Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sacred Places

The Emmetts have visited some pretty impressive places the last two weeks. On Monday January 11th, I led the new students on a geography orientation field trip. Our first stop was the Mt. of Olives overlook with the above view. While I was orienting the students to the lay of the land, Marie and the children were across the Kidron Valley in a special tour of the Haram al-Sharif which was arranged by our friend Kyler Kronmiller of the US Consulate. He worked with the religious communities of Jerusalem and as a last hurrah before leaving at the end of the month for a new posting, he arranged for a visit to the Dome of the Rock (gold dome) and al-Aqsa (black dome) for some of his friends. We were lucky enough to be invited--since non-Muslims are no longer allowed to visit these mosques unless they have special hard-to-obtain permission. I was unlucky enough to have other duties to attend to. I was especially bummed when I learned that Kyler asked to also visit the new Marwani mosque built in Solomon Stables in the vaulted chambers underneath the SE corner of the Haram (aka Temple M0unt). Kyler had asked in previous special tours, but this was the first time he was allowed to visit this mosque.
Marie and Sarah took some photos. Here is the mihrab (prayer niche) in the Dome of the Rock pointing south to Mecca.
The beautiful interior of the Dome of the Rock. I have been inside many times, but not recently. It is one of the most beautiful, peaceful sacred places I have ever entered.
In the chamber underneath the rock--while never certain, this rock is associated with the place where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac, where the temples of Solomon and Herod were located and where Mohammad ascended on his night journey into heaven.
Sarah reaching in to touch the actual footprint of where Mohammad's foot left the mount on his journey to meet with previous prophets in heaven. This mosque is the third most holy shrine in Islam.
The stained glass windows of al-Aqsa mosque. This is the main mosque on the mount. Men pray here while women usually pray in the Dome of the Rock. This mosque commemorates where Mohammad first prayed.
In front of the mimbar (pulpit of al-Aqsa)
The interior of al-Aqsa.
The vaulted chambers of the new Marwani mosque. I visited these caverns in 1982 when, as a BYU student, I convinced the Muslim authorities to let a group of us to take a look. Back then it was a large pigeon roost with soft floors padded with piles of pigeon poop. When this mosque was constructed all of the debris from the excavations was thrown over the wall. It is now being sifted through by Israeli archeologists just down the hill from the center (see previous post).
Marie and the kids loved the visit and are proud to have seen something I haven't seen.

On the 14th Marie, Will and I went on a faculty field trip prep to Jericho. We visited Hisham's Palace with its amazing Tree of Life Mosaic.
The mosaic is in the diwan where the Umayyad ruler welcomed guests.
Will playing on Umayyad ruins.

We then visited a Greek Orthodox Monastery east of town. The dome was decorated with a nice anthropomorphic view of the godhead (trinity). Notice the Father with the Son in his lap and the Holy Ghost as a dove under his chin--three distinct personages. It fits with Mormon theology.
Friday afternoon we walked through the four quarters of the city--much to Joel's delight. It was our first time in the Armenian quarter. We eventually met up with all of the students at the western wall where we enjoyed watching Jews of all types welcoming the sabbath. In the foreground soldiers and others danced and sang.
At one point they all rushed into the center of the large circle and started to then sing and dance their way down to the wall.
The Jerusalem Branch primary with the just released primary presidency and teachers.
Saturday after church we accompanied the students to the Garden Tomb.
I was happy to visit with a group of friendly Christians from Indonesia.
Marie visit teaches sister Arceli (left) from the Philippines. She works as a care giver for Elias. Marie has become good friends with them both. Elias (aka Abba) loves Marie. He is a holocaust survivor from Poland who spent most of his life in Guatemala. He now lives in Israel. He came and spoke to the students about his amazing story of survival. Joel and Sarah were able to hear his story.
Showing us his number. He is a kind, gentle man. In many ways he reminds me of my Grandpa Bill Fife.
Monday the 18th was the student field trip to Jericho. Here from the Monastery on the mount of Temptation you can see the oval mound of dirt that is the Old Testament tel of Jericho where the walls came a tumblin' down.
We climbed up to the cliff side monastery. On the other side of the wadi are caves where hermit monks lived during Byzantine times.
It really rained (yeah) all over the country the day before and on the morning of the field trip. It was fun to see rain and water falls (both a first for me) in usually dry Jericho.
The interior of a rain soaked monastery.
My old testament class (and two Bedouin boys) at the Judean Wilderness overlook.
We talked about rain shadows and wilderness, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and sang "Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd". The clouds and cool weather made for a great day in Jericho--which is usually way too hot and humid.
After the field trip I hustled down to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for an afternoon Christmas Mass celebrated by the Armenians. It was celebrated in front of the tomb of Christ. On Christmas Eve the Armenian held mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
None of the singing was familiar, but it was nonetheless nice.
Armenian clergy in their finery
Roman era tombs in the Syrian Orthodox Chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. These tombs help to establish the veracity of this church as the site of the burial and resurrection. Both the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb fit the biblical narrative and both could be the place.
A pilgrim praying on the stone of unction (anointing) near the entrance to the church. This is where it is believed the body of Jesus was prepared for burial as illustrated on the mosaic.


  1. Chad, Marie, and co., this post had me looking at flights to Tel Aviv. Do you guys get any sort of a semester break in April?

  2. Another great post. Even thought some were of things we didn't see on our two trips they reminded us of place we did visit. What a wonderful place!

  3. I had no idea the Dome of the Rock (and the other buildings) were now off limits to non-Muslims. How sad! That was one of my favorite places to go.

    We never saw the inside of that monastery - would have liked to. I never forgot how amazing it looked on the hillside. And rain! Wow!