Thursday, August 4, 2011

So very many places to go (and some beautiful churches of Jerusalem in pictures)

We had to start packing. We got a little of it done, mostly sorting through clothes to figure out what we are leaving and what we are keeping. So strange that we are to that point. Exciting and sad.
This was a week of excursion after excursion. On Monday, we took the students on the field trip that encompasses Jerusalem during the Savior’s day. This is an amazing trip because of its significance. We spend some time at a few excavations of houses that belonged to priests during the time of the Savior’s life and the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. It is sobering to think that we are in the homes of priests who were probably part of the trials that led to the Savior’s death. There are so many good things to see there. Julianne spent some time teaching the students about household life while in one of these homes. She did an amazing job. The students seemed to really enjoy learning from her.
Then we went to the area around the temple mount. We spend time on the steps that lead up to the Hulda gates. We read together stories of things the Savior did while there, either at the gates or on the temple mount. We also look at the evidence of the destruction of the temple by the Romans. We talk about the fulfillment of prophecies about the destruction of the temple. It is a sobering place full of sobering thoughts.

steps which the Savior probably walked as he went out from the temple

The edge of the triple gate, through which Jesus would have entered the temple. He may have touched this very threshold.

When we were done, we did our last bit of filming for our Nativity movie. It has been a great experience, and we hope we can get something really good put together. I am so pleased with it, though it has sometimes been difficult. It has been worth it already, and I think will be even more worth it in the future.
We also started classes again today. So many hours of class. From here on out, whenever we meet it is for 2 or 3 hours a day. I love the classes, we go over such significant things and the students are so attuned to the important concepts we talk about.
Later that week we went on a second field trip. In this case we go through some of the various churches of Jerusalem. We started at Terra Sancta, a beautiful church that may be the place where Orson Hyde stayed when he dedicated the holy land. The name “Orson Hyde” is carved in a door where tenants carved their name. It seems likely to be the place. We enjoyed the great chapel there, and Father Molina taught us (through a translator, he only speaks Spanish) about the place, and played the organ for us.

My friend, Father Molina

Me teaching the students in the Terra Sancta church

Organ artwork in the chapel of Terra Sancta

The Jerusalem Cross inside the chapel of Terra Sancta

Stained glass depicting the Mt. of Transfiguration inside the chapel of Terra Sancta

From there we went to the Syrian Orthodox church of St. Mark. This was the first place the Dead Sea Scrolls came. We got to hear from Justina in there, a nice Syrian Orthodox lady who always tells us stories about speaking in tongues, healings, and divine appearances. She is nice, but a real firecracker. We can always, always expect her to do something surprising. She also sings for us. Fun stuff. The significance of this church is that they claim that a room in their basement is the upper room where the Last Supper was held. I am fully unconvinced, but it is a nice thought and spot. Then we went to the church of St. John. A very nice nun there showed us around to see all the artwork. So many stories told by that artwork. We also went into the crypt to see where the church had first stood.

Art depicting soldiers trying to kill John as a baby. From inside the Church of St. John

The beheading of John

Jesus conquers death!

Julianne and I with the nice nun at the Church of St. John

The all seeing eye inside the Church of St. John

Then we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. While many students have been there, I always try to teach them something new, and I think it worked. I love the symbolism present in the church of the blood of the Savior dripping down to Adam’s bones and redeeming him and us from the fall. We also saw the sword of Geoffrey de Boullion, the leader of the crusade that captured Jerusalem. And we were able to go inside the edicule, the traditional tomb. I love this place.

Students waiting in line outside the Edicule

BJ and Amber exiting the Edicule

Then we went into the Russian Orthodox church of Alexander Nevsky. This spot was originally part of the Holy Sepulchre, but was separated off during one of the various destructions of that church. Within the church is part of the Roman cardo during the time of Hadrian. They also have amazing artwork depicting the life of the Savior, especially focusing on the trial and death of the Savior.

Students inside the Church of Alexander Nevsky

Inside the Church of Alexander Nevsky

When we were done with this field trip we went to a few places in the Old City, trying to get some of our last bits of souvenirs before we go home.

I may have gotten bored in one of the stores

I just like this sign

We also went to the Hurva synagogue. This had not been rebuilt when we were here as students. I think it only opened up about a year ago. It was just the ruins of a synagogue before, but now it is a beautiful building, one of my favorite parts of the skyline, and a great symbol. It also has great views of the city.

The Hurva SynagogueInside the Hurva Synagogue

The Holy Sepulchre and Lutheran Tower of the Redeemer from the Hurva

The Dome of the Rock, Augusta Victoria tower of the Ascension, and the Jerusalem Center from the Hurva

Dormitian Abbey from the top of the Hurva

The next day we took the family to David’s Citadel. This is part of the large towers that were part of Herod’s defense. They are now a big museum. It is a really well done museum, full of all sorts of good bits of history about Jerusalem. Our kids seemed to really enjoy it, and it was a nice way to cement various images of Jerusalem into our minds.

The main tower of the citadel. You can see Herodian period stones at the bottom levels.

Jacob liked this mosaic at the Citadel

The kids were quite taken by this ancient baptismal font at the Citadel Museum

The next day Julianne, Tashara and I went on the Via Dolorosa walk. This is where the Franciscan monks lead groups through all the stations of the cross, praying, singing, and reading the pertinent scriptures at each one. I have always wanted to do this, and I am glad we finally did. While I don’t know if these are the right sites (I am sure that if any are it is few), and while some of the stories probably didn’t even happen, it is still a nice way to commemorate the most significant events imaginable.

The beginning, at the first station of the Cross, at the Antonia Fortress, where traditionally the Savior was condemned by Pilate

The group following the monks along the Via Dolorosa

The monks leading us in song and scripture reading

The third station of the cross, where the Savior fell while carrying the cross

The third station

The Jerusalem Cross over the entrance to the place of the cross

The monks at the place where Jesus was supposed to have been nailed to the cross

The priests in front of the place of the cross


We were with these good sisters (pictured here inside the Holy Sepulchre) on the walk. They are part of Mother Teresa's order.

the end of the Via Dolorosa walk, where they do a ritual outside of the Edicule, or the tomb.

A catholic monk and orthodox priest visiting with each other and enjoying each other in the Holy Sepulchre

I loved this walk. It is a good way to help us start to sum up our time here. In the end, while there are so many great things, the most important of them have to do with the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Since we are covering this in class, we are focusing on it in our field trips, I am doing extra readings about it, and we are working it into our family’s extra time, it is a wonderful opportunity to focus on that which means the most. He is real! He really suffered and died for us! Because of that we really will live again. I am so grateful that God so loved the world that he gave his only Begotten Son. I am so grateful for the living Jesus Christ!

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