Wednesday, June 30, 2010


(Stacey passed out in the library....totally normal here in the center)

This is how I feel right now.
Finals are sucking the life out me.
3 down-2 to go!
Only 4 days till Galilee though....
I can do it :)

Separation Wall

On Sunday we took a break from studying and had a short field trip to the Separation Wall.
We talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict here all the time,
(sometimes to the point of overkill), and have heard from many analysts from both sides.
But hearing about it this time, as we were looking at the physical manifestation of conflict, was different and made the situation much more real.
It is so sad that there is so much hated, animosity and unrest
between these two groups of people
that they have to build huge walls between them
to avoid living and working together.
Peace is needed so desperately in this land.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Passover Dinner

Last week we had an authentic Passover-Seder Dinner.
I was so excited for this because I have been wanting to go to one for a long time.
Our Judaism professor, Ophir Yardin, led us in the dinner to show us how he and his family celebrates passover.
It was so interesting to eat all the ritual foods, drink the 4 glasses of wine (grape juice for us JCers), read the passover story and scriptures, sing the hebrew songs,
eat the motzah bread, and experience this
sacred Jewish feast for myself!

After we went through the whole ritual (a two plus hour process)
they served us dinner.
I was full after half of my first plate.
Turn out though, it was only the first course of seven.
Lets just say the guys sitting next to me loved me,
seeing as they got to eat 14 courses instead of seven haha.
Instead of eating I went outside and played hide and go seek with Ophir's four year old daughter.
She was absolutely adorable and we became BFF.
I did not realize how much I have missed little kids since being here in Jerusalem-
the only ones we usually interact with are the five year old little boys who try to mug us on our walk home...which is just not quite as cute haha.
There really are not many things that are more fun than being around little
little kids though and it was a great way to end a great evening!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Absalom's Pillar

This last week has been crazy with eight-hour days of classes, preparing for finals, excessive amounts of reading, etc. I did have a break for a few hours in between classes on Wednesday though, so I headed down the Kidron Valley to visit a few quick sites.

Our first stop was Absalom's Pillar, and getting there was quite the adventure. I have never claimed to be good at finding things. Pretty sure my sense of direction is non-existent. Usually I am with people who know where they are going though so it doesn't really matter...sadly, this was not the case on this particular adventure haha. We found what we were sure was the entrance gate to the tombs-but it was locked. We figured this was just a mistake and so naturally we hopped the short fence blocking the path-no big deal. Unfortunately, it turned out that the gate being locked was not a simple mistake and that we were actually not even at the entrance of Absalom's Pillar. Two Arab men were kind enough to loudly inform us of this, along with the fact that we were trespassing on private property-whoops! Luckily, we scurried off quick and were able to avoid being thrown into a Palestinian Prison.

the clearly marked sign we somehow missed

our lovely "uh-oh" faces

We finally made it to Absalom's pillar, which was really cool and MASSIVE! The Old Testament talks about how Absalom built this pillar because he did not have any children and wanted some way to preserve his name, which I guess worked pretty well because this monument honoring him is still around today!

We were only able to see a few other tombs before heading back to class, but our quick, and adventurous, outing definitely made our day much more exciting!

Sisters of Zion Convent

For our free day last week, the trifecta (Stacey, Melissa, and I) went to the Sisters of Zion Convent. We did not really know too much about its significance going into it, but we had heard it was a "must-see" so went to check it out. It turned out to be more ruins than a convent, but it amazing!

The first thing we saw was the Stuthion, a large water cistern built by Herod. We have seen a lot of cisterns here in Jerusalem, but this one was especially cool and was built as part of the water system to supply water for the temple.

(side note-yes I am fully aware of how fabulous J-Ru fashion is)

Next we saw the Northern Gallery which is a medieval cellar inserted into the Roman pavement, which was once the bedrock of the Antonia Fortress Moat. Just some ruins from thousands of years big deal

The last thing we saw at the Sisters of Zion convent was definitely my favorite. One thing about the modern streets of Old City is that they are actually about 20 feet above the streets that Christ would have walked on, due to the fact that the city has been rebuilt so many times. The Sisters of Zion Convent is underground though and as part of the complex they have the cobblestones on a street dating back to the time of Christ. This is not just any street though. It has been proven to be the actual street where Christ was tried before the people and where he was later beaten by the Roman soldiers. It was amazing to be able to sit there for awhile and reflect on the sacrifices the Savior made and on all the things he endured for my sake.

etchings the Roman soldiers made to play games on

After the Sisters of Zion Convent we made a few necessary stops, such as....

Jacob's Pizza for lunch
it was even non-kosher :) Quite a find in the Old City

the giant golden menorah incased in glass whose significance we weren't quite sure of....

Some jewelry you can see between the three of us we may have gone a little crazy over the gold bangles...whoops
and a quick stop at the Dome of the Rock before heading home :)

Overall, a pretty perfect day in the Old City of Jerusalem!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Congratulations Mrs. White!!

(photo taken by Matt Clayton)
aren't they beautiful?!

Today my best friend is getting married. I could honestly not be more excited for her! She is going to be the most stunning bride and has found a dashing boy who absolutely adores her. They are so in love, completely perfect for each other, and so excited to start their lives together. There is only one thing wrong with this picture...... I am not there.
I know that may seem silly, but not being at my best friend's wedding feels so so wrong. The idea that I would miss her wedding actually almost kept me from coming to Jerusalem. I mean we have been talking about/planning our weddings since preschool. It breaks my heart not to be there to throw her a bachelorette party, cry when I see how gorgeous she looks in her dress, cry when I see her come out of the temple, cry at the wedding luncheon (haha basically the day would have involved a lot of tears, happy tears though), dance at her reception in my bridesmaid dress, and more than anything be there to support my best friend on the most important day of her life.

(I wish I had the pictures from our preschool days-they are classic!)

So even though I am not in person, I will definitely be there in spirit (and hopefully skype). I love you so much Claire and hope you have the most incredible day. Your friendship and example has meant more to me than you will ever know. You are one of the most amazing, kind, and beautiful people I have ever met. Your husband better know how lucky he is to have you as his wife and take good care of you-or he will have me to answer to!
Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. White!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Yad Vashem

Our field trip this week was to the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem. I have been to holocaust museums in the past, but this one especially touching because it was in the land of the people who suffered so greatly and run by those whose families had largely been killed. It is so easy for us back at home to forget about this tragic event, but for the Jews here in Jerusalem it is an integral part of their past and their identity.

These pieces of art represent the two different types of victims, those who had gone like a lamb to the slaughter (right) and those who had defiantly fought back (left)

Pictures from the courtyard of Yad Vashem. One of my favorite parts of this was that each individual tree planted outside the museum honors a specific individual or family who risked their own lives to save a life of a Jew, known as the "Righteous among the Nations".

Going through the museum itself was such a sobering experience. It is absolutely horrifying that people were treated so cruelly and inhumanely, just because of their background. The museum really made an effort to give a voice to and honor each of the individual victims, which made the whole experience much more personal. As I wandered around the exhibits, looking at countless pairs of shoes which no longer had owners, pictures of the young children who had been killed, and appalling images from the concentration camps, I was literally sick to my stomach. The theme of Yad Vashem was "The Holocaust was not the killing of the six million jews. Rather, the Holocaust was the killing of one Jew, and it happened six million times." and I could not help but ask myself, "What if I had been one on those six million?" and "What if it had been my family torn apart?".

The Hall of Names

I cannot imagine how horrible it would have been to go through something like that, and the fact that many people survived with their hope, spirit, and optimism intact is truly inspiring. Going through Yad Vashem definitely was not an easy experience, but it was an important one and I know that it changed me for the better.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Half Way There!

Yesterday was the official half way mark on my time here in Jerusalem.
I seriously cannot believe it!
In some ways it feels like I just got here,
but at the same time the day I got on that airplane feels like a lifetime ago.
I have experienced so many amazing things, met some amazing people,
and made friends that I feel like I have known forever.
Everyone told me that coming to Jerusalem would change my life forever.
They were right.
I cannot believe how much I have learned and how much I have grown already.
I know this is where I am supposed to be right now and I love it.
However... .seeing as I have been away for just about
two months now, there are definitely some
things I really miss from back at home.
For example:

The treadmill!
The center's gym only has stationary bikes
and let me tell you it gets really old sitting there pedaling every day.
This girl needs to run!

I don't know why, but Israel does not have any berries :(
Anytime we have cereal or yogurt
I want nothing more than to slice up a bunch of strawberries to go with it

My bed
Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I am a down-comforter girl all the way.
My bedspread at the center consists of a paper-thin piece of denim-ish fabric.
That is just sad...

I think this craving is pretty much unanimous here in the Center
At least once every single day someone comments how much they are craving Cafe Rio.
And I'm not gonna lie, I would pay a whole lot of money for a sweet pork salad these days.

My girls
These girls have been with me through it all and really are like my sisters.
They are all amazing women and I hate missing out on all the fun and exciting things going on in their lives right now.
Life just isn't the same without our spur of the moment dance parties,
inside jokes, frozen yogurt runs, and conversations about anything and everything.

My family
(sorry i did not have a pic of the whole fam Rob!)
I have always been super close with my family and
love spending time with them-even when I moved out I went home at least once a week.
So not seeing them for such a long time is definitely new for me.
I miss sitting around the dinner table talking with everyone on Sunday nights
and spending hours playing confusion or Ticket to Ride afterwards.
Being away has made me realize just how much I love all of them
and how lucky I am to have such an incredible family.
They are my greatest examples and best friends.

More than anything else though...
I miss this guy. A lot.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Warning: This post has a ton of pictures! It is hard to limit myself to just a few when I have almost 200 to choose from. Sorry!

Our field trip this week was to Bethlehem, which I absolutely loved! Our first stop was at Bethlehem University, which was really interesting. They had a Christian chapel there which was gorgeous! After the chapel we had a question and answer session with a few of the students who attended Bethlehem University to find out what life as a student was like in Bethlehem. They talked about how difficult it was to deal with crossing the wall every day to get to class. It takes hours for them to get through and they all make huge sacrifices for their education. Personally talking to the students afterwards was so much fun because we realized just how much we had in common with these students from completely different backgrounds and how similar we all really are.

Chapel of Bethlehem University
This is Ramzi, he is hilarious and acts as my personal body guard most of the time. Love him!

Overview of Bethlehem from the campus

After the University we stopped at a Bedouin tent restaurant for lunch. Not gonna lie, I was pretty nervous when they told us we would eating in a legit Bedouin tent, and thought it was going to be kinda sketch but I was totally wrong! The food was super good, the atmosphere was awesome, and a million pitas later we were all stuffed.

After lunch we headed up to the old city of Bethlehem. Because Bethlehem is in the West Bank it is supposedly more dangerous and they brought along our security guards from the center to watch over us. The feeling I got walking around Bethlehem was anything but dangerous though. It was so peaceful and I loved walking around the streets, picturing Mary and Joseph making their way through the city trying to find "room in the inn".

Finally we got to the Church of the Nativity. This is the oldest operating church in the entire world, built in 326 AD. It has an amazing history and was built to commemorate the spot where Christ was born. The church is divided up into many different chapels, each run by a different religion, and they are all beautiful. My favorite part though was going into a nearby cave area and singing all of the Christmas hymns (Mom-I thought of you during "Angels We Have Heard On Hight". The spirit was so strong, and even though we likely were not in the same exact spot where Mary gave birth to Jesus, it was amazing to be within a quarter of a mile of where the Savior was born and to feel the spirit there.

The silver star, traditionally marking the exact spot of Christ's birth

The grotto of the Nativity, the spot where the manger stood

Manger Square
The room where Saint Jerome translated the bible
Singing the Christmas hymns
It was an amazing day and an amazing experience to be in the place I have read about every single Christmas Eve. Luke 2 will never be the same!