Today we followed the path of the Savior’s final day. We started at the top of Mount Olive. We passed by the Garden of Gethsemane and onto the Court of Pilate. There we had some amazing devotionals about Christ's last day and the dilemma of Pilate. We visited the church of Flagellation and the church of Condemnation. We then headed down the Via Dolorosa (the road of Pain or “Painful Road”) to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We did some souvenir shopping before leaving the old city for the last time.
We were able to visit the River Jordan where Christ was baptized! The water felt so good on our toes! From there we headed over to Elisha’s Spring in Jericho. It was amazing that the water was still pure and flowing! Some of us also opted to a ride a camel and some also got a big old smooch from the camel.
We visited Tel Jericho which is the oldest city in the world. Finally, we headed to the incredible Masada and King Herod’s Palace. It’s impressive to see what the Roman’s built!
Today was an amazing day. We hiked up Ein Gedi which is also called David’s Falls. This is the area where King David hid from Saul. It’s amazing to see the backdrop of the dry desert and Dead Sea in the distance while walking along the lush narrow band that’s sustained by the stream and falls. We walked through huge tunnels of reeds and then had a nice soak in the natural pools. That was a welcome treat after hiking in the heat of the Judean desert.
We also visited the Dead Sea today! Everyone was so excited for today. We were all blown away by how buoyant we were. It was a hot day and even though the waters of the Dead Sea were very warm, we found ways to make the most of it.
Today was a heavy travel day! We left from Judea (in the south) to get to the BYU Jerusalem Center for Shabbat. We enjoyed another great sacrament service. We took lots of pictures since it was the last time we would be there. We left the Jerusalem Center and headed north toward Haifa and each of us was gifted with our favorite snack for the drive. When we reached Haifa we made a quick stop at the Baha’i Garden. The grounds were so beautiful! The grounds are so special to so many that they do not allow gum into the garden. They also asked that when we communicated that we did so with a whisper. It’s very unique to be a part of something so special to so many.
We went to Magdala this morning. It’s situated near the Sea of Galilee. Afterwards we stopped at a water park that is just off the shore of the Sea of Galilee. We swam and played in the refreshing water and warm sun. Once we finished up at the water park we stopped by Yardenit which is an alternative location of Jesus’ baptism. Then we stopped at Mount Arbel. It was a hot day, but we all had fun, stayed positive, and happily worked on drawing closer to the Savior.
We started our day off at Mount Tabor, aka The Mount of Transfiguration. Next, we were able to walk through a replica of the village of Nazareth. We saw reproductions of many of the same things that Jesus would have seen during His life growing up. While there, we also enjoyed a yummy traditional Nazarene meal of roast chicken, olives, hummus, lentil soup, pita bread, and salad. Next, we went to the Church of the Annunciation—the presumed location where the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was highly favored of the Lord and the news of her special role as the Savior’s earthly mother. At the end of the day, we took a walk on the boardwalk on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and enjoyed the beautiful sunset and ice cream.
Today we headed to the Tel Dan Nature Reserve. It was a beautiful, lush piece of land. There was a refreshing river and plenty of trees and shade—perfect for our devotionals that we held throughout each day. We also headed south to the Jordan river where we canoed, swam, and just enjoyed the warm day and beautiful surroundings.
We started off at the Roman ruins of the city of Beit She’an. It looks very similar to the Acropolis in Greece or the Roman Forum. It was complete with a theater, cobbled roads, and lots of columns and other Roman buildings. Next we headed off to Cesárea - a picturesque Roman ruin built by Herod the Great (who, let’s be honest, wasn’t that great). The ruins are right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea where there are scenic beaches, crystal clear water, palm trees, and some impressive ruins. It was very beautiful. We enjoyed a pizza lunch before we headed to another beach nearby where we played in the waters of the Mediterranean, combed the beach for sea shells, sun bathed and just unwound and relaxed.
Today we started off by heading towards the Church of the Beatitudes. It was so pretty to see the meshes of mosaics lining the interior church. We talked about the Sermon on the Mount and the importance of it. We then continued to Capernaum where we walked around and looked at the ruins. We had some of our own time to look at the shores of what I believe was lake Tiberius. The funniest part of this day by far was embarking on the "Jesus boat." We each got a certificate and everything. We were able to look out on the Sea of Galilee and also play some pretty awesome party music. From there we found a spot behind a building, I am pretty sure it was an art museum, and we had a testimony meeting together. It was pretty awesome. On the way back I got to hang out with Emma (other Emma) even more and I could really tell we were becoming close. We had about a few hours to sleep when we got back to where we were staying. This was before we would embark on our long journey from northern Israel back to the airport.
Overall, the trip back to the USA was one to remember. We started off very early in the dark of the morning on our very massive bus. I sat next to Emma and we played the best music, and we also used each other as pillows, so our arrangement was pretty sweet. When we got to the airport, it was pretty bittersweet that I would have to come home, but overall I was excited. When we got to the airport we had to wait in line forever at customs and getting through an entire group of kids with bags that needed to be under a certain weight was definitely a challenge. Fortunately for me, I don't like buying things I don't need, so I actually came home with one of the lightest bags! Customs went smoothly for me. Once we were through customs we travelled through the painstakingly task that is security without TSA. After all was said and done, we all found our terminal and collectively split off to find food. Emma and I found smoothie bowls, but unfortunately we weren't able to get them because they only served between certain times (we waited in line forever). All was well and we got "healthy" little pita snacks instead. They didn't taste great, which was fine because I stole some McDonalds chicken nuggets from someone else as well. There was an HXP survey we all had to fill out, so I got my phone back temporarily. It was so weird to hold, decently heavier than I remembered. Turns out, our flight got really delayed, so to pass the time, almost all of us fell asleep. Once we boarded the airplane we made sure we had everything, but ultimately, all of us ended up sleeping. We then proceeded to land in London again with a quick transfer. We quickly got through customs this time, and eventually made our way to JFK. Once in JFK, we all got our bags and eventually parted ways as we were going to different terminals. We all took one last picture and split off with the people who were going in the same direction. I ended up seeing a few of my closest friends from that trip before I headed home. It was definitely bittersweet, but super nice to finally be going home.