Monday, February 27, 2012

Jacob's Well

           Part of me deeply yearns to literally be that Samaritan woman, to see Jesus face to face. I can’t imagine how beautiful that would be- to meet the one you have heard about and been waiting for, on a day just like any other.
This field study was the most intriguing thus far, predominantly because of the trip to Jacob’s well. I have enjoyed reading the story of the Samaritan women because it distinctly breaks cultural standards and norms that so strongly control human behavior. 
Jacob’s well was my favorite site because it had an old charm to it. Unlike other sites, like the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulchure, this site was preserved and intact. I could actually picture this story taking place around me. I didn’t have to change the scenery to make the story come to life.
The Samaritans were the offspring of the Israelites that stayed after the Assyrian conquest and the people that came to Israel as a result of the conquest. In other words, they were the offspring of the people that stayed and the people that the Assyrians brought in from other nations after 722 BC. These people became know as Samaritans. When the Jews returned to Israel, they distinguished themselves as separate from this mixed race.
The Samaritans believe they are God’s chosen people and believe solely in the Pentateuch (first five books of O.T.). They cling tightly to the verse Deuteronomy 11:29 “When the LORD your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.” They resided in Sychar right next to Mt. Gerazim, located next to Shechem. About a century before this story, the Jews destroyed the Samarian temple. This created an even greater tension between the two groups.
Right off the bat Jesus starts with a metaphor- “living water” (John 4:10). This isn’t just an impressive phrase. “Living water” refers to the fresh and healthy water of flowing springs. Unlike the wells and cisterns of the time, springs were much better. Therefore, “living water” is the perfect term to use. He is being relevant here, and proving who He is. The story starts out very personal. However, the woman quickly changes the topic to politics and religion, something less hurtful to discuss. “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem” (John 4:20). This is expressing the Samaritan worship of Mt. Gerezim and Judaism worship in Jerusalem.
Later in the conversation, she understands that He is the messiah. I cannot get over the awe of the story. The fact that Jesus talked to this hated women, and then used her to reach many of other Samaritans. Like I previously explained, this story has intrigued me for some time. Learning about the background and context shed light to a deeper understanding. Jesus talked to this woman, this prostitute, this “other,” a hated race. Maybe I will meet someone like the Samaritan woman. What am I thinking? I already have. I think it is so interesting how people treat others that are different from them. I wish I could say I am not guilty of this.
How do we translate this love in a simple conversation that represents much more than what was said?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Which Promised Land?

I am beginning to understand the concept of the land that is promised. And I see how “Promised Land” can be a dangerous term to use (it is not literally translated "Promised Land" we have coined this phrase). When I think of “Promised Land” I think of light and fluffy terms- easy, wonderful, milk and honey, right? But, God promised something different. Did God promise suffering?

Suffering? He also obviously promised to take care of the Israelites, but nevertheless, it is like He promised a land in which suffering was inevitable. The land isn’t like fertile Egypt. It goes along with the question of which is a stronger promise, “I promise to give you everything you want” or “I promise to take care of you no matter what.” And I am obviously going to say the latter, although, I must note that this promise is much easier in theory.

As time goes on here, I seem to become numb. Maybe not numb, maybe more like indifferent. I used to be so passionate and excited about everything. This apathy fears me, for I was certain I would become far from indifferent as a result of traveling this land. I am beginning to understand how people can lack a passion for the Bible's truth.

Another rock, another wall, another palace, another place. I guess it’s not that I don’t have passion anymore, it’s that it’s much different than before. I want the reality of these stories to come into my life. I don’t want to just hear about how Joshua led the Israelites into the land God promised, I want to know what this means for me. I want to see God led me to where I am supposed to be. I know I have written about this before, but these thoughts are still here, and even more so currently. Where is the God of Israel? I don’t want just another story.

It’s crazy really, this opportunity to be in Jericho, where Joshua and the Israelites were. It’s crazy to believe that it actually happened there. I thought it would be much easier to believe if I could see it with my own eyes. But I feel like it is too good to be true. I have this beautiful painted picture of a fairy tale story where God uses perfect people, in a perfect land.

It is just regular, regular land, regular people. I am finding I need to adjust all of the pictures I have. It is startling to me that God used everyday people in a land that was not perfect. Isn't it crazy that I feel this way? However, I don't think I am alone on this. When I had heard Bible stories in the past, I found it challenging to understand and relate. In reality, the people were normal; the land is just another part of the world. It’s not perfect in any sense. This is what I can apply to my life. This is the truth I can believe in. I don't want to forget the reality of the stories anymore. 
Bedouin Father and son

Friday, February 17, 2012


Setting: A few friends, a cup of coffee. A short walk off campus, to a cute little German cafe called Dormition Abbey. 

Yesterday I helped out at Domari, a women's center in Shu'fat (East Jerusalem). "The center provides after-school tutoring, job skills training, literacy courses, humanitarian aid, and programs that foster cultural pride. Further, as a part of its mission of women's empowerment, the center produces and sells tradition Gypsy handicrafts, including embroidery, jewelry, pottery, and handbags, to encourage economic independence and improve quality of life."It is run by Amoun, a women very passionate about helping her community.!who-we-are

I have loved my time at Domari.  All the people here are just wonderful! The culture here is big on hospitality, something I will surely miss after I leave. I feel so welcomed here! I stopped by briefly last week to meet some of the community, and returned yesterday. As soon as I walked in I knew it was where I was supposed to be. This place is super crafty, has wonderful tea, awesome women– from all over the world, and little children running around!
I will be going every Thursday afternoon with one of my friends here, Laura. Yesterday we organized a craft cabinet and the display jewelry. Then, I tried to play with a few kids, but it was challenging! They spoke little English, not quite enough to play some games. I have been getting very frustrated with the language barrier. It’s really difficult not being 
able to communicate, I really wish I spoke more than English.

I also ate a delicious lunch while I was there! Amoun and a couple of the other women made something like spaghetti, and some other things on the side. I'm looking forward to cooking wither them in the weeks to come! They also made us Arabic coffee and it was interesting for sure. Very strong, but some sugar and milk did the trick!

Then, I helped Laila (prounced like "lie-la") with her English homework. I was so excited to help! Although it was a little challenging, because I don't know Arabic, I enjoyed helping. She was pretty good at English, and was working on writing about school subjects.F or the most part this week has been good. Still pretty tiring emotionally because as soon as I have processed something new, something else new comes along that challenges something else. But, it is good. It is good that I am constantly learning. It has  been great to get off campus and fit into another community. I am looking forward to going back each week! And hopefully I will be able to learn some Arabic!

For the most part this week has been good. Still pretty tiring emotionally because as soon as I have processed something new, something else new comes along that challenges something else. But, it is good. It is good that I am constantly learning.

Oh, and before I forget to say this- I am safe. If you are worrying, please do not worry. The media completely distorts what is actually going on here. The whole thing with Iran has been blown up far too much. I have talked with the President of the university and he ensured me of my safety. It sounds harsh, but America is quick to point the finger to other people in other places. Maybe if we focused on our own problems, we could make better change in our nation. And anyway, if Iran does have a nuclear bomb who is safe anyway?

Thank you again for the prayers. I am so grateful for all of the support, and it is good to know I have so many people supporting my time here. I have found a good niche of friends, and it has been such a blessing! It is always difficult to fit into a new community, but I feel really settled in now! 

Fun Facts:
  • Movie theaters in Israel have half time! Best thing ever, you don't need to miss the movie to get refills! Win!
  • Although the original purpose for the Dome of the Rock will never be completely certain, it was most likely built to compete with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The tradition believing it was the location of Muhammad's ascension did not begin until hundreds of years after built. 
  • In the mocha coffee here they put milk chocolate at the bottom, not the cheap fudge we use. Win!
* I posted pictures from the field study to the Inn of the Good Samaritan on Facebook. 
The campus gardens! I love to journal out here. 
Kumquats in the campus gardens!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Jesus, born in a cave?

Saturday: Field study to Bethlehem, Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, Herodian.  
Sunday: Hiking in En Gedi. (Near the Dead Sea)
Monday: Field Study at the Inn of the Good Samaritan 

Whoa! I am overwhelmed. These past few days have been packed! It has been a challenge to process all the new information. I am struggling to do more than just memorize facts. I feel as though my mind is a filing cabinet, when instead I want depth. I want to apply what I am learning. I want it to impact the way I live. Please pray I would be able to take time to truly understand everything new.

I  traveled the surrounding areas of Jerusalem on Friday. I am continuing to learn more about the Psalms and am realizing the Psalms are not just figurative. They have definite literal meanings. Psalm 23:4 reads “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (NIV).” Whenever I have sung this phrase in worship I assumed it was symbolic, and had never thought about a literal meaning! I was amazed to learn that when David wrote this he was thinking about the difficult life of shepherding in the dry wilderness. I can’t imagine how unpredictable a life like that would be. 

We also took a hike up the mountain Herod built. Herod took the top of a nearby mountain and put it on another mountain! Not only did Herod build a mountain and a palace on the mountain, he also extremely expanded the Second Temple. My mind cannot grasp how Herod did all of these amazing things, especially over two thousand years ago! The story of Herod wanting to kill Jesus becomes even more powerful after learning what he was capable of. 

I have heard the story of Jesus’ birth my entire life; “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger (Luke 2:12 NIV). I am not sure why we translate the place as a "manger," or "stable," when Jesus was likely born in a cave. At the time of his birth, people used caves as shelter. When I first heard this I was blown away. My picture of the Christmas story turned upside down. 

I wonder about this image we have. I question why American’s have this ideal, beautiful picture of a clean, lovely manger, as the setting of the Messiah’s birth. The more I think about it, the more emotion I feel towards the whole idea. Part of me wants to laugh, but these comical emotions are overcome by a hunger for people to distinguish the reality of the story. It is not just that we have messed up the setting. It is that we have messed up the message. Jesus was not about the perfect scene that Americans idealize. The theme throughout scripture proves His use of the weak to overcome the strong. I want this point to become real. I want us to really understand what this means. 

Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene 
(Near the Garden of Gethsemane)
In the winter David would take his flock of sheep into the wilderness
(the mountains in the distance)
Herod's foot washing station in the remains of his palace.
The Church of the Nativity (565 AD)
The doorway of the Church of the Nativity
(place of Jesus' birth). The door was shortened because people
were steeling gold and gems from the church decorations. 
Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity
The star marks the (supposed) place of Jesus' birth
Memorial over the star. 
For all you coffee lovers!
Hiking along the wadi (river bed)


The Mountain we hiked up (the taller one)! 
We hiked along the Wadi, then cut across to the mountain, 
hiked along the top, and then down the other side. 
*I will put up pictures from the field study on the Good Samaritan soon! 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Everything. All at once.

I want to remember that moment.                                                                                                                                     
The weeping in the distance, the soft breathing next to me, the turning of a page, the low murmur of prayers. The tambourines shaking, banging drums, Hebrew songs, speaking- in all different languages. Shouts of joy. The passion in their eyes, with tears streaming down their faces, the sunlight on my shoulders. Everything.  All at once. 

I deeply wish I could better express all I have seen and felt this morning. Earlier today I walked to the Western Wall. The only wall left of the Second Temple, this spot marks both joy and sorrow. Jews go to pray and place written prayers in the cracks of this crumbling wall. Today there were many Bar Mitzvah's taking place. These festivals are so beautiful. People are weeping around me, while, just a few feet over, on the men's side of the wall, they exuberantly celebrate the coming of age. 

I was nervous to walk up to the wall, the women's side is much more crowded. So I waited. A spot opened up. I remember closing my eyes and just listening. The beauty I found there is indescribable. The people praying were astoundingly dedicated, I wish I could find that more often. They wept for the ruined temple. They prayed, with passion. It was awe inspiring. Encouraging. Reassuring. 

The Bar Mitzvah celebrations had so much life. I want to bring that joyfulness back with me. The life those people had as they watched boys becoming men. The delight in their eyes.  These here, are beautiful, there is no other word that better describes them. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Undertaking

It is a cloudy Tuesday afternoon here in Jerusalem, I'm sitting in the library after doing some reading about Islam, and I can't help thinking to myself: "Clara, what are you doing here?" It really is crazy. And, I really do not know the answer. I thought I did. I thought it would be pretty basic, you know- walk where Jesus walked. Or, once you see the Holy land, you will certainly just understand what you have read about for so long. It will finally make sense! It will be so much easier to believe. Right?

What? I would like to say these things are naive, but wouldn't you think the same? Wouldn't you want the reality of your beliefs to encompass you, the moment you saw where it all took place?

I've realized I have made assumptions that are incorrect. I'm starting over on this, this journey? Well, I guess you could call it that, but it sounds pretty cliche to me. How about undertaking? Undertaketo take in charge; assume the duty of attending to; to promise, agree, or obligate oneself.
I don't know what I am doing here, but I am ready to find out. I promise to discover the real reason. 

Although things are a bit crazy, I am very happy to say that I feel more settled in. Jet lag has finally worn off, I have made some awesome friends, I'm used to the Middle Eastern food and am excited to call this place home for the next 3 months. AND I know where to get some quality ice cream. Check! Good to know I have the basics down. 

On Sunday I went on the second field study. This study was on Biblical Jerusalem. It is difficult to process all I have learned because we went to so many places! I would like to share my new insight on the topography of the land. Learning about this especially is changing the way I read scripture. Here is a reflection:

 "I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2

Israel has so many hills!! I would actually say they are more like in-between hills and mountains. They are definitely bigger than hills, but not quite how you would picture a mountain. I had always thought this Psalm was an analogy comparing the strength of God to that of a hill or mountain.  I was able to stand where this Psalmist wrote this. In those times the hills made the city very vulnerable for attack. The writer was actually expressing fear- the city could be attacked easily because the enemies could come from the hills, down to the city. But the writer pauses. I could be scared, it would be easy for the enemies to overtake me. They have the advantage and I'm surrounded. But, my help does not come from outward, it comes from the Lord. The beauty of the Psalm finally came alive to me. Maybe you have heard of the song "Praise you in the Storm" by Casting Crowns  This song contains these verses. 

 "As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore." Psalm 125:2 

This later verse uses a similar analogy as the former verses, but this one holds a different meaning. The writer compares the all encompassing hills around the city to how God surrounds His people. When I was standing there, I looked all around, hills-everwhere. You couldn't see beyond. That is how the Lord surrounds His people. 

I’m struggling to continually apply this new knowledge. Some of it is easy- like with these Psalms, some is challenging. And to be quite honest, I’m scared. I wonder how this will change the way my faith is and the way I live life. I question how I will tell others of all I have seen and learned in a way that actually makes sense. I see hours and days spent to relearn what I thought I knew. But, most of all I question how Jesus walked these everyday paths and taught at those temple steps. Picturing Jesus, both God and man, right there, in someone’s town, now that is radical. 

Remains-thought to be of David's palace
City of David. (Modern, Ancient) 

Another wall from the Second Temple. The stones on the bottom are original, the middle and top stones are newer. This is the case with the steps as well. It's very likely Jesus and Paul taught here.  

Remains of the Second Temple(Another Western Wall!)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Shabbat Shalom

Hey Everyone! Shabbat Shalom! -“Peaceful Sabath.” Today is Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath which technically starts from sundown on Friday, and goes until sundown on Saturday. This day is a time of rest and fellowship. We have a special dinner each Friday night to celebrate. Yesterday was the first! Before dinner we played Ultimate Frisbee in hell!! Ahh just kidding- it was in the Gehena Valley (compared to hell in the New Testament). After, we dressed up and celebrated the special occasion.

On Thursday night I was given the opportunity to help out at a youth group in Bethlehem. It was amazing! The city is fifteen minutes from campus and in Palestinian territory called the West Bank. A couple of us took an Arab bus to the gate of Bethlehem. The city is completely surrounded by a wall to separate the Israeli and Palestinian territories. This holy city of Jesus' birth did not look anything like I pictured, or the fancy pictures you see in church. It took at least five minutes to walk through the security gate. And once inside, I felt was anxious, especially since it was in the evening hours. I will put up pictures of Bethlehem soon. 

Once we got to this cute little hole in the wall cafe, which hosts the youth group, I was so pumped. The students are from a Christian school in Beit Jala. About fifty students were there.  Here's the deal- I talked to one of the leaders the night before and she asked if I knew any crazy, silly games to open the night. And me- with my Camp Orchard Hill, camp counselor experience- was like "Of course I know some games!" I told her the classic Oreo on the face game (you break an Oreo cookie in half, lick the cream, stick it on your forehead and then use your face muscles to bring it down to your mouth). 

When I got there she asked me if I wanted to lead it! I was so excited, but also a bit nervous! Turned out to be absolutely hilarious! I will try to get some of the pictures! After the four students couldn't successfully eat the oreo's, she asked me if it was possible. THEN, I demonstrated it! Overall, I think it went very well! First time I have ever lead something like that! And, I think it was a good way for students to get to know me! The rest of the night was awesome- worship, then a message (like a typical American yg). I loved hanging with the students and cannot wait to start helping out each week. I got to talk to some of them and they are like the best teenagers ever! I'm really glad I will be working with teenagers here. I feel so alive when I am investing in the lives around me.  

Today a few of us walked the Ramparts walk. This walk goes along the large wall around the Old City of Jerusalem.

After, we stopped by Shaban's shop!! He is THE coolest shop owner in the entire Old City. The college knows him well. Whenever we come, he gets us something to drink and sometimes gives us yummy pita bread with hummus (way way better than sodexo hummus!) And, best of all he is very honest about pricing, which is virtually unheard of here. Most places charge very high with the intention of haggling down to a more reasonable price. 

A few hours ago I bought a Byzantine (330-1453 A.D.) coin from Shaban. I bought it to remember the concept of time I have come to understand thus far. I have found it challenging to understand time in America- our government history is indeed only several hundred years. But in Jerusalem, history dates back to B.C. I'm learning about and seeing real, ancient history. And it makes me think about my time. What, at most 100 years? I want to rewind and even pause. But, God blesses time and calls it holy (Genesis 2:3). And, he is the author of it. In this, I find immense comfort. In the end, I don't control time. But, it is still difficult. I have certainly thought about history before, and how the world has been around for at least thousands of years. It is unnerving to think about, but necessary. I think we are able to grasp a better understanding of this world and ourselves. What do I have but a breath? And what should I do in this time that will actually mean something?