Thursday, August 29, 2013

Floating in the Dead Sea

This was our LAST out of Jerusalem field trip. Such a milestone! All of the sites we went to are along the west bank of the Dead Sea. Feel free to refer to this map to see where we were :)

Our first site was Qumran, which is where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls were first discovered by some Bedouin shepherd boys by accident in the 1940s. Over the next few years, archeologists found about 1,000 manuscripts in the surrounding caves. The texts were written by a group of people called the Essenes. I believe the scrolls were written roughly around the time of Jesus. The Essenes were a fringe religious sect who believed the end of the world was coming. They lived like monks out in the middle of the desert. One of the reasons that the Dead Sea Scrolls are important is that they include copies of the Old Testament that are a full 1,000 years older than the previously oldest copies. Here's me with the caves where they found the scrolls in the background!

Our next stop was Masada, which is way to the south. Masada is a mesa that made a good natural fortress. Herod the Great built it up to be an even better fortress. 

Masada is famous in history for being the last Jewish rebel holdout during the first revolt against Rome. The Jewish nation had been defeated, the temple was destroyed, and the last people still fighting against Rome were under siege at Masada. You can still see the Roman siege ramp there. When it became clear that Rome was about to win and take over Masada, all of the Jewish rebels committed suicide to avoid being enslaved.

It's a famous site now because Jews see it as an example of bravery and doing everything you can to save the Jewish homeland. There are t-shirts at the gift shop there that say "Masada shall never fall again." As in, the Jewish state will never fall again.

Here's the view from the top of Masada. Or is it Mars?

It was HORRIBLY hot at Masada. Yet our professors still thought it would be a good idea for us to fill out a worksheet (like we were on an elementary school field trip) while we saw the site. However, the trip to Masada was saved when there was a food court on the way out, and I got an oreo McFlurry. The simple pleasures in life.

After Masada, it was time to swim! Sadly, not a cold, refreshing swim. But it was an exciting swim! The Dead Sea is 30% salt. If you compare that to the ocean being 3% salt, and the Great Salt Lake being 15% salt, you'll understand a little better how salty it is. 

If you ever get the chance to go to the Dead Sea, I would suggest trying REALLY hard not to get this water in your eyes, nose, or mouth. Not that I know that from personal experience, or anything...

It's so salty that you can't NOT float. I couldn't even put my feet straight down. I wouldn't have been able to touch the bottom anyway. It was deep!

The water was really warm, almost hot. Which didn't feel super pleasant since it was 110 degrees. But I'm so glad I can say I've floated in the Dead Sea! It was fun :)

Dead Sea mud is rumored to be great for your skin. A lot of my classmates rolled around in it. It smelled terrible, and that's not really my thing (uhh, that bus smelled awful afterwards). But I didn't miss out, because me and my roommate had already done Dead Sea facials earlier that week! One of the shopkeepers gave us some extra Dead Sea mud that he had for free.

Our last stop on this field trip was En Gedi. It was only 5 minutes away from the Dead Sea beach. It's a place with freshwater springs and waterfalls. There were some that were a lot bigger than this, but this is the waterfall where I hung out with a few friends.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Schindler, the Mount of Olives, and Neil A. Armstrong

What do those things have in common, you ask?? Read on to find out!

To start out, I happened to visit 4 tombs over the last few weeks. What, isn't that what you do for fun?

The first one, Oskar Schindler's tomb, I'd been excited to visit for a while. The cemetery had really restrictive visiting hours, so I didn't get there until my time in Jerusalem was almost up. Schindler, which you know if you've seen the movie, singlehandedly saved 1200 Jews during the Holocaust. He was a member of the Nazi party who owned an enamelware factory in Poland. When he realized how evil the Nazis were, he risked everything to save the lives of the Jews that worked at his factory. It's one of my favorite stories from WWII! In the last scene of the movie, some of the Jews Schindler saved visited his grave along with the actors that played them in the movie. The Jewish tradition is to leave stones instead of flowers.

Just down the road from Schindler's tomb is David's tomb. As in King David! Wow, they actually know where he's buried *sarcasm*. But it was interesting because it was also a synagogue, with lots of people praying and studying inside.

On a different day, we stopped by Mount Herzl again. We went there for the first time when we went to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum) as a class. Theodore Herzl is kind of like the George Washington of Israel. He was the first person to come up with the idea of a Jewish state. 

On the Mount of Olives, we went to Mary's Grotto, which according to some is where she was buried. There's another church over the site where she died (Dormition Abbey), but this is the traditional burial location.

And inside this little doorway is the actual tomb. Not sure if you were actually supposed to pose in it.

Another site we went to on the Mount of Olives was the Russian Orthodox church of St. Mary Magdalene. You can see its golden domes from all over the city. They also have very restrictive visiting hours, so I was happy to finally get there.

With Kelby!

We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but it was a beautiful church!

The site that commemorates the location of the Garden of Gethsemane is also on the Mount of Olives.

Those are all olive trees behind me.

There's another beautiful church right next to the garden. It's called the Church of All Nations, because many different countries contributed funds to build it.

As a class, we went to an archeological park right next to the Temple Mount where they uncovered the stairs that were the entrance to Herod's Temple during the Roman period. Our professor told us that out of all the places in the Holy Land, this is the safest bet of somewhere where Christ actually walked.

Neil A. Armstrong visited this place when he came to Jerusalem, and our professor read us a quote where he said "I am more excited about stepping on these stones than I was about stepping on the moon." I thought that was a cool story.

Also, fun fact: I looked up that quote to get the exact wording, and I found a story that Muslim newspapers around the world reported that Armstrong converted to Islam after magically hearing the call to prayer while he was on the moon. I can say from personal experience that the call to prayer is loud, but not that loud. The U.S. State Department even made an official statement in the 80s to correct that claim. hahaha thanks internet

Well, there you have it. 4 tombs, 2 churches, a garden, and a staircase. Always so much to see in Jerusalem.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Home Sweet Home

It definitely felt like coming home when we got back to Jerusalem after about 2 weeks in Galilee.

And all semester our professors had been telling us that we would be a lot less busy with school and homework during summer term (v. spring term). After Galilee, that was finally true! We had a ton more free time during our last few weeks, which was really fun.

One of the first things I did after the Galilee trip was go to the Israel Museum. I'm glad I went at the end of the summer, because what I saw there was actually meaningful to me. There were artifacts from pretty much every archeological site we went to. We also saw a ton of things that we learned about in our Ancient Near East class.

Before you go into the main part of the museum, there's a model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period. Now that we know the city pretty well, we could pick out where everything was. Here's me with Herod's Temple!

Also outside of the main museum is the 'Shrine of the Book.' It's an exhibit of the Dead Sea scrolls. The outside of the building is designed to look like the lids of the jars that the scrolls were found in. Most of the building is underground.

One of the best things inside the museum was seeing Herod the Great's bathtub. That's almost as cool as when I saw a hair from Muhammad's beard in Istanbul. Almost, but not quite. Besides all of the archeology stuff, there was a cool modern art museum. I don't usually like modern art, but this one was really cool!

There's a garden outside the museum where I found this awesome sculpture:

It's the equivalent of the Philadelphia 'LOVE' sculpture. Ahava means love in Hebrew! It's cooler when you can actually read it, like I can :)

The Israel Museum was great! Even though it involved archeology! And afterwards I got to go to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum) for a third time. That's my all-time favorite museum, so this was a pretty successful museum day.

The next day (or something close to that), we stopped at the Temple Institute. It's run by a group of VERY religious Jews who are committed to rebuilding the temple. Herod's Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.; so it's been a very long time since Jews have had a temple. 

For this group of people, it's clearly very important that they have a temple again someday. They're devoted to being ready in case they ever have an opportunity to have a temple again. Of course, they want it to be where the original temple was (which is where Dome of the Rock is now). So that's a bit of a touchy subject. They're not advocating destroying the Muslim holy sites (that would start WWIII...). I think it's more like "We'll be ready if we ever have an opportunity to do this!". That's, you know, just a bit unlikely. Because Muslims have been super great at voluntarily giving up territory in the past. Not. But they can dream, right?

The organization has been working on building all of the furnishings for the temple according to the Old Testament. So one of the coolest parts of the tour was seeing pretty much exactly what Herod's Temple would have looked like. They even made all of the clothes that priests would wear.

Here's the menorah (they had 2: one outside and one inside).

Another great part of the tour was when the tour guide said they know where the Ark of the Covenant is. Okay. Just so you know, guys, it's buried underneath Dome of the Rock.

Also, I really enjoyed this book that I found in the gift shop.

Please refer back to this picture when I post the one of me with the Israeli soldiers :)

Anyways, this tour was fascinating even though the Temple Institute people are a bit odd and politically controversial. It was cool to see how much they long for another temple, and to see what Herod's Temple looked like! I love free days in Jerusalem!

Western Galilee and Back to Jerusalem!

We went to 3 places on our Western Galilee field trip: Chorazin, Sepphoris, and Akko.

Chorazin is a town a few miles north of Capernaum. The Bible says that Jesus visited there. We visited ruins of an ancient synagogue there. Here's me in the 'seat of Moses,' which is the chair that sermons were delivered from.

Sepphoris used to be the capital of Galilee. We saw lots of beautiful ancient mosaics here. That's saying something, because after this trip I'm totally a connoisseur of ancient mosaics. No pictures from here because it was too hot to pull out my camera. Possibly not the best day to wear a black shirt.

Our last stop, Akko, was a Crusader city. We visited a pretty cool Crusader fortress.

My favorite part about Akko was that it was where Napoleon was defeated when he tried to take over the Holy Land. Yay French history! There's a mosque in Akko that was built to commemorate Ahmad "the Butcher" Pasha, who led the Muslim forces against Napoleon. You can see the minaret of the mosque in the picture collage on the left.

The other cool thing about Akko was that it was right on the Mediterranean. Stay tuned for pictures later in this post!

The night after this field trip was our last in Galilee. We had to say goodbye to the lovely Sea of Galilee. I'll miss this beautiful view!

On the way back to Jerusalem, we stopped at a few sites along the way. BYU never let us waste time on this trip!

In Haifa, we stopped at the famous Baha'i gardens. Baha'i is a religion with about 7 million people in the world. Their founding prophet died here in Israel in the 1800s, and they built a beautiful shrine and garden in his memory. It seems like all religions think that there's something special about Israel, right? It reminded me of the Versailles gardens because they're so perfectly manicured. I loved it! If something reminds me of Versailles, there's a good chance I'll love it.

Entrance to the gardens:

The golden dome is where the Baha'i prophet's tomb is. His name is The Bab. I like that.

We all liked the golden dome because by this point in the Galilee trip, we were really starting to miss  Dome of the Rock.

Haifa looks like such a cool city! It's built on terraces that slope down toward the Mediterranean.

There's a cemetery in Haifa where a few Mormon missionaries from the 1800s are buried. John Clark was a 23 year old BYU student, and Adolph Haag was a 27 year old husband and father. They both died of disease shortly after making the LONG trek to the Holy Land.

The last place we went to was, believe it or not, our FINAL ancient city of the trip. It's called Caesarea Maritima. Herod the Great built the city. It was the Roman capital of Judea. Paul was once imprisoned there. It was right on the Mediterranean, which makes seeing ruins very enjoyable. I enjoyed driving a chariot while I was there.

And now, you can enjoy a series of pictures called "Marissa and Friends at the Mediterranean." Pictures are from Akko and Caesarea.

Kaitlyn and Lauren

Well, that was my Galilee trip! Despite all of the crazy sightseeing and running around, it was actually a pretty peaceful and relaxing trip. I think the best part was looking out my window at the Sea of Galilee and thinking about the miracles that happened there.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Upper Galilee

Well, I'm home! It's crazy to be back. After about 25 hours of traveling, it's very nice to be home.

Rewinding a few weeks back to when we were in the Galilee, our next big field trip was called the Upper Galilee field trip. All of the sites we went to were north of the Sea of Galilee.

The first place we went to was Hazor. We saw some ruins from the time of Solomon. There were archeological digs going on while we were there. One of the archeologists was a BYU alum, so he gave us a tour!

The next site we went to was Dan. It used to be the northern border of ancient Israel. A few times in the  Bible you see the phrase "from Dan to Beersheba," which is a term used to mean the whole nation of Israel. We went to Beersheba on our very first field trip, so I can say that I've been from Dan to Beersheba. At Dan there were ruins from the time of Abraham. That's about 2,000 B.C. They also found the remains here of the idolatrous altar built by King Jeroboam. I liked this site because it wasn't in the desert! A river ran through it, and it was very beautiful and green. That's rare for this country, guys.

Just 2 miles away was Caesarea Philippi. This was the place where Peter gave his testimony of Christ, and Jesus said "upon this rock I will build my church." I'm pretty sure this is a picture in your Bible.

The next place we went to was one of my favorite places from this whole study abroad! Guess why? Because it was a castle! It's called Nimrod's Fortress. It was originally a Crusader castle, which is why it looks European.

Outside of the castle:

Having too much fun in the castle:

One of the coolest parts of the castle was the beautiful view!

I love this green part of Israel!

Our last stop of the day was Har Bental. It's a mountain in the northern Golan Heights, and is RIGHT by Syria. This mountain actually used to be part of Syria before 1967. That was exciting.

There's Syria!

The city in the background is called Quneitra. Today it's a ghost town, and only a few U.N. workers live there. It used to be a Syrian city of about 20,000 people. Israel and Syria both accuse the other country of being the one to destroy it (my money's on Syria, although it's possible they both contributed). Syria didn't allow the residents of Quneitra to return to their houses there, because they want it to remain as "a monument to Israeli barbarism." Okay.

Very recently, there was a battle in Quneitra as part of the Syrian civil war that's going on right now.

There were lots of bunkers on Har Bental from wars between Israel and Syria.

Besides talking about modern history, another reason we came to Har Bental was to see the 'road to Damascus.' Paul had his conversion experience while traveling between Israel and Damascus.

Only two more Galilee field trips to go!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kibbutzing Around

Well, I got a little behind on my blog. We had a crazy last few weeks of sightseeing and final exams! I'm still working on it. I plan to catch up on everything. I fly home tonight, crazy!

On our next free day in Galilee, we visited the kibbutz Sha’ar Hagolan. Kibbutzim are socialist communities. People work on the kibbutz, and everyone receives the same amount of money no matter what they do. They live, work, and go to school on the kibbutz, and share all belongings.

This particular kibbutz was founded even before the state of Israel. We learned a lot about kibbutzim when we talked about Israeli history and culture in my Hebrew classes, so it was interesting to visit one and to see how it works. A few of us know a BYU student from our Hebrew classes who actually lived at Sha’ar Hagolan before moving to the U.S. He’s visiting Israel for the summer, so he offered to show us around his hometown. 

Every kibbutz has to have a way of making money to sustain itself. Sha’ar Hagolan’s has a dairy farm and a plastic factory. I enjoyed socializing with the newborn calves. 

A few decades ago, kibbutzim had Beit Yeledim (children’s houses). Every child, even newborn babies, lived away from their parents at the children’s house. They really took sharing to an extreme. The idea was that children belonged to the entire community, and not just to individual families. It also freed up parents to work. Children still saw their parents, but they never lived with them. This was eventually done away with. Children now live with their families, but our tour guide showed us the building that used to be the Beit Yeledim. This was where his parents lived!

Another interesting socialist aspect of the kibbutz was the laundry room. Here’s a picture of the laundry slots. There are different categories of clothes to be washed together. Some of the ones in this picture say ‘children’s clothes- white’ and ‘children’s pajamas’. So even laundry is done communally, and everyone shares clothes! This would be a nightmare for a person like me who develops deep emotional attachments to my clothes.

You can see Jordan from Sha’ar Hagolan! As an American, it’s always exciting to be able to see other countries. I’ve never seen Canada or Mexico :(  This kibbutz is also VERY close to Syria. Syria used to bomb Israel (for no reason) all the time between 1948-1967. So something else that was interesting was seeing lots of old bomb shelters all over the kibbutz.

Stay tuned for more posts about the rest of my trip!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hanging Out in Armegeddon

After having a few days to relax,  Day 6 in Galilee was another field trip day. Our first stop was Mount Tabor, which is one of the possible locations of Christ’s transfiguration.

There was a nice church there. It reminded me a tiny bit of Notre Dame. I’m just a little excited to go to France. Everything reminds of France right now.

From Mount Tabor, we had a good view of the Jezreel Valley. Except for the view isn't that awesome in this picture, because it's blurry. Fail.

Our next stop was Megiddo. The word Armageddon comes from the term Har Meggido (har means mountain in Hebrew). So this location could be the site of the end of the world ooooooh ominous.

The Valley of Armageddon:

Looks peaceful now, doesn’t it? 

Megiddo was an ancient city. So we got to see the usual super vague remains of what used to be walls thousands of years ago.

Our last stop was Bet Shearim. Not to be confused with Beth Shean, which was a place we visited on the first day of our Galilee trip. My class has the distinction of being the first BYU group to visit this place in like 20 years.

Bet Shearim has lots of ancient tombs. A lot of them were huge cave complexes where you could see hundreds of sarcophagi. Note my flawless use of the plural form of that word.

I’d only heard of one of the people that had been buried at Bet Shearim. His name was Rabbi Yehuda Ha Nasi. He’s a big deal in Jewish history. He was the one to first write down the Mishnah/ the oral Torah. That probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but we talked about it a lot in our Judaism class here.

Me with Yehuda’s tomb

Hanging out in the caves/tombs.

It was nice to hang out in caves after being in the sun all day!