Petra was sweet. It was so much bigger and more than I expected. I've never seen Indiana Jones but feel like I probably should now. The camel in this picture tried attacking Brindy's head moments before the shot was taken. I met a really great Bedouin man in front of this facade who told me the shops around Petra make $3,000 dollars a day selling cheap souvenirs to naive tourists. The Beadouin's name was Eagilos (like "lost eagle backwards," he told me) and invited me and my friends to become part of his Arab tribe and dwell in Petra with his family. Oh that I were a bedouin. We spent a whole day at Petra but honestly could have spent a week. The rest of our Jordan trip was spent at the site Jesus was baptized by John, touring the biggest mosque in the country (and wearing the robes provided), exploring castles, and walking around ancient Roman cities (mostly Jerash).
I think my favorite part though was the last night in Amman (Jordan's capital). We had some free time so a group and I took a taxi to Rainbow Street. Yes, the street's name really is "Rainbow Street." It was a completely magical place with the best kiwi-chocolate flavored ice cream for one dinar (Jordanian currency) I've ever tasted. The ice cream seller was extremely kind and patient as each of us asked for samples of every kind. His family was with him and they too were so pleasant to talk to. After our indulgences we ran into some street performers and couldn't help but sit and soak in their renditions of Cat Stevens, requested by Katie Backus. During their little performance we meet some local Christian and Muslim University students (bottom picture) and asked them all kinds of questions about the typical life
of a 23-year-old living on Rainbow Street. We tried impressing them with the little Arabic we learned but they just laughed at us because the only word we correctly could pronounce or remember was "Maznune," meaning "Crazy person." We then were led to a restaurant overlooking the whole old city of Amman where American-ish food was on the menu! I was so happy to eat some chicken fingers and a strawberry milkshake. (Okay I have to be honest- the milkshake was terrible. If anything it was a strawberry smoothie which didn't so much feel so smooth in my stomach and we also got a brownie. And when I say brownie I mean a straight up square piece of condensed coffee sprinkled with stale powdered sugar.) But then- the best part...the owner of the restaurant put on a private concert for us after some negotiations were exchanged. We, along with one lone man in a red collared shirt sipping hot chocolate in the corner table, were the only ones in the house to take part in his 30 minute percussion ensemble. I felt like I was in the depths of an African rainforest. He created all these obscure bird and monkey callings while splashing water around in a bowl to make waterfall noises. He drummed his drum, snapped his fingers, did a little of this, a little of that and magically our minds warped into that of fern gully. This guy was downright good and I'll leave it at that. To conclude the night we caught a cab who overcharged us and took us to the wrong hotel at first but after breaching some language barriers we confirmed our destination was the "Ambassador" hotel, not the "Embassy." But even though we forked out a couple extra dollars and were stressing to make curfew...and innocently broke the word of wisdom for a lousy bite a "brownie"- I will always remember the people and places of Rainbow Street.
Galilee was great. We were gone for 11 days and stayed at Ein Gev, a Kibbutz right on the beach of the Sea of Galilee. To sum it all up we studied in classrooms at the Kibbutz (New Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Studies), took buses to New Testament sites, had a couple optional student activities, and played on beach of the Sea of Galilee.
Site at Tabgha where Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep. (John 21)
Uhh, trying to be the golden cows at Tel Dan Baal worshipers praised. (1 Kings 12:25-33)
Again with the touristy picts...rock fists at Caesarea Philippi where Christ told Peter this rock would be the foundation of His church. (Matthew 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30)
Church on top of the Mount of Beatitudes. It was a beautiful, beautiful mount with palm trees and my favorite, plumeria flowers, and green grasses overlooking the sea of Galilee. (Matthew 5-7)
Candles inside the church commemorating the site Jesus fed the 5,000 men and women and children with 5 loaves and 2 fishes. (Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-14)
And this place was cool, Caperunaum. Caperunaum is a city Jesus spent a lot of His ministry- performing miracles, staying at Peter's house, and visiting the synagogue. Many remains are standing and this picture is of a church built ontop of Peter's house, it had a clear floor to see the ancient house below while Christians worship above. The bottom picture is at the synagogue. (Matthew 9:1, Luke 4:33-37, Mark 1:30-31, Luke 8:41-56)
And here we have a church on top of Mount Tabor...a suggested site of the Mount of Transfiguration. But according to my Ancient Near Eastern Studies professor the site is more likely Mt. Hermon. But Tabor is where Deborah becomes associated with the Transfiguration story. (Joshua 19, Judges 4)
Four modern day men sitting in four ancient toilets of the city of Beth-Shean. And it's kind of hard to tell but in the next picture I am standing above the city. (Acts 25:13, 23)
And here is Brindy doing a handstand in the Sea of Galilee and our class bonfires.
And floating the Jordan River and hiking the Golan Heights, two more highlights.
-Shrine in the Church of the Nativity where Jesus was said to have been born-
Bethlehem is in the top three of my favorite places here. Our field trip included walking around the old city's streets, visiting the Church of the Nativity (the oldest functioning Christian church today, commissioned by Constantine and holds a supposed grotto where Jesus was born), and exploring the Bethlehem University campus. We also went to Shepherd's Field (picture to the left) which overlooks the little town of Bethlehem and could be the field the Shepherds were at before they went to see the Lord Jesus. At the field we had a Christmas program where we sang hymns and bore testimonies. I felt such serenity at Bethlehem and could not stop thinking of the line, "Peace on earth, goodwill to men." The Savior's message really is one of peace and goodwill and I am so thankful for the peace of mind that comes from a testimony of the Atonement, the plan of salvation, and of the reality of a loving Father in Heaven.The Church of the Nativity is currently under renovation and the line to see the grotto was about three hours long. (Hence the exhausted faces in the pictures below)
Bethlehem University was fun. It was cool to see the tiny campus and we also had free time there to mingle with the students. A bunch of the guys from the center started playing basketball with some of the Bethlehem students and I walked around, watched them play basketball, (picture below) and talked to some of the students. They were very kind and friendly. The University has a mix of Christians and Muslims but no Israeli's. It was interesting to hear them talk about Israel.
The picture to the left is of a little memorial in the Bethlehem University library where an Israeli shot a bullet through their university wall a couple years ago. It's hard for me not to side with one nation or the other when I hear stories like these from people so passionate in their ideas. I'm just grateful for the Center as a middle ground and for its predominately unbiased professors to remind us both sides to the story. I am grateful though for the different sides and for the goodness each people possess.