Ever since visiting Andalucia in southern Spain, I have been obsessed with Islamic architecture. I love the shapes, the colors, the size, the amazing attention to detail, the beautiful Arabic script, and the combination of all these elements that is just completely breathtaking. Oh I love it so. And the Dome of the Rock has exponentially increased my love of Islamic art and architecture.
I mean, just look at this beauty!
Needless to say, the Dome of the Rock is one of my most favorite sites in Jerusalem. And the best part is that this beauty is visible from most anywhere around the city...for example, my balcony window. :)
Another of my favorite Jerusalem sites is the Western Wall (or the Wailing Wall). The Wall is the most sacred site in Judaism, because it is the only surviving wall of the Temple Mount since the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, which was the most sacred building in the Jewish world. Now the Western Wall is a place where Jews go to offer prayers; some even write their prayers on slips of paper and place them in the cracks between the ancient stones. I love how peaceful it is here, even though it's surrounded by a busy courtyard. There is definitely a different feeling when you walk down to the Wall and into the company of so many devout people and prayers.
The side for the men.
.prayers and stones.
“There are people with hearts of stone, and stones with hearts of people.”
And here are a few favorites from frolicking in the Old City:
street carts and open air markets.
Jeru graffiti art.
Our favorite ring shopkeeper Aladeen.
My dearest friend Wesley. Yet another pretty door.
Our first field trip consisted of driving to different view points all around the city, to better orient ourselves to the geography. Soooo windy, but we got some gorgeous views! This is us with our friend Wesley, and Bethlehem in the background.
Today we took over 18,000 steps walking to, around, and back from the Israel museum (Bailey brought her pedometer--that number is real). This museum contains a very special exhibit: the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was fascinating to go through and read about the discovery and restoration of these scrolls, which have been essential to restoring the Hebrew Bible. It was a wonderful day with friends, lots of walking, and Magnum ice cream bars :)
Last week after our church services on the Sabbath (which is observed from sunset on Friday until Saturday evening here), a group of us went on a walk to some nearby gardens. It was nice to have some quiet time for introspection and pondering of this beautiful and conflicted city which is now my home. As I sat and read and pondered, I could hear the Islamic call to prayer being sung through the loudspeakers from three different mosques, the voices all overlapping. That is one of the most noticeable differences about being here...when you close your eyes and listen to the city noises, you might easily think you were in any other city. But when you close your eyes and hear the call to prayer filling the air, you realize this is a very different world.
First of all, greetings from Jerusalem! I love it here so much and have had some amazing experiences already...but more on that later. :)
The departure: Bailey and I were in the group planning to be at the airport at 5:45 am on Tuesday. We were staying at our uncle and aunt’s house about 40 minutes north of the airport, and our uncle woke up at the crack of dawn with us to be our chauffeur. Thanks Don and Gayla!! After we got through security, we had about 2 1/2 hours until show time. There are 83 people in our group, so we pretty much filled the terminal. I met lots of new people and friends, including a guy from California who had vacationed in Winthrop (my very small hometown) every summer for most of his life--so random! Our first flight went from SLC to JFK, and then we had a 5 1/2 hour layover there until our 10-hour flight to Tel Aviv. It was a looong day. But totally worth it when we rounded the bend on our bus ride and got our first view of the city:
(You can just barely see the shimmering gold roof of the Dome of the Rock in the distance...)
And voila, this is the BYU Jerusalem Center, my home for the next 4 months:
2012 is off to a fabulous start already: in approximately 30 hours, I will be boarding a plane destined for Israel. I will be living in Jerusalem for 3 1/2 months, and couldn't be happier about it! During that time I will be living in the BYU Jerusalem Center and taking classes there, including a Hebrew language course, Arab & Islamic Civilization, Jewish Civilization, the Old and New Testaments, Ancient Near Eastern Studies, and a field trips class. This is pretty fantastic in and of itself, but what makes it evenbetter is the fact that my little sister Bailey is joining me! We are going to have the time of our lives exploring the beautiful Old City, eating fresh pitas and falafel every day, wearing holes into the soles of our Toms shoes, and living in one of the most culturally, religiously, and politically diverse nations in the world. Now if only I could survive the stress of packing and just BE there already...:)
For those of you who need a quick geography refresher...
The BYU Jerusalem Center, my home for the next 4-ish months.