Yesterday I finally went against my studious nature and decided to forgo homework in favor of a brief excursion into the city. I went with about ten to twelve students, and we headed out at about 3:30 (we are not permitted into the city until then on Fridays since it is a day of worship for the Muslims, which sometimes makes the city a little crazy). We had inteded to go to the money changers to stock up on some shekels only to remember at the top of Saladin street that they are closed on Fridays. Instead we took a sharp left and entered the Old City by way of Herod's Gate. Usually we would go through Damascus Gate, since the main roads to about everything there is to see are down that way, but we wanted to do a little exploring off the beaten track.
We ended up in a quiet residential area, where a kind (or possibly annoyed) Arab pointed us in the direction of the Via Dolorosa, the road tradition holds that Jesus walked on his way to Golgotha. We stopped to study a map while a procession of Christian pilgrims in t-shirts and shorts walked slowly down the way, most holding hands while a select few carried a small-scale replica of the cross on their shoulders. I imagine they were headed for the Holy Seplechure, walking out the way that Jesus walked.
In the end we found our way to the Western Wall. The area in front of the wall is partitioned into men's and women's sides (which Katie and I discovered by trial and error--whoops). The women's side was smaller and very crowded and a little noisy, but also very reverent in its way. Women sat and stood everywhere, some with heads covered and some without, some reading the psalms, some praying, and some chantng hymns in Hebrew. A Bar Mitzvah celebration was going on over the partition on the men's side, which involved some jovial song as a young man of twelve or so was hoisted onto the shoulders of the men and carried while the men danced.
|The Western Wall from a distance--women on the left, men on the right. Does it seem a little disproportionate to you?|
Wow. I guess we have more in common than I thought. Her words gave me hope. I think that when, someday, the gospel finally comes to this land, some of the Jews may find that it fills the hole the destruction of their dear temple left behind. I joined both Jewish and Christian women alike in making my way to the Western Wall to place my hand upon it and bow my head in a few moment's quiet prayer.
We made our away out of the city by the round-a-bout route, which I have decided is the only way to go around here. We took some fun pictures with a bunch of collumns in a sort of exhibit below street level. We walked by tons of shops--including one with backpacks hanging from the ceiling and walls, a spice shop displaying a pyramid of different colored powdered spices topped with a miniature model of the Dome of the Rock, and a candy shop that sported more varieties of gummy candy than I've ever seen in my life (I'll be going back there before too long, I think). Eventually we made it back up the hill to the center, where I gratefully went to the cool of my room to shower and get ready for dinner.
|The Haram Es-shariif a'la curry and cinnamon. Cool, no?|
|The muses hard at work on our next big hit.|
Today was the Sabbath. On Saturday. Yes. And apparently the jet lag finally caught up with our apartment, because we woke up at 8:35--twenty five minutes before choir pratice. Oops. Cue the mad scramble for dresses and makeup and mirror space! Yay! The meeting was neat--we heard testimony from members from Chile, Russia, Honduras, and the USA. I bore mine in Relief Society. I also got a blessing today from the Branch President. I had some pretty bad anxiety attacks yesterday and the day before and wanted some extra help so that they wouldn't get worse or make my trip too miserable. President Schafer talked with me for a while to get to know me and my situation, then proceeded to bless me with God's peace and comfort and healing. I feel much better now. I don't think the anxiety will be as big a problem before. I am so grateful for the leaders in God's church--I know that as long as I am part of this church, I will always have someone to turn to for help and guidance.
I just came away from a delicious fast Sabbath dinner in the Oasis (complete with ice cream) and a very statisfying nap down in the room. It has been a wonderful day.
More soon! Love always! Shalom!