Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Israel - Not What Heidi Expected

Israel was my most disappointing stop on the entire trip. (Oliver and I don't exactly agree about this view but as I see it - I'm the one updating the blog so you can read what I thought...) I think my disappointment stemmed from the experience in Israel being jammed packed into two days and running like crazy to see everything! The Pope had been in Jerusalem the day before us and then he traveled to Nazareth and some surrounding areas that we again visited the day after him. I had envisioned my time in Israel to have been a moving and spiritual experience and it wasn't. But, all that aside, our tour guide was a native Israeli that grew up as a Jew before Israel was even a country. He fought in several wars and helped win their independence. It was definitely a historically interesting and compelling tour - just lacked a spirituality that I anticipated. It may be different if you are able to spend more time there or if you are with a group that has a different focus, but for me, well I guess I'll just have to try again.

Here I am standing in the River Jordan where Jesus was baptized. There were several baptisms occurring in the River that day and you can choose to be baptized by immersion in the River Jordan and get another baptismal certificate. I am happy with my current baptism and didn't feel that need but it was amazing to see all the people who were getting in the River and making a comittment to God in a way that meant something for them.

Oliver is standing outside the Kibbutz where we ate lunch. All my SMA friends are familiar with this term, but for those who aren't, a kibbutz is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and high-tech enterprises. It is a form of communal living where you donated your time and talents to the functioning and survival of your community and all are equal regardless of the type of service they provide. Less than five percent of Israelis live on kibbutzim and I view it as very similar to the Law of Consecration.

The next two pictures are trees located on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives. Tradition locates Gethsemane in this area but the exact spot remains unknown. According to the New Testament it was a place that Jesus and his disciples customarily visited, which allowed Judas to find him on the night of his arrest. It is also the place where the beginnings of the Atonement occurred. Currently located next to these gardens is the Church of All Nations, also known as the Church of the Agony.

These olive trees do not date back to the time of Jesus - in fact they are unable to locate any in this region that date back that far - but the significance of the Savior's sacrifice isn't diminished by this in the slightest.

Here is a rock carving portraying that sacrifice and love that the Savior has for us.

Here Oliver and I stand outside the Western Wall also known as the Wailing Wall. We both went and visited the wall on our appropriate female and male sides. The Western Wall commonly refers to an 187 feet (57 m) exposed section of ancient wall situated on the western flank of the Temple Mount. This section faces a large plaza and is set aside for prayer. It was a neat place to visit.

Overall, Israel was just okay for me - but it was interesting to see so many sites. I think our favorite part of our Israel experience was driving from Jerusalem to northern Israel where the River Jordan and the Mount of Beatitude are located. You really could sense and feel the "going up" to Jerusalem and we witnessed the great changes in elevation.

Stay tuned for pictures of Greece.

No comments: