Saturday, May 26, 2007

Tel Aviv

We went to Tel Aviv this week. I felt like I had gone to a completely different world. It is about as far as you can get from Jerusalem... from Orthodox Jews with long curly sideburns in the Old City to fat ladies in skimpy bikinis on the beaches of Tel Aviv in about 45 minutes. It was awesome though. Had a nice swim in the Mediterranean Sea, hung out on the beach, wore Shorts!!! ate a fat old hamburger at a great restaraunt right on the beach as we watched the sunset.

I thought I had been to crowded beaches before, but this place made Waikiki look like Dingle, Idaho in comparison to NYC. People as far as you can see. Another interesting contrast to Jerusalem. It was Shavout, the day of Pentecost that we went to Tel Aviv, the streets of Jerusalem were quiet as all of the Jews were fervently studying, whereas it looked like Memorial Day in Tel Aviv, people everywhere.

After some time on the beach and in the water we headed down to Jaffa. A beautiful little city down the coast about a mile from the beaches of Tel Aviv. There was a nice boardwalk to so we walked along the coast the whole way down. We ran into a beauty little restaraunt there on the beach where you sat with your feet in the sand, eating hamburgers (pretty good, though it wasn't no Billy Burger) and watching the sunset. It was awesome. We then made our way down to Jaffa, or Joppa, you might remember it from the pictures in the back of your bible. Where Peter receive revelation to take the gospel to the Gentiles. It was a beautiful old town on the cliffs of the Med. Sea.

Then we had to take a jumping picture, you can see Tel Aviv in the background. The guy on the right actually looks like Superman. Well, the teachers here for some reason think that we all have superhuman powers and can read like 332 pages every night. These classes are rather short (time wise, only 7 weeks) but they pack everything into it. It kind of makes me sad for some of the people who are really worried about grades, because you have to sacrifice a lot of your time out in the city if you really want a good grade. I am working and learning, but I am not letting the work get in to the way of my education. Some people are a bit though. Darn BYU professors. Oh well. We are finishing the Old Testament this tuesday, and then on to the New Testament. I can't wait. I spent some time in the Garden of Gethsemane today reading and thinking, and it got me so excited to study more in depth the teachings of the Savior, and go to the places. I found a note that Charity had left for me there. Man, that girl is awesome. What a testimony she has! She inspired me to elevate my spirituality and get even more out of this experience here. She encouraged me to read Mosiah 3, about the Atonement. Wow. I am in the place where so much of Savior's life took place, and I get to go more places, like Galilee for example...we are going there on Wednesday and will be staying there for 9 days. I am so excited. Before then though we have 2 finals and a midterm for which I haven't studied yet. Oh well, that is what makes life interesting.
I said the closing prayer in church today and it hit me like a rock how lucky I am to be here, walking in the footsteps of our Savior, drawing closer to Him and learning so much. It seems much more like a dream than a reality. The spirit reassured to me today that Jesus is the Christ, and that he suffered in Gethsemane because he loves me, and he loves you. Read Luke 22. I love you all. Click on the link above to see a bunch more pictures from Galilee (the first time we went) and Tel Aviv. - Eli

Monday, May 21, 2007

First time in Galilee

just thought you might want to be taken back to your days on galilee. we went there overnight last night. it was the first time i have seen that place and now i know why you all say it looks like bear lake. i thought i was at bear lake, just the super duper spiritual version. the sunset last night was amazing, and then the moon over the lake looking across at tiberias was also amazing, (a little time elapse photography) just thought you all might want to see what you missed there last night. we are going back in 10 days to stay there for a week. i can't wait to spend more time there. we even watched the jazz game...the jazz game on a big projection screen in the bar there at the kibutz. they lost, but i kinda expected that, they ill get game two, the good news is, they get espn here at the center, so i will be getting up at 4am to watch games a lot in the coming weeks. i can't even describe how awesome this place is. we are finishing the old testament this week and i can't wait to get into the new testament next week. love you all. eli

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Oh baby. A beacon on the hillside. I love this place here, it still seems surreal that I am here, I don't know if it will ever fully hit me. I went to the Garden Tomb. I liked it. I was overcome with the spirit that is still resonating there after 2,000 years. I loved what one of the tourguides said that I was kind of eavesdropping on, he said "it is important to remember that we do not worship the tomb, but we worship he who rose from the tomb" I think he may have been referring to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as it is worshipped in a sense as a place. I was kind of surprised to see that it was right there in the city, yet when you entered the garden it suddenly felt as though you were out there in the middle of nowhere, just beauty flowers, trees, the birds. I took some time to read in the four gospels the accounts of the Garden Tomb and the Savior rising from the dead. I tried to visualize how it might have been and the excitement the apostles must have felt when they learned that the Savior had risen. Or the look on Mary's face when she turned and saw the Savior.

It has been an awesome week full of classes with ridiculously hard tests, I will opt not to talk about. We went on a couple of awesome field trips to Judea, to the spot where David killed Goliath, to some amazing caves, spelunking. Thanks to Jo and Aja I was able to navigate quite nicely with the headlamp that they gave me. I think the picture can do the explaining. So click onto the link and you'll see two new albums of some pretty great pictures. They do such a good job here scheduling and packing every possible thing in. We are constantly on the run, but it is awesome. Tomorrow morning we are going to the Galilee for an overnight trip. We have been and will study the Old Testament for the next couple of weeks and then we will move onto the New Testament. This trip to the Galilee will focus on the Old Testament, then in a couple weeks we will go back for about a week for New Testament stuff.

Here is Golgotha. I am really enjoying the Old Testament, but I am so excited to get on to the New Testament. Sometimes it is a little hard for me to get the OT stuff, the New Testament is more up my alley.

This is inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We went from the Garden Tomb to there today. Quite a contrast. The Holy Sepulchre is built right where many believe Christ was killed and then risen. The feelings at the two places were quite different. The Garden was so much more peaceful and vibrant, whereas the Sepulchre was very dim and just didn't have the same feeling of wonder. I really like it, it is a beauty building, but it conveys the atonement in a much different way. Well, it is late and we are leaving at the crack of dawn, but check out the other pictures you will like them. Let me know if you have any questions about any of them. Try the slideshow feature. Love to you all from Jerusalem!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Walk Like An Egyptian

I went to Egypt. And holy cow it was amazing. I have fulfilled one of my life dreams. Every minute of it was packed with some sort of adventure, or some interesting fact. It was hard for my brain to accept the fact that I was in Egypt and that all the pyramids and temples that surrounded me weren't fake, but they were really and were thousands of years old. This earth is incredible, and the people that inhabit it are equally as fascinating. Cairo is one of the craziest, dirtiest cities I have ever seen full of beggar, barterers, crazy drivers and a mosque on every corner. I loved that place. The food was weird, the water was sketchy, but boy were the people and the places we saw amazing.

We started out driving from Jerusalem down to Beth Sheeva, an old biblical town. From there we went down to a kibutz and went on a tour of it. I never knew things like that existed. Communal living, people really living the law of consecration. It was fascinating to talk to the people and learn more about what helped them decide to live on a kibutz and what drives them to continue. We were in a place that takes the phrase "the middle of nowhere" to a whole new extreme. There was absolutely nothing, no resources, a couple of plants, and some hills. Yet they have managed to find way to raise serious crops, have farms, you name it. Don't think I will be moving to a kibutz anytime soon but it was really cool.

We stayed on a kibutz that night and then took off for Egypt the next morning. Suddenly after like 834 hours on the bus the Great Pyramids of Egypt were right there. Right in the middle of this gigantic city. And they were every bit as amazing as I would have imagined them. Those ancient Egyptian had quite the work ethic and desire to achieve greatness. And 3,000 years later we are still in awe of what they did. We went in the middle pyramid, which for all the work they did in building the sucker you'd think they would have made it a bit more interesting, but hey, they were probably tired. We then went back to the hotel and suddenly there were 90 college kids playing around in the pool like they were 5 years old and we got some awesome looks of awe, confusion, and amazement from the hotel workers, and the other people staying at the hotel. That nigtht we headed into downtown Cairo and serendipitously ran into this guy who had a party boat who wanted to take about 20 or us for a ride on the nile for about 50 cents each. So we got on this boat, he turned on all sorts of crazy lights and some crazy Egyptian music and we rode along the nile there while dancing and having a good old time.

The next day we went toured around Cairo to various sites and then took an overnight train down to Cairo. And as Charity can attest it was really fun, but the space was quite limited, you basically have to fold up in to a box and somehow get a nights sleep. It was great though, the next morning we got Luxor at about 5 and hit the ground running. These Jerusalem Center staffers and guides knew how to get everything done, we did everything possible in the amount of time we had. We went to Karnak Temple (which was probably one of my favorites of the trip) this massive temple of pillars and inscriptions, all sorts of things I can't even imagine how they built. We went to the Valley of the Kings where King Tut's tomb is. It is funny he is so well known because he hardly did anything in comparison to the other Kings.

That evening we went out on Falooka boat rides, (sailboats) on the Nile. It was so cool to be there on the Nile. On one side were hotels and buildings. But on the other side it looked as though it might have 3000 years ago. Greenery, palm trees, camels grazing, little huts. It was so cool to be out there. You'll have to see the pictures to better get what I am saying here. That night we went back to Karnak for a Sounds and Light show where they take you through the temple in the dark with certain things lighting up at certain times along with narration to better understand what took place there. Going through there at night was so cool. It was a powerful place. I think that is they best way to describe it. We went to Luxor Temple the next day, another powerful temple. Went back on the same train to Cairo the next night. Saw the Cairo Museum, the famous King Tut mask that been in the Den at our house forever (the papyrus thing), went to the pyramids again that night. And were about an inch away from going on a secret camel ride, around the back of the pyramids in the desert and then going up to them. Not to climb them but to get up close at night. It involved a little bribery and some under the table stuff, but there were some who weren't so sure about it, so we ended up not going. I was pretty ticked, but I guess that gives me a reason to go back. We finished off the trip witha great trip to the Red Sea for some snorkeling. It was awesome, but a bit windy so the visibility wasn't the greatest. We finally got home last night after what seemed like 2 months of traveling.

I love this place. The people in the group are awesome. It is so fun getting to know them better and better. Everyone is so excited to be here and willing to do anything anytime. The professors are pretty intense, and I must say I don't have a ton of motivation to read 400 pages while the Dome of the Rock and the old City of Jerusalem is at the bottom of the hill. I am really anxious to learn, but I am also excited to get out and learn on the streets if you know what I mean. We'll be here in the Center for a couple of days, then next week we'll be off to Galilee for a couple of days, then back here for a couple of days. Meanwhile, we'll bo going on field trips about every other day. Ya baby. We are studying the old testament right now, and in a couple of weeks we'll move on to the new testament. On top of that there are a couple of near eastern studies classes with some interesting local teachers. Well, I hope you made it this far, this also my journal as well, so there are quite a bit of details, but you know you loved it. I am posting a bunch of pictures online as well, go and see them. You can turn on a slide show and see them in pretty decent quality, once it starts move the mouse to the side of the screen and you'll se some captions describing the pictures as well. Love you all. Jerusalme Rules and so do the Jazz. it has been interesting running from one place to another trying to find out the scores. Go Jazz!
Here is the link.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Here in the Holy City

Hey Everyone! Sorry it has taken me a while to get some info out here, but I haven't really even had time to think since I have gotten here. I am having problems getting my laptop to get on the wireless network, so for now no pictures, but I will get them going as soon as I can. Jerusalem is a photographers dream, every corner there is another incredible something or other to capture.

I love this place. I know why Charity is dripping with passion about it. This city is absolutely fantastic. Everything about it; the sights, the smells, the people, the culture, the really obnoxious call to prayer that goes off like 34 times a day. I just love it all. I love waking up every morning and remembering that I am the Jerusalem Center. I didn't think I would ever actually get this chance, and now, here I am. Oh baby.

Well, we've spent the first couple of days acclimatizing, getting to know the city a bit better, and having all sorts of classes. I am surprised at the number of classes and the amount of reading they expect us to do. How does the old testament in 3 weeks sound. Yikes. I am trying my best to keep up, but I must say that the fact that Jerusalem is right there is a bit of a distraction. The teachers and faculty all seem great. They seem as though they have the whole process pretty well worked out. There are 88 students here, so we are split up into two classes for Old Testament and New Testament. I am in Brother Merrill's class, he is new this term here but has spent time here in the past. He is a different teacher than Charity had, but it will be good, we'll both have alternative perspectives then we can compare and contrast when we see each other.

We went to the Western Wall last Friday to bring in the Sabbath. Those Jews sure are dedicated. And the fact that they are wearing full on overcoats and fur hats in the midst of 95 degrees is pretty impressive. It is fascinating to learn more about their culture and to see how diverse they are. Today we went to the Temple Mount, to the Dome of the Rock. That is a sight. We weren't there at the right time so we didn't get to go in, but we spent some time in awe of the incredible building and thinking about its significance. I love spending time wandering the streets, getting lost, and slowly figuring out where everything is, and how it all fits together. It is amazing that even after six years of absence, the people still totally remember "the mormons" and everyone loves us. The center and students have built up a great deal of respect over the years, and it shows in walking around the city.

On Sunday we also went to the Garden of Gethsemane for the first time. There was a very strong spirit there that was so thick you could feel it as you walked in. The acts performed there will resonate forever in that area. It was so powerful to sit there quietly and contemplate the events that had taken place there. We sang some hymns, prayed, and reflected. I plan on spending a lot of time there in the next couple of months. The next stop on the list in the Garden Tomb, can't wait to go there as well.

On Wednesday we are off to Egypt. To Cairo and Luxor. It was 107 in Luxor today so I am really excited about that. We'll be going to all the good sites there, riding the overnight train from Cairo to Luxor and back, snorkeling in the Red Sea and riding some camels. Hopefully I will find my way up to the top of one of the pyramids, somehow. So pictures and details to come about that awesome trip.

The group here is awesome. Lots of great people, as well as cute girls, and people who just want to have fun. It is weird that even though we've just met 5 days ago, everyone is already really good friends. The Jerusalem Center is just amazing. It is a little piece of heaven if you ask me.

I love this place, what an experience I am having. Love you all, hope all is well. And you better believe there were about 8 of us up at 5 in the morning listening to Hot Rod via the internet the other day when the Jazz won. You gotta love it baby.

My love to you all from the Holy Land.