Jerusalem Group 4 has made it to Jerusalem! After arriving, the day was spent getting to know each other more and getting settled in. We ended the day with a gorgeous view overlooking The Old City, reviewing important trip items and journaling.
The morning kicked off with overlooking Jerusalem. Then we toured the City of David with Warren’s Shaft and Hezekiah's Tunnel. There was an extra special opportunity for personal reflection at the Southern Wall and its steps at Temple Mount where Christ frequented. Everyone in this group made it amazing during our first full day in Jerusalem!
Today was another great day in Jerusalem. We visited the Jerusalem Holocaust Memorial Museum. We learned so much and showed amazing reverence in such a sacred place. Our parents would be so proud!! We went to the well where Mary and Elizabeth met (and where their babies met for the first time). We went to the church on the hill where it’s believed that Elizabeth hid John the Baptist from the murderous King Herod. We prepared for the Jewish Sabbath (Shabot) with our amazing tour guide who taught us an amazing, reverent, yet fun way to start the Sabbath! After that we grabbed a delicious shawarma dinner in the Muslim Quarter. From there we visited the wailing wall where there were hundreds upon hundreds of faithful, devout Jews sending up prayers to God. Anyone from our amazing group who wished to do so, went up to the wall and sent up a prayer to the very same God! The combined faith and devotion was so powerful. The Jewish people were so welcoming and glad to have us in their midst! All in all, a very amazing, blessed day!
We started off the morning by visiting the garden tomb, but He wasn’t there. However, the Holy Spirit definitely was. We joined a bunch of our LDS brothers and sisters for Shabot Services at BYU Israel. We found it cool that we observed our regular Sunday services on Saturday instead of Sunday. From BYU-Israel we visited the tomb of the prophets where Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were buried. It was a short walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. The spirit was so strong in such a holy place. Everyone showed reverence and humility throughout our brief stay at this holy garden! We each got to spend some time in the garden, pondering and praying.
Next, we headed to the pool of Bethesda and a magical visit to St Anne’s church that was erected nearby. We sang Hymns in the Crossing (the part of the church between the Nave and the Alter/Chancel/Apse). The acoustics were amazing! We sounded like the legions of angels singing praises to Him!!
Everyone was really excited for a delicious dinner. We also visited a fun shop where we bought some amazing olive wood gifts.
the garden tomb
tomb of the prophets
garden of gethsemane
pool of bethesda & St. Anne's church
Today we went to Bethlehem, which is in Palestine, we had to cross the borders in order to see where the savior’s supposed birthplace was. We went to the Basilica of the Nativity where we entered into multiple churches such as the church of the nativity and the Church of St. Catherine, (which is one of my favorite churches). The church itself is made up of a main building that is designed like a typical roman basilica with five aisles made up of columns, featuring mosaics on the upper ceilings. The doors to the Basilica are very low. The church was original very old and features old medieval mosaics of various types, representing angels and disciples of Christ. There is a grotto where it Is said Jesus had been born, overall, it was a chaotic experience, there were so many people crawling their way in, fighting with each other and clawing at each other’s hair. Overall, a very chaotic experience that many of the youth could agree, drove away the spirit of the place. Outside of the Main area were open hallways that surrounded the Church of St. Catherine. I loved the Church of St. Catherine, the decorations were simple and beautiful, and it was a much-needed break from the chaos we had just experienced. After the church of the nativity, we ate lunch and were then able to look and buy some olive carpentry. Most of the youth poured out money to buy things like nativities and chess boards, I was determined to simply pick up an ornament at best. Near the end of the day, we got to do one of my favorite things that we ever did and visit the Mormon shepherds field. It was a moment of reflection and a lot of peace.
Today was Father’s Day and so we each videoed a special message to our fathers.
We started off the day by visiting a picturesque green space outside the Old City walls where we played a fun game of cat and mouse. The game was a great object lesson on which barriers hold us back. We already had breakfast when we visited the upper room where the last supper was. No food there, but it was a great place to talk about the Savior. Next we headed off to Dome of the Rock that’s situated on top of the Temple Mount. It is an incredibly beautiful structure, and the grounds are nice too. Our tour guide took us to an abandoned Jordanian king’s palace that was never finished. It was a great opportunity to talk about the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and some of the extremely complex political/cultural/religious aspects of life in this region. Our guide was amazing at being open to any questions we asked. It was an eye-opening experience for everyone. In the evening, we returned to the green space where we had started the day. There we were greeted by another tour guide who answered even more questions from a Palestinian perspective. We enjoyed a picnic dinner in a nearby park and then most of us played on the splash pad as the sun went down.
It was another beautiful day in Israel. Today we boarded the bus and headed for a few unique sites outside of Jerusalem. First stop was a place called Neto Kevin where we worked on leadership training and team building exercises that included herding goats and sheep!! We learned to make some traditional shepherds’ food like flat bread and toasted wheat kernels. Next, we stopped at a cave system called Bar Koth. It’s a world heritage site and is an amazing example of the beauty and complexity of the world created for us. We also visited the valley where David faced-off with Goliath! It was awesome!. Finally, we made our way back to the hostel where the resident cook taught us how to make some amazing falafels. He shared the recipe with us so we can recreate it at home!