I have visited the Western Wall, David's proported tomb, Samuel's proported tomb, the airspace of the last supper, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, around the Mount of Olives, Mary's proported tomb, and have learned about a great many more places, including the Dome of the Rock/the Temple Mount, where many people believe many things, including that Adam's dust came from the rock under it, Cain killed Abel there, Abraham almost sacrificed his son there, Solomon and Herod's temples stood there (and possibly Melchizedic's temple as well?), Mohammed ascended to heaven there, and thus it is a very important place . . . and it's few hundred yards from where I am typing this. Pretty crazy.
I also visited the Bejamin Plateau, where most of the Old Testament took place. We visited the vicinity where Jacob had a vision on the way to find his wife (Gen:28 . . . 10-19, I think. Read it and then the words to "Nearer my God to Thee," and imagine a large field with rocky plateaus all about, flocks of sheep every few miles, and a small city (Gibeon) nearby. "Bethel" is the modern city located on the ancient city "Beth'el" that Jacob named. Beth-el apparently means "near God," giving added meaning to the song. That is, I guess, a good example of the kinds of things we are learning on our field trips and in class.
The Old Testament is already becoming more accessible and understandible/meaningful, both because of the brilliance of my professors and the locations of the events. We studied the captivity of the Jews in Psalm 127 and the return of the Jews in Ezra in our Judaism class, and it was amazing how much clearer it was to me.
The leadership of the Jerusalem center contains no members of the LDS church, which suprised me. The manager is a secular Jew, his right hand man and head of security is a Christian Palestinian, and the few others at the top of the totem pole are mostly Israeli Jews. The security team is entirely Palestinian, I think. The cooks and other staff are also Israelis and Palestinians. Two of the teachers on staff are Palestinian and two are Israeli. It shocks me to think that these people-- not these specifically, but Israelis and Palestinians in general-- can't find a way to settle their differences. Perhaps that may seem naive, but they are all kind to each other and the students, and each professor is welcoming and understanding of differing viewpoints and belief systems. Every time we pass the Palestinian homes lining the Kidron Valley heading into Jerusalem, we get shouts of joy from cute little children running around, and the Jewish folks in West Jerusalem are no less accomodating (except for the deeply orthodox on both sides--they talk little and avoid looking at you). Why the killing?
Yes, I know the truth is a great deal more complex than nice people saying hello to students, and I have made myself familiar with the eccentricities of the issues that currently forbid a steady solution, but at the bottom of the problem, there are selfish people on both sides who do not trust each other enough to give an inch. Alas, if they would just put my professors in charge of diplomacy.
Anyways, life is good, I am safe, and I'm excited about going to Egypt next week. It is going to be amazing, I think, and I hope I do not catch a crazy virus or parasite-- most of them aren't curable. Whew. Exciting business, hmm? We are not supposed to touch the Nile or any water, including hotel tap water, for fear of parasites and disease. Haha, quick story: Last semester, a student did not believe the experienced people's warnings of what lurks in the world of the Nile, and while a professor's back was turned, he leaned over the side of the boat and dunked his entire head in the filthy water, then threw his head backwards (speckling his friends with Nile water) and proclaimed, "See? There's nothing wrong here." Right as he finished his statement, a bloated, dead cow floated by. I'm excited.