(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.
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!
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:
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.
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:
- 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.
- The Spirit of God works in powerful ways when we have the desire to learn, grow, and align our will with God’s.
- 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.
- 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! 🙂