Monday, April 11, 2016

More and more and more

I can’t believe how much we are doing! As experience hunters we are killing it! I just hope we don’t kill ourselves off as well.

On Sunday I tried to help Tashara get ready for taking students on a tour of Jerusalem when they first get here, so I took her on the tour. We walked all around the city, and had a great time doing it. She is such a delightful daughter. She reminds me of Julianne, always wants to do good things, always such a perfect sister and daughter, and just absolutely wonderful. We had a great time together. She knows a lot about Jerusalem. It was a wonderful day.
Jerusalem as Tashara and I walked around her
Tashara pointing out things in Jerusalem
The next day we had class, announcements, etc. Then we went out to the Old City as faculty members and did a brief walk through of most of the places we are going to on our two field trips this week. We worked out a lot of details, and had a nice time together.

Tuesday was a great field trip. We started out by going to the Wohl Museum. We stopped on the way at the Broad Wall, where Andy taught them about the expansion of the city during Hezekiah’s day. Then, at the Museum, I explained a few things to them. Then David started to talk to them about a bunch of stuff that would be better served if they were taught in another spot. Then he sat them down in an auditorium and talked to them about Sadducees. The topic worked ok for the place, but he he went on and on, until by the time he finished we had three minutes to get to our next appointment, but we still hadn’t done half of what we needed to do where we were.

We had to zoom through a lot of what it would have been nice to spend some time on. I feel like the students get robbed so often in this way, but what can we do? We were still able to teach them a little about the life of the priests in that area during the Savior’s life, and a very little about some other nice things having to do with daily life in that era.

When we finished there we went to the Burnt House, where we were able to teach them about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It was a good experience and got us going okay. Then we went down to the Davidson archaeological Park. David taught them about some nice things on the western side. Then I took them around the southern side where we looked over the gates from Solomon’s day, and the steps from the Savior’s day. There are so many things to teach there. The healing of the man born blind happened there (and at the Pool of Siloam), Peter and John healing a lame man, the end of the Triumphal Entry, etc., etc. Stories of Christ are all over that area, and you can feel him powerfully there. It is a great site. I taught them right up until they needed to go catch the vans. I felt like it went pretty well. It is a privilege to be able to bear testimony of Christ so much in such a place.

Julianne, Tashara and I met Colie, and she took us to the Armenian church. Because she is Armenian she has met several people there and has been able to talk her way into lots of places there. She showed us all around to places I am not usually able to get into. We went to their library, saw their school, and spent time in their chapel with a priest. He talked about the continually ongoing genocides of the Armenian people. It was a touching, sobering and yet wonderful time.
I had a skype meeting about Sperry Symposium and then Branch Presidency meeting. They were both quite nice.

The next day my classes went okay. While my class was going Julianne came to let me know that her app had finally launched. So, when class was over we celebrated! We spent a lot of time on trying it out and posting things, etc. It was an exciting day.

Thursday was the Christian Quarter field trip. We started at the Holy Sepulchre, but the vans were more then 45 minutes late, so we just rushed through it like crazy. It worked out okay. Then we went to Terra Sancta, where Father Stephan, who is over all the Franciscans in the Holy Land, taught us for a while. He took us up to see the Hyde door (a door where the name Hyde is carved, and it seems quite possible that it was Orson Hyde who did the carving, next to the names of everyone else who stayed there in that era). Then we went up on the roof and got a fantastic view.

The Jerusalem Center as seen from the Terra Sancta roof
Dome of the Rock and Holy Sepulchre as seen from the roof
Inside the chapel of the Terra Sancta
Father Stephan teaching us
Then we went to the church of Alexander Nevsky, where we were able to see where the road is that may have been the road the Savior took as he went to be crucified, and where we saw the original entrance to the Holy Sepulchre when it was first built. Then we went to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, where we talked more about Christ and the Holy Sepulchre and about Christian orders. Then we went to Saint Mark’s, where Justina taught us about miracles that happened in that wonderful Syrian Orthodox church. She let us go down to see the room that they claim is the Upper Room where Christ held the Last Supper. Then we went to Saint John’s, where a wonderful nun taught us about the Orthodox Church and John the Baptist. It was quite nice. On the whole I think the students learned a lot about a lot of churches. I wonder why we don’t do that field trip earlier in the semester, so they can appreciate the branches of Christianity they see while there are here and can try to go enjoy these churches a little more. But these are the kinds of things you can’t suggest around here these days, so I won’t.

Sister Polymnia teaching us inside the church of St. John the Baptist
Justina and Me inside the Syrian Orthodox church of Saint Mark
The Upper Room below Saint Mark's church
Inside the Church of the Redeemer looking at the ancient excavations
Students on the steps inside Alexander Nevsky, which was the original entrance to the Holy Sepulchre
We walked all around the city that day

That night was the Kotel Tunnel field trip. I took the second group down to the tunnel, where we had a wonderful guide. He did a great job of explaining what they were seeing and how massive the retaining wall around the Temple Mount was. It was an enjoyable time.

Then we had more taxi problems. They had been late getting us to the tunnel, then a parade of some kind, somehow connected with Passover, was marching, and the road was shut down. So we walked further down to meet the vans, but they went past us and got the group after us. Finally they returned and got us. David got off the van he was on and stayed with us, and we had a nice visit. It was enjoyable.
I got to bed late, happy to finally sleep.

Sometime during what was the night for us BJ turned in his mission papers. We are very, very excited for him. He will probably get his call about the same time he has to move out of his apartment. Who knows when he will go, so we are having a hard time figuring out where he should go and what he should do in the meantime. But he will need some place to stay. It is a bit crazy. We can hardly wait!

The next day we went to the Anglican School to see Jacob do something there. Then we got ready to leave. When the kids finally all got home, we packed up and left. It was four hours to get to our little hotel. The drive went fairly well, and I kept seeing all sorts of Exodus and Book of Mormon connections as we went. The little hotel-like thing we stayed at was run by a nice Kibbutz, called Kibbutz Eliphaz. They had a room where they had stuffed enough beds in for us. It was pleasant enough. We were disappointed to learn that the swimming pool was closed. But we walked around, made a dinner, the kids played at a playground, and in all we had a nice evening. Everyone was enjoying being there.

I woke up at 3:30 the next morning and couldn’t sleep for a long time. I finally listened to several sessions of general conference, and eventually got a little more sleep. Then we got ready for our day of scuba and snorkeling. They brought us by our breakfast basket, which we thought was going to be a little bit of bread and cheese. Instead it turned out to be bread, cheese, a bunch of dips and dressings and jams and spreads, some hard boiled eggs, some bowls of cereal, a salad, and some chocolate milk. The kids thought it was the best place ever. They loved it! It made everyone excited. They also sang happy birthday to me.

We drove to Eilat, and it took us a while, but we finally found the place we were supposed to do our dive. We got all ready, and they asked us if anyone had asthma. I mentioned that Kaleb and Jacob did, and they said they couldn’t dive. Kaleb started to tear up, and Sabrina said she didn’t want to do it without them. So we tried to figure out what else we should do. We decided to run to the dolphin place. As we drove we looked into what the asthma problems were, and figured out that our boys don’t have what the problem really is. So we got to Dolphin Reef and found out that for a small fortune they could all scuba with dolphins and fish, and spend the day there on the beach doing snorkeling, etc. It was clear that the kids wanted so much to have a great experience, and this seemed like a once in a lifetime experience, so we decided to do it. 

We got them all squared away, and then Tashara and I got picked up by our shuttle to go do our dives.

We got suited up and our guide took us to the starting point. Off we went. They hadn’t given Tashara enough weights, so she had a hard time getting down to begin with. Then we had a great dive. We saw tons of fish, and some sea snakes, and some cool sea terrain. I had a great time, I really loved it. It was a ton of fun. Then we rested for a while and had a little lunch, and then we were off again. This time they drove us to a cool place. We were just a kilometer away from the border with Egypt. We went out to see some really cool caves and coral formations, some of the best I could imagine. So many fish, so many amazing formations and things to see. I loved every minute of it. It was incredible. I couldn’t believe it. Though I have to say that for both dives we probably could have seen almost as much just snorkeling.

We got taken back to the dive center, where I paid for things, got our dive logs recorded, etc. while Tashara worked on rinsing all our stuff off and getting it all squared away. Then the shuttle took us back to Dolphin Reef, where we got suited up again, this time with our kids. Then the guides took us all out to the reef. The kids each had a guide who held them by the hand. We all went all around looking at some great coral and other formations, seeing a ton of fish and other fun things. But, of course, the coolest thing was that the dolphins swam around us. It was fantastic to see the dolphins from under water so close doing so many things. They mostly swam upside down, which was interesting. I spent a lot of my time looking for and interacting with my kids. They all seemed to love it, and we had an amazing experience.
Me diving
Me getting ready to dive
Jacob diving
Tashara and instructor and dolphin diving
Julianne meeting Jacob during driving
Julianne diving
Sabrina diving
Kaleb diving
Alexia diving
I learned that they had great experiences throughout the day. They had all snorkeled, some of them for the first time. They had touched dolphins, and had seen fish and were so happy. What a day!

We met the Fellows, who had driven down and gotten to the hotel. Together we went to Yotvatah, where we had dinner and ice cream and celebrated my birthday. It was a nice night, and has been an incredible day.

The kids at Yotvatah
President Fellows (birthday two days before) and me on my birthday in the massage chairs with our ice cream
The next morning we got all ready, enjoyed our amazing breakfast that this time had omelets as part of it. Then we checked out, and went to Timnah. We went straight to the life-size model of the tabernacle. The woman who took us through it did a fantastic job, and I was able to picture the tabernacle in a way I never have before. It was very helpful. She also helped me to see how the Father, Son and Holy Ghost all work together. I had a lot of great insights there, and understood even better how much God loves us and wants to be with us.

The seminary class in front of the Tabernacle at Timna
The incense altar and veil at the Tabernacle at Timna
The Ark of the Covenant at the tabernacle at Timna
The tabernacle at Timan
After that we drove around and saw some ancient mines, some Egyptian temples and inscriptions, and some really cool rock formations. I am pretty sure the Israelites came through this area during the Exodus, so we had a great time looking around and picturing that. It was a fun time.

an Acacia tree (Shittim in the Bible) in Timna, where the Israelites almost certainly came through on their Exodus

an Egyptian Temple at Timna
Solomon's Pillars (misnamed) at Timna
the Wilderness of Tsin
More of the Wilderness of Tsin
More of the Wilderness of Tsin
And even more of the wilderness of Tsin
Then we went to the Hai Bar nature preserve. There we saw lots of animals that were here during Biblical times. All sorts of animals we got to see close-up, and again further picture Biblical life. As a family we loved it, it was fantastic.

White Oryx under an acacia tree

An addax at Hai Bar nature preserve
Wild asses at Hai Bar
Another wild Ass at Hai Bar
Ostrich eggs at Hai Bar nature preserve
Gazelle at Hai Bar nature preserve
Then we went on the long drive home. We listened to conference on the way, and it was really enjoyable. It also rained, which made things interesting as we went along the Dead Sea. We saw flash floods that made dirty waterfalls come off the cliffs, and filthy rivers spring from the wadis and run across the road, where we had to slough through them. Rocks and other things were all around the road. It was interesting, and a bit crazy, but great to see more of Biblical life and be able to picture things such as Lehi’s river of filthy water, etc.

flash flood of filthy water near the Dead Sea

Waterfalls caused by flash floods near the Dead Sea
We finally got home and unpacked and got ready for school the next day. I can’t believe how much we have done. It is an amazing life we are having!


  1. A great trip. What fun. I certified to scuba dive when I returned from being a BYU Jerusalem student in 1982. I snorkeled then (including Sharm al-Shiekh) and vowed that one day I would return and dive in the Red Sea. It has yet to happen. Someday Inshaallah. Visiting Timnah is also on my list.