Last year, I was approached to submit journal entries compiling of letters and journals. Many of my submissions were accepted in the book, and the "author" informed me recently that it would be published soon. I know many of you have been to The Holy Land, some even recently. It's interesting that, in a place torn by war and frought with danger, all of us have never felt more peace.
April 27, 1999
I’ve had a lot of flights before, but never left the country.
I’m on Delta Swiss-Air
to Zurich, and the sunset is magnificent. Beneath us, you can see snow settled into the valleys and lakes. Then, just above a think line of clouds, the sky glows pink salmon and then an apricot/peach colour. It’s so bright that my window has turned pink. Above it all, the sky is clear and blue. IT si sos vast and free; looking out into the blue brings me peace as I journey to the Holy Land.
Yesterday’s orientation scared me. I’m insecure about the Near East as it is, and all the warnings and rules only makes me more apprehensive. After talking to Chantelle and Crystal last night, I’m a bit more confident that I’m not about to start a riot or anything. Things will be fine as long as I acknowledge that this is a different culture and I need to respect those differences.
Ah! The sky is now a dusky, cool, grayish blue. One pink streak across the air separates the darkening ground from the eggshell-blue above. Gorgeous.
April 30, 1999
College in Jerusalem
Melissa Merrill and I woke up at some insane hour (4:30am), faked sleeping until 5, and woke up to the alarm she couldn’t turn off. It was hilarious. She jumped up in the air and sat on the alarm with her pillow to stifle the sound. We figured we ought to get up and go with the A-C groups to by Shabot bread. What an excellent idea.
At 5:30am, about 12 of us walked through the Old City to the bakery. 5:30 in the morning is gorgeous out here. There was a lavender mist hovering over the city, and a full moon hanging low. I took a picture. In the insanity of the hour, we held a dance party in our room (around 15 after) and the energy stayed with us until about 10 yards to the center (on the way back, it’s quite a steady hill). Like our tour guide warned us yesterday, “Everywhere in the Holy Land is uphill.”
*I drew a picture in my journal*
These birds are almost larger than the stray cats around here. The markings are black and gray, unlike anything I have ever seen before.
Something about this fence I saw on the way to get Shabot bread caught my attention. While the design was beautiful, it was very simple. The barbed wire (two kinds) was such a contrast to the solid, steady design of the fence. This is a place torn by war.
Saturday, May 1, 1999
Happy May Day.
It’s the first Sabbath here, and the room we use for sacrament is incredible. We are surrounded by windows, looking out at the Old City. Anywhere you look, you can see the Holy Land.
I just got set apart as the teacher for the Jerusalem 1st branch of Israel’s Relief Society. In the blessing, I was told several things that have given me much to think about. The bishop, whom I’ve never met before, said that I am thought of fondly by the people in the program, and the sisters I teach look to me; but also that Christ thinks tenderly (no, “tender feelings,” is what he said) for me. That I have come down a difficult and complicated path to be where I am now, and to have patience for the Lord to complete the flower that I will be. It was very poetic, and very visual for me. He said that, through all these things, I would be prepared to walk a path I would not imagine in my future. There was a warning to not rush into things the world would have me do, and I can only assume that referred to my goal of kissing someone on the pyramids; I really don’t know.
As I have been considering the meanings of this particular blessing, I have become aware of the pressures that surround me to “get” a boyfriend and to “move on” quickly with my education and career, including my most recent idea of being a flight attendant. Perhaps I should invest myself in the causes I have been so dedicated to these last few years. I already know that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. To put aside my passion for this kind of work, which would inevitably strengthen women everywhere and bring comfort and peace to those who feel empty within, in order to get a job doing cool stuff and making money do not seem equal to each other in value; nor does the latter inspire me to become the kind of person I want to become.
It is the warning and the whole “unknown future” thing which makes me uneasy- an unprepared feeling seems to hover over me, and I hate being unprepared. Somehow, I know that my not serving a mission has something to do with this. Once again, He will teach me patience, to put aside my own ideas and plans and be worthy to carry out His. I only wish I knew how exactly I am supposed to prepare for this. And what could be the “cares of the world” to disregard? Very few things actually influence me that are modern or popular, so who is it I may be trying to please before the Lord? I was blessed to “Remember my reasons” I came to the Holy Land. Those reasons were to draw closer to Heavenly Father and understanding His will in order to be more like Him and to DO His will. Also, it is incredibly important that I learn more of Christ’s life; as my Savior, whom I love, I want to understand and feel His Spirit in the way which He would have me do. That is what is important to me. Now and Forever.
Another thing I loved was that it said, in the very start, that I love Jesus Christ, and He knows it. Right after my comments on Peter in John 21 (“Feed my sheep”). He knows me. I have no doubts about that. He has a plan for me. I only hope I am living worthy of it.
May 3, 1999
At the High Place of Gibeon, the Temple of Samual, called Nebi Samwill, a minaret and moesk. The feeling of reverence as I followed the steps down to the coffin erected as a monument to Samual was very touching. As I saw these women (women and men are on separate sides of the monument) I saw prayers written in Hebrew, stuffed into a plastic case overlaying the coffin/monument. I thought, “What could the prayers possibly be?” The answers came. Health. Sicknesses. Mothers for their children, help in their lives… I prayed with them.
The photo of me and the soldiers: she was only 19. Her commanding officer was 20. They wanted to listen to my headphones.
“Thank you, Elisha,” for healing the bitter waters and making them clean.
May 5, 1999
One prayer here is worth 1,000 prayers anywhere else. Inside, you see about a dozen women, clad in white shawls or veils. As they kneel to touch their foreheads to the red carpet to pray, I feel somewhat that I have invaded their space. Like I am seeing something so incredibly personal, that I am not worthy to be here with them.
Neil Armstrong felt that it was more important to be standing here, where Christ stood, than to have ever stood on the moon. Hulda Gate (one of the double gates). John 9:11- Where Christ heals the blind man. Miracles are conceived in the womb of faith, and born by obedience.
A House in the time of the Herodian period, set on fire and burned, is something which makes me realize the magnitude of Christ’s prophecies. With a wall constructed out of stones the length of my arm and as high as my knee, built atop intricate floors of mosaic designs of flowers and geometric patterns (using tiles not larger than my pinky-nail); it is easy to understand the reactions of people who lived in such homes to Christ’s prophecy of rebuilding the temple in 3 days.
May 8, 1999
It is Sabbath so quickly here. Finals are only just this next Friday, and I still haven’t opened a book. Still, like the man who fills his pockets with rocks, only to find in the morning they are jewels, I feel that this short week has gone by with many, many opportunities to collect these precious stones. Studying can wait this time around.
Today, Melissa Packer, Judy Paxman and I walked down to Gethsemene. It is cooler today, with a good breeze that lifts the heavy smell of roses through The Garden. Everywhere you walk is made of stone. Stone slabs line the entire exterior of The Garden, and beside the rosebeds is a large, hollow, stone Cathedral. Inside is The Rock where Christ is believed to have bled from every pore. It is not at all what I imagined. It is low, almost level with the floor, and the Crusaders (of the 12th Century?) have built a podium above it. While this is possibly the prettiest Cathedral I’ve seen, it is empty . “Simple,” Mary called it, but it is more than a physically open room, the entire structure is built upon the rock with represents Christ’s ultimate time of loneliness and suffering. It saddens me that the tourists snapping pictures do not understand. The podium was probably a symbolic effort to incorporate remembering Christ’s pain during sermons, but what it does not do is show the joy and the purpose of His suffering.
I feel so thankful to know of the Truth . To know that Christ has given His life in order to bring an eternal life to all men living now and in the past, and in the future. Outside the Cathedral, in the flowers and “silent witnesses” (olive trees), I feel a peace of knowing that Christ’s pain was not for nothing. That He lives on and has atoned for the many sins of this world. I am so lucky to have that reassurance and knowledge of a living God. I wish these people would understand.
May 8, 1999
“I feel so glad we don’t have veils on.”-Mary Udall, on trying to recognize people by the photo directory.