Friday, March 27, 2015

Houdeks in the Holy Land

I was very happy when I found out that my parents were coming to visit me! I love being a tour guide for people, and I was excited to show them the beautiful country of Israel. 

Actually, my dad has already gotten the Marissa tour of Israel! After my BYU study abroad in Jerusalem, he came to pick me up and we got to tour around for a few days. But for my mom, it was her first time to see the Holy Land. We also got to see a lot of things that my dad hadn't seen before- it was a great trip!

My parents arrived in Tel Aviv a few hours before I did the very day I came back from France. It's a great technique to get over end-of-vacation depression... start a new vacation the day afterwards! Since my flight got in pretty late, we didn't meet up on the first day. It takes at least 24 hours of traveling to get from Wisconsin to Israel, and they were in need of some sleep.

The next morning, I met up with them at Haifa's most famous landmark- the Bahai Gardens.

From there, we made our way over to Carmel Beach so they could see the Mediterranean. It wasn't quite warm enough to swim, but the temperatures in the high 60s definitely felt good to two people who just spent the winter in Wisconsin. We decided to have a lazy day since we were all tired from traveling the day before. After a walk on the beach, we took a bus to the university for a little tour of where I live and study.

For dinner that night, we walked to the German Colony from their hotel in Wadi Nisnas. The German Colony neighborhood features this view:

Bright and early the next morning, we said goodbye to Haifa and left for a tour of the Galilee. While waiting to meet up with me at the Bahai Gardens, they had met a taxi driver named Chaim who was trying to sell them on lots of tour ideas. He finally succeeded when he found out we weren't Jewish, like he assumed, but Christian. The chance to see so many famous sites and earn bragging rights for life at church was too much to pass up.

Our first stop was the Mount of Beatitudes, the supposed location of the Sermon on the Mount. Who knows the actual location of where it happened, but this place is on a hill, is close to where Jesus lived, and is on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, so why not? It's a very beautiful place with the water, the palm trees, and a church. It's especially beautiful at this time of year because it's so GREEN. Northern Israel is so green and beautiful in the winter!

My very favorite fact about this church is that it was built (or at least paid for/ commissioned) by Mussolini. Probably the most interesting fact in our BYU field trip manuals from last year.

I love this funny picture I took. A poor excited tourist was drinking this water that is not safe to drink. She was really gulping it down. I hope Jesus Brita filtered that for her.

Our next stop was Tabgha, which is a site that commemorates the miracle of Jesus multiplying the bread and fishes.

This church's claim to fame are the 5th century mosaics. This first one is a famous Christian symbol. You can buy all sorts of souvenirs with this on it all over Israel.

Close-by to Tabgha is one of my favorite places that I've been in Israel- Capernaum. Ancient Capernaum was the small fishing village where Jesus lived for a few years after leaving Nazareth and found several of his disciples. Many of the famous miracles during Jesus' ministry took place here, and I feel like it's a very special place! This sign says it all (the spelling on the sign is more like the Hebrew pronunciation- which if I remember right is something like Cfar Nachum):

The sites to see in Capernaum are ruins of the ancient synagogue, ruins of what was supposedly Peter's house, and another pretty view of the Sea of Galilee. I'll start with the synagogue- the ruins that are white in color are actually from the 3rd century, so from after Jesus' time. However, archeologists say that the 3rd century building was built on the same foundations as the synagogue that was there during Jesus' time. So it's not the same building, but it's pretty likely that it's the exact same location where Jesus would have taught in Capernaum's synagogue. The darker ruins that you can see in this first picture are from the 1st century.


The reason that people think that that this particular house belonged to Peter is that archeologists discovered that ancient Christians converted it from a house to a church and considered it a holy place. So ancient Christians worshipped here... I don't know if as early as the 1st century, but pretty close I believe. A few decades ago, the Catholic church built this 70s-looking "spaceship church" over the ruins of Peter's house. There is a glass floor in the church so you can see the ruins while you're inside.

Lastly, here's a shot of the sea... featuring, once again, green! It's just still weird for me to see so much green here since the last time I was here was over the summer.

Our next stop was the Jordan River. Specifically, we went to Yardenit, which is a nice tourist place just south of the Sea of Galilee. There's not evidence that this could be the actual spot where Jesus was baptized (actually, there's evidence to the contrary), but it's a lovely place to see the Jordan River. Mom was the only one who felt the need to put her feet in the slightly slimy water :)  

(For a fun comparison of my first and only other time seeing these awesome Galilee sites, click here. Who wants to see that one time in my life when I was tan?)

Our last stop with our driver Chaim was Nazareth. I had been there recently and I've already written about it, so I don't have much to add. We had fun joking that after stopping by Peter's house we just casually popped over Mary's place. Like I said, coming to Israel gives you bragging rights for life! In Nazareth we went to the Basilica of the Annunciation, which is a huge church built over what some people believe to be the ruins of Mary's house. Here's a view of the city from the church.

After getting a bite to eat in Nazareth (where some people were a little afraid to try the local cuisine- not me, surprisingly! I'm totally Team Falafel), Chaim drove us down south to Jerusalem. After making it to the hotel, I don't think we did anything besides venturing out to get dinner. We were tired after a long day of seeing some amazing places!

On our first full day in Jerusalem, we headed over to the Israeli Knesset, or Parliament building, for a tour. My dad was interested in doing this the last time he came, but it happened to be closed... so good thing he came back! I think it's kind of an interesting tour if you want to learn about the Israeli government. I'm still trying to figure it out. It's definitely more European than American, with a parliamentary system. Here's the room where the Knesset members vote, notice that the chairs are shaped like a menorah!

The next place we went to was Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum. After all of my studies this year and the fact that this was maybe my 6th or 7th time going through the museum, I think I was a pretty darn good tour guide here. It's a very sobering experience to walk through this museum, but it's incredibly well done and I highly suggest going there! Here's my mom's panoramic shot of the Hall of Names.

At night on this same day, we went to the Old City for the first time. It was kind of cool to see it at night. We walked through some of the markets and went to Church of the Holy Sepulchre- which Catholics believe is the location of Christ's tomb. 

I love this picture my mom took of the markets! It would be impossible to take one like this with no people in it during the day time.

I'd never seen the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at night, so that was interesting. Of course, that's because BYU Jerusalem students are not allowed to be in the Old City at night and are literally padlocked inside. The church is already pretty dark when it's light out, so being there at night meant it was a little eerie almost.

Since it wasn't very crowded, we waited in line to go into Christ's tomb. I've only done that once since usually there's a super long wait. I took this picture of some nuns waiting their turn.

The next morning, on Friday, we left my dad to sleep in at the hotel (probably his favorite part of the entire trip) and for me and my mom it was SHOPPING time. I helped her track down all of the souvenirs she wanted in the Old City markets, and for myself I picked up a little collection of something I've wanted for a while.

I've been admiring these plates on my last few trips to Jerusalem, so I was excited to finally get them! I made sure to get a good mix of Christian-themed (see the loaves and fishes mosaic?), Jewish-themed, one Muslim-themed, and even one with the Lord's Prayer in French. Of course, I didn't notice the glaring French mistake (accent going the wrong way) until after I bought it, but oh well. They're still beautiful, and I can't wait to display them in my future house someday!

On the walk back to the hotel to meet up with Dad, we were caught up in Purim celebrations all over West Jerusalem. Purim is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the story of Esther from the Bible. But in reality, it's a holiday where everyone wears costumes and gets really drunk. I decided that it is basically Jewish Mardi Gras. Actually, I read an article in the Israeli news that speculated that the reason that the tradition of wearing costumes on Purim began was because it takes place around the same time of the year as Mardi Gras. The Gentiles just made it look like so much fun, right?

Here's a few pictures of the Purim craziness. 

My BFF Marie Antoinette!

I cracked up at how many little girls with black hair pinned on blonde Elsa braids. Adorable <3

Anyways, we happened to pick a really fun week to be in Jerusalem! The atmosphere was great. I was surprised at 1. how many adults dress up and 2. how many ulta-Orthodox guys I saw stumbling through the streets completely drunk haha. Jews say that it's a commandment to get drunk on Purim. I guess if God says so, right?

That afternoon we headed to the Lion's Gate in the Old City to join the Via Dolorosa (meaning Way of Suffering/Pain) procession. Every Friday (because the crucifixion happened on a Friday), Franciscan monks lead a procession that supposedly follows the path that Jesus took from Pilate's palace to his death while carrying the cross. There are 14 Stations of the Cross where the monks stop and say what happened there. For an explanation of what the different stations are, click on this link to an old post here

Unfortunately, the monks don't speak English. Fortunately, one of the languages they do speak is French, so I could translate pour les parents. Basically, you're in a huge crowd of people walking through the narrow streets of the Old City together. It's a bit claustrophobic at times but it's kind of a cool experience. At most of the stations there's a small chapel. I did my best to take pictures above the heads of the crowd!

After our Christian experience, it was time to show my parents Jewish Jerusalem for the start of Shabbat. On the way to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, I showed them a place where you can walk on the rooftops of houses and get some cool views. If you're into this kind of thing, it would be an excellent place to pretend you're a secret agent on Homeland or in the movie Aladdin or something :)

Marissa in the streets of the Old City! Aaaaand I'm speaking in 1st person. I guess that's happening now.

After our rooftop walk, my dad decided to take on the tour guide role and led us a way I'd never been before. Thankfully, we still found where I wanted to go, and we found this great view along the way!

Before going to the Western Wall, we stopped by the Churva Synagogue. They're not in the picture, but there was a big group of teenagers celebrating Purim and having a dance party outside in the square.

Me and my mom with the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock in the background:

Usually on Fridays at sundown, there is a crazy party atmosphere at the wall. It was a lot less crowded and more subdued this time, because of Purim. I think most Jews were celebrating elsewhere! I was a little disappointed that my mom didn't get to see the dancing and singing, but at least she got to see the famous wall and even stick a prayer inside.

The next day was our last day of vacation together! We stated out the morning by going to church at the BYU Jerusalem Center. 

On the way back to downtown Jerusalem, we stopped at a few sites on the Mount of Olives- Dominus Flevit (a small church with a beautiful view of the city), and the Garden of Gethsemane.

Family pic at Dominus Flevit:

The Church of All Nations, at the Garden of Gethsemane:

After some "Sabbath nap time" we ventured out one last time to go to the Garden Tomb- a place many Protestants believe to be Jesus' tomb. 

While walking back to the hotel, we passed by the lovely Damascus Gate. As a BYU student, this is where we usually entered the Old City.

My mom snapped this last pic of us in Jerusalem because of the pretty palm trees! It makes me laugh that there are also a ton of police officers in the picture. There's a lot of security in this city.

We had one last family Qwirkle tournament that night (I won, obviously...) and then at around midnight my parents left for the airport. I got to have a good night's sleep at the hotel and head back to Haifa the next day.

It was a wonderful week with my parents!! Traveling is even more fun when you get to do it with people you love :)