller. It was fun celebrating America after waking up in a Middle Eastern monarchy, and then crossing the border to a place that has not been blessed with the peace that we enjoy at home.

I loved visiting Jordan! I love seeing and experiencing new places. Some final thoughts and things I want to remember about Jordan...

-Jordan has 6.5 million people, and Amman has about 3 million.

-Before Israel existed, and this whole area was owned by the British, Jordan was considered part of Palestine. The British originally promised the whole area (modern-day Israel, Palestine, and Jordan) to the Jewish people. But then in 1922 they went back on their word, split the land at the Jordan River and formed an Arab state. That’s why some Jews think “there’s already an Arab state in Palestine.” 

-Jordan is considered part of the Holy Land. As you can see from my blog posts about Jordan, lots of biblical events happened there.

-Jordan joined other Arab nations in attacking Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1973. After Egypt, they were the second (and last) Arab country to make a peace treaty with Israel. Since 1994, Israel and Jordan have had good relations. They work together on things like water supplies (which is a pretty big issue in the desert). 

-Jordan is known as an oasis of peace in the Middle East. Right now there are a ton of refugees coming to Jordan from countries like Iraq and Syria.

-I was in Jordan when the Muslim Brotherhood fell in Egypt! I watched the protests on the news in Arabic.

-You can buy Barbie dolls wearing burqas in Jordan. I wish I could have gotten one :)

-Before we got to Jordan, our professor warned us that the bus wouldn’t look as nice as our Israeli buses do. When we got on the bus, it looked really new and nice and our professor was surprised. And then it didn’t work, haha.