I really thought that I would have more time to update my blog here! I expected that without the time-sucking vampire of Netflix, and without being allowed to leave the Jerusalem Center after dark, I would have free time galore. Turns out just the opposite is true, because half the fun of living in Jerusalem is the stuff we do inside the center! I’ve taken up lost of my free time with reading for class and making sure to stay up on that, but I’ve also found time to improve my talents and pick up some new ones! Just the other week some people were sitting around playing guitar and signing and I thought, “Hey, I want to do that.” So the next day I got on YouTube and started teaching myself guitar. I can play 6 or 7 songs now, and it’s so much fun!
The people here also make the free time fly by insanely fast. When we aren’t out exploring the city during the day, we are having a blast back at the center. Basically every night, after people have stressed out over the insane amounts of reading that we have to do on a daily basis, people get very fun and sociable! Every single day there is something happening, whether it’s an intense game of volleyball, any of the many Mafia game variations we’ve invented (I came up with Star Wars, but Harry Potter has also been popular), or just a good old movie night. The people that I get to live with here are so incredible, and I cannot believe that it’s only been a few short weeks! We have all grown so close already as a community. This past Christmas we visited one of the women my mom came to Jerusalem with 30 years ago, and I was a bit confused as to how they could still be such good friends 30 years after only being together one semester abroad. Now I get it. These are seriously all such amazing people, and living in such an amazing place has brought us so close together already. I can’t even imagine how great it is going to be to live with these people for another 3 months, because our friendships have been strengthening exponentially.
Life has been just as busy outside of the center as they have inside. Originally we were scheduled to visit Egypt this last week, but for political security we decided to postpone that trip and visit Jordan instead. Well because it was going to snow this week in Jordan we pushed it back a week, so we will be going to Jordan next week now. But we were kept busy with amazing field trips none the less! We have visited sites like southern Israel, where we visited remains of a city that are older than the pyramids of Egypt! We also got to visit with a local bedouin tribe and see how they make their hand-spun wool blankets and learn about their culture.
One of my favorite locations so far was visiting Jericho, which has so much religious significance it’s just crazy. We even got to walk along “the road to Jericho” where the parable of the Good Samaritan is set, and where it is likely that Christ himself walked. So cool!!! While there we also visited the ruins of King Herod’s palace, which, by the way, included swimming pools and spas. That guy knew what he was doing (as far as palaces go).
Then this week, we went and visited the Shephelah, which is the term for the lower hill part of the country. Basically, Israel has a west to east progression of low costal plains, hills, then mountains. Jerusalem is in the mountainous region (as evidenced by the actual snow that fell here! I always that Jerusalem was a total desert). But many of the important Biblical stories we’ve been studying took place in the hill country, because that was the meeting place of the Israelites who lived in the higher east and the Philistines who lived in the costal plains. For example, we got to visit places in the story of Sampson, the place where the Philistines brought the Arc of the Covenant, and the valley where David faced off against Goliath! (Of course we took the opportunity to sling some rocks.) It’s really remarkable how much a difference it makes to actually visit these places and have an idea of where they are and what they look like to help better understand the scriptures.
Thats about it for the past two weeks. The Jerusalem Center is amazing. I can’t believe there was a time when I was hesitant to come here! I am loving every second. The classes may have tons of reading time, but they are always interesting, and I’m loving everything that I’m learning. My roommates and the rest of the 80 students here are fantastic, and I just know that this is going to be a life-changing semester for me!
Minor update: today we got to go play the bells that ring for the entire city, which was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been while performing something, because no one notices bell tower music of its done right, but everyone notices when you mess up! I played Danny Boy and it was great! Then we went to the TempleInstitute, where the instruments and tools needed for the Third Jewish Temple have already been built so that they can start temple worship immediately if they ever get the chance. It was super interesting! So anyway, that was today. Now we’re off to Jordan!