Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Orson Hyde Park and the Garden of Gethsemane

The architecture at this center is phenomenal. I decided to try my hand at a few family pictures. Tami Webb and John Merrell - where are you?

These are olive trees in the area where Christ suffered.

Its Adam in the Garden of Eden... Oh, I mean its SuperSam in the Garden of Orson Hyde Memorial taking some personal time.
Sunset on our walk...
In the Orson Hydge Memorial Garden on our way to the Olive Garden.

And we made it home just in time to take a picture from our room... out on the patio. This is what we wake up to and go to sleep with every morning and night.

December 23: Masada, Dead Sea, Ein Gev and Dead Sea Scrolls

Yes! Can you believe it? This is what we crammed into one day last week:

First, we took a cable car up to this flat Mesa where Masada is. For anyone that doesn't know, Masada is your typical death camp back in the days of Herod. King Herod built this impenetrable fortress against the Romans. 80 years after Christ's death, a group of religious Jews came to protect themselves against the onslaught of the Roman's. It worked pretty well because NO ONE could get up to the top without being knocked down. But the Romans figured if they used Jewish slaves to build a ramp up to the top, the Jews on top wouldn't kill the slaves. So instead, the up-top Jewish clan drew lots and one by one murdered each other rather than have the Romans get their way. Lovely little story that seems to be every Hebrew child's early-on education.

King Herod's Palace Room.

Kimberly, you absolutely would have died. The railings were treacherous and painfully easy for little bodies to slip through the bottoms and down the drop to their death. Definitely not crib safe.

Next, we cooled off by floating in the nearby Dead Sea:There is so much salt that no one can sink. Its 30% salt as opposed to the ocean which is 7%.
With all of that salt, you can imagine what little bodies think when their heads accidentally end up in the water. Needless to say, Sam was done with the Dead Sea before I even had a chance to get in.
Swimming in the Dead Sea doesn't feel too great when you get out. So Kent took us to Ein Gedi -- a desert oasis in a canyon -- where King David is said to have fled from King Saul. There was wildlife everywhere and a nice, muddy, freezing, natural spring (complete with crabs) that we were desperate enough to all jump into and rinse off.

Las but not least, we stopped at the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found:In this cave, scrolls were found that are linked to Moses in the Pearl of Great Price.

and that was our day!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Day

Well, Santa found the kids all the way in Jerusalem. He brought their big presents in AZ and then stuffed their stockings here. They were so thrilled! I've decided Santa needs to only stuff stockings from now on because of how excited the kids were.

After the Christmas Festivities, we went to Jericho and saw where Joshua led his army around the city of Jericho for 7 days and caused the walls to tumble down. The remains are still visible today.

This is what Sam thought about Jericho.

He perked up, though, when we went to "Banana Land." Also in Jericho.

Christmas Eve

The days are flying by and I can't believe we are already more than halfway done! On Christmas Eve, we went and visited Lazarus' Tomb. We then went into Jerusalem and visited some of Kent and Gayle's old friends. Followed by some falafels and schwarma's for lunch and then we walked home. As soon as we returned home, we got ready to drive out to Sheperd's Field to sing Christmas Carols with the branch here in Jerusalem. We watched the sun set and then saw the only star that night rest directly above the church that celebrates the Savior's birth in Bethlehem. Scott thinks its hilarious to snap a picture of me every time I am awkwardly trying to "discreetly" nurse the baby in public. I will be off on my own trying not to attract attention when I hear a snap and a blinding flash of light and there is Scott laughing his head off. Here I am falling victim to his great joke.
Following the songs, we drove into the King David District (the Scottsdale of Arizona) because Kent and Gayle had been invited to participate in a televised Christmas Program. It was a beautiful musical program that all of my kids' and the Clegg kids' bailed out on halfway through (It was over around 9:00 p.m.). It was a very long and unusual Christmas Eve but the kids were fantastic.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


OK, Ali, this one is for you since I know you have been checking the blog. Aren't these shoes adorable? I decided to take your advice and "assemble" an outfit for the shoes you made her. I packed up her shoes (still in their packaging, of course, because I couldn't bear to unwrap the presentation) and when I reluctantly pulled them out of the bag, I discovered they were still too big for her. I was so mad at myself because I knew I would never be able to make the ornamentation look the way you have and hence no longer be able to have it on display in her room. Oh well. I guess I will need you to come and reconstruct everything! She's obviously still fantastically adorable and I couldn't resist adding this picture too:

Wow! I have five minutes to try and tackle two huge days of things. I will only start on one day. Bethlehem. We went yesterday. We had to rent a bus and a driver because we were not aloud to go into the city without a resident of the city. The city is about 15 minutes from where we are but its all part of the difficult social division between the Arabs and the Israeli's. The Israeli's have put up a 30 foot separation wall that spreads for miles and prohibits all Arabs from entering Israel. The unemployment rate is 30% in Bethlehem. I saw many groups of men just standing around and wondered how they were taking care of their families. Most of these unemployed people worked in Jerusalem until the separation wall came up. The wall is heavily policed and we had to bring our passports to prove our citizenship coming in and out of the city.

As we began walking into the city, we went through an arched pathway. My father-in-law explained to us that this was the entryway into Bethlehem that Joseph and Mary would have gone through to get into the city. Wow! I was standing right where they had been two thousand years ago. I couldn't believe we were in the same place and words can't express the feeling in my heart as I looked at that archway and thought about a young, probably frightened, young woman about to give birth to her first child - alone, away from the comfort of home and loved ones. Only with her fiancee' to help her through this difficult time. I'm sure Mary came to love, trust and rely on Joseph deeply during this brief and holy period.

When we got into the city, it was pure craziness and mayhem. Here is a picture of us struggling to get through the markets without losing our children:
And actually, we stuck out so much it wasn't too hard. People would come up to touch Cassidy's blonde hair. Can you believe cars were coming in between all of this? They would honk and we would have to shimmy up to the sides of the shops to let the cars through. I wouldn't let go of Sam's hand and he wasn't too happy about that.

Here is Julianne asking for a hamburger.

Freshly squeezed OJ! Brandon, is your mouth watering?

After we got through the marketplace, it cleared into a plaza with a church. The church is traditionally standing where the Savior was born.

Traditionally, his actual birthplace.

After this sacred experience, Kent and Gayle took us to a Tent for some authentic Palestinian Dinner. The food was delicious and the ambience was amazing. We literally dined in a tent, over Persian Rugs, with Christmas music! It was fun and we were very spoiled.

OK, friends, its getting late and I have only written about 1/5 about what is on my mind from that day. Mostly, my testimony is growing. My gratitude for the Savior is deepening as I catch a glimpse of the world and customs He grew up in. I am also so grateful for his mother and the man who raised him, Joseph. They are such examples of faith and loving parenthood to me.

Tomorrow night (Christmas Eve) we will spend the evening at Sheperd's Field near Bethlehem singing hymns. Merry Christmas! Thanks for your comments - its fun to be hearing from all of you. And since I am incompetant, will you all please resend me invites to your private blogs? I have tried to get on but my invitation has expired.

Love you, Jill