Thursday, March 4, 2010

Long Time, No Blog.

Hey everyone! So I realize that its been more than a month since my last blog... so I'll do my best to update you all! I've been pretty busy the last little while and it looks like its going to stay that way till the end of the semester... still sooooo much to do!
So, since my last post I've been to the Mediterranean Sea!! I went to Tel Aviv for a History of Modern Israel field trip and I loved it... the ocean was beautiful and the weather was perfect! We had lunch on the beach and just soaked up the sunshine! On this same field trip we went to the Latrun Tank Museum which basically had hundreds of different tanks that we could climb on and look at! One of the tanks is the most advanced tank in the world and has some really crazy new technology! I didnt get a picture of myself on that tank but here's a picture of me and my friends on one of the tanks:

Our next field trip was to Benjamin... we went to pretty much all of the different cities in Benjamin and learned a lot... I would tell you about all of them but I don't want this blog to be too long! Haha! But my favorite part of the trip was when we went to Jericho! When we got there we got to walk along the tel (basically a hill made from the debry from past civilizations) and saw the different areas that were excavated. We even went on areas that tourists were supposed to go on and I found 3 pieces of pottery there including a jar handle and jar bottom... so fun! I then tried to get a picture with the camel but the guy tried to get me to pay 5 shekels to take a picture... ya, right! But its no big deal, on a later trip to the Jericho area a guy let me get on the camel and had it stand up so I could get a picture... FOR FREE! I was happy... and here is the picture:

Also, we have been on a couple hikes since I last blogged... so much fun!! The first one was really scary because Bill told us we had to be super careful and how one girl broke her leg on this hike and how a seasoned hiker died on it from falling off the cliff... so I was a little nervous! Thankfully, though, it didn't end up being scary at all... it was so fun! There were like 8 different spots that we stopped along the hike to jump into the natural pools and hang out. We found a crab in one of the pools and spent some time trying to catch fish in another. And the scenery was beautiful!

The next field trip we went on we stopped at the Herodian, a fortress built by Herod the Great, and Bethlehem, and a few other places that I don't feel like writing about... hahah! But the Herodian was really cool, all kinds of pillars and we got to go down into the giant cisterns. I've recently realized that I love crawling in small caves... I'll talk about a few others that I've been in later on in the blog. But Bethlehem is not at all like I expected it to be... VERY dirty and not really much there. The Catholic church over the place where they believe Jesus was born looked like the typical overly decorated shrine that most would expect. I find that of all of the places we have visited the ones with these types of churches over them are the ones where it is hardest to grasp the reality of the event that happened there... mostly just because the place is covered with gold, marble, jewels and has the smell of incense... there is almost no hint of what the place would have looked like when the event took place there. But apart from that it is still pretty amazing to have stood in the city where the Christmas Story that we read each Christmas took place... almost surreal!
The next big field trip was to Ein Gedi, where the dead sea is! We went for an overnight trip and camped on the beach of the Dead Sea! My first experience in the dead sea was not what I expected... basically you walk down this steep hill to the edge then you walk over rocks (made sharp by the salt that covers them) into the water. But once you are in it is pretty fun... it felt so weird because I felt like I needed to tread water to stay up but you really don't! It was hard to swim because you can't really kick because your feet barely go under the water... so we doggie paddled over to the area with dead sea mud and covered ourselves with it before walking back. I ended up cutting my foot up pretty good on the salt rocks... I had a couple deep ones that are still healing a few weeks later... but at least now I can say I floated on the Dead Sea! That night we sang around the campfire and slept under the stars. In the morning we woke up with a film of salt air on our skin and hair but it was alright because we were going hiking! This hike was the hardest I have ever done. Mostly because you go up a really steep slope for quite a while on loose rocks so it takes a lot of your energy! I think I will attach a video to my blog so you can see the view from the top... it was crazy beautiful... ok so the video will have to wait... it was taking forever to upload! Anyways, there were some pools to jump in on this one too and I even got to slide down a small waterfall!
Our most recent trip was to the Shephelah and we got to see the valley where most of Samson's life was spent and the valley were David fought Goliath... I even got a stone from the brook that David would have gotten his stones from to slay Goliath! We stood in a poppy field (oops... just about wrote poopy field... that would not be good!) and got to pick some beautiful big red poppies! We also went to Gath, the home town of Goliath and the place where David acted like he had gone crazy by letting his spit drip down his beard so that he could get away from Abimelech (he wrote about this experience in Psalm 34... read it!). On this trip we also went into this cave that the Jews used to hide during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans. There were all kinds of tunnels and rooms in there... you could spend quite a bit of time exploring it! Those of us who were brave enough (and could fit) took the smaller set of tunnels out... it takes about 10-15mins and its pitch black without a light... but fortunately I had a light! We did the military crawl through parts and then would get to a room where you could stand before going into the next tunnel... it was actually really fun!
This past weekend and Monday was a holiday... Purim! It is basically a celebration that Esther saved the Jews from being killed. At church on Saturday we read through parts of Esther and every time they would mention Haman everyone would make noise with the noise-makers they provided in order to blot out his name. We then had a potluck there and a Purim party... most of the kids and some adults dressed up. It was fun times for sure. Then on Monday the real Purim party in Jerusalem happened, some people went into the city earlier but my group didn't go in until about 3pm and by then we missed the silly string party but there were still plenty of people dressed up and music! The city was crazy this day... people were everywhere and the roads were so busy! When we went to catch the bus we waited for an hour when it is supposed to come every half hour and the drive home took another hour, when it should only take 30-40mins. When we got back I frantically had to put together an outfit for the party that Ibex was having that night... I ended up being a gangsta (gangster for those of you who are a little older) with some friends and we were supposed to put together a skit but we just made it up a few seconds before... but it worked out, people liked it.

Yesterday we went on an excavation in the City of David. And lets just say... I AM SO SORE! Haha! We went down in an underground tunnel and passed along bags of dirt... then we took the bags up the stair and dumped them into a large bin. We got to spend some time looking through it... a few people found some stuff... Roman glass, lots of pottery, etc. I found what I thought at first was a pot handle but when I took more dirt off I realized it was part of a lamp, the man was right there and he said it was probably 2000 yrs old... from the time of Jesus. I was excited but then the man burst my bubble and took it away... I couldn't keep it :( but its ok cause I got some other pieces of pottery and some small bits of Roman glass! It was a long day (7:30am-8:30pm) and after moving so much dirt and rocks I was so sore and exhausted. When were were done we walked through the Old City COVERED in dirt until the pizza came... and then we did an underground tour along the western wall. It was cool but I was exhausted so I probably didn't get as much out of it as I should have. Over all I loved it and there were definitely some funny times down in the tunnel! Well, I think you are all caught up... just remember in between all of this there is some school work! I actually took a final exam for one of my classes already so that one is done! Keep in touch everyone, seriously, even if I don't write back right away it is great hearing from you!!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hiking and New Testament Walk

Last Friday a group of us went into West Jerusalem just to hang out and we were surprised when we got there and saw a bunch of people dressed up as trees and people dancing and bands playing. Turns out it was tree day. One creepy guy dressed in green even threw flowers to me and a couple of my friends from the balcony (as you can see from the picture above). It was an unexpectedly exciting time! Haha! Then Saturday night we had a bonfire and night hike! We hiked for about 45 mins to this fortress from before the time of Jesus... it was a cold and windy night (probably didn't help that we were on top of a hill) but the sky looked amazing! It was a full moon, there were clouds in front of it occasionally and the stars were bright! We sat there and shared some funny stories before heading back. We all had fun so a bunch of people decided we would go on an over night camp-out the next night! One group went back to the fortress and the other planned on going to a cave that was across the valley from the moshav... I went with the cave group! No one in our group had been to the cave before but we had heard about it (not all good things... there were bats mentioned) and decided it would be the better option considering there was a chance of rain that night. So our group of 11 set out to find the cave... but after more than an hour and a half of walking down hill and noticing that the terrain had changed we realized we were lost! After trying a couple different paths that were dead ends we decided just to retrace our steps back to the Moshav. So we walked back (up-hill the whole way... uggh) and finally made it back at 10:30 at night... about 3hrs after we had left. 6 people decided to head back out to look for it but I was one of the 5 who decided to stay behind... I was too tired to hike for what was supposed to be another hour to find the cave. Even though I never reached the destination I had a lot of fun for the most part (there were also some scary moments that I wont mention here)!

Today we went on another field trip to Jerusalem... this time for the New Testament walk. We got to the Dome of the Rock just as it began pouring rain so we were wet and cold for the rest of the day. We also got to visit the Western Wall (aka Wailing Wall), the Mount of Olives, and we got to help archeologists sift rocks from the City of David. We found LOTS of pottery, bones, and "special rocks". Our group even found 3 coins! So it was quite a fun and eventful day!
Thanks for reading this! And thanks for all those people who have been praying for me while I'm over here... I really appreciate it!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Getting to Know Jerusalem!

I haven't posted in a few days so I thought I would update everyone! Mostly we've just been having class but yesterday we had a field trip! We didn't have to leave until 10:30am and we already were up for breakfast so me and a few friends decided to walk to the Elvis Inn... the closest food place to the Moshav... to get coffee! It was about a 10 minute walk and we were in for quite a treat once we got there... Elvis pictures and statues were EVERYWHERE! If you want to see pictures of what it looks like inside here is the website... ... the pictures aren't great and the site isn't in English but it will give you an idea. When you buy coffee (in our case a cappuccino) for 15 shekles (about 4 dollars) you get a free Elvis mug too! When we got back we basically got on the bus to head for Jerusalem! We went to the Jerusalem Museum first to see a giant model of what the city looked like about 10 years after the time of Jesus and pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls from 100 BC! The scrolls are invaluable because the next oldest copies of Biblical texts are from 1000 AD! From here we walked to a park (with a workout playground... so fun) and had Pizza Hut!! Now, it was still kosher but still, it was pizza! We then spent some time touring around part of West Jerusalem and we tried these delicious pastries in the good! We were then turned split into teams and turned lose to complete a picture scavenger hunt which was fun... and we got some money from Bill to buy some coffee at Aromas (the Israeli equivalent of Starbucks) and it was actually pretty good! It was a fun day but I'm always exhausted after field trips cause you are basically walking around all day! Today I had my four hour Modern Israel class which was pretty good... we talked about the Holocaust so it was pretty disturbing but interesting at the same time. Our professor is Israeli and his grandparents were both in the Holocaust so he told us some of the things they had told him about it.
As we've been having so many field trips in Jerusalem we have also been memorizing verses about Jerusalem and it always reminds me of how special Jerusalem really is. Bill reminded us that its not so much that the city itself is more special than any other place on the earth physically but that God chose it to be special and to be the stage for so many important events in the Bible. Our verses that we memorized this week is:
Psalm 48:8-14
"As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God, which God will establish forever. Selah We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. As your name, O God, so your praise reaches the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness. Let Mount Zion be glad! Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of your judgements! Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Shabbat and Walk

Yesterday was Shabbat (I think I mentioned it in my last blog) and so we went into Jerusalem to go to church. The "assembly" was really cool... after 7 years of looking for a building to meet in they found this old building that they just started renovating. The church body is made up of people from all over the world. From the pulpit they preach in both Hebrew and English and there are headsets available for people who need it translated into Russian or Spanish. The Pastor is so expressive it is entertaining to watch even if you don't understand what he is saying :) After the assembly we were taken to the Old City and dropped off for a free day to do what we wanted there. Me and my friends got some lunch and then explored shops and found a really cool Austrian Hospice that had a little cafe and garden on top of it where you could see much of Jerusalem. From the outside it didn't look like much but inside it was quite a gem! Haha!
It was kinda weird to think we had class on a Sunday but we did... because Sunday is the first day of the week here! But we went on an Old Testament Walk in Jerusalem... so it wasn't too much like class! We got to see The Room of the Last Supper, Oskar Shindlers grave, the most likely place of David's tomb and we got to go through Hezekiah's Tunnel! My favorite part was Hezekiah's tunnel... when you first go in the water is pretty deep... about mid thigh... but then it got a lot lower so it wasn't too bad! We waded through the water, ducking and squeezing through the openings. We stopped a couple times and turned off our lights and sang hymns in the pitch black... well, they started out as hymns then moved on to "Pirates Life for Me" and the song from The Little Mermaid. We saw so many fun things and had so many good times! Pictures will be up shortly!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Everyday Happenings

I haven't posted anything for the last couple days so I thought I might just write a little something to let people know what I've been up to! The last few days I've just had classes... so far only The Land and The Bible and Modern Israel. My class yesterday was 4hrs... long class but hopefully it will be interesting! Also, it finishes by the end of February so its kinda nice :) On Wednseday (I think... the days all just kinda blurred together) we took a little walk into Abu Ghosh to the fruit stand. They have so many delicious fruits and snacks! I got some massive clementine oranges... so good! Dan (one of the other Canadians in our group) also found Canadian maple syrup! How cool is that?? On the way back we decided we still had a little time before we had to be back for dinner so we decided to go into this little Jewish community and check out their grocery store... it was a cute little place and the people were really friendly, many spoke english! Anyways, it was fun to get into the community and experience Israeli life, if you could call it that. Other than that I've just been hanging out around the Moshav. We had a game night the other night... it was lots of fun and I feel like I got to know people so much better! We also end up hanging out in the Library a lot... partly for homework and partly because that is where the best internet connection is! Tonight we are going to have our chapel (called Kabbalat Shabbat) and tomorrow we are going to the Jerusalem Assembly (they don't like to call it church here cause then it is associated with either Catholicism or the Orthodox). Saturday is called Shabbat and is the day that they have church... Sunday is just another work day for them. So after the service we will have a free day to spend in the Old City Jerusalem so it should be fun!
I was so glad I got to talk to some friends on skype the other morning (your night) and my mom on facebook and I even got a great email from my grandma the other day too! Its been nice to hear whats happening on the other side of the world! So keep in touch!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Old City

So today we went on an all day field trip to the Old City Jerusalem... it was amazing! It is so crazy to be at all the places where Jesus was and seeing the places that different events happened at! I didn't realize that so many of these important events happened in such a small area... we walked throughout and around Jerusalem in one day! Not only is the city gorgeous, there is so much significance behind almost everything that is in it! My prof explained how Jerusalem was a special city chosen by God to be the stage for so many significant events... our memory verse for the trip was Psalm 48:1-14. We went to Golgotha, The Pools of Bethesda (where Jesus healed a paralytic), went to the Citadel (the place that my prof believes is where Jesus was condemned by Pilot), explored the city, and walked on the walls of the city! And I'm tired right now so I don't want to try to think of all of the other things that we also did there! So much in one day! Some of the highlights were when we sang hymns in the church at the Pools of Bethesda, when Rachel slipped and fell in the mud, and when Micah fell through the Arabic grave... so many good times! It was hard not to take hundreds of pictures but I did take quite a few! If I don't put any up on here I will for sure put some up on facebook some time soon!

I just remembered I forgot to mention the food in the last note... its been alright so far, even if I don't like something there is enough selection that I should always have something to eat. Although, yesterday at lunch and dinner they served cow tongue... I avoided it and just had chicken instead :P

Monday, January 18, 2010

In the Begining...

So I figure that my family and friends might want to know what I've been up to over here in Israel... if not, you can stop reading now. Anyways, I'm not sure how often I will be able to (or feel like) write on here but we will see how it goes! Once I get my whole computer situation figured out and have some time I'll also put up a couple pictures!

So we left for IBEX from California on Saturday morning... flying 5hrs to New Jersey (first time on the east coast!) then 10hrs to Tel Aviv. Because of the time difference it was really confusing... on Sunday we had breakfast on the airplane then less than 4hrs later we had dinner in Israel at the Moshav (the beautiful place I will be living for the next few months). We were all exhausted when we got here! Also, people had told us about how nice and warm it had been lately but of course less than 3hrs after we got here it began to storm... and its been raining ever since! But the rain didn't stop us today... We had orientation and our first class! Then we went on a little field trip to see the place that the ark of the covenant stayed for 100 years... there is a Catholic Church there now. Then we went into Abu Ghosh and saw a bit of the city. We stopped at another Catholic Church that was built by the Crusaders between 1099-1299AD (considered a "new" church in Israel because there are so many building that are MUCH older) and got to explore around there... such beautiful gardens and such a beautiful church. And now I'm just in the library... I'm going to get started on my first homework assignment... trying not to procrastinate this semester ;) So far I have had a blast! I like the group of people that came, I like the professors, and Israel is so beautiful! But I do miss everyone back in North America so I would love to hear from all of you! If you want to you can send me an email or hit me up on facebook! I can also Skype but it kinda has to be a planned thing because we don't have internet in our rooms so we have to go somewhere else... plus there is a 10hr time difference!