Week 5 – Jericho
This week we were back to the grind in Jerusalem. We had tests and lots of homework but we also had some good times in the mix.
Our field trip this week was to Jericho. It was a very neat field trip! It was also unique because it is one of the two places we have permission to go in the West Bank of Israel during the semester. Unfortunately, that also means we can’t go back but I’m still glad we were able to go in the first place. Our first site was Wadi Qelt, the place where the setting of the parable of the Good Samaritan would have taken place. There was also a monastery down in the valley. We walked part of the original road so that was really cool!
Next we headed to the ancient ruins of Jericho, where we actually saw the walls that came “tumblin’ down.” These ruins are among the oldest in the world, dating back 10,000 years! My mind couldn’t even comprehend that. Jericho is also the lowest place on earth and is by the Dead Sea. We even passed a sign that marked sea level at one point and appropriately after we passed the sign and continued to descend below sea level, we sang “Under the Sea.”
After looking at the ruins of Jericho, we walked to the site where Elisha brought forth waters from the ground and where the water still springs out of the ground. More real life evidence of the reality of the Bible!
We also visited the site where one of Herod’s palaces were. We viewed the ruins from pretty far so they’re not too distinguishable in this photo.
Another fun sign in Jericho that reminded me of home this week:
That night, I went with a group to West Jerusalem to celebrate the ending of Sukkot (a Jewish holiday also known as Feast of the Tabernacles). There was live music and lots of dancing and it was basically a party in the street. So much fun!
Later in the week, I went out with some friends to run some errands and view a couple sites along the way. We started by visiting the Church of Mary Magdalene, a beautiful Russian Orthodox church.
I made friends with a cat by the church. By the way, there are sooo many stray cats in Jerusalem. Was not expecting that.
Next we walked to the Old City and we ended up stopping in at the prison of Christ. It was a neat site and yet oddly quiet and not busy at all. However, the Via Dolorosa (the path they say Christ walked to be crucified and a main walking street in the Old City) was quite busy and full of tourist traffic jams.
For lunch, we grabbed my new favorite food: falafel! Soooo yummy 🙂
Other fun highlights of the week include many in-Center activities, such as Arab Culture Night, games, movie nights, volleyball, and a humanitarian service project.
For Arab Culture Night, we dressed in Arab-style clothing (long sleeves, long pants, hijabs (headscarves) for women and kafias (also sort of head scarves) for men). Two Sheikhs from the Al-Aqsa mosque came and recited the Qu’ran and the call to prayer for us. It was so cool! Then they prayed in front of us. Next we had an Arab dinner out on the patio with nice table decorations and food that I’m not entirely sure what it was but it was kinda similar to the kind of things we get served daily at the Center but a little closer to traditional Arab food. And of course we had some baklava for dessert, along with some other mystery desserts that were not my favorite but still cool to try. Then we moved to the gym to learn Arab dances. There were 4 girls who taught us some moves and we ended up doing a big dance in a circle at the end of the hour. It was lots of fun! So much culture to enjoy.
That’s about it for this week. We had plenty of things to keep us busy and I have loved many parts of this week.
A thought I heard this week that I love and completely relate to is: “I came to the Holy Land seeking the divine and was surprised to find the human.” That is exactly the spirit I feel here in the Holy Land! I thought my experiences would be a bit different than they have been so far, but everything has been happening in the best way. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I feel so connected to my biblical ancestors as I study their lives and visit their homelands. The reality of these ancient peoples has hit me hard. I feel this way about the life of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, as well. The reality of His life and work is still a growing part of my testimony but I love how I am coming to know this land where He grew and completed His mortal ministry. I can’t wait to study His life in depth!