Thursday, August 30, 2007

Jerusalem, city of our God

After an informative bus trip from the Moshav, I saw the Old City for the first time. I waited in eager anticipation of the city of the Israeli kings. Our first approach to the city brought us by way of the largest gate, Jaffa. The gate had heavy metal doors, and both the original gate, which we passed though on foot, and the modern gate which allows cars passage were larger than large. It was designed with an “L” shape bottleneck, in order to slow the advance of invaders. Once they breached the gate, they had to break rank and then turn to enter the city. What an ingenious design. Upon entering Jerusalem, the hustle of the city was overwhelmed me. Cars passed close by pedestrians in narrow streets that would only pass for a “one way” in the States. The transportation situation seemed insufficient to support the size of the teeming population, but here, it works. The first place the group went was the Citadel of David. As soon as I arrived at the top, I took in my first view of the Dome of the Rock. I was astounded. “Jesus loved this city enough to die here, and yet that temple stands in defiance to all of God’s people as a desecration of such a Holy site,” I thought to myself. The Citadel itself left me speechless. As part of the city walls, it guards the Jaffa gate, and is the largest structure in the city. I was even more amazed to learn that this citadel is the only one remaining tower of the original three. How grand these bombards and walls must have been before Rome tore them down.

Next stop, Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Frenzy gripped my body and my heart was a humming bird as I strode pace by pace down narrow, crowded, dingy, stone streets lined with merchant shops leading to the site, and as my mind raced with thoughts of Jesus’ burial, I was soon caught off guard by the smell of tobacco and the shop keeper’s raised voices. This was not the Jerusalem I imagined. I thought of streets wide enough for royal chariots to pass though and turn around in. I thought of regal foreign dignitaries like the Queen of Sheba parading down wide avenues painted by Thomas Kinkade. I never thought that on the triumphal entry, one palm branch would be long enough to lay from one side of the street to the other. Such notions were quickly cleared from my head as I realized keeping up with the group was more important than philosophizing. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was under construction, and the main tower was walled by scaffolding from top to bottom. On the inside, it felt like an ordinary castle, but it was built over the rock quarry Jesus was said to be crucified on. Even a little bit of the rock stuck through the floor on the second story. The decorations inside were gaudy and priceless. The image of Jesus wearing flashy silver garments in a glorified state hung over the place of the rock outcropping. The tomb itself was less appealing. It was housed in a brown cottage within the church, and about it there was a year round candle light vigil which is reported to start every year with the head Orthodox Priest going into the “cottage” and coming out with a candle “miraculously lit.” I have a healthy skepticism for such pomp and circumstance, seeing that most church traditions are much less valuable than vaunted.

Next we went to Shabaan’s, a local shop owner and money changer where I had a free drink and picked up 325 shekels for $80 approximately a 4.06% rate, but in order to get there, we had to pass from the Jewish quarter to the Muslim quarter. I immediately noticed the difference of the head coverings, skin tone and pressure of the men soliciting me for my American tourist dollars. We walked past more Hookah pipes and raw meat hanging in the open air then I have ever seen and we also passed by three old men playing dominos in the street. I hope I have given the impression this quarter is far different than the first. From Shabaan’s we left the city headed out the northern Damascus gate, where we stopped and noted the modern arched gate entryway is built above the antiquated arched gate entryways. We then saw the protestant version of Christ’s burial called the garden tomb, which failed to really grab my attention.

We then walked outside the city walls around the north-eastern corner to St. Steven’s/the lion’s gate. We entered here and explored the pools at Bethesda where Jesus healed the paralytic man. These ancient water storage facilities were fed by the aqueducts, and were at least 40 feet deep and 200 yards long, and dated back to well before Christ. We also entered St. Anne’s church and sang hymns, which was a refreshing time of worship. Afterwards, we walked back out of St. Stephen’s/ Lion’s gate and around the South-eastern side of Jerusalem through a Muslim grave yard overlooking the Garden of Gethsemane, which is now marked by a roman-catholic church. We continued on until we came back into the city through the southern dung gate which was built for Muslims because it is very close to the Dome of the Rock, but I wasn’t very interested in it. I fixed my eyes on the western wall of the temple, where the segregated Jewish men and women were praying, and some no doubt still looking for their messiah earnestly. Oh Lord, may you come quickly, like a thief in the night and give your people back their rightful land. You are praised forever in allowing this desecration even though I don’t understand it.

From here we moved with god speed out of the city to catch our waiting buss back to the Moshav. Exhausted from a long day of walking in the Israeli 105 degree sun, I slept on the way back home.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Today is a busy word

I wish i had time to post in appropriate length for all that i have learned the last two days, but school has taken me from it. here are some highlights:
  • syllabus shock for the first time in 4 yrs.
  • 7 hr tour of the Old city

  • a 10 year old boy walking with his mom on the moshav without pants... it's a different culture down here.
  • Olive battle at the office with Matt D, Steve C, Theo L, and Garret M... with the occasional pomegranate and almond hurled at your face.
  • A 10 minute walk to the corner gas station to find it was Elvis themed. AMAZING!!!

  • 8 hours of class today, and i started my Hebrew class last. as if a new language wouldn't be hard enough when i'm wide awake.
quote of the day complements of Steve C, "I will find a chameleon and train it to emasculate you while you sleep."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Israel... for reals.

(Room 31; Me, Matt, and Theo)

Hello and Shalom,
What can i say? in my first international experience, and i just spent an entire day pinned to my seat as i crossed the atlantic. I have felt nothing like the thickness of the air upon arrival in Tel Aviv, saturated with a richness of humidity, unknown pollen and ancient mysticism. I'm here to search the purpose of God coming to earth. I hope to find more and more evidences of a my living God through Biblical community, Jewish thought and culture, both modern and ancient, and the land He calls Holy. Even as i sit here in front of my compy, i feel pinned to my seat, like a dense, weighty mass firmly holds me here and serves as a directing force as i continue to eat, study, and travel. i cannot help but eagerly anticipate where this pinning brings me next. Anticipation also grows steadily in the group of 38 American students nestled here at in the corner of Judah, Dan, and Benjamin at Moshav Yad HaShmonah. Tonight, sleep and rest like it's the first time. Tomorrow, Jerusalem and Money exchangers for the first time.
(Tomorrow... i'm talking about the food here... get ready by taking some pepto-bismol. j/k lol)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Starting up agains...

Hello good friends!
Let's say you find yourself thinking, "long time no post, John." well, do i have some news for you. i've been too busy to write much of anything at all this summer. between working 45-50 hrs/wk, delivering concrete form panels and accessories, and interning at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Shoreline, i was the conductor of the crazy train. It was the greatest of summers though. i learned, received, and gave much. The biggest lesson God saw fit to teach me was to rely on supernatural spiritual strength instead of my own. more on summer lessons to follow...
The week after summer, i had a vacation with my great friends, Chasing Cadence, up at Hume Lake Christian Camp. It was face rocking action! They have released their freshman project, "Awake, O Sleeper" while spending the summer playing up at Hume Lake. Here is a video of the band...

Some Pics of the show...

After i spent the week up at Hume with the guys, i went on a 9 mile hike to Misty falls up King's Canyon, which just happens to be the deepest canyon in the US. I went with David Z, and Katie and Julie S, and a bunch of new friends from the Hume lake staff. We primarily hiked along the King's river through King's Oak tree glades and granite rock outcroppings in the . It took about 6 hours round trip with a couple of stops; a lunch break, and swimming in the river a couple of times along the way. During the hike, we saw an adolescent rattle snake surprise a passing hiker coming down the trail, and luckily for him, the rattlesnake missed it's strike. We also saw an adolescent bear (black bear?) at the falls hanging out, harassing hikers, and trying to steal food. One time the bear even got into a pack someone left lying out... jackpot! He was a fairly tame little guy... about 5 ft tall on his hind legs. After a short dip in the water fall, i was wading out of the river next to a large 15' tall boulder, and as i turned the corner to exit the water, i saw the bear about eye level, only five feet away, staring right at me. after a brief startle, i decided that i was more comfortable with God's wild creation about 20' away from me. So, i paced backwards into the river and found another way out.
Here are some pics of the hike...

I am excited beyond belief about leaving for Israel in eight days. i am enrolled in the IBEX program at Masters, and i will be in the Holy Land for 14 weeks to study the land and the Bible. hope to post regularly about my travels and experiences in Israel. Until then, Shalom
~John L