Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Temple Institute, Dormition Abbey, Herodion, Church of the Nativity, St. Catherine's Church, Mormon Shepherds' Field, Separation Wall, Painting the Sunset

This has been somewhat of a stressful week.  I feel like they always try to cram in as much school as possible before we go on big trips because we leave for Galilee on Monday, and we will be gone for ten days.  I've had to write three papers this week and take a midterm, so even though I only have two classes now, there's still been a lot to do. 

So on Sunday I did something really interesting.  I went to what is called the Temple Institute, and it is a Jewish group that wants to rebuild the temple on the Temple Mount (where the Dome of the Rock currently stands), and they have a lot of the kinds of instruments, decorations, and clothing that would be needed to rebuild the temple.  I went and took a guided tour with some friends that they give the public of all of their stuff.  It was really interesting.  We weren't allowed to take pictures of their stuff, but I snuck one of their awesome model of Solomon's temple because it was just too good to pass up.  Anyway, it was interesting because it was the Jewish perspective of worshiping in temples and what it would do for people today.  I thought that the most interesting thing is that some of the doctrine behind why they want to rebuild the temple is spot on.  They believe that the temple is the place for the individual to commune with God.  They also believe that the temple brings people happiness and that it would make society much better if they rebuilt the temple.  I walked out of that just feeling so grateful that we have modern-day temples and that there isn't just one spot where we can build them.  I also feel like it was really neat to be able to see all of the things in person that we had talked about in our Old Testament class that were parts of worshiping in the temple.  Seeing those things helped me to understand more about temple worship during the time that the Law of Moses was instituted and how representative all the parts of the temple are of the atonement and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Even though the Jews don't see it like that, I'm grateful that I was able to understand the symbolism and know the truth.  

After visiting the temple institute, we visited Dormition Abbey, which is the main church in Jerusalem that honors the virgin Mary.  It was very beautiful inside and out of the church.  The coolest thing was that when we went in the church, we were the only ones in there, so we started singing some hymns.  Then my friend Morgan and I sang some primary songs about Mary while we were in there.  I have really come to appreciate Mary much more while I've been in Jerusalem.  There are so many places that honor her and so many pictures of her everywhere.  She truly was a chosen vessel of God to be the mother of Christ.  I think her attitude that we see in the scriptures is really great because she says, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it unto me according to thy word."  She trusted in Heavenly Father a great deal.  I want to be more like her.  

On Monday, we went on our second field trip to the West Bank, and we went to Bethlehem.  Bethlehem is only about five miles south of Jerusalem.  It was about a twenty-minute drive down there.  It was an awesome day!  The first thing we did was visit the Herodion, which was a palace that Herod the Great built.  He built it on a natural hill and then put more dirt on the sides of it to make it artificially steep.  The Herodion has a fortress along with a palace, bath house, and a pool.  Also, Herod was buried here after his death in Jericho.  His tomb and mausoleum was actually only found in 2007, and they have his sarcophagus on display in the Israel museum right now that I saw a couple of weeks ago.  So that was really neat.  His palace was such a contrast to the kind of circumstances that Christ was born into during Herod's lifetime.  It was cool to see the ruins and go through the tunnels in the underground fortress that the Jews had used during the first revolt against the Romans in 70 AD.  

After the Herodion, we visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  It is the oldest continuously used church on earth.  It was built in the fourth century by Constantine, and then the Byzantine Emperor Justinian added more to it to make it grander in the sixth century.  It was dark inside, but it was very ornate.  Everything was elaborately decorated.  We got to see "the actual spot" where Christ was born that the church is built on.  We also saw where the manger was.  Three churches have holds on this church, just like the church of the Holy Seplechre in Jerusalem.  So it is a pretty universal church.  Lots of tourists go there, and there were a lot there the day we went.  After going to the Church of the Nativity, we went to the church next door, which was St. Catherine's Church (a Catholic church).  We sang Christmas hymns in there for a while, and all the people in there really liked it.  It had great acoustics, and it was actually much prettier than the Church of the Nativity.  After that, they let us shop in Manger Square, and I bought some Christmas ornaments of nativity scenes carved in olive wood that say "Bethlehem" on them.   Then we ate lunch at a really yummy restaurant called "The Tent."  Lots of pita bread and different things to dip it in.  So good!  Then we visited a few other churches pretty quickly that commemorate the shepherds seeing the angels.  We went to a Catholic one that had some awesome depictions of the angels visiting the shepherds.  Then we went to Mormon Shepherds' Field, which is a field that overlooks Bethlehem.  We had a little devotional there, and we also had some musical numbers.  The three other violinists and I played a quartet arrangement that we made up of "Silent Night" on our violins.  It was so awesome to play that in Bethlehem.  :-)  Then we all went off by ourselves and had some pondering time.  I thought it was really interesting that Rachel, Jacob's wife, had died in Bethlehem and that Christ was born there because she was one of the mothers of Israel.  And even though Christ is not directly descended from her, the source of life of much of the world today died there, while Christ the source of spiritual life was born in the same city.  David the king was also born in Bethlehem, and even though he was able to do a lot of good politically for the Jewish people, Christ, the king of all, was able to do so much for everyone who has ever lived.  It was very special to be in the place of his birth and know that Christ had come to the Earth to save everyone.  After studying the Old Testament, I think Christ's birth means so much more to me now because I now realize that Jesus was the Jehovah of the Old Testament.  The Lord coming to the Earth to teach them, to perform the atonement, and to be resurrected seems so much more meaningful now.  Jehovah loved His people enough to come to Earth and live a mortal life so that everyone could live again and have the chance to make it back to Heavenly Father.  What a blessing!  

I'm excited to learn more about the life of Christ while we are in Galilee for the next week and a half.  And even though you don't have to go anywhere to know that Christ is the Savior of mankind, I think it will be an amazing experience.  :-)    

 A model of Solomon's temple from the first temple period.  This was at the Temple Institute next to the Temple Mount.

 Outside the entrance of Dormition Abbey, the main church that honors the virgin Mary in Jerusalem.  Left to right: Alfredo Solar, Taylor Davies, Morgan Garlock, me, and Eric Dayhuff.

The main apse of Dormition Abbey.  This church has great acoustics!

The supposed burial spot of Mary in the basement of Dormition Abbey.

The outside of Dormition Abbey.  It kind of looks like a spaceship from far away.

The reconstructed model of the tomb of Herod the Great at the Herodion.  (He is the one that ordered all of the babies killed in Bethlehem and the Herod that the wise men interacted with.)

A view of the "pleasure pool" and lower palace from the top of the Herodion, one of Herod's palaces near Bethlehem.  The pool has a big circle in the middle, and they think that this was an island in the middle of the pool that people could swim to.

A look down into the fortress part of the Herodion.  The columns on the bottom left are where the dining room was thought to be.  This part of the palace was later turned into a synagogue during the first revolt against the Romans in 70 AD.  So it's neat to see what an example of the synagogue might have looked like close to the time of Christ since there aren't many examples left.

I feel like there are so many pictures of me that look like this, but this is me on top of the Herodion with Bethlehem in the background.

Another view of the fortress part of the Herodion.

A cistern for storing water at the Herodion.  We joked that this was the largest baptismal font nearby.

The outside of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  This is the oldest continuously used church on the planet.  It was originally built by Constantine in the 4th century, and then Emperor Justinian added to it in the 6th century to make it look like it does today.

Me in the entrance to the Church of the Nativity.  The arch above me used to be the actual entrance, but it was later walled up except for one little hole during the Ottoman rule.

The inside of the church.  Everyone lines up on the right side in order to go downstairs to see the actual birth spot of Christ.  They had a lot of lamps in there that kind of make these pictures look weird.

Taylor Davies, Amy Fillmore, and me inside the Church of the Nativity closer to the apse of the church.

Maddy Perry and me inside the church.  You can see more of the ornate stuff in the apse in the background of this picture.

Me and my friend Paul Bradshaw pretending to blow out the candles people bring in the church for whatever reason.  This thing just happened to look like a big birthday cake.  Haha!

Me in front of the spot of Christ's birth.  On the floor is a fourteen-point star to show the birthplace.  Fourteen probably symbolizes fourteen generations between Abraham and David, David and the Babylonian exile, the exile and Christ's birth.  Like it says in Matthew 1:17.

Me and some of group down by the supposed sight of the manger.  I'm not sure why this is the spot for that.  I didn't see anything that looked like a manger there.

Me in front of a door at the church pretending to knock at the door of the inn in Bethlehem.  We all wanted to knock on a door in Bethlehem and not get let in. 

St. Catherine's Church that is attached to the Church of the Nativity.  It's a Catholic Church.  This church was actually much prettier and more light.  We sat inside here and sang Christmas hymns for a while.  People clapped for us when we were done and told us we sounded really amazing.

This picture and the next two pictures were at a church we stopped at later on in the day at Bethlehem.  I don't remember which denomination the church was, but it was a church that commemorates the memory of the Shepherds at Christ's  birth.  I thought these paintings were really beautiful.  Definitely more beautiful than some of the other paintings we saw at other churches that day.

 Stephen Clawson and me at Mormon Shepherds' Field.  There really aren't any sites that the LDS church has claimed, but I guess that they have claimed this field overlooking Bethlehem as their shepherds' field, so it is nicknamed Mormon Shepherds' Field.  There are a lots of Shepherds' Fields around the area that different churches have claimed.  It is apparently much greener in the winter than when we were there.

We had a speaker come and tell us about the separation wall that divides Israel from the West Bank, and it was really interesting.  This wall runs right through the middle of the neighborhood in East Jerusalem.  It's pretty sad to have such a huge barrier up in the middle of the neighborhood with barbed wire on top.

A good view of the Jerusalem Center I was able to get as we were driving on the bus one day.  What a blessing to live here!

On Friday night, my friend Amy had her birthday, so we went to this cemetery (I thought you would think that's funny Mom.) and painted the city and the sunset because that's what she wanted to do for her birthday.

 Me and my friend Amy Fillmore painting in the cemetery.  Amy is the youngest in her family, and she has one older sister named Rachel.  I think that's really funny since I'm the oldest, and I have one younger sister named Amy, whose birthday falls one day after Amy Fillmore's.

Me with my awful watercolor painting of the city and the sunset in the cemetery.  Notice that all of the graves have rocks on them.  That's what they do in this part of the world instead of putting flowers on someone's grave.  

 Amy Fillmore, me and Sarah King with our watercolor paintings of the city.  It was so fun!

All of the streets in East Jerusalem are lit up like this for Ramadan this month.  Everyone fasts during the day, and then when the sun goes down, they eat.  So it's like fast Sunday, except all of the Sundays condensed into one month. It's a very celebratory time for the Muslims.

Another view looking at the sunset over the city from the Jerusalem Center.

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