Monday, September 28, 2009

Yom Kippur

The sun has just set so Yom Kippur--the Jewish day of Atonement has come to an end. It is the holiest Jewish holiday and entails fasting for the day, prayers and no driving. Streets through Jewish areas are barricaded so no cars can pass. This makes for great photo opts of children (no school today) playing in empty streets.
In Leviticus we learn that it was on the Day of Atonement that the scapegoat was sent off into the wilderness with the sins of Israel on its back.
A barricaded street near Hebrew University.
While walking to find some empty streets we passed the British War Cemetery (on Mt. Scopus) from the Great War.

Yesterday for our Sunday excursion we planned to go into the Old City but just as we were leaving Security designated visits to East Jerusalem as "off limits". Fighting had broken out earlier in the morning when some Jews had gone up on the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) which angered Muslims. So for plan B we checked a car out of the motor pool and headed out to find a playground. We found a nice one at Liberty Bell park in West Jerusalem. It has a replica of the Liberty Bell. The park was established during America's bicentennial year.
After playing on a typical play structure, we discovered a dragon to climb on and an amphitheater to perform in.
Marie performed first with "I have a daisy on my toe."
Joel was next with some funky dancing and a "knock knock" joke. (Joel and Will were both sporting their new Egyptian soccer shirts.)
Will was next with a dance.
Then Sarah sang "the Peanut sat on the railroad track."
Chad danced to "Singing in the rain" and then some clogging steps.
Part of the park included many old olive trees.
Arabs from a nearby neighborhood came and were harvesting the crop. As they pull through each branch the olives fall to tarps below.
I am not sure, but my guess is that these olives tree were once Arab owned.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Latter-day Saint Charities

One of the service couples in the Jerusalem Center represents LDS Charities in the Holy Land. One of their projects is to deliver hygiene packets to people in need. Some are delivered by a Greek Orthodox priest to families in Gaza while others are distributed by humanitarian organizations to families in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Galilee. Each week when the students are in town they volunteer for an hour to put together the hygiene kits.
They gather in the parking garage and assemble packets of hand towels, soap, tooth brushes, toothpaste and combs. Friday afternoon the Emmetts joined in the fun.
Sarah helped tape the boxes shut after they had been filled with a half dozen packets. She also helped put together four toothbrushes and two combs to then be rolled in a hand towel. Marie's job was to then put these rolls in a plastic bag.
Once the bags were filled, sealed, boxed and sealed, Joel and Will then carried the boxes into a storage room where I helped stack them.
They both worked very hard.

Later Will switched to catching the newly taped empty boxes and putting them in the pile to be filled. The BYU students were very good to work with our children.
We all enjoyed helping and plan to make it a regular activity.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


To celebrate my 53rd birthday we went to the Old City after the kids got home from school for my favorite Arab sweet--kanaffeh. It is in the big round pan and is made with a bottom layer of sweet cheese and a top layer of shredded wheat (I think it is soaked in butter) topped with a sugar syrup and crumbled pistachios (it is probably not good for my cholesterol). Since it was still fasting time the sweet shop was only selling things to go--no sitting down as usual to eat it warm. Back at our apartment the kids all tried a small portion and I got positive responses all the way around with Joel and Will even wanting more. Hurrah! We then wandered the old city streets where we bought envelopes and some plain white paper and water colors for Will's mommy school. We ran into Ali a merchant I met back in 1982--we had great political discussions back then and we plan to continue the practice sometime soon. We stopped in at our favorite Armenian pottery shop and Sarah added some more items to her souvenir to buy list. This pottery shop makes great tiles of Bible stories. These tiles were all featured in the Friend magazine a few years back and have decorated the kid's bathroom since Marie and I bought some in 1997 when we spent a few weeks in Jerusalem. We also bought the blue tiles in our kitchen from this shop. Marie sent out the word that it was my birthday so my inbox was flooded with fun e-mails from Emmetts, Tuellers and Spring Creek 18th warders. Many thanks for all the well wishes. It was fun to hear from so many people I care about.
Special Ramadan pancakes for sell.
The kids have enjoyed going out on our balcony each evening around 7:00 pm to wait for the cannon shot that sounds the end of the day's fast. It is good enticement for Will to get bathed so he can go out to listen.
Here is the view just as the sun has set and our Muslim neighbors are breaking their fasts. Notice the Christmas type strands of lights. Most of the workers at the Center are Muslim and fasting, so too were the bus drivers on our hot long field trip on Monday. I am amazed at their devotion. One whole month of daylight fasting is quite an endeavor. Tonight is the big night where Muslims all come to the Haram al-Sharif to spent the night in prayer and Quran reading. When Marie drove to pick up Sarah from her class swimming party at Ramat Rachel at 6:00 pm, the drive to and from the school took twice as long because the city was so packed. Ramadan ends this weekend to be followed by two days of feasting, gifts, and visiting friends and family. Kids all get gifts of toys and new clothing. We took advantage of all the toys for sell and bought a big ball for the kids to play with.
The skyline of Jerusalem from our balcony.

Another view from our balcony to the yard of the Pope's representative in the Holy Land. When Pope Benedict came to Jerusalem earlier this year he stayed here. There was not enough room for all of his entourage next door so some of them stayed at the Jerusalem Center.

Tomorrow morning I leave for a week long field trip in Egypt and the Sinai. Marie will stay in the center with the kids and a few other members of the staff.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ein Kerem

For our Sunday outing today we drove to the west Jerusalem suburb of Ein Kerem. This is the traditional site of John the Baptist's home town. Up until 1948 it was an Arab village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. During the 1948 war the Arabs of the village fled eastward. The village was then populated with Jews who moved into the abandoned homes. Ein Kerem is now known for its many artisans.
Our first stop was Mary's Spring. Tradition has it that Mary stopped here for a drink as she came to visit Elisabeth. We stopped to wet our hands and Joel took a drink.
An abandoned mosque rises above the spring.
We then climbed the hill to the Church of the Visitation (lower right of photo)
This is a wonderful church and is so far Marie's favorite place.
Mary visiting Elisabeth.
Inside the lower grotto of the church is another depiction of the event.

Spanish pilgrims in the upper Chapel
I really liked the window side panels.
Next stop across the village was the Church of St. John the Baptist.
Both of these churches are Franciscan. Here a Franciscan monk studies in the church.
In the lower grotto--the traditional site of his birth--pilgrims from West Africa gathered around the site to sing and pray. The woman facing us climbed right on top of the star marking the spot and led them in worship.
Spanish royalty financed the reconstruction and restoration of this church in 1674. It was built over ruins of Byzantine and Crusader churches. Much of the art work are originals from Spanish artists of that era. Much of the art depicted events from the life of John,
including all of the stained glass panels in the rotunda. This window shows the beheading of John.
We then enjoyed an early birthday lunch for me at the Karma restaurant in the center of Ein Kerem. The kids enjoyed cheese pizza and french fries while Marie and I enjoyed fettoush (a delicious Arab salad) and pumpkin soup.

We then drove out to the John F. Kennedy Memorial. It is on a reforested hill top far to the southwest of Jerusalem.

Our final stop was grocery shopping at Jafar's. Sarah pulled a good one she convinced her mom on one aisle to buy three KinderToys (chocolate and a toy) from Europe and then she convinced her dad on another aisle to by some fruit Mentos. It was probably all for the best--eating the mentos on the way home kept the kids (who are not yet used to riding so close together in a sedan back seat) happy. Driving to Jafar's, Will was driving Sarah crazy talking too much, so she started to shake his booster seat, Will then tried to move away from Sarah and accidentally bonked Joel on the head which then resulted in all three kids crying at once. Sarah blamed it on being too tired. It would be nice if they learned (like their dad) to sleep in on weekends.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Garden Tomb

Today after church we had our only Sabbath field trip. We all walked down to the Garden Tomb. East Jerusalem was packed with Ramadan shoppers, but we all made it through the crowded sidewalks. Students love to spend Sabbath afternoons at the Garden Tomb reading and pondering. We arrange a guided tour of the tomb early on in the semester so that the students can then go back any time and just sit, having already had the tour. It is a very nice tour. Today our guide was a retired Anglican minister who is now Pentecostal. He pointed out the many features that make a compelling case for this being the place where Jesus was crucified and resurrected (the Church of the Holy Sepulcher also fits much of the same criteria). Even with such a strong case he was quick to point out that the exact place is not what is really important. What is important is that the tomb (wherever it might be) is empty and that Jesus lives.

Associate Director Kent Brown told us that he once accompanied President Hinckley to the Garden tomb. As they were walking out to the Golgatha view point President Hinckley stopped as he noticed a garden stone with "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem" written on it. President Hinckley read it and then commented that he already was praying for the peace of Jerusalem. Good advice for all of us.
It was very crowed with our 90 and other tour groups from Russia, Fiji and the US. After we all went in to the empty tomb we sat and sang a half dozen hymns--my favorites included There is a Green Hill Far Away (near at hand in reality) and I Stand All Amazed. Will was most interested in playing with all of the gravel at our feet. Joel and Sarah proclaimed this is their favorite site so far.

Last evening Joel, Sarah and I walked down to the Western (Wailing) Wall on another student field trip (no photos to show--taking a photo is a kin to lighting a fire so using anything electrical on the Sabbath is forbidden). It is a fascinating thing to see all of the worshipers in their various garb. Sarah was most intrigued with the fur covered round hats worn by one faction of Hassidic Jews. We ran into one of Sarah's classmates and her family. Her father is a New Testament scholar from Sweden who teaches at a University in Canada, but is teaching at Hebrew University for a year. We had fun talking shop while our daughters made fun of us talking shop. While walking down there was some trouble in Silwan/City of David so as a precautionary measure the Center arranged for two buses to pick all of us up at the end of our visit. The security staff at the center accompanied us on both of these field trips making sure we don't make any wrong turns into trouble.
One of Will and Joel's favorite after school games is hall soccer. We have also had fun getting to know our neighbors down below on level four. Our balcony looks down on the entry way to two apartments for women. The kids have sent greetings to their door step via paper airplanes and they have replied with treats and greetings. Yesterday Marie baked snickerdoodles and we hung some down on a rope for them to find after classes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Walking the Walls: Damascus Gate to Lions' Gate

On Sunday Morning we caught bus #75 (it is an Arab bus that runs from the Mount of Olives to Damascus Gate and is the only bus the students are allowed to ride) in front of the lower entrance of the Center. Damascus Gate is the most elaborate of all of Jerusalem's seven functioning gates. It is also the most fortified since the northern approach to the city was on flat land and thus a more easy assault. Usually the plaza in front of the gate is packed with Arab vendors but during the fasting month of Ramadan most vendors stay home until late afternoon.
Damascus gate is built above the site of a Roman gate (the gate of the pillar). It is interesting to note how low the Roman city was nearly 2,000 years ago and how over the centuries the city level has risen due to filling in by ruble from destruction.
On the lower level of the gate looking south across the Muslim Quarter.
From the top of the wall looking at the bus station where bus #75 took us. The rocky mount behind is one of the two traditional sites of Calvary aka Golgatha--the place of the skull. Two indentations in the cliff do make it look like a skull. To the left of Calvary are the green trees of the Garden Tomb area where most Protestants think Jesus was resurrected.
Refurbishing the wall.
Saladin Street. The main shopping street of Arab East Jerusalem. This is where we come to cash checks and exchange dollars. The main Post Office is the large building at the right.
The yard and home for one of the many Jewish families that have moved into the Muslim Quarter over the past 30 years.
Looking south across the Muslim Quarter to the Dome of the Rock
Joel took this photo. It is a school playground and the roof tops of the Old City.
Joel wore his BYU shirt in celebration of the BYU win over Oklahoma the night before.
Will had a hunger attack (these happen often) so we took an apple snack break.
The up and down of the wall
Walking the walls. Some other day we will walk from Damascus Gate to Dung Gate.
A view of our home from the wall.
The Mount of Olives with Gethsemane at its base.
I like this view of the Mount of Olives. I bet this olive garden looks a lot like it would have 2,000 years ago when Jesus came here to pray.
From the top of Lions' Gate (aka Stephen's Gate). This is near the beginning of the Via Dolorosa (the way of suffering). Just up the street is the first station of the cross at the site of the Antonia Fortress where Jesus was tried before Pilate and condemned to death.
Lions' gate.
Walking home from the Old City we stopped for a bible teaching moment. Sarah has a palm full of mustard seed. They all came from one little seed pod. We all took turns popping open the pods to collect the seeds in our palms. Jesus used these seeds to teach of the power of faith and how the Kingdom of God will grow.
Mustard blossoms and seed pods.
A mustard plant in the Kidron Valley tall enough for birds to lodge in it.
Faithful children in front of a mustard plant.

Will has been feeling much better this week and has attended all three days of pre-school at Augusta Victoria. Marie often stays and helps out which is good for some of the more traumatized younger children at the school who find Marie's lap comforting, her games fun and her songs entertaining. Years of experience from service in the nursery at church are being put to good use.

This Friday we will walk with all of the students down to the Western (Wailing) Wall to experience Friday evening prayers at the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath.