Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hezekiah's Tunnel

Descend with me into the depths beneath the City of David, the "original" Jerusalem which now lies outside the city walls. In 701 BC, when threatened by an impending Assyrian siege, King Hezekiah wanted a way to transport water from the Gihon Spring on the northeast side of the city to the Siloam Pool on the southwest. The Gihon Spring is on the hillside above the Kidron Valley, while the City of David is on the crest of the hill; this makes the city with its high walls easily defensible. But it was nearly impossible to build the walls high enough to match the city walls and keep the spring inside the walls, which was quite the problem for the ancient Jerusalemites in case of a seige, since they would have no access to water. 

So, Hezekiah decided to dig a tunnel underneath the city to connect the Gihon Springs to the Pool of Siloam, which is within the city walls. He formulated a highly technical plan, which consisted of giving a lot of guys chisels, picks, and shovels; separating them into two teams; and placing one team at the Gihon Springs and one at the Pool of Siloam. Then he told them to start digging.
You need your headlamp in Hezekiah's Tunnel--it definitely gets a bit dark 40+ feet below the city. (with Danielle and Synthia) Luckily, my body acclimates super quickly, so I turned into a mole, as you can see by my nearly non-existent eyes.
 Based on the winding nature of the tunnel, it seems as though the workers didn't have much of a system for finding each other as the tunneled from one side of the City of David to the other. They just went for it and hoped that they'd meet up in the middle. It's pretty incredible that they ever found each other in all that rock (though they did nearly miss--the junction of the once-separate tunnels is a bit...uneven).
Hezekiah's Tunnel was just my size. And I've got to admit, I was pretty excited for an excuse to play in the water AND wear shorts. But don't worry about the big bump beneath my jacket--I haven't eaten that much falafel yet. That's the very modest skirt I wore to walk to the entrance of the tunnel, then rolled up to play in the water. And aren't those Keens SWEET?! Thanks, Daddy!

I tried to hide in one of the crevices and scare people... it might have worked better had people not been taking pictures... I don't think my bright scarlet jacket helped my camoflauge much, either.
Hezekiah's Tunnel is about 1500 feet long, and it was one of the coolest subterranian adventures I've ever had. I don't know what makes wading through fresh spring water in the dark, in a tunnel that was constructed about 27 centuries ago so cool... oh. wait. Maybe just that.

And many thanks and much love to you wonderful commenters (ahem, Jaynee--you win the prize). I love hearing what you think about these Middle Eastern escapades.

Monday, February 21, 2011


I am most definitely going to be up all night finishing a written midterm on Palestinian History. I'm trying to convince my body that I'm back in Provo and it's actually only 1 in the afternoon. hmm. working? no.

current page count: 16

pages to go: at least 5. ish.

my general thoughts on this situation: 


below is an actual photograph of me, just to illustrate my distress & stuff:
(plea for assistance is in Hebrew)
 please note the JC uniform: hanes vneck, baggy jeans, chucks.
rant over. 

But Hezekiah's tunnel was, like, seriously SO cool. & I was allowed to wear SHORTS. & a headlamp.
photos coming forthwith.  

(stealing Lani's idea. she's smart. people always steal ideas from smart people. sometimes it's called "reinterpretation.")  soundtrack highlights: "Downtown Song" by Anberlin, "Mushaboom" by Feist, "Long Division" by Death Cab, &, perhaps the most fitting, "Fear" by OneRepublic. ( the line "can't rest even when the sun's down" seems rather apropo...)

so now, my friends both near & far, I must turn off my internet & bid you adieu. 

total pages: 18, 3.6 of which are single spaced
total word count: 6850
pages to go: 2, single spaced
mental capacity: depleted to a point of utter loopiness 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

snippets & snapshots: along the Nile

I'm playing catch up on blogging and working with an internet connection that comes from a fiber optic cable laid by the Romans in approximately 75 AD.  
So, understandably, it's a bit slow. 

I actually had to walk over to Hebrew University yesterday, as their internet connection was established in the Modern Era, to upload these pictures. What I didn't realize was this: Hebrew U is closed after 3 p.m. on Fridays. And Hebrew U closes in the same way that a prison "closes." There was no way to get on campus. We looked. 

But on our way back, while my faithful companions stopped to photograph some almond blossoms, I whipped out my laptop, just to see if I could get a wifi connection. Success! But my little hotspot didn't stretch much further than a five-foot block of sidewalk. So we huddled together on the side of the road, holding our laptops, watching youtube videos and uploading pictures for about 20 minutes while I downloaded some rather necessary new music-- OneRepublic and the soundtrack from [500] Days of Summer were on sale on Amazon! I could not help myself. (And I'm glad I didn't.)

Moral of the story: music is not optional, technology is cool, and college students will do about anything to get their fix of ridiculous youtube videos. And, slowly but surely, I'm documenting bits and pieces of my adventures in Egypt. 

The view from the top. Camels have REALLY long ways which they fold in bizarre ways.
While I work on this [endless] Palestinian history midterm, please allow me to share a few more snapshots and add some explanatory snippets.
While in Egypt, you really can't skip the traditional tourist camel ride. My guide, Mohammed, was about 11 years old and called me Shakira. This would be much more flattering if (1) we didn't hear this particular term of "endearment" ALL the time, and (2) I wasn't perfectly aware that I look nothing like Shakira. (But Sierra--you should go to Egypt.) And although I definitely felt like a tourist, it was pretty cool to ride a camel along the banks of the Nile. 

In other news, I decided to face my stagefright and participate in our formal talent show here at the JC earlier this week. 
I sang. 
By myself. 
On a really big stage in front of huge windows looking out over the city. It was my first solo performance in four years, and I. was. terrified. 
But I my wonderful friend Lauren agreed to accompany me (and wouldn't let me back out) and the audience was full of the sweetest people who were so supportive.
I sang "Gravity," by Miss Sara Bareilles, which has been one of my favorites for a few years now.  It really did feel good to be singing again, especiallysuch a gorgeous song with lyrics that have had quite a lot of meaning for me a time or two. Special thanks to my sous CHefs in Castille #302 who made me considering singing in public again. You guys are great. I owe you cookies.

This is the longest snippet ever. Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Linguistic Love

I love my Hebrew class here at the JC. We're starting with the basics, but instead of learning "A is for Apple," we're learning things like "Chet is for Chanukiah (the Chanukah menorah)," "Tet is for Tallit (the prayer shawl)," and "Gimmel is for Glida (ice cream)!"  It's like being back in kindergarten, only with a lot more phlegm and a healthy does of Jewish Culture. It's pretty yofi (great)!

And look what I can do!

I can write my entire name in Hebrew script (in green crayon, of course).
I got a gold star. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

snippets & snapshots: cloudy study day

I found a study spot that looks out over the city, and today the sky is gorgeous. The sun has been playing hide & go seek with the world, and the clouds are drifting and gamboling across the sky in a way that is having an adverse effect on my studying.
Trying to prove that my study spot is awesome. But this doesn't really prove I was there...
Second attempt at catching the clouds & myself, since we are so very happy together. Fail. Just me & my Jerusajournal.
I think the clouds kind of look like Van Gogh might have painted them.

Would YOU be able to concentrate with a view like that?
This highly prolific blogging day brought to you by:
in cooperation with

I still can't believe that I live here.
But having the blogger log-in page in Hebrew is a nice reminder.

Out in the Desert They Wander

I wrote this essay for my Old Testament class about a week ago and thought I'd share it with all you wonderful. I was to tell about my experience in the desert and how it affected my ideas about the stories of the Exodus. 

Looking out across the Sahara Desert.
    Despite their fairly recent delivery from bondage in Egypt, in Numbers 14, we read of the Children of Israel murmuring against Moses and Aaron, saying, “Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!” (Num. 14: 2). I had always been baffled by the many instances of murmuring that we read of in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. It seems that as soon as a group of ancient travelers reach the wilderness, the murmuring begins. Of course, this is fairly understandable—after all, who would want to wander in the wilderness for forty years like Moses and the Israelites? The wilderness is not exactly the most inviting destination on earth. But these people saw miracles, plagues sent by God, and were lead not only by the prophet and priesthood leaders who had performed those incredible miracles, but also by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. I could never understand how the faith of these people could waver so quickly.
    But as we began our own trek through the desert wilderness that the Israelites traversed so many years ago, I began to gain a new appreciation for the suffering of the Israelites, the patience of God, and the importance of faith. We made our journey through the wilderness in the comfort of an air-conditioned bus with reclining seats, plenty of bottled water, our rolling suitcases neatly tucked away in the luggage compartment, and a detailed agenda telling us where we were going. I can only begin to imagine how the Israelites must have struggled through each day, dragging all of their earthly possessions through the sand, fighting against the unremitting winds, with only the faintest promise of a Promised Land that they had never seen before keeping them going. During our journey across the desert, I gained a new appreciation for the import of having a firm destination; just having an estimated time until the next “potty stop” was such a comfort; it is so much easier to cope with a long journey when you know where you are going and when you will get there. But the Israelites didn’t know either of those things. All they knew was that wandering through endless stretches of rock and sand was starting to make the brick pits of Egypt not seem like such a bad place.
    But sometimes the Lord lets us wander through our own lives. As we sat on the sand dunes near Kibbutz Ketturah, contemplating in the silence and the solitude, I though about my own wandering journey. I have never actually been lost in the wilderness, but I have moved through my life without direction. Often, I simply get frustrated and push ahead without waiting for the Lord to guide me, but that's just not how it works. The Lord lets us wander so that we can learn to depend on Him, like the children of Israel. Their endurance and faith was being tried, but despite the miracles they had witnessed, they were shaken by the perpetual sand and wind.  Testimonies built on miracles require more miracles to stay strong.  
    Often, like the ancient Israelites, I am not very good at listening; rather, I am good at multi-tasking and being busy. I fill my life with so much rush and bustle that I rarely set aside the time to ponder, pray, and truly listen for the Lord’s guidance. As I sat on that bleak dune, a passage found in D&C 101: 16 would not leave my mind, “Be still and know that I am God.” The Israelites were too caught up in their murmuring to “be still” and trust the Lord to guide them.
    There is a definite lack of stillness in my life. Even in my downtime, I am always listening to music, dancing, baking, chatting with friends, or playing some game. But as I sat in the stillness of the sand dunes, I felt closer to God than I had since my last temple visit. I may not murmur aloud like the children of Israel (although that may happen too…sometimes), but I am often guilty of questioning the direction I receive from the Lord or pushing ahead without His guidance. And for all of my determination to conquer the dunes, I simply wander on my own. As I listened to the rush of the wind on the sand, I made a promise to myself and the Lord that I would be still and wait for His direction, that I would listen for that still, small voice that often is drowned-out in the whirlwind of schedules, cell phones, gmail, facebook, and iPods. For the Lord is not in the wind, the fire, the earthquake, or the constant drone of worldly communication, but in the still small voice that whispers through the sand(1 Kngs. 19: 16).

(My ambition to upload a bunch of pictures is currently being thwarted by our small bandwidth here... so... someday, maybe. But hey, thanks for all of your comments of late! You people are wonderful & I can feel the love, even on the other side of the world.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pyramid Preview

Midterms are upon us here at the JC, which means the sleep levels have decreased durastically & the Shekel Shack's revenues on sugar-based study aids have increased quite a bit. As I have my Old Testament midterm in 8 short hours, I don't really have time to write a real blog post.

So here's a little taste of what's to come--please note the towering edifices in the background. Yeah. Those are the great pyramids.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Attention facebook friends & all:

1- I'm not facebooking whilst in the Holy Land, but I'd love to have you email me. I'm pretty sure my email is listed on my facebook homepage. (If not, contact my mama & she can get it to you.) I can, however, see the comments you make on my notes--thanks for all the fun feedback!

Which brings me to addendum #2-- I would just like to thank everyone for your enthusiasm about the firework chocolate. The comment count on that single blog post has now surpassed all of my other Jerusalem posts--COMBINED. So, for the duration of my trip, I shall only write about candy & food. :)

3-- Someone please contact Lauren (as in Chris &) for me & tell her I need a picture of her baby belly. Please & thank you.

4-- The Elders Harris are HOME!!! Welcome back, my brothers! I love you both all the way around the world--I hope the letters I sent from here made it to you.

5-- To all of you that I was having poke wars with--you know who you are--I haven't lost. I'm just out of range, for the time being.

6-- Shwarma is delicious. THE END.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


One of my best friends had a birthday yesterday. She turned 21. This is kind of a big deal. If I were within a few hundred miles of her, I would have tackled her & then baked her a cake. Unfortunately, I am on the other side of the world, where I have a tendency to forget what the date is.


Aren't we so cute in August of 2007? Yeah, we go waaaay back.
Much love, Goober, even from the other side of the world.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sparks Fly

I know you all want to hear about Egypt & see pictures of the pyramids, but I'm rather busy working on an essay at the moment. So. Let me just tell you briefly about one of the new and exciting things in my life, which I affectionately refer to as Firework Chocolate.

I've tasted a lot of rather... unexpected things during the last month (!!!) in Jerusalem; a lot of the foods we eat here look familiar, but taste nothing like you'd expect. And then there are all the other foods that look completely unfamiliar and also taste completely unfamiliar. (We have normal foods like nutella, peanut butter, and bananas, too--don't worry.) Overall, it's been delicious. It's a good thing I packed my baggy jeans.

But this chocolate. It's a party. Really. The chocolate itself is creamy and sweet, but then--this is the exciting part--it has POP ROCKS in it. It is the strangest, most delightful juxtaposition of textures. It's also great for waking you up during late nights in the library or early morning Bible study after the Muslim Call to Prayer.

But be warned, these piquant pyrotechnics are sometimes so snappy that you may have to pull a gansteR face to keep the goodness in your mouth.