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.