Friday, April 27, 2012

a day-cation

Vadim's parents have come into town so we decided to take a vacation to the "mineral beach" on the Dead Sea for the day, making it a day-cation! And oh, was it a wonderful day!

I realized that the Dead Sea is a beach bums haven. Why you may ask? Oh, I'll gladly share. The weather is perfect there, it barely ever rains and it stays warm not just dry. Also, the water is cold enough to cool you down but warm enough to make you stay in and soak. The best part though is that it is effortless, you simply float atop of the water and enjoy the feel of it all. Even though the water dehydrates you like crazy (it consists of 33% salt, compared to the ocean which is like 5%), I couldn't stay away. Also, the sea is DEAD. You don't have to worry about creepy, slimy things invading your space. You can simply relax.
Apart from the beach bum in me who was entranced, the girl in me indulged in the mineral mud. Such a great day with the husband and parents. 

With parents being here, we have quite the itinerary planned for the next two weeks before we head home. We plan to visit Haifa (it has some sort of hanging gardens?) the Mediterranean Sea, Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Tiberias, Tel-Aviv, maybe the Dead Sea again (fingers crossed). But one that I am most happy to announce is that we are going to Egypt! We didn't think we would pull it off, but we are! Well, that is if we can cross the border, there seem to be issues with that. Nonetheless, we are going. We plan to stay by the Red Sea and hope to make it into Cairo to see some sort of pyramids.. Oh, the fun that awaits!

 Isn't this the best place to study? I think so!
 The mud is stored in these big jugs
The husband had no desire to partake in the bathing of mud, so I doubled the dose on myself.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

jordan: petra

We had the opportunity to visit the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, aka, country of Jordan. Did you know that it was a "kingdom?" -I sure didn't until we came here. 
The four days that we were in Jordan, we pretty much traveled the entire country. But the highlight of the trip was our visit to Petra. 

Petra is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. And let me tell you, it sure is a must see! Some of you might recognize it from the Indiana Jones movie, but it's much more than that. The city has been around since the 6th century BC and was a center for the Nabataeans and their trade routes. They would have camel caravans loaded with spices and other native goods ready to be traded and sold. Later the city was influenced by the Romans and their Hellinistic ways, you can see the footprint of that in the detail of the architecture in Petra. What I mean by architecture is that, the city has these massive and elaborate carvings of castle-like structures imbedded into the mountain sides. The mountains themselves are compiled of beautiful colorful striations of purples, browns, yellows and reds. It is really a beautiful and raw place to visit.

The site is also very big. The five hours we had to spend there were simply not enough. Let me explain it this way, after you get your ticket and walk through the canyons, which by the way is the only way in and out, it will take you roughly 45-minutes to get to the beginning of Petra which is the site of the "Treasury."  From the Treasury to the Monastery (which is a must see!) it is about a two hour hike up the mountain. And all this is just a fraction of Petra. 

The "Treasury" -which is most associated with Petra.

Half of a carved out camel caravan. Before the city was excavated, red sand filled the canyons to about the top of Vadim's head. Everything that was covered with the sand was preserved and is seen below.


 Inside one of the carved out structures, the colors are so amazing!

The Monastary

Monday, April 16, 2012

holy week

This year was the best Holy Week and Easter of my entire life. One can not be in the same city where Jesus suffered, died and rose again, and not be moved. Now I am not referring to some momentary inflated feelings, but more about the deeper understanding of the words and places of the Bible as they become tangible. Where the words that you have read most of your life, come off the pages and reveal themselves in real life.

We had the opportunity to walk down the Mount of Olives on Palm Sunday with thousands of other believers. We were able to retrace Jesus' triumphal entry where He entered Jerusalem and people lined the streets with palm branches and garments shouting, "Hosanna (meaning, 'save now') in the highest." Riding on a donkey, that day Jesus fulfilled the prophesy of Zechariah 9:9: 
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king coming unto you; righteous and having salvation is he; humble and riding upon a donkey, even upon a colt, the foal of a donkey."

People of different ages, tongues, nations, denominations, and churches marched down the Mt. of Olives. Some were reading, others walking in silence, and yet others were singing and dancing.

We joined this very festive, Spanish, singing group all the way down to the end of the "march." It must have taken us at least an hour and a half to get down the mountain, by that time we had learned three songs in Spanish. It was amazing to be united with other believers and worship the same God, even though having never met nor knowing each others language. 

The following Friday we went to a triclinium dinner. It was hosted by one of the classes from our college in Jerusalem. A triclinium dinner is a Roman style of dining where the tables are in a U-shape, they are set low and everyone at the table lies during the meal. This is the type of dinner that Jesus and His disciples had during the last supper. Luke 22:14 "When the hour came, Jesus and His disciples reclined at the table." 
Vadim gets a foot wash by one of the host's "servants" before the meal because in ancient times this was a sign of hospitality since people back then traveled on dusty roads and a foot wash was highly desirable before a meal.  

Typically there wouldn't be people sitting on the inside of the "U," but only on the outside because the inside served as an access to the table for the servants. 
We had a great meal using bread as our spoon/fork, just like it was done in ancient times. 

Dr. Wright gave us a little more information after the meal about the significance of where people sat at the table, where Jesus and His disciples sat, His last hours, and much more. Amazing information! If anyone is interested to learn more, please feel free to email me.

As a child I remember waking up at the crack of dawn on Easter morning in order to make it to the sunrise service in church. I loved doing that and this year I remembered just how much I miss it.
On Easter Vadim and I awoke during the night in order to make it to the "Garden Tomb" for the sunrise service. Once there, we could barely find a place to sit due to hundreds of people already present in the garden. It was an amazing service and worship with believers from all over the world.  Verses like, "Glorious, He stands above the rulers of the earth" and "The greatest day in history, death is beaten. You have rescued me. Sing it out Jesus is alive. The empty cross, the empty grave. Life eternal, you have won the day. Shout it out, 'Jesus is alive, He's alive.'" were sung in the middle of Jerusalem, a city where Islam and Judaism reigns. Words can not express the awe one feels during such a service in such a place. 

I should mention that it is not 100% known which garden and which tomb Jesus was in. So this particular garden could possibly not be the tomb where Jesus was laid. But I guess that doesn't matter too much since it's not the place that we worship nor consider holy but it is Jesus who is holy and what He did through the grave is what we worship.