Jericho, Dome of the Rock, Negev, Western Wall

HELLO!!!! It’s been WAY TOO LONG.

It is a lot harder to keep up on my blogs than I expected it to be…there is SO MUCH going on here! I feel really strongly that I need to share everything I’m learning with as many people as I can, but there isn’t even enough time to tell my parents over the phone or write in my own journal for that matter. So I’ll be sharing the most important and exciting things each week. Well…HOPEFULLY each week. I’ll try to make more time to write here.

Scroll down two paragraphs if you wanna get down to the nitty gritty. Scroll to the “Negev desert” section for some spiritual thoughts!! (also, if pictures are up-side-down and whatnot, I’m sorry.)

So, over these past two weeks I have had a lot of super enlightening classes, beautiful adventures, and I feel like I grow spiritually each day more than I expected to! The professors here are INCREDIBLY qualified and are seriously experts on the Old and New Testament, geography of Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, and experts on their culture and traditions…I guess it’s only logical though since they all have doctorates. I really admire the professors I have here. Since we’re with them all time in classes, all meals, and all field trips, they’re not just our professors–they’re our friends. I love it.

I’m trying to take advantage of every possible opportunity here so I don’t waste any time! So, I’m in the ward choir and a “cathedral choir” where I’ll be singing with a small group of people from the center in different cathedrals throughout our time here. I’m also part of the Exercise and Fitness committee and I’ve taught a Samoan dance class as well as a yoga class!! It’s SO MUCH FUN and the people here are so down-to-earth and fun so they make it even better. I’ve also been following through with my goal of working out every day, so I’m pumped about that. I’ve been sleeping better too and that, coupled with working out every day, has given me a new energy and drive to be more diligent with my time each day. Going to bed and waking up early seriously has improved my happiness, diligence, level of energy, level of spirituality, my memory, productivity, and my overall health! Ten out of ten, highly recommend.

IF I DON’T STAY ON TOP OF MY BLOG AS MUCH AS I WANT TO, FOLLOW MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL AND WATCH THAT INSTEAD. 🙂 My Youtube Channel

So, highlights of the week(s):

JERICHO: Oldest City in the World! I thoroughly enjoyed this trip because it was amazing to me to see the oldest man-made structure in the world (AROUND TEN THOUSAND YEARS OLD!!):

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We also saw the remains of what may be the fallen wall of Jericho that fell after Joshua’s Israelite army surrounded, marched, and blew trumpets around its walls. SUPER COOL. IMG_2763.JPGIMG_2759.JPG

Jericho is called the “City of the Moon” because it’s surrounded by a crescent-shaped mountain range. This range also includes what is traditionally known as the “Mount of Temptations”, where Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn stone into bread while He was fasting for 40 days.

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This is a monastery called St. George’s Monastery.

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This is my friend, Ella. AYYY

Check out my vlog about Jericho: JERICHO

The Garden of Gethsemane: IMG_2278.JPG

It was kind of hard to focus on feeling at peace while I was here because this garden is right next to a main road and there are a lot of tourists who walk through the garden. However, I found a more secluded area where I prayed and it was a very special moment for me. I know that Christ truly did suffer for all of our sins, pain, and sorrow. I know that somewhere around this garden He truly did atone for us so that we have the ability to repent and be forgiven of our sins. He wants to help us be pure, feel peace, and return to God’s presence again. Never forget that.

Something cool I learned is that Gethsemane comes from the Hebrew words that mean “oil press”. Just as olives need a lot of weight and pressure to become oil, Jesus Christ took on the weight of the world and He bled from every pore. Oil was very precious during that time, just as Christ is to us then and now.

Also, these are my friends Allie and Ryan. AYYY

I’m so short on time, so I’ll make this quick:

The Dome of the Rock: IMG_3076.jpgIMG_3083.jpgIMG_3073.jpg

I didn’t have much time here because it was time for the Call to Prayer, but I’ll be going back. Its calligraphy and architecture seriously amazed me!! It’s just so beautiful and I can’t wait to get a better look. Also, this is my friend John. AYY

The Western Wall: I already talked about it in my last post (shout out to my last post…check it out) So, here’s a picture of it from when I went back this week.IMG_2474.JPG

Tel Arad: This was one of my favorite places too because we saw one of the communities that the King of Jerusalem put as a look-out fort so they could keep invaders from going straight to Jerusalem. Here, there was a temple where they worshiped and gave sacrifices to God at an altar. They also had a room where only the High Priest could go called the Holy of Holies. IMG_2641.JPG This is me in front of it (yayyy). Further down from that area, there were more ruins from a Canaanite community that had been there and already left before the Israelites got to Tel-Arad. It seriously got butterflies when I walked around those ruins because 1. I FREAKING LOVE ROCKS and 2. It was an amazing feeling to imagine a group of people actually walking, breathing, laughing, crying, playing, working, and praying in that area thousands of years ago. IMG_2645.JPG

Last place for this blog: Negev Desert: IMG_2583.PNGThis is the desert that the Israelites wandered in for 40 years. FORTY YEARS, PEOPLE! It is very, very beautiful but I would prefer not to live there for 40 years. I understand that it was a hard time for them, even though God still took care of them and gave the manna and water to live off of. Sometimes, God gives us opportunities in life where we don’t understand the “why” behind our suffering. What I learned from this story is that God not only gives us time to learn and grow from these experiences, but He also helps us through them. As He helps us, if we decide to trust in Him and be grateful despite the hardships we face, we will strengthen our relationship with Him more than we imagined possible. Through suffering and struggle, God strengthens us and we can know Him on a deeper, more personal level because He is all we have.

I have so much more I want to write but it’s almost 11 here and I should go to bed…To finish, I want to share a thought I had as I read in Judges chapter 2. The Lord advises the Israelites to get the Canaanites out of Jerusalem so that they don’t corrupt the generations to come. However, since they didn’t listen to the Lord, generations later the Israelites “didn’t know the Lord” and “didn’t know of His dealings with their fathers” (or they didn’t know about the miracles He had performed with their ancestors). Because of this, they also worshipped different gods, which “angered” the Lord. So, the Lord sent them afflictions and tribulations so they would remember to turn to Him. However, He also sent them judges to teach them the truth so they could be taught about Him.

Here’s the deal, the Lord loves us. Why would He punish us if He loves us?

Welp, let’s read verse 18: “And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the Lord because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.”

The Hebrew root for the word “repented” here means “to be sorry”, “moved to pity”, or “have compassion”.

The Lord doesn’t like being harsh with us in order to turn us back to Him, but He has to sometimes because of our stubbornness or ignorance. He may have sent them tribulations, but He sent them a way to learn about Him and change their lives so that they worshipped Him and lived the commandments. When He saw that they suffered greatly, He even let off a little because He felt so much compassion for them.

God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever”. If He loved his human creations back then, He still loves us now. When we go through troubles, let’s remember that He LOVES us and only desires for us to return to Him. Sometimes we get stuck in our ways or don’t have the courage to get out of a spiritual rut, but the Lord prods us along with both good and “bad” experiences.

Let us look to God with more loving eyes and understand that He only wants us to have eternal life and salvation at His side. I know that He lives and is very aware of our wants, needs, sorrows, secrets, happiness, thoughts, and even our deepest desires.

I hope this strengthened someone this week. Keep pushing forward with faith in Him and love for both God and everyone around us!! Use your time in this life for GOOD and keep making the world a better place!!!!

LOVE, MADI

pictures:

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overlooking The Valley of Elah, where David beat Goliath.

IMG_3144.jpg This is me with super creepy eyes in the biggest dove-raising cave in Israel! (housed around 2,000 of those babies!)

IMG_2611.JPG Kenna, Sam (my roomie) and myself chillin at some ruins

IMG_2729.JPG Christine, my roomie, and myself chillin in Jericho (also, when i say “chillin” i mean it literally because everywhere is so windy and chilly…)

IMG_3197.jpg me with a statue that looks like…well, we all know what it looks like.

IMG_2356.JPG My Nike Pals: (clockwise from myself…) John, Jake, Matt, Chrisine. #NikeCrew

IMG_2917.jpg signed my name under the Jerusalem center w/everyone else.IMG_2907.jpg hardhats or nuthin’.

IMG_2923.JPG Tried this pizza thing. Wasn’t all that good, but usually the food here is seriously good!! (especially the pita bread, hummus, persimmons, and dates!!!)

IMG_3127.jpg Inside this HUUUGE cave (this isn’t even a quarter of the size of the cave) called “bell caves” where settlers found that limestone underneath the first layer was super soft so they built these enormous caves. They started by carving a circle and then making it a progressively bigger opening as they got deeper…INCREDIBLE!

For more pictures, videos and updates keep following my blog. Also check out my instagram: @waitimnotdunne, occassionally SnapChat: @waitimnotdunne and Facebook.

Shabbat Shalom!!

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(If you want to get to the stories, skip the first three paragraphs! Key lessons learned this week? Skip to the bottom!) ;D

THIS WEEK HAS BEEN ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!! I feel like I’ve been in shock all week because I cannot believe I’m actually here!!! I am making it a goal to take more pictures and videos next week…I will be putting some kinds of vlogs/videos together and uploading them to my Youtube channel (it’s just “Madison Dunne”). This week I didn’t take as many because I really want to be present during these experiences and not be living this through a lense.

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To start off, I’m 9 hours ahead of Utah time (Brie) and 10 ahead of Oregon (the rest of my family), so it’s been a little rough to communicate. Also, the wifi is only available every once in a while so I can’t be as connected as I usually am…but it’s a nice break!! I feel a lot more free and I feel like I’m really soaking up Jerusalem and every little experience I have.

The first day I got here, we had a lot of orientation meetings and we were all jet lagged out of our minds so we nodded through most of it. The next day, it was basically the same thing. Except, we got fed!! hahaha They give us breakfast, lunch, and dinner here and it’s SUPER nice because they have some yummy, “cheat” food, as well as a lot of healthy, delicious food!!! There is always a salad bar and everything is fresh. There is also a fruit bar–THE BEST–as well as a pita bread area with spices and oil to put inside and then toast!! I LOVE IT ALL! Moving on from the food, the Jerusalem Center is INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL!!!! Its architecture is amazing and it is north west of the MOUNT OF OLIVES and the GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE and has a beautiful view of Old Jerusalem!!! I wake up every day and I wonder if I’m every going to get used to this…I honestly don’t think I will!

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So, after days and hours of orientation/safety meetings, we were given a quick tour of Old Jerusalem. We live in the Palestinian part of Jerusalem, which is Eastern, so as we walk into town, we are surrounded by Arabic and Palestinians for the most part. There were SHAWARMAS and FALAFEL and BREAD on the streets that looked delicious. Every woman I’ve seen wears a Hijab and everyone I see are ALL SO BEAUTIFUL!! I have not yet seen anyone wearing a burka, but I’m told I’ll see more women wearing them when we go to Egypt. According to what I’ve been told, it is the woman’s choice and/or the preference of their husband as to whether they wear a hijab or a burka. 🙂

As we walked through one of the gates to Old Jerusalem, the setting began to change. Different quarters of Old Jerusalem are divided into the Jewish section, the Christian section, the Muslim section, and the other I forgot what it is. hehe… So, as you walk around the different areas the stores are catered to those different religions and there is a pretty obvious difference.

There is a lot I could say about what I saw, but I don’t have time to write everything because it’s getting late here and I still have a lot to say. The one thing that impacted me most, though, is that there is a section of the road where you can walk on the stones that Jesus Christ Himself potentially walked on!! The current roads within those walls are actually 30-40 feet above where Jesus actually walked because Jerusalem has been destroyed, rebuilt, reconstructed, and over time materials have continued building up. So, after digging a little, archaeologists decided to pull some of those stones up from the time of Roman rule, when Jesus lived, and put them on the road once again so we could experience that.

Since then, I’ve had an Old Testament class which was AMAZING and I’m learning SO MUCH and LOVE it!!! For example, when Genesis mentions the city of Salem, it is most likely referring to Jerusalem (jeruSALEM)!! 😀 Little things that others might have already known, I am just learning now and it’s changing my life! I never thought I’d see the day I actually understand the Old Testament. hahahaha There are a lot of other things I’ve learned, but again…I don’t have a lot of time.

FRIDAY WAS THE MOST SPECIAL DAY FOR ME SO FAR. IT. WAS. LIFE-CHANGING.

Jewish people celebrate the Sabbath once the sun sets on Friday. Many of them celebrate the Sabbath by worshiping at the Western Wall. This wall is sacred because it is the closest they can get to the temple that once was there. We had the privilege of taking part in that practice. We entered the gate of Old Jerusalem and went to the Western Wall. On the Sabbath, you’re not supposed to use electronics or take pictures or write anything because it is seen as breaking the Sabbath. So, unfortunately, I couldn’t take any videos or pictures. Here are some pictures of other parts of Old Jerusalem, though:

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So, at the wall women and men are separated by a barrier because they want to be completely focused, without distractions, on the wall and worshiping God. I went up to the wall and observed for a while. Most women were either singing or mouthing the sacred words of the Torah and rocking back and forth. They rock back and forth because they believe that we should worship with all of our heart, mind, and strength! Everyone took turns going up to the wall, touching it, and either praying or reading out of the Torah.

When I got up to the wall, I put my hands on it and began to pray. It was a really special moment and I can’t put into words what I felt when I spoke with God. It hit me in that moment that I really was in Jerusalem, and that I was touching the very stones that were there when Jesus Christ walked within those walls. I felt at peace and I felt so much love for all of the Jewish people around me and their devotion to God.

Once I finished with that, I heard some people singing and chanting and decided to join them! Not only were they singing and chanting, but they were dancing with their arms around each other or holding hands in a circle. It was one of the most beautiful moments that night other than when I actually got to touch the wall. They were all filled with SO MUCH JOY. They included everyone. They were CELEBRATING THE SABBATH DAY! They were EXCITED for the Sabbath to start. They feel BLESSED to HAVE A DAY TO WORSHIP GOD!!!! HOW INCREDIBLE IS THAT?!?!?!

We should ALWAYS be this excited about worshiping God, centering our lives on Christ, and having A WHOLE DAY to thank and praise God!!! HE GIVES US EVERYTHING!!! BECAUSE OF CHRIST, WE CAN BE FORGIVEN AND SEE GOD AGAIN! Seeing their joy and gratitude inspired me more than I can put into words.

I left those walls with tears in my eyes and a renewed desire to sanctify the Sabbath with greater dedication and purpose. Heavenly Father deserves it. I am eternally indebted to Him.

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Today, Saturday, we celebrated the Sabbath. I went to choir practice and then Sacrament meeting and it was breath-taking!!! Our Sacrament room has huge windows that overlook all of Jerusalem, so not only were the messages powerful, but the view was as well!

After some encouraging and nourishing words of God, we walked into the Old City and saw the tomb where people believe Jesus Christ was laid after His Crucifixion–which is also the place He resurrected!! 🙂  It was also a very inspiring and humbling moment. I imagined the people who had to go through the anguish of seeing the Saviour of the world crucified and then lay His limp body in the tomb, with all of their hope…not knowing He would resurrect once again. And then imagining Mary outside of the tomb, weeping…Just playing out all the stories I’ve heard and read my entire life and knowing they could have possibly taken place in that very tomb on those same stones in that same garden…I was able to truly put myself in their places and understand how they may have felt. It became even more real to me.

If there is anything I’ve learned this week it is these key points:

  1. Jesus Christ truly is the Saviour of the world and HE LIVES TODAY. He truly did suffer for us and because of Him, we will resurrect as He did.
  2. The Spirit of God works in powerful ways when we have the desire to learn, grow, and align our will with God’s.
  3. All religions are working towards strengthening their relationship with God and becoming better each day. If we open our hearts to learning from others’ beliefs and practices, we will be able to strengthen our own faith as well and appreciate and love others with more depth.
  4. Getting to bed by 11 and waking up by 6:30 truly makes you a HAPPIER person and you get more done every day!!!! YAY FOR HAVING A MORE DISCIPLINED SLEEP SCHEDULE FINALLY!!!!!

 

This is all I have time to write today, folks. I’ll write more next Sabbath. DON’T STOP SMILING! Share goodness and happiness and FEED off of UPLIFTING things so you can be a more powerful instrument in God’s hands!!! HE NEEDS YOU!!! So change the things in your life that will allow you to better serve Him and make others happy!!! 🙂 WE ALL NEED EACH OTHER AND WE SHOULD ALL LOVE EACH OTHER AS CHILDREN OF GOD!!! 🙂

 

Love, MADI! 🙂15995846_10210607227248230_1389665231_n.jpg

I’m off to Israel!

dbe36311a14a6b7d893d87be41e00284.jpgToday I’m taking a flight from SLC to JFK and then all the way to Tel Aviv!! I still don’t feel that the day has really come. It’s definitely been an adventure getting here, but I’m happy everything played out as it did.

So, what the heck am I going to do in Israel?!

I will be attending the BYU Jerusalem’s Near-Eastern Studies program. Here, I will study the Old and New Testament more in-depth, and then get to see-IN PERSON- the places I’ve read about my whole life!! Aside from that, I’ll also be learning about surrounding culture and history! I will also be able to learn some Arabic (hopefully I can catch on before the 4 months fly by!)

More information on this program is found at: https://jerusalemcenter.ce.byu.edu/info

ANYWAY, I just have to say I feel extremely grateful and everything still feels very surreal. I can’t wait for everything to be a reality finally tomorrow afternoon! (I’ll be flying until tomorrow around 2ish Israel time).

I will not be able to use social media a whole lot, from what I’ve been told, but I’m hoping to share my pictures and thoughts on here and Instagram somewhat frequently! I will not be writing a ton about everything I experience, however, because everything my phone and laptop send, receive, or post will be read by the Israeli government! (Or so I’m told..) So, if you want to hear about some of those more special experiences, you’ll have to HMU in person AFTER I get back 😉 hahaha

However, I WILL be writing about some of the most sacred experiences of my life so I hope you can read my perspective with respect and curiosity and discover some of your own spiritual experiences as well!

I hope you enjoy the insights and stories I share and that they can strengthen or uplift you in some way!! Never stop smiling!!!

Madi