So basically this entire field trip was far too much for me to capture in one blog post - and I should have posted several to try and capture the incredible spirit and all the fun we had but I have been too much of a slacker to stay on top of these things. Instead I think I'll make this kind of another summary post and try and capture some of my most favorite events. Let's start with...
The location of the great Armageddon certainly doesn't seem like a place of war - it was absolutely beautiful. It began to rain a little when we got there which reminded me the reason the country was so green (not its typical state - how lucky am I?) There's a lot of history that takes place here as well, so it was neat to have Brother Skinner explain everything to us. It began to be occupied in 5,000 BC and...well there's a lot I could expound upon here but I think my biggest impression was one that I've had repeatedly while I've been here - the similarity of many of the ancient religions and our own. Brother Skinner emphasized the similarity in temple worship particularly.
The Synagogue at Nazareth:
When the Savior proclaimed that no prophet was accepted in their own country he wasn't exaggerating at all. Those who heard Him proclaim his Messianic divinity rejected him in a synagogue very similar to the one we were able to see on our first day of the trip. We sang several hymns including Jesus of Nazareth and I Believe in Christ. This was one of the stops where I could really picture the scriptures coming to life and playing out.
The resort we arrived at and stayed in was really very beautiful. "Bungalow" is what they called the little apartment rooms we stayed in - and they overlooked the Sea of Galilee from almost every window. We could observe the tranquility of the water during the day, as well as the fast rising and frequent storms. The first night we ran down to the beach in the middle of a rain storm and jumped and laughed - it was really a great introduction to the rest of the week and the facilities we stayed in.
Mt. of Beatitudes:
Yep - we've all read this account a time or ten, and now I've been to the spot they suppose this took place. We spent most the week divided up in to our religion classes, and so we were able to have a lot of devotionals on site which was a huge benefit. We had classes the day before this field trip, and so it was neat to learn about it from the scriptures one day, and then visualize it on location the very next. The Mt. of Beatitudes, Brother Wilson reminded us, was a time when Christ lifted his followers in to a mountain (high apart from the rest of the world), and taught them how to lift themselves above everyone else.
St. Peter's Primacy:
This was actually one of my favorite stops - it was the location where Christ asked Peter "lovest thou me?" It's also the place at which Christ prepared a meal for the apostles after he told them to cast in their nets and they were able to catch lots many fish. It overlooked the shores of Galilee (as do most places in the Galilee area...surprise surprise), but I think the thing I loved most about this site was actually the man who ran things there. He commented to Brother Wilson about how he lived a life a bit lacking of other people, kind of lonely, and how he always loved when the Mormon students were brought over because there was something different about us as youth. That was a really neat thing to hear from him, it's incredible how many of those types of experiences I've had since being here, it's not just something you've been told in Sunday School over and over again.
Synagogue at Capernum:
So whereas the synagogue in Nazareth is a good representation of what the synagogues would have looked like in Christ's time, it isn't widely accepted as an actual location that Christ would have gone to - the Synagogue at Capernum is a lot more defaced and weathered but it is widely accepted as a place Christ would have actually walked.
Ginosaur (so I'm not sure what this means but what we did was take a boat ride across Galilee):
Taking a boat ride across Galilee was definitely a highlight of the trip for me. Brother Huff's class experienced a bit of difficulty when they were traveling across, there was quite the storm on the water that day, but for us the water was nice and calm. I guess it was nice to have both right? It's funny how the Sea is actually more of a lake than anything else - I'm not sure what I was expecting. After our voyage across the Sea (ha ha) we visited a museum in which was located the "Jesus boat" as they have named it. Infact this is the official name for the exhibit! It features a boat pulled up from the bottom of the lake which dates to about 2000 years ago. It was neat how well it was kept together and the mental image it provided!
So we got to go on our own raft! They called it kayaking but it definiltey was not! Bryan, Miriam, Moon, and Ryan Money and I made up the group. We were one of the first groups out, but the last one to arrive - whether it be because of our lack in "kayaking" skills or our frequent tips of the boat no one will know...or will they! We sure had a good time though, and the area was really very beautiful. How often do you get to kayak down the Jordan River? And I don't mean the one in Utah!
Fish Restaurant/Tiberias Frozen Yogurt:
One of the infamous activities of the JC Galilee trip is the Fish Restaurant trip. The class is taken out to dinner to a fish restaurant (which is kind of a relief from the food of the kibbutz - it gets a little old). The thing about these fishes is that they leave the heads/tails/scales/eyes all on and you get to sift through them to find the meat! It sounds pretty much as disgusting as it looks. I'm not much a fan of fish myself anyway, so this was kind of a challenge to me because the other dinner option is pizza and well...I actually like pizza...especially because it doesn't seem to be staring back at me when I eat it! I decided to try the fish for the experience more than anything else and found that I actually enjoyed it quite a lot! The restaurant was a lot of fun as well - playing with fish heads can be quite satisfying...or...fun? I don't really know the right word to describe it. After dinner they bused us out to Tiberias for gelato or frozen yogurt and a walk around some of the same kinds of shops that we've been seeing since being here in Jerusalem. It was a lot of fun and a break from classes and field trips to enjoy doing something a little more "normal" with friends here. (If you call fish head dinners normal).
I'm not gonna lie, the movie we watched here to explain the actual significance of this place was SUPER cheesy, poorly translated and well...boring! Besides that my allergies had been affecting me all morning and...to sum it all up I didn't really take a lot acacemically from this place. What I did enjoy, however, were the visual aids I was able to take from here! They had set up a house that could have been similar to that of Christ's time, and they explained to us how some of the tools and rooms were used. You could picture the need to sweep the house to find the Widow's Mite, and why you cannot put Old Wine in New Bottles. This experience was akin to Neot Kedouim in its signifcance.
I feel so privileged to have now partaken of the sacrament and particpated in a church meeting in buildings overlooking two of the most reverenced and beautiful places in our church history. Shabbat with the Tiberias branch took place in a branch home that looked very out of place for the place it was found. At the end of a long driveway and behind a crooked green picket fence stood the home, which we approached and were welcomed in by the Branch President and his wife. I've mentioned this before about going to Branch Members homes here in Jerusalem and feeling the cammraderie and kinship with members of the church all over the world, and this same spirit accompanied this building and the people that were found within. You could see that the church spared no expense to make the building as beautiful and yet efficient as possible, and the room in which we held sacrament meeting had large windows in it that overlooked the Sea of Galilee. The meeting began with Come Come Ye Saints, and was sung in Spanish, Russian and English - accomodating each of the members of the branch and their mother tongue. While the words didn't blend together perfectly, the feeling behind them was one. A few members in the program were able to speak and we were allowed to wander around the building a bit to see what things were like. The best part was probably after the meeting was over and we were allowed to mingle with the Branch Members. What incredible people they are - truly lights on a hill to other people in the world. It's because of people like them the church will hopefully one day reach the Holy Land and be able to spread forth its message.
We visited one River Jordan site when we were on our way back from Jordan, but we had another stop at a different site (disputed as the site of Christ's baptism) on the way back from our Shabbat meetings. The place was very peaceful and surprisingly not busy at all so we were able to enjoy some quiet time here. The facilities were very well kept and manicured which was nice, it really helped to be able to envision what had taken place here, and while it was neat to have a devotional right on the shores of the River Jordan in the other location, this place helped me to more fully be able to visualize the event.
This is one of the speculated spots for the Mt. of Transfiguration experience to have taken place. There was a winding narrow road that led up to the top, and fortunately they hired several taxis to take us from the spots where the bus' could not pass so we didn't have to hike up. The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking, you could see for miles and miles. Once again we had a discussion led by Brother Brown and Brother Wilson which will forever change the way I read that account in my scriptures, and will probably change the way I view the Restoration of Keys account in the Doctrine and Covenants as well. Picturing heads of dispensations - Moses and Elijah coming to comfort and strengthen Christ as He was about to undergo the most difficult of sacrifices ever made in human history was awe-inspiring. The church that commemorates the event was beautiful as well - and in true Brother Wilson style we sang inside - this time a few of the hymns being I Know that My Redeemer Lives and the Spirit of God (I write in the locations we sing these in my hymn books, which makes it almost as precious to me as my scriptures!)
Church at Nain:
The Widow of Nain was a miracle Christ preformed that I have not paid much attention to before study of it in the Holy Land. Brother Wilson has taught us that we have no scriptural evidence that Christ knew of the Widow before he went to visit her, but that he would have had to have spiritual promptings to go out of his way to visit the little village of Nain to preform a miracle for her. This site is often forgotten on Christian tours of the Galilee and so it seemed very fitting that the location of the church was rather rural and out of the way compared to many others we saw. The small Palestinian family who is in charge of the church seemed to expect our coming, and greeted us at the doors when we arrived. There was a small boy, maybe two or three years old, amongst the rest of the family who also came out to meet us. He stopped and posed for about a million pictures from all of the students, and you could tell he had practiced before. The spirit of this sweet family really touched me and reminded me that just as the Savior did not forget the Widow of Nain in days past, he would not forget this little family either. My heart just ached to bring that truth to them sooner rather than later - but I guess patientce often makes things all the more sweet when they come to pass.
I did not know what to expect at all when we came to this site, but I was pleasantly surprised. On the way down we visited Caesarea Maritima, and both of these locations were very familar to me in name but I was not so familar with what occured at each location. I soon learned that Caesarea Phillipi was a very important site historically and scripturally because of Herod Philip and Peter. Here Herod Philip built his capital here which included a Pagan temple to the God Pan, in which unholy "worship" would take place and pigs would be sacrificed and then thrown down in to a body of water which symbolized hell. This whole complex is located in the rocks at the base of Mt. Hermon, and from it springs a beautiful part of the Jordan River. It was in this lcoation Christ told Peter that he would build his church upon him - seeing the site made this statement and the ensuing conversation so much more meaningful and understandable. You see because it's built at the base of a mountain, Christ could very well have gestured to the mountain behind him on which was built a false temple and told Peter that he was a different kind of rock upon which the true church would be founded. He also said that the gates of hell could not prevail against His church, which could have been in reference to the gates that covered the opening in front of "pool of hell" in to which animals were sacrificed to the Pagan god Pan. This was all VERY interesting to me and a lot easier to visualize - and it is easily one of hte most beautiful areas in Christ's mission.
Swine and the cliff:
So we visited a spot that is similar to the place where Christ would have cast the legion of devils out of the man and in to the swine. This really shows us the significance and reverence we should have for our physical bodies, and why they are referred to as temples. This area was also very green and beautiful - and it was kind of fun as well, I think you can see why!
This was one of the very last stop - if not the very last stop of the trip, and because of this I was VERY tired by the time we got there. Because of this I got NO historical significance from here at all, but I did get some pretty pictures! The view, as always was breathtaking, and we got some fun pics there as well!
We visited a few other sites but one of the last ones we saw was a tomb in Haifa commemorating the lives of two LDS missionaries who served in the Holy Land in the late 1800's. It is because of the holding of these two (and four or six others) that the church was recognized in the 1970's by the State of Israel, and part of the reason the Jerusalem Center was able to be constructed. While their story was very sad, it was also very happy for me because it contained a lot of hope. I am forever grateful to these two young men and their sacrifices on behalf of the entire church. It reminds me a lot of the members that are here now and the great sacrifices they are making as well.
We saw many other sites that consisted simply of beautiful views and awesome scenery, I could name them but I think that might just get overwhelming - espeically since the names wouldn't be very familar. There were several fields of flowers and waterfalls, however, and so I think I'll include a couple of those pics!
Some other things around Ein Gev...
Spending time on the beach
There was quite a lot of "down time" and time to relax while we were at the resort. Unfortunately for me this probably consisted a bit too much of sleeping, but there was also a lot of time we were able to spend just playing, reading, contemplating, and walking along the beach of Galilee. It was really incredilbe to try and imagine the Savior walking the same steps and looking out across the same vista. One of my most favorite memories is looking up at the crest of a hill Brother Wilson pointed out as the city of Safed. This is most likely the place the Savior referred to as the "city set on a hill" which light should not be hid under a bushel. Once again the scriptures came alive, and now everytime I read that passage I will not forget the glittering lights on the distant hill that I saw. One of the Tiberias members actually lives there today - a literal and metaphorical incredulity.
We had a few bonfires while we were here which typically consisted of treats, visiting and some music. Mike playing the guitar and the smores were some of my favorite parts, although it was also fun to see everyones Bible skits, play "How's Yours", and sing some campfire songs. What can I say, you can't go wrong when you doing something on the shores of Galilee
Pita and Hummas
Let's not lie...the sack lunches were...well...absolutely awful. Because it was a Kosher Jewish joint, we couldn't have meat and cheese sandwiches so instead we got meat and cucumber sandwiches on semi-soggy bread, and so when we got to stay in for lunch (when we had class at the Kibbutz) I loaded up on the mini pitas and incredible hummas. If there's one tribute I have to make to the Holy Land when I get home, well ok so this isn't the most important one...maybe if there's two tributes I have to make one of them is definitely to learn how to make good pitas! These ones were so awesome that I in one meal at six of them! No wonder I've just been gaining weight since I got here! How can I even complain?!
Ok so the rules of Galilee were strictly no swimming, but we could wade in up to our ankles. We frankly observed these commands!...of course! Although one thing that was kind of funny was the construction of a raft out of waterlogged wood. Sadly I was not a part of the construction of this or the sand sculptures that were frequently found on the beach, but I was part of the observant crowd which greatly enjoyed it all! Not quite the jesus boat but almost!
The best part about this program as a whole is the fact that we get to learn and then see. I'm going to be forever grateful for the amazing professors and directors we have here and all that they make possible for us.
Brother Wilson gave us a quote as we were studying the New Testament from President Monson that talks about getting to know the Savior better. President Monson states:
"Let us, in the performance of our duty, follow in the footsteps of the Master. As you and I walk the pathway Jesus alked, let us listen for hte sounds of sandaled feet. Let us reach out for the Carpenter's hand. Then we shall come to know Him....We will discover He is more than the Babe in Bethlehem, more than the carpenter's son, more than the greatest teacher ever to live. We will come to know Him as the Son of God, our Savior and our Redeemer." I felt Galilee overall was a great way to do this, although to be honest the most important thing I took from Galilee was that by physically walking in steps the Savior walked in isn't what he's talking about. To truly come to know the Savior we have to follow His actions and lifestyle overall - and I'm hoping that I can do that better from now on although it is definitely a continual process.