This is going to be a long entry because I haven’t written a blog post in weeks and A LOT has happened…SO, I’m going to divide it into sections and you can scroll around and read whatever catches your attention. The sections are as follow:
- Finals & Elder Oaks
- The Red Sea/ Eilat
- Western Wall Underground Tour
- Cat incident
- Tel Aviv
One of my biggest dreams, for years, has been to go to Petra. So that was pretty much the HIGHLIGHT of my experience in Jordan!! There were also some other really amazing sites we visited, but that was the one that stood out to me most.
The day we left for Jordan, we took a bus to the border, passed through border control, and then took another bus from the Jordanian side of the border. We went to Mount Nebo first, where it is believed that God showed Moses the Promised Land as well as where he raised the serpentine staff for the Israelites to look upon and be healed from their poisonous snake bites. It was a BEAUTIFUL view and also a pretty special moment to be there.
After Mt. Nebo, we went to this super good restaurant that was mostly outdoors, decorated with rugs, tapestries, and pillows. It was so beautiful and gave off a pretty cool, indie vibe. The food was WAY good and the pita was fresh, so that was a good experience.
Then, we went to Machaerus, where John the Baptist was both imprisoned and most likely beheaded!! We ran up the mount to the top where the ruins of the structure and prison are. It overlooked the Dead Sea and had a gorgeous view, but at the same time it was kind of a somber place to be because of its reason for being infamous.
Following that visit, we drove the rest of the way South to Petra where we were greeted by a group of men dancing and singing! It was THE COOLEST. OH, and some really delicious smoothies. The hotel we stayed in is located right inside Petra, which is in the middle of canyon-like rock. So, later that night we walked straight down from the Hotel to the most famous tomb of Petra which was featured in Indiana Jones! It has been my DREAM to come here at night!!! It was just as I’ve seen in all the pictures, and MORE! There were bags full of sand and candles covering the ground in front of the tomb. We all gathered in front of it and sat down while locals played music on their flute and another stringed instrument I don’t know the name of. As we listened, a man came around with a tray of hot herbal tea, which really hit the spot. IT WAS JUST SO MAGICAL! Anyway, I’m going to move on now because I still have like three hours more of writing. Hahahah
The next day, we explored PETRA! We went to the same tomb we did at night, and then we went through the rest of Petra—first, to the Monastery. LET ME TELL YA, that was a challenging hike. I don’t know if I’m really thaaat out of shape or what, but it was A LOT of stairs, it was hot, and I was in pants, not shorts, because modesty is so important in these countries… We finally made it to the top and just chilled on these chairs for an hour, which was so nice. Then we explored different ruins and ended at the Kings Tombs!! These were HUGE and so beautiful and full of vendors (well, everywhere was full of vendors…), but it was just really colorful and cool! I was with a group of people and we went into one of the tombs and sang some hymns and it was so beautiful and special, and people crowded around us and took pictures even, which is something that’s never happened to me before so that was a pretty cool experience! Oh, we also made a little friend named Mohammad who should be in like second or third grade, but instead of going to school, he sells postcards all around Petra to tourists. He saw me take a jumping picture and got super excited, so we took one together and then he followed me around forevs. I asked why he’s not in school and he kept telling me he’d just go tomorrow instead. Also, the restaurants here are very interesting because when we ate lunch, there were people smoking inside the building…which is something I’m definitely not used to.
THE NEXT DAY WE WENT TO JERASH!!!! This was one of the Decapolis cities of the Romans. It was insanely beautiful!!! It’s a mixture of Roman architecture/ruins and lush, scenic landscape. There were rolling green hills, and sheep, and arches, and columns, and an amphitheater (where we heard some people play music for us), and just SO. MUCH. BEAUTY. This was another one of my favorite places from this trip!! We spent a lot of time there, just exploring and taking in the views.
Following Jerash, we went to Pella. Pella was another Decapolis city of the Romans and had been newly excavated, so that was really exciting because it was so fresh! We found a lot of Roman glass, and I licked one of the columns…ayyy? When we first got there, I felt like I had been woken up from my nap a little too early, so I was in a pretty bad mood. Then, I looked out the window and saw these cute little Bedouin boys running towards the bus with yellow flower leis and I thought “that’s happy…that’ll make me happy.” So, when we got off the bus, I paid him a dollar for it and I was in a better mood. Yayy! Driving back from Pella was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in my life—tying only with Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador!! There were some beautifully-formed rolling hills, and the sun was shining through the clouds perfectly, and there were palm trees everywhere…I don’t know guys, but it was breath-taking.
We went to Amman next, where things were a little more chill and I taught my professor how to play MASH. Hahahah it was a very good bonding experience for all of us. I went to McDonalds in Amman and it was way nice and delish. We also went to a beautiful mosque where the people were very nice and they gave us free Korans and free earrings after our visit.
We ended the trip on a really cool note by going to “Bethany beyond Jordan” where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist. When we got there, there were a lot of people going in and out of the water as they were baptized, and it was a really pretty sight to see. We also sang some hymns and I felt the Spirit in those moments. I waded in a little bit and tried to imagine the Saviour walking into those waters and giving us the perfect example of what we should do, although He was without sin. He showed us that we need to be baptized by someone with authority of God, or the Priesthood, as well as the importance of baptism by immersion at an age where He was accountable for His own actions. The ordinance and covenant we make with God during our baptism allows us to start over, and is the first step in the direction of living with God again. It was a beautiful feeling to be there and take time to ponder His perfect example. Very good ending to the trip.
FINALS AND ELDER OAKS:
So, this actually happened before Jordan…but we had one of the 12 apostles and his wife come visit us at the Jerusalem Center!!! It was kind of a stressful week because we had finals all week and I also had to get a lot of assignments done before our trip to Jordan and I also had to somehow be put together and not sleep-deprived before an apostle of God came..! But, God works miracles and I somehow pulled my act together before he got to the center. At dinner, I sat behind him and it was pretty crazy because you always see the front side of the apostles because they speak to you at conference and everything and they’re always on the stands facing you…but this time I saw the backside of him and I don’t think it really means anything, but it was just cool to see him from that perspective I guess. Hahaha. After dinner, we had a forum where he spoke with his wife and some other leaders of the church. First, some friends from the Jerusalem Center sang and it brought me to tears!!! Then, they spoke and the Spirit was just so strong. It was also SO CUTE to watch Sister Oaks speak because she loves her husband soooo much and included him a lot in what she was saying. She’d ask him to get up and add something to what she said, or just stand there, arms linked, for support as she spoke. At one point, Elder Oaks went to sit down and she said “Where are you going?! You’ve gotta stay up here with me!” and he said, in kind of a whiney voice, “But I’m tired…” and then sat down. It was so cute. And he laughs SO MUCH. They just showed me how I want my future relationship to be throughout my marriage—silly and fun, laughing all the time, while still have the Spirit strong and supporting each other in righteousness. BEAUTIFUL NIGHT!
(I’m in the same row as Elder Oaks all the way to the right, one in.)
THE RED SEA: ELIAT
WE TOOK A TRIP TO THE RED SEA! It was around a four-hour drive in bus each way, and it was really cool to reflect on the distance, actually because of what we know about Lehi and his family. In the Book of Mormon when Lehi is told by God to leave Jerusalem before it’s destroyed, he leaves with his family and goes all the way down to the red sea and even a little further south from the northern-most part. After they get there, the Lord tells them to go back and get their scriptural and genealogical records from Jerusalem…so they have to go alllll the way back up to Jerusalem and then back to where they set up camp at the Red Sea. Then ONCE AGAIN, they have to go allll the way back to Jerusalem to bring another family with them, and then walk alllll the way back down to the Red Sea area. I CAN’T IMAGINE WALKING THE DISTANCE FROM JERUSALEM TO EILAT EVEN ONCE! It would take FOREVER! It testified to me even more about the sacrifice it was for them to be so obedient to the Lord and travel so much.
When we got to the beach, we snorkeled!!! The water was SO CLEAR and turquoisey. (I’m making that a word.) we hopped in and –BOOM!—We were surrounded by purple jellyfish. They were all over the place and it was so scary and I swallowed so much water trying to get away from them the first half hour. Ahhahaha AT ONE POINT—oh my gosh, this is sad!! –AT ONE POINT, I was treading water and felt myself smack something…I go underwater….and THERE WAS A JELLYFISH SHREDDED TO PIECES!!!! I felt SO BAD because I didn’t want to hurt them!!! But I didn’t even see it…anyway. Other than jellyfish, there were parrot fish I think and some other colorful fish I don’t know the names of. AND WE SAW AN OCTOPUS TOO!! Pretty cool. I’ll be posting a video on my Youtube Channel of it soon (hopefully).
Western Wall Underground Tour
This was a pretty cool tour, guys!! So, the Western wall where everyone worships in Old Jerusalem is where Jews go because it is closest to where the temple used to be before it was destroyed. There is only a portion you can see because of the houses and structures that have been built up against and around it. SO, there is a way to see MORE of the wall if you go underground—Which is exactly what we did, folks. We saw the wall from underground tunnels that were used as cisterns. Cisterns are very important in Israel because it is a very dry land with little water. Their main source of water, aside from rain water, is the Sea of Galilee. So, anyway there are a ton of cisterns throughout Israel because it was the best way they could have water before figuring out how to transport it from other sources, or if there wasn’t the option of a well available. Wow, I just geeked out on a tangent. Sorry. Moving on, we walked through the tunnels and it was pretty cool to see the original stone that was used to build this ancient and super historic wall! We ended up walking a part of the wall that was closest to the Holy of Holies which once was located in the temple, too! At this spot, there were women worshiping and I joined them briefly by saying a prayer at the wall. I like the feeling of being surrounded by other religions and feeling unified in purpose through praising God.
YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT!!! We went to Bethlehem, which is actually located in the West Bank. For those of you who don’t know, the West Bank is actually in the East of Israel. It’s called the West Bank because it’s on the west bank of the Jordan River. This is an area that is populated more by Palestinians, and they live in very humble circumstances. It is definitely a sight to see going from West Jerusalem, where the streets are paved nicely and there are actually restaurants and malls, to going to the West Bank where everything is run-down and people are in great need of food and shelter.
We went to the Church of the Nativity. This is a church that was built over the location most believe Jesus was born. It is owned by three different churches so the architecture and art differs within the church building. The main attraction of the church is where you walk down stairs to this cave where Jesus is said to have been born. Normally, it is pretty hard for me to feel the Spirit in a church that is so adorned with gold and fabrics and decorations because I feel like my mind is as cluttered and crammed as everything else in the church—I feel kind of stagnant with all of that combined with strong incense smells…but when I got to this spot, I tried to imagine Jesus laying in a manger, with His family, friends, and angels surrounding Him. I felt the Spirit so strongly that I was brought to tears…Jesus Christ really was born to save us, He really does live today, and He will come back again.
This church had another area that really spoke to me as well. In a different part of the church, there is a cave you walk down into and there are many different nooks within the cave. One part of it was where the graves of children Herod killed were located. It was so sad to think that Herod was so intimidated by Jesus’ power and presence that he caused so many innocent children to be killed. To the right of that area, there was a secluded cove where ST. JERÔME lived 35 years of his life and translated the Bible into Latin (The Vulagate) for the first time ever!! I felt a deep appreciation for the dedication and sacrifices he made in order for there to have been progress in translating the Bible. It’s also special to think that he picked such a sacred area to translate it…he must have felt the Spirit strongly while he translated the Bible near the birthplace of our Saviour.
After the seeing the church and having some reflection time, we went to the Shepherd’s mount that overlooks Bethlehem. This is where people believe the shepherds saw the star marking Jesus’ birth! We sat there as a class and sang some hymns, played some music, and then shared our testimonies. It was a very touching moment for all of us to be testifying of Christ in the same area shepherds, thousands of years ago, were testifying of the same Lord we all share who was born to save us all. It’s truly amazing how He is spoken of in the past, present, and future by people from all over the world…always!!
This is just a funny story. I had to hang-dry some of my clothes outside so I hung the hangers on tree branches, which I’ve done in the past. I guess by the time my roommate came home, some of my clothes had fallen onto the ground. She noticed a nasty lil cat was laying on my sweatshirt, so she slid the door open to go scare it away. Instead of scaring it, the cat got territorial and PEED ON MY SWEATSHIRT BEFORE PRANCING AWAY. Right as she walks inside, laughing, and thinking of HOW she was going to bring that up, I WALK THROUGH THE DOOR. Through her laughing she manages to get out that a cat peed on my sweatshirt so I bolted outside and SPRINTED after the cat. Hopefully it will never come back, but MAN, GUYS! It was a BYU Jerusalem sweatshirt I had JUST BOUGHT and washed for the first time…I HADN’T EVEN WORN IT YET! And cat pee is SO potent and does NOT come out of clothes—back me up, people—SO…I left it outside before coming here to Galilee and who knows what’s going to happen to it. Hahaha I didn’t have time to wash it and try out strategies of getting cat pee out before coming here.
IF YOU KNOW OF ANY SOLUTIONS, PLZ MESSAGE ME. SOS.
AHHH, GUYS!!! It’s been really nice this past week because right now I’m on the shore of Galilee, the week before I was on the beach of Tel Aviv, and the week before that I was at the shore of the Red Sea!! I LOVE and have MISSED the beach and sun!! I am so sorry for all of my Utah friends who are toughing it out through the snow…I am wayyy grateful to not be going through that weather right now.
Anyway, TEL AVIV!! I wish I had come here SO MUCH MORE during the semester! It’s gorgeous. We started off the day by biking along the boardwalk (idk if you can call it a boardwalk though) and we stopped by this park and climbed all over stuff and then stopped at a beach where we laid out. Well, actually, everyone else laid out because I didn’t bring my towel, hahaha, sooooo I just walked around and picked up sea glass and shells and swam a little. After that, we walked further down the beach to these sand volleyball courts and played! It was WAY FUN and there were bleachers of people watching us, which was hilarious, ridiculous things kept happening. Like people getting the ball hit to their face, and after it hitting their face we somehow managed to keep it up and over the net, etc. It was a HOOT and we all ended the game with a smile on our face and sand in our mouth. Yayy!!
We swam some more after that, and then we went to a MEXICAN RESTAURANT! I have missed non-kosher food so much so it was a lot better than I expected it to be. I got a burrito and esquites, which really hit the spot. Then, we rode bikes back to where the buses were going to pick us up and SHOOT lemme tell y’all about this experience! So, the bikes we rode are those city bikes you pay for with a card and then ride them to wherever and leave them at the closest station to you. So, we rode the bikes back only to find that there weren’t enough spaces for the amount of bikes we had. So some of us had to ride to the next bike dropoff station, which wasn’t too far. However, those racks were full TOO! We had 9 minutes before the buses were going to pick us up…so me and two other people found out where the next station was and BOOKED IT up this hill, but my gears were broken and I had to stay on 3rd gear (which does NOT make going up hills easy…). So that fiasco happened, but we kept pushing through and winding up this cobblestone hill until—YES!—We found it! AND there was enough room for all of our bikes. Then we basically parkour-ed it back to the bus. It was so thrilling and fun even though it wasn’t the ideal situation. Being in a dress didn’t help the matter either. Hahah It was great though. Then, we made it back home on time and slept like none other.
Right now I’m in Galilee and I thought about including some insights today, but this has taken me four hours to write hahahah sooo, I thought I would do it a different day. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experiences! Let me know if you have any questions!!
If you’d like to know more about my experiences here in the Holy Land, follow my instagram @waitimnotdunne and check out my Youtube channel “Madison Dunne” because I post a lot more frequently on those social media platforms.
Don’t forget your worth!! You’re all so important to God and He’s happy when you’re happy. So don’t forget to turn to Him when you miss that comfort and love. 🙂
HAVE A GREAT WEEK!