Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Classes begin!

Today was my second day of classes! 
Physical Settings of the Bible
Cultural Backgrounds of the Bible
History of Israel in the Second Temple Period
The Parables of Jesus and Rabbinic Meshalim 
Introduction to Islamic Thought and Practice

MY ADDRESS!!!! I would love to get letters or care packages :)

Clara Ryan
#3 Aravnah HaYevusi
Hebron Road,
P.O. Box 1276, Mt. Zion

91012 Jerusalem, Israel

Fun Facts:

  • In biblical times, from around 1250 BCE to 587 BCE, humans reasoned in circular patterns, like rolling up a ball of yarn. Linear, or logic problem solving was unknown in ancient Near East. 
  • Hunting stimulated physical developments like upright posture, which freed the hands for toolmaking and led to the expansion of the brain. Human hunters developed improved functional traits like the ability to solve problems. 
  • There is not year "0"  (zero). I know crazy!  1 BC skips to 1 AD. "AD" actually means "anno Domini - "in the year of the Lord." Not "after death!"
  • "Beth" means "house of." This word was very commonly used in town names. For example, "Bethlehem" means "house of bread." John 6:35 (bread of life, coincidence?)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Really Holy?

          Church of the Holy Sepulchure                        
Yesterday we had a field study in the Old City. We took our books and maps directly to our location of study. All of my classes have field studies, this was the first! I do not know how I imagined the city to appear, but it was certainly not what I saw. I know it is utterly unrealistic, but I hoped to see the old Jerusalem, the exact Jerusalem Jesus walked, the Jerusalem I read about. I did not expect to see the vast amount of vendors in every direction, or the four distinct, drastically different quarters. The unspoken, yet, extremely evident tension of the divergent ways of life. The way these groups interact is difficult to put to words.
For example, how Muslims own the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the supposed place of Jesus’ burial. Or, how the location of the Dome of the Rock is held sacred by Muslims as the location of Muhammad’s ascension, and also the location of the original temple. Also, the location of Mt. Zion is moved! That amazed me; I cannot believe they titled a different mountain with this significant name!                                                  Jesus' tomb
The way men looked at me, and other women, produced an anger underwritten by a deep hurt and yearning for comfort. I intended the gender roles to be different, however, I did not realize the radical extent of this. Everywhere I went men starred, head up, eyes peeled. I soon realized this anger I felt was really a hunger for virtue. I want to be beautiful of course, but they are taking this beauty and corrupting it.                                                                                
My spiritual experience likewise strayed from my intents. I figured once I arrived in Jerusalem I would obviously have Eureka moment. I imagined once I stepped foot on the Holy Land I would instantly have a stronger, unbreakable faith. I was certain seeing the place of Jesus’ burial would immediately change me. And surely, if these places did little for me, walking on the Via Del Rosa, where Jesus carried the cross, would humble me and convict me to no end. In reality, I felt an enormous tension.                                                       

                                                         The Stone were He was laid and anointed after crucified 
I remember hearing someone say it would be easier to live when Jesus was alive. I cannot help but argue with this statement. In fact I do not even know if I would believe in Jesus if I were alive when He was. Walking these streets and imagining what it would be like is crazy. It is easier to think of the Holy land as a place far off, in the distance. I expected walking here to immediately strengthen the truth I believe. Instead, I simply have more questions. In the end, the Holy land is just another land. Yes, God blessed it, and worked through it. But still, it is just a land; it in itself cannot produce change. Touring through the Old City opened my eyes to this obvious, yet imperative fact.                            
                                                                             Western/Wailing Wall and Dome of the Rock
            It is even difficult to find a starting point. The city is a tel. Rich with ancient history, yet flourishing with modern-day life. Do I start with the past and move forward? Do I start where we are now and move back? I just want to know what it was like back then, I want to see it with my own eyes. But would that truly help? Is that really what I want, or do I really hunger for certainty which seeing will never fully bring.

Thank you so much for praying, I really need it, especially as I am fully beginning this journey. Please pray I would learn what God has for me and be fully focused on where I am.   Mark 9:24                                                     
                                                                                            Aubrey and I outside of Christ Church 
(the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jerusalem revealed.

Today was beautiful! It is winter until March, so it is a bit chilly with light rain. The day was filled with orientation activities; we learned the logistics of everything, safety, registration, etc. It started with a scavenger hunt in the Old City.  Jerusalem is split up into the Old City and New City. The Old City is divided into four sections, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian. (And they are very distinctive!) All of the streets are small, in-between buildings and bustling. The new city feels westernized, while the old city is rich with culture and diversity. I found the scavenger hunt to be a good introduction, but the streets are very confusing because they are extremely crowded and compacted! 
The Hurva Synagogue

I am living in a treehouse! Not really, but that is what they call it. It is very high up, but the trade off is and extraordinary view. My roommates are awesome, and the room is quite cozy. 
That's my room, all they way at the top                   Court Yard Outside of the dorms

View from the roof

Tea. It reminded me of bubble tea from back home,
except the tapioca like texture was blended all the way 
through creating and very interesting..thick flavor. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

First Impressions

I have arrived safely! The flight went well. I was seated next to a young woman named Tiva. We had really great conversations the entire time and she taught me about Israel! She is an atheist and I found it interesting to understand her beliefs, as well as share my own. I had hoped I would be seated next to someone who would give me insight, and she did just that. She grew up in Israel as a Jew and has lived in the USA the past seven years! (She also has a baby, just when I thought I was done babysitting!)

There was an immediate culture shift from the get go. A great majority of the plane was filled with Orthodox Jews. Besides take off and landing, there was literally never a moment when there wasn't a Jew up front praying. They would face a corner or wall and read parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. The best way to explain their attire is to compare it to that of the Amish. At times there were so many that they would block the aisles! I was so eager to see their practices, because I had never witnessed such acts!

After arriving in Tel Aviv I met up with other students and rode to the University. Tel Aviv is very westernized, like a mini NYC. (They even call it the city that never sleeps!) As we entered Jerusalem I began to see more of the Israel I expected. I was incredibly excited the whole drive! We arrived at the University, and what a beautiful view! The college is set on a hill, and has an amazing overlook. The pictures don't do justice to the beautiful campus and view. I will add more pictures soon! Thanks so much for the prayers. I am quite exhausted from flying and jet lag. Looking forward to getting a good night sleep!

Emma's letter :) such an encouragement!

The Sherut

Part of campus

                                                              View of Jerusalem from campus

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Start.

Hey everyone! Before I say anything about leaving, I first want to thank everyone who has supported me with my travels! As most of you know, these past four months have been an amazing journey. I am incredibly grateful for those who have guided me along the way spiritually and financially. This semester abroad would certainly not be possible without an awesome support system (especially the Eastern community)! Thank you. I appreciate you all so much!

In two days I will be flying across the world to THE Holy Land. I am pumped and excited and ready. My flight leaves out of Newark, NJ at 3:52 on Thursday (1/26) and I arrive at 9:40 AM (1/27) In Tel Aviv. I am getting a little anxious about the flight, so please pray it would go smoothly. The time difference is 8 hours ahead, so it will definitely take some getting used to! From there, I meet up with some students and we will take a sherut (taxi) to the beautiful Jerusalem University College.

I am excited to keep this blog and share what I will be learning. Not only do I want to keep everyone updated, I also hope to educate readers about the culture, geography, and history of Israel. This is the best way to stay posted, as I will not be using Facebook on a regular basis. I am ready for this semester and cannot wait to see what God has for me. Thank you for the prayers, I feel so encouraged! I will send updates after I arrive!

Oh, and a little music to set the tone :)