Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Pictures

First picture is the "spot" inside the church of the Nativity where Christ was born. Next picture is at the Seder Meal, my teacher Ophir is in the middle of saying the blessing on the Matza--the unleavened bread. Then the last picture is of the Separation Wall--if you are bored and want to learn about something--google the Separation Wall. It is one of the major sources for current conflict in Israel. Very interesting. I definately do not approve of the wall, but then again, they were able to re-open the Jerusalem Center after the wall was built because it decreased terrorism so much. However, I still don't approve of the wall. Everything is so complicated and complex here. But this Separation Wall is way bigger and longer than the Berlin Wall ever was.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Seder Meal and Bethlehem

Last week we had a Seder meal—it is a meal that Jews have once a year to commemorate the exodus of the Children of Israel. I loved it. We dressed up and had a very fancy five course meal, and everyone had an assignment for the occasion. Mine happened to be narrating, which meant that I got to sit at the main table with our teacher Ophir Yarden who lead the Seder meal. He is such an awesome teacher by the way. So it was a nice cultural experience to participate in the Seder meal, which lasted about 4 hours. Ophir said that it isn’t unusual for some families to have them last all night.
Bethlehem was another one of the tender mercies I have had on this trip. Again, it is one of the highlights of my semester here. I loved it so much. Our day started out by going to a research institute in Bethlehem where they gave us a Palestinian perspective of the Arab-Israeli conflict with particular reference to life behind the Separation Wall. After that we went to Bethlehem University where my Arab Civ teacher Dr. Mussallam teaches. There we got to have a question and answer panel with the students, who are all our age. It was such an eye-opening experience for me. One of the girls lives in a refugee camp and just five days before her brother had been arrested, and no one in her family knows why. But she still comes to school because it is like a refugee for her. Not only have I grown so much spiritually since I have been here, but my knowledge about the Middle East has increased immensely. I believe that we do not need to pick a side about this conflict, but we should all form an opinion. In fact as I have lived here, I find that picking a side becomes even more difficult, but my opinion about the Middle East is shaping. There is good and bad on both sides. I have come to love people on both sides of the conflict. Truly the only way to have peace in this land is through forgiveness and understanding. What better example do we have of that than our Lord Jesus Christ? If only the missionaries could be here, but I am praying that this land will open up for them one day.
After our visit to Bethlehem University we were able to go to the Church of the Nativity. It was an interesting experience kind of like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, but it was still a sweet experience for me. We had to wait in line for over an hour just to get to see the spot where the baby Jesus was born, it was so crowded. So as far as having a spiritual experience in there, it was rather difficult, but I am grateful to have a point of reference now when I reflect on the birth of our Savior. I’ll just look beyond what we see today and imagine what it would have been like in his time.
The sweetest experience for me however came at Shepherd’s field. We had to walk a little ways from the bus to an area in the field where we would eat our sack dinners, and I promptly took advantage of using that time to be alone as I looked towards Bethlehem under the stars and I could see the Church of the Nativity glowing as if it were the New Star in the Horizon. Dad I am so grateful that you shared your experiences with Shepherd’s field to me because it helped me to be in the spiritual mind set to reflect on the nativity story. After we ate our dinner we separated into classes and our religion teachers gave us a short lesson on the nativity. I was asked before hand to share my thoughts on Elisabeth and the role she plays in the birth of Christ. So that night my heart grew extremely close to Elisabeth and Mary, two faithful mothers who would raise their sons in righteousness. We hummed Silent Night as Bro. Wilson read out loud Luke 2, and I immediately imagined Dad reading it to us out loud as he does about every Christmas, and the spirit was so strong for me. Christmas will never be the same for me. And I cannot wait for Christmas to come this year.