Saturday, September 30, 2006

Last weekend we had some time off, so me and three other students decided to swing over to Cairo, Egypt for the weekend. It consisted of some amazing sites, lots of over dramatic bartering, and plenty of stories…

The second day in Cairo I went and saw some of the pyramids and the sphinx. At the time it was hard to wrap my mind around where I was at and even at the moment it still is. One of the first things I did was to go inside the Great Pyramid. The shaft that leads down is about 4ft high, so it was a scrunched squeeze, but it was definitely worth it. There were no hieroglyphics along the walls. However, there was an empty tomb in the room that the tunnel emptied out into. Certain parts of the pyramid were blocked off. I wasn’t with the Canadians so I decided to limit my exploration.

Super Furry Animals
When I got outside the pyramid I went with the group on a little camel ride. I thought my camel was rather adorable until he started gnarling at me like I insulted his mother. He had these long yellow teeth, which rather resembled those of the guy who was leading my camel. We went out into the desert on top of a giant sand dune and looked out over the pyramids. MJ, a student here at JUC, was with me and at one point I got offered 100 thousand camels for her. I told the guy if he threw in 100 kilos of bananas it was a deal.

On my last day in Cairo I took the time to visit the Egyptian Museum. I got to see some of the Amarna Letters, lots of Egyptian ossuaries, and a really amazing king Tut exhibit. The museum had so many amazing pieces in it, however only about 1/5 of them were labeled. The ones that were labeled looked like they had been typed out in the 50’s complete with yellow aged paper. I only spent about 3 hours there, but to really appreciate each exhibit it would take a couple of days. There were thousands of people inside enjoying the artifacts. The king Tut exhibit was packed to the max. I just walked into the area and flowed around the room in a current of people. The headdress of king Tut is absolutely breathtaking.

Eroded Boulders
So one evening I’m ambling down the side walk minding my own sweet business when I feel this golf ball sized rock hit my leg. I turn around and see this group of kids looking at me about 20 yards back and one of them says “sorry” in English. So I’m like whatever I’m sure it was an accident. I keep on walking a little ways and then another rock goes bouncing by me. So, was the kid sorry because he got caught or because he missed my head?

White Lie
One of my previous posts was all about the noise level of Israel. Well, I have a confession to make. When I wrote that I had yet to experience the sound waves of Cairo. Let me put it this way. Jerusalem is a small church mouse playing a little harp in a giant cathedral compared to Cairo. On a couple of occasions I expressed my displeasure in a manner that added to the decibels, but it was all in vain for I only added to the noise.

A Three Hour Tour
The group’s last adventure before leaving the country was to rent a boat and sail the Nile. It was early evening and the boat restaurants illuminated the shores of the river and when combined with the moonlight gave us just enough light to enjoy the venture. As I skimmed my fingers across the water I sat in awe of the moment that was being given to me. Honestly, how many people do I know that have sailed the Nile?

The trip was good. I saw the pyramids, went to a museum, sailed the Nile, and got some rocks thrown at me. So, when I sit back and contemplate it, I realize that it was just another day in the Middle East…

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Israel and so much more vol.1

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Well, the Canadians bought some rope. I believe they got 40ft of ½ inch climbing rope at a camping store in the New City. So, on the eve of Shabbat when all good Jews are coming back from the Synagogue and spending time with their families, the Canadians (Jeremy and Chad), Matthew, and I went and had a little fun.

We left campus around 9:30pm which meant it had been dark for about 2hrs. Our first destination was the 15ft deep hole I had written about earlier. The inside of the hole was large and we were hoping that there would be a tunnel or something else of interest inside. We tied the rope to a metal pole and Chad climbed on down after tying knots every 4ft in the rope. As he was going down he missed a knot and slid down the rope about 5ft which gave him a nice little rope burn on one hand.

I was the next to go.

I leaned my back up against the side of the hole and pushed with my legs on the other side while I held the rope. While in this position I continued to say, “I don’t know about this guys.” When I finally mustered up the courage, I then let my feet drop and I slowly lowered myself down. While dangling in the air, I swung my right leg around the rope to take some pressure off of my arms and to slow down my descent. I reached bottom in one piece and my hands where throbbing. It turned out that there indeed was a doorway, but it had been completely filled in. The hole itself just had a lot of trash in it. We were somewhat disappointed, but the climbing part made it all worth while.

Jeremy came down next (the guy climbs like an ape) and took some pictures. The Canadians came up with the very intelligent idea of tying loops in the rope about every three feet. This was very helpful when it came to climbing back up. We decided to always leave one person above the hole, so Matthew hadn’t been down yet. Chad was the first to go back up and I followed. It was pretty intense climbing back up. It is at times like these, that I wish I never would have stopped exercising. I reached the top and Matthew went down. Jeremy came back up which left Matthew at the bottom by himself. Matthew had some trouble getting back up, so the three of just pulled him up.

Our next destination was far more mentally challenging than the first…

What we did next was probably not the most intelligent thing I’ve ever done, but hey I’m alive and it’s a good story.

We climbed up the Kidron, tied the rope down, and then threw the end over the edge of a 50-60ft cliff. About 15ft down the side of this cliff was an entrance that we wanted to investigate. Chad went down first, Matthew second, and then I was up. Once again, I am laying on my stomach with my legs hanging off the cliff, hands on the rope saying over and over, “I don’t know about this” followed by, “this is really stupid”. I begin to go down with one hand thru a loop, hanging onto the rope, while the next hand reaches down and searches for the next. So, I’m hanging off this 50ft cliff holding on to this rope with one arm and I’m dangling like Sylvester Stallone on Cliffhanger. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but still it was rather intense.

I reached the ledge of the hole and Jeremy came down. Then when we all peered into the hole we all realized that what we were looking at was well worth the climb.

No, we didn’t find the Ark of the Covenant…yet. But, we were in an ancient burial room. There were two large rooms with smaller rooms attached to each that had burial slots. There were about 10 of these slots altogether. There were stone columns at the entrance to this site, so it was rather obvious that these tombs were for the upper class.

Our exit was a gap above an iron gate down some stone steps. I was the first to squeeze through followed by the others.

We made it home in one piece and made some memories. It was a great time filled with an exertion of testosterone, adrenaline, and stupidity.

“The only thing that ever consoles man for the stupid things he does is the praise he always gives himself for doing them.”-Oscar Wilde

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bumper Sticker
Have you ever heard the phrase, “everything’s bigger in Texas”? Well, I’d like to make the claim that “everything is louder in Israel”.

Let me give you a couple of examples of why I believe this to be true…

The hallway right outside my bedroom is carved out of bedrock. Most of the people here wear sandals. So, when an individual travels down this route which leads to the bathroom, a sound of sliding and clopping of flesh, stone, and rubber echo throughout the entire dorm.

Like I’ve stated in earlier posts, I live right beside hell. Well, it seems as if the area is a hot spot for residential. For the last three weeks, we’ve all awoken to the sound of giant jackhammers attached to tractors splitting stone. Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun echoing throughout the Hinnom in the wee hours of the morn.

One must remember that the terrain of Jerusalem contains hills and valleys which echo sound rather well. As I am writing this, a concert is going on in the amphitheater which is on the north side of the Hinnom. They are straight up blaring the music and it is resounding throughout all of Jerusalem, but the show is conveniently right beside the university. In the middle of class, they decided to begin their sound check. Loud drums, electric guitars, and Hebrew, compiled into sound so thick you could wear it as a winter coat.

From my observations, it seems as if these rather reserved Israelis have taken all of their anger, annoyance, and stress that has been stored up throughout the day and have found a way to vent it. It appears that this outlet is nothing other than their car horns. Now, in the States when you are at a stoplight that has just turned green and the person in front of you is not going, what do you do? Generally, you give them just a little tap of the horn, “honk.” Then if they still don’t go, you then give them a little more of the horn, “hhoooonnk”. However, in Israel, an individual takes any opportunity to honk the car horn whether it is justified or not. I’ve walked by intersections where the light is red and someone in that same lane is letting loose on their horn. For what reason? Only God knows why. It’s not just a tap on the horn either. It is as if the person behind the wheel has passed out with their head resting on the horn.

For some odd reason, the hardware in the door in my room is rather finicky. The only way one can successfully close a door is to slam it, hard. This sound then echoes throughout the stone walls of the building for all to hear. So, if I want to come into my room at night while my roommate is sleeping and I desire to shut the door, I’m going to wake him up. It’s not a gentle arousing, I might add. It is as if a gun has been fired in the room and the one sleeping jerks to awareness thinking that Jerusalem is being invaded.

And that is why I believe that “everything is louder in Israel”. I just might make a bumper sticker out of it…

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Church of 110A
I have grown up in the church my entire life. Three times a week, if not more, I was at church. Even in my high school days I was always going to church. The same basic format was expected: sing, listen, sleep, go home. I began to always associate the word "worship" with singing. The individual leading the songs would say, “Let’s stand and worship the Lord” and then we would all start singing. So, does that mean I’m not worshiping God unless I’m singing? I’ve heard people in church say that worship is more than that, but that’s all we ever do. We sing the same old songs the same old way every same old Sunday.

Now, I'm not necessarily saying that I regret going to church so often, but since I have for so much of my life, I have become very familiar with it. So, if it is true that familiarity brings about complacency, then spiritually I am about as complacent as one can be. Why should anyone be surprised that I’m not ecstatic when I’m told that “Jesus died for my sins” when I have heard it about a billion times?

I hate the fact that I’m complacent. I hate to say it, but I’m sick of "church", recycled Christian clich├ęs, and a lack of authenticity. I’m about as spiritually bored as a person can get.

So, I decided to do something about it…

The idea came into my head to not go to “church” while I’m here. Instead, I’m going to explore ways to worship and experience God that are new and creative to me. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks and the soul acts. So, if my heart is bored and tired what good am I...

to myself...

to my world...

to my God...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Unique New York, Unique New York
I’m taking this class here called “Physical Settings of the Bible”. In this class, we do a lot of studying on the geography of the land and also we do a lot of field studies. During these field studies we actually go to the places where significant events took place in the Bible. For example, on Sunday we went to the Pool of Bethsaida (John 5:1-15), which was pretty amazing. I wish we could have spent more time there. It’s close to where I live so I’ll be able to go there again.

Also, on the same day, we went down to the City of David which is just south of the Old City. We saw some of the original city walls, watched this 3-D flick, walked through a cave, etc.

Then we did something really fun…

“Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and all his might, and how he made the pool and the tunnel and brought water into the city, are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the King of Judah” (2 Kings 20:20).

What we did that was so fun is that we actually got to go through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. It was awesome. The purpose of the tunnel was to bring water from the Gihon Spring into the Pool of Siloam (John 9:7), which is inside the city walls. The reason for doing this was that when the city was under attack the people could still have water. Brilliant. The tunnel is about ¼ of a mile and is about as wide as I am broad. The height of the tunnel varies. At the highest point the tunnel is about 15ft high and at its lowest point it is about 5ft high. Water still runs through it which is fresh and cool. The dept of the water varies as well. When we first entered into the tunnel it was about waist high, but for the most part it was up to my calves.

Since the tunnel is so narrow, we could only go through in single file and I opted to be the last person in line. About half of the people had flashlights (me not being one of them) and at one point the group decided to turn them all off. When they did it there was utter darkness.

Now, I’ve ran around outside when it was dark out, but the stars and moon still gave me some light. I’ve hidden in closets and covered up my face, but light always seems to creep in somehow. At least enough so that I can make out what is in front of me. However, at that moment in that tunnel, light was absent. I’ve never been in a place where there was absolutely no light. I mean no light what so ever. My eyes adjusted to the darkness and I could see nothing.

Not my hand in front of my face…

Not the person in front of me…

Not the rock wall beside me…

Not the water below me…

Just utter darkness. It was a unique experience…

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Having grown up watching the Indiana Jones trilogy with my pops, one can imagine that being in this area sparks my sense of adventure. Well, one afternoon after frying my brain with studying I decided I wanted to go out and do something. So, I asked around and found out that two of the guys here have a "to do" and "to see" list while they are in Israel. I asked them if they minded me tagging along and they were up for it. Chad and Jeremy are from Canada and they are rather proud of it. Lots of "eh"'s and unique ways of pronouncing "out" and "about".

These two Canadians showed me a whole new side of Jerusalem...

I put on my hiking shoes and grabbed my camera and we began to walk east off the main path and right up against the wall. We're talking and whatnot and as I observe these Canadians, they begin to act as if they are looking for something. We're climbing over rocks jumping over deeps gaps and they are looking all over the ground. What are they looking for I keep asking myself. Then they stopped and I saw what they were looking for...


Deep holes...

They found a hole that was about 15ft deep and shined their flashlights inside only to find out that the hole lead to a tunnel. All we had where two belts to tie together, so we decided to hold off on the entering of this hole until we could purchase some rope. So, we continued walking east until we came upon some ancient building. Now, keep in mind that the Canadians had already been to this area, but I had not. While I was studying rabbinic thought and literature they were out looking for the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant.

Fun guys.

As we get closer to the building and I notice a hole about 15ft from the ground. Up until this point it had only been the two of them, but since I came we were able to accomplish a task that they had been dreaming of. Jeremy rock climbed up part of the building and we lifted his feet as much as possible until he got to the hole and then he pulled himself in. There was no door to the building, just some holes.

Then it was my turn.

I did the same until I could reach Jeremy's hand and then he pulled me in and then I pulled Chad in (Brad, Splintercell truly is beneficial). We get into this hole and the building is filled in with gravel, but the Canadians are looking around and to their pleasure they find something...

another hole.

This hole goes up into the top of the building. In order to get up there you have to climb up these big stones and squeeze thru these tight gaps. This took us up about another 15ft until we were at the top of the roof. In the word of David Lunsford, the entire experience was "rad".

When we got back to JUC the Canadians told this guy at school named Matthew and he failed to believe them. He said he'd buy us pizza if it was true. Sucka. These pictures are from the second time we went up into the building and we took some more guys with us this time. Matthew accidentally left his hat in the building so, I guess we'll just have to climb up in there again sometime.

As we were meandering our way back we started walking thru some tombs beside the Mount of Olives. Now, keep in mind that the landscape here is very rocking and these tombs are built on the side on the Kedron Valley which connects to the Hinnom Valley. So, we are walking in the valley and one of the Canadians looks up on the rocky cliff side and sees what he craves for...

another hole.

This hole is only accessible from the top of the cliff by being lowered down 15ft and stopping on the two foot landing at the base of the whole. Now, keep in mind that this hole is on the side of a small cliff. So, we looked at each other and official decided that when Shabbat is over with...

...we're going to buy some rope.