Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Day 3 of the LFA blog

DAY 3 OF THE LFA BLOG

Message from Mr. Murphy:

What a day! We wore out a pair of shoes today. From the Temple Mount (where several of our Muslim students received access to the Dome of the Rock), to the Holocaust Memorial, to the Mount of Olives, to Gethsemane , and finally shopping in the Arab Market in the Old City, we are wiser, better informed about numerous religious traditions, better able to bargain in the market place, and literally exhausted. But that won’t stop several of our students from sharing their experiences and pictures with you tonight. Enjoy!

Message from Matt and Brian:

Today we visited the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock. We were struck by how central the place was to three of the world’s major religions. For the Jews, it is the holiest of places where the old temple used to stand. For Christians, it is the place where Jesus preached and cast out the money-changers. For Muslims, it is the place of Muhammad’s ascent to heaven where he received a prophetic vision. Given that it is at the confluence of all these different beliefs, it really felt like a sacred place. It is an interesting symbol of the commonality of the three faiths where Jews are praying to essentially the same place as Muslims, and all three faiths agree that it is a place filled with divine presence. It is also telling that despite this commonality, the three faiths cannot agree on how to respect it and it is a place of great contention. Like the city, it has changed hands several times and has been built over with houses of different faiths throughout the ages. But despite these changes, the place has always been worshipped by one faith or another, so in a sense, the divine presence has never left.

Hannah and Grace:

Today we visited the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem; we found it to be an eye-opening and overwhelming experience. The most important part of the tour for us was the Hall of Names; it was a circular room surrounded by thousands of books that held the names of those who perished during the Holocaust. Rather than just a number, it became a humanizing reality of how many people actually died. Another illuminating moment of the day of us was the Children’s Holocaust Memorial; this memorial was a dark room with five lit candles reflected upon hundreds of mirrors to give the illusion of the millions of stars in the sky, representing the children who died. In the background, a voice lists the name of the children who perished.  We found the Holocaust Memorial to be an enriching experience and we were further educated about the Holocaust from a different point of view.

We also were able to spend some time in the Arab Market located in the Old City. We quickly learned that the markets in Israel are very different than in America. When walking down the stone streets many venders aggressively invited us into their stores to show us their merchandise. We had to be able to bargain prices to a reasonable price that we hoped was in our favor. We came to the conclusion that even though you may desire the object, the best thing to do is to walk away and hope that the vender will lower the price. We observed that the venders were more interested in doing business with foreigners (i.e they loved it when Hannah bargained with a British accent).The majority of the venders tried to sell you through flattery as well as selling the product. Overall we were able to make some great purchases that will remind us of our time together in Israel. 

Message from Karisma:

Today included very powerful experiences from all three faiths. We started the day by going to Temple Mount. We would finally have the opportunity to see the iconic Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque up close. Although we were not allowed to enter either, we admired the beautiful architecture, took lots of pictures, and learned a lot about Islam. After descending from Temple Mount, we stood at the Western Wall while we respectfully observed the Jews and gentiles who were praying there, just like yesterday. Next, we headed to and learned about Mount Hertzle and watched a group of Israeli soldiers practicing for an Independence Day celebration ceremony before visiting the Israeli Holocaust Memorial museum. We walked through a triangular building full of artifacts, videos, and quotes from eyewitness accounts arranged chronologically, ending at a serene synagogue that emphasized the ideas of justice and human ethics. After lunch, we travelled to the Mount of Olives, where we were astounded by a beautiful panoramic view of Jerusalem. This part of the trip was probably most memorable for me since, while standing mesmerized at the highest point in the city, we saw all of the sights we visited and could connect all of them to each other, truly encompassing the purpose of our journey. Towards the latter half of the afternoon, we got the chance to go shopping in an Arab market, where many of our friends had many interesting experiences. Nevertheless, most of us bought many items that we could bring home for our friends and family, as well as for remembering our amazing experiences in Jerusalem.

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