This has been an extremely busy week! We did something big everyday this week. Luckily classes and homework haven't been too crazy this week in order to accommodate for all of things we've done this week. On Sunday, we took a trip to the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem called Yad Vashem. Going to the museum was really interesting. One of the things that they try really hard to do there is to tell individual stories of different people through all of the artifacts the museum has received. It is needless to say that going through a holocaust museum for two hours is a very sobering experience. One thing that made the museum extremely Israeli is that at the end of the exhibit, they talk a lot about the rise of the Zionist movement. (The idea of the Jewish people having their own state in Israel.) Then you walk outside, and you see this magnificent vista of West Jerusalem and how beautiful it is outside. And it's supposed to create a feeling of pride in the Israeli state. I didn't really feel that as much since I'm not Jewish or an Israeli, but I can appreciate what they were trying to do. After we went through the museum, we stopped and ate lunch at some picnic tables near the museum. Everyone was pretty quiet and pensive after going through the museum. But after a while, we started talking at my table about what we thought as we were going through the museum. And we started talking about how it is good to remember what happened during the Holocaust so that it doesn't happen again, but that we don't need to feel bad for the people that suffered through it because Christ already suffered for all of those afflictions and pains that those people went through. He is their Savior too, and He felt the suffering of the Holocaust already. I thought that was a neat insight that different people thought of, particularly my friend Morgan Garlock brought up.
After eating lunch, we visited Mount Herzl, where our Judaism professor talked to us about Zionism and how important it was in creating the State of Israel. One thing that I thought was cool was that he connected the bringing of Herzl's bones to be buried in Jerusalem is very reminiscent of King David bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David did this to legitimize Jerusalem as the new religious capital of Israel, and the bringing of Herzl's bones to Jerusalem legitimized the Zionist movement in Israel. So Mt. Herzl can be considered the Holy of Holies of secular Zionism.
On Monday, we had a free day since we had been on a field trip on Sunday. I did a few different things. First I went with some friends to Zedekiah's cave. (Zedekiah was the King during Lehi's time that was still king when Jerusalem was taken into captivity by the Babylonians in 586 BC.) The cave is thought to have been a limestone quarry for much of the limestone that was used to build the city from David all the way down to Zedekiah's time. It's name after Zedekiah because the water that drips from the ceiling is thought to be the tears of Zedekiah weeping over the lost city of Jerusalem after it was captured. The coolest thing about the cave is that it is 200 meters long, and it is all underneath the Old City of Jerusalem. I think that's pretty amazing. After Zedekiah's Cave, we went to the Rockefeller Museum, which was started sometime in the early 20th century. It's full of archaeological finds from Egypt and Israel. It was pretty interesting. The building is really beautiful, and it sits on a hill right outside the city gates. After that, we went to the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. We were so lucky because we got there about five minutes right before the only English tour they were giving that day. The Hurva Synagogue is actually pretty new. It was originally built in the 19th century, but then it was destroyed in the war of Independence in 1948 by the Palestinians. Then it was recently completed once again in 2005. It was beautiful inside! And underneath the synagogue, while they were doing construction on it for the second time, a piece of the road that lead to the Temple Mount during Christ's time was discovered. So they took us underground, and we got to see that, which was really neat. The Synagogue is an Orthodox synagogue. It was really beautiful inside. It was the closest thing to an LDS temple I've seen in Jerusalem. It was beautiful in a very simple way, rather than just being extremely lavish like so many of the other churches I've seen here. There is a huge white dome on top, and we got to go up in it. There's also a balcony on the outside of the dome, so we got to walk out there, which was really neat. Honestly, it was the best view I've had of Jerusalem since coming here because it is right in the middle of the city. And it is actually even higher than the Dome of the Rock, even though nothing in the Old City is supposed to be.
Then on Monday night, Jerusalem was having a light festival in the Old City. We are normally not allowed in the Old City after dark, but that night we were to see the lights. There were lots of different light displays that different artists had created to decorate the Old City. It was basically the equivalent of people coming out to see lights at Christmas time like we do in the U.S. All kinds of people were there, and it was just a cool thing that united a divided city for a night. And the artwork was very beautiful.
On Tuesday night, most of the students at the JC and one of the service couples went to a soccer game. It was Israel vs. the U.K. And it was the under-21 teams, but there were still a ton of people that came out for it. There's a huge soccer stadium in West Jerusalem right next to the mall, so that's where the game was. Tickets were only 20 shekels (about $5), so I went. It was pretty fun. Israel won 1-0. And when they scored that one goal, the whole stadium went nuts. Even more so I thought than people cheering for a touchdown at a football game. It was a good experience, and I'm glad I got to go. The only downside of the night is that it took us forever to get home because no one knew which bus to take home or where the bus even was, etc. So that was annoying, but it was fine because we got home by about 10:45 that night anyway.
On Wednesday, we took a field trip to the City of David, which is just south of the city walls of the Old City Jerusalem now. There were some neat ruins there. We looked down on the ruins and made jokes about being able to see Bathsheba's house. Lots of people dispute about what ruins went with what building because a lot of the buildings date a little bit after than they think David would have been the king. But that doesn't matter. It was still neat to see where the original city of Jerusalem was. The city has really migrated north and west since the City of David was established. After seeing the ruins and talking about King David, we went through Hezekiah's Tunnel. This is something you have to do if you ever go to Jerusalem. Hezekiah's Tunnel is an underground tunnel that was build during the reign of Hezekiah (hence the name of the tunnel) to channel water into the city during the Assyrians attacking Jerusalem. They were afraid that the Assyrians would cut off their water supply from the Gihon Spring, so they dug a 2000 meter-long tunnel underground to get water into the city. We waded through the tunnel. The water came up to our knees most of the time, and as high as mid-thigh at one point. The cool thing about the tunnel was that it has less than 1% of an incline through the whole tunnel, and the tunnel was dug from the two sides towards the middle. The tunnel lets out close to the pool of Siloam, where Christ healed a blind man. The story comes from John 9. We sang the song "Amazing Grace" there, and the last line of that song is "was blind but now I see," which was really neat because in the story the man that was healed said, "One thing, I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25). That was really neat to sing that at the sight of a miracle.
On Wednesday evening, we heard from a ninety-five-year-old man from Poland that went to nine different work camps and concentration camps during the Holocaust. Both of his parents and his six siblings were killed early on in the Holocaust. He had moved to Guatemala with his wife after the Holocaust, so he spoke in Spanish, and some of the guys that went on Spanish-speaking missions translated for him. He moved to Israel in 1969, and he has been here ever since. It was really interesting. He just seemed so happy and positive about life. I really enjoyed his story, even though it was sad. He was a really good example of what it means to have a good attitude and to never forsake God. He said that he felt like God kept him alive the whole time and that even there were people around him asking where God was at such a horrible time, he never did because he knew that God would help him to get through it. I think he will definitely be blessed even more in the next life for his faith. And it made me want to have a better attitude about life in general. I also really liked hearing him talk in Spanish. I feel like my ability to understand Spanish has definitely declined, but that's okay. I'll get that all back when I take more Spanish in the fall. By the end of him talking, I could understand about 95% of what he was saying.
On Thursday, I went with some people on a little outing to the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene. It was a very beautiful church. It was very ornately decorated. They supposedly keep the remains of Mary Magdalene and Elizabeth there. They also had some relics that came from some other saints. On the wall was a huge painting of Mary Magdalene trying to convince a Roman ruler that Christ had risen again. One of the nuns there explained to us that the way she was able to convince him was that she showed him an egg and said that even though you can't see it right now, there is a chicken inside the egg that is alive. And then she said that if she was telling the truth about Christ living that the egg would turn red in her hand. According to tradition, the egg turned red, and so now, members of the Russian Orthodox Church always greet each other with red eggs on Easter. The nun also told us that that is where the tradition of dying Easter eggs comes from. I thought that was a cool little story even if we don't know if it's true or not.
We had a talent show on Thursday night at the Center. It was really neat to see how talented different people are. I played "Danse Espagnole" by Kreisler in the talent show. Everyone told me that I did a great job and seemed to be really impressed. It was really nice to have have such a rewarding feeling after working so hard on that piece all last semester. I also played the violin accompaniment to my friend Rose's song "Savior Redeemer of My Soul." I really enjoyed doing that. It was definitely a great night.
I'm really excited for tomorrow. We are going to a place called Eilat, which is a town in Israel on the Red Sea. And we are going to go snorkeling in the Red Sea! It's a student activity, not a field trip, so we had to pay extra for it, but I think it will be great and totally worth it. They told us it's about a four-hour drive down there. I didn't know you could even drive for four hours in Israel since it's such a small country. But it will be a great time! I'll post pictures next week.