Tera attended a semester at the BYU Jerusalem Center back in 1992. I had always wanted to attend there, but my college experience included a trip to Russia for a study abroad instead, which I enjoyed, but there was always a tinge of wistfulness at having missed out on Israel. For our 20th anniversary, Tera and I took a Bountiful Travel bus trip to Israel, and the following year, we took the family on a trip with the Hendersons back to the Holy Land. Both trips were amazing. And fortunately, Tera reconnected with an old friend, who happens to be the chairperson of the BYU Jerusalem Center Alumni association, and she was made aware of an alumni trip to the center, for past students, and we got invited on the trip! The trip included a typical bus tour itinerary, AND it included staying multiple nights in the Jerusalem center proper. A dream came true!
We took a 10-day trip with the alumni students, with Shon Hopkins leading the tour as the faculty member, and April Giddings our fearless alumni association leader. It was the best trip so far, and I'm sure I'll go back to Israel yet again. It calls to those who have been.
1. A Jerusalem Center Experience
2. Gaining perspective and insight that has stayed with me
1. Food poisoning for the masses
2. Airport transportation delay
1. A Jerusalem Center Experience - This time around, we actually checked in to a room in the Jerusalem Center. We ate in the cafeteria, we wandered the halls. We looked over the city from our room's balcony, we attended evening concerts in the auditorium, we worked out in the Gym, we walked down to the city from the lower gate. We saw students studying and meeting and playing in the nooks and crannies of the center's layered floors. We got it all. What a very cool place the Jerusalem center is.
2. Gaining perspective and insight that has stayed with me - On this trip, many things clicked in my brain about better understanding the life of the Savior. The time he spent in Galilee vs Jerusalem, what impact and notoriety he would have gained in both places, The geography of the land, the geography of the cities, a better understanding of the timeline, All of these things took a deeper root in my brain and heart on this trip, and has made continuing study of the New Testament more meaningful.
1. Food poisoning for the masses - The 3rd day of the trip, half of the group woke up to puking and diarrhea, and general feeling lousy malaise. Turns out we probably got food poisoning at the Nazarene village lunch. Luckily I avoided it. And Tera didn't feel too terribly. One of the members of the group was a doctor, and he went out and got IV fluid bags, and was giving people IV's left and right. I guess it made them feel a lot better.
2. Airport transportation delay - Upon arrival in Tel-aviv, there was to have been a bus ready to pick us up. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and the bus was delayed (or forgot), and we waited for 90 minutes at the airport until the van finally arrived. We could have hopped in the 1st taxi and been to Jerusalem in 40 minutes, but we waited instead.
Saturday April 29: We flew into Tel-Aviv and waited for about 90 minutes for the van to pick us up. We spent the evening in the Jerusalem Center.
Sunday April 30: We started the morning at the seven hills overlook, then went own to visit the Old city, passing through the Jaffa Gate, and entering in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, walking along the Via Dolarosa viewing the various stations of Christ. We took the bus to Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity, and while some stayed in line to see the birth grotto, we went to see the nearby Milk Grotto, Jerome’s church and ended the day at the Shepherds field. Other members of the group finally arrived that evening after a delayed flight through Atlanta. We stayed the evening in the Jerusalem Center.
Monday May 1: We drove in the group bus to Galilee. We entered Nazareth and saw the Church of the Annunciation, where Mary saw her vision of annunciation. We also saw the adjacent St. Joseph’s church where Joseph received the message from the divine. We toured the Nazarene village, a recreation of life at the time of Christ and had lunch there. (which ended up giving food poisoning to half of the group). We visited Sepphoris a Roman city, with mosaic floors including Greek Zodiacs, which may have been an area where Jesus and Joseph worked in their day. We stayed the evening at the Ein Ged resort on the east shores of the Sea of Galilee
Tuesday May 2: We visited and ancient site of Capernaum, with the ancient built over synagogue, and the site of Peter’s home with the suspended church above the ruins. We toured Magdala ruins, and relatively new ruins site, and the adjacent Duc in Altum church, celebrating women of the New Testament. We drove to the Mt. of Beatitudes and went into the Beatitudes church, celebrating Christ’s monumental Sermon. We came back to the shore and visited the Boat museum (showing the preserved remains of a Christ-era fishing boat), then took a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee and disembarked near the hotel. We went out a a fish restaurant that evening to eat “St. Peter’s Fish.” This also happened to be our 27th wedding anniversary.
Wednesday May 3: We drove north to visit Tel Dan, and ancient flowing spring which feeds the Jordan River, This is also very near the border of Israel/Jordan/Syria and sits in a disputed spot of freshwater springs, and a infamous hand-drawn pencil line map which left a 30 meter swath of land in unclear hands following WWII. Further, there sits that site of Jeroboam’s temple, and an old City gate from the times of Ruth and Boaz, and another even older city gate from the time of Abraham, through which Abraham would have entered to save Lot in the City of Dan. We continued on to Cesarea Phillipi which is also the site of old Hellenistic temples to Pan and other Greek and Roman Gods, and near which Christ would have declared to Peter that he was the “Rock” upon which the church would be built, and also the site of a beautiful flowing spring. We visited the archaeological dig site fo Tel-Hazor, which boasted a large number of religious and political building ruins, and we saw the Tahgba church, celebrating the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and the Greek Orthodox church at Capernaum, and close distance to the more visited catholic church. We missed by minutes the Peter’s Sacrisy church, celebrating the preparation of breakfast by Christ for the Disciples after this resurrection. This was a great day with lots of beauty and variety and history and religion
Thursday May 4: We drove to Mt. Tabor, with a smaller van trip to the very peak and church site, which is one (of a few) traditional sites for the Mt. of Transfiguration. We tried to make it into the Greek Orthodox church on the hill, but we were turned away because of our Non-greek orthodox religious status. We visited the Yardinet Jordan River baptism site, which felt more like Disneyland than any other of the sites we had visited. We went swimming at the waterfall and river of GanSheLosha, which included a free open water fish spa, nibbling much at the skin of our feet. We finished the day returning to the Jerusalem Center to stay for our remaining time in Jerusalem.