Sunday, May 27, 2012

Walking in the light...

Today is our last day in Israel-Palestine. It's hard to believe the three weeks have passed. We have learned so much. Today was mostly a free day in Jerusalem. Some of us attended churches this morning, some visited the Israel Museum, some walked on the walls of Jerusalem (the Rampart walk) and we all took in the sights and smells of the markets one last time. 

In our debriefing time we reflected on our Yella experience and what we've learned. We have seen and heard  so much. We've learned how the stories we grow up with shape us and make us who we are. We've learned about some of the narratives that shape people here and how they add to the complexity of conflict here. We've been able to put human faces to all sides of the conflict and that changes everything.

How will this experience affect our lives going forward? Many of us expressed a desire to be active in educating people about the conflict here, and also to work at being more active in our home communities. We want to live as faithful followers of Christ wherever we are.

Ruby led us in our final devotional tonight and talked about letting our light shine as we go from here. We each said a prayer as we lit a candle. In the darkness of the night there was a glow that brightened our faces and we felt inspired to sing, and sing and keep singing. 

"Christ be our light, shine in our hearts, shine through the darkness.."

It is my prayer that we will continue to walk in the light as faithful followers and that we will boldly address the brokenness of this world. May we courageously join in God's work of piecing together a world where there is peace and justice for all. 

Stephanie Dueck

What more can we say?

Our group of travelling disciples has had three weeks of meaningful conversations, intense experiences, and awe-inspiring moments, and we’ve also shared a lot of laughter!  While many people are upstairs, trying to fit their newly-acquired tangible memories into suitcases that somehow seem much smaller than 21 days ago, I will share with you some of the quotable quotes that I collected throughout our journey.  Many of them may only make a certain group of 16 people laugh, and leave the rest of you faithful readers puzzled.  But, if the quotes themselves leave you confused, please understand that we have become a group of trusted companions and friends, and these moments remind us of that!
~Alissa Bender

“I’m going to go practice the shofar.” – Ryan
“The Dead Sea is like Hell.  You’ve gotta go there.” – Carol
“I don’t think it’s a super modest day.” – Allan
“Supper/Breakfast/Leaving Time… bow wow wow wow… you can’t touch this.” – Derek
“I don’t want to just be an amoeba.” – Michaela
“So, how is that different from toddler?” – Michaela
“That’s a great game, Simon Says.” – Michaela
“There’s an awkward gap and my bum is weird.” – Allan
“Even more happens under the Israeli moon.” – Derek
“Andrew, he’s the hero.  He had feet.” – Carol
“I like you as a cat.” – Michaela to Caleb
“What’s that old thing carved out of stone?” – Carol
“I need a drink!” – Kailey
“I’m having issues with the ‘p’.” – Vanessa
“I just like being the centre of attention!” – Derek
“Churches go crazy sometimes.  It’s like rabies.” – anonymous
“I’m a Gentile.  I can do this.” – Caleb
“It was a Jewish synagogue crossed with a hippie drum circle.” – Caleb
“It’s a jungle eat jungle world.” – Carol
“Derek, for one thing, I’m already toilet trained.” – Seth
“ ‘No, no, girlfriend!’ That’s what God said to Moses.” – Derek
“Herod was gangsta boss.” – Seth

Total groaner puns (note the predominance of faith partners):
“You could wear a sarong.” – Caleb “That’s sa-wrong thing to wear!” – Carol
“Get out of Jael free…” – Derek
“Cistern!” – Annika “And brethren?” – Alissa
“I don’t think you have a high enough hai-q.” – Derek to Allan

Other friends along the way:
“Don’t forget your modesty kit.” – Linford
“FERTILE!” – Linford
“You cut down one tree, I plant ten.” – Daher (
When asked whether she is religious: “Well… I pray, but my shorts are very short.” – Yonah
“You guys are very excited about things.” – Jared (Jerusalem guide)
“So, where are the Eskimos on Mt. Zion?” – random woman on tour that Derek snuck onto (it was later discerned that she was looking for Bedouins)

Just Keep Swimming.

Yesterday we did a variety of things. We began our day at Massada by taking a cable car up to the top of the cliff. All of us looked around at all of the beautiful buildings that have slowly been disappearing. The ruins of King Herod's castle was especially interesting. We thought that it was quite funny that he insisted on having his building built pretty much on the side of the cliff. That would have made the slaves walk up and down it everday while building that. Clearly Herod didn't put others needs before his :) But i think that highlight of everyones day was going to the Dead Sea after that. While driving there we all sang hymns to pass the time. Before even hopping into the water, we could feel ourselves being pulled up since the water is so incrediibly salty. All you have to do is relax and the water just makes you float. But in order to get into the water, we had to climb over these huge "rocks" that were salt.  It was really a weird and awesome experience. Eventually we had to head to Qumran where we saw the places where pieces of the scroll was discovered. At this point everybody was getting extremely tired from the sun. The temperature was 43 degress yesterday! Our last stop was Jericho. We walked around and saw a 10 000 year old guard tower. Which was pretty sweet. So today was definitly memorable.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012


Today was a roller-coaster of emotion. Our first stop was at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum, a beautiful building which houses a horrible history. I can't pretend that this was an easy experience. The reality that millions of Jewish people were marched to extermination camps by a racist regime is difficult to digest. Though the act of remembering is essential, being confronted by stories of families torn apart and people stripped of their dignity is deeply disturbing.

The rest of the afternoon was free and so many of us took the opportunity to peruse the colourful markets of the Old City or to stop in at various holy places. Later we convened for a debriefing and devotional before heading out to the synagogue for a Shabbat (or Sabbath) service.

The place we ended up was not the place we intended to get to, unbeknownst to us, but we still had an amazing experience. We ended up at some sort of hippie-like, Jewish congregational meeting. Most of the service was spent singing beautiful, repetitious melodies that were accompanied by a flute, a cello, hand drums, guitars and clapping. It was so exciting to absorb the sights and sounds of their worship.

After the service we split into two groups and and joined families for Shabbat dinner. It's a beautiful tradition that involves lighting candles, breaking bread and singing blessings over the family and the food. It was an honour to be included in such a sacred family tradition that is thousands of years old.

All in all, it was a good day. Though we began the day by interacting with the dead, we ended the day by connecting with the living. To me it was a sign of hope.

Michaela Pries-Klassen

Walking through Time

Thursday morning we stepped back in time into the Jerusalem of King David, which stood on a hill beneath Mount Moriah.  Slowly, we wound our way back to through tunnels, water, alleyways and time, passing beneath cities and pushing up against the foundations of the Temple Mount until we reached the Jerusalem we know.

We began at the excavations of David's City, which are the remains of a Jebusite city supposedly conquered by King David and used as his capital, Jerusalem.  At the base of the only water source of the city, a fortified spring, there is a tunnel that was carved out of the rock by King Hezekiah to divert the water from the spring to another pool in preparation for a siege by the Assyrians.  This tunnel can still be traversed today.  With a deep breath, we walked into the ground and about 2,500 years back in time.  The water in the tunnel was ice cold, but luckily rarely rose higher than our ankles.  The rock walls were narrow, requiring us to walk single file with flashlights spread out between every few people.  At times, the ceiling was meters above our heads, but other times it was so low that I, at a height of 5"1 had to bend almost in half to avoid hitting my head.  We sang as we walked, and even though you could only see the person in front of you, you could hear everyone's voices echoing in harmony off the stone walls.

Hezekiah's tunnel comes out at the Pool of Siloam, the lowest point in the City of David. From there, we jumped forward a couple hundred years to the 1st century A.D., and into a Roman Drainage tunnel that ran beneath the street that lead up to the Temple Mount.  It was in this small tunnel that the last surviving rebels of the revolt against Rome hid while legions of Roman soldier's marched over their heads.  We walked up this tunnel, squeezing between tight walls and crunching bits of pottery, all the way up to the Western Wall.

While there is a small portion of the Western Wall visible above ground, the majority is hidden beneath the city, with many modern-day houses built against it.  Though most of the the Wall is hidden from the outside world, it can be explored, touched and prayed at by walking through tunnels beneath the city.  We went down and saw layer upon layer of Herodian stone, stretching up and down for meters.  We could tell where the Wall had been broken, where it had been repaired, and where it met Mount Moriah.

As we left the tunnels behind us, we emerged onto the sunny streets of modern-day Jerusalem.  We passed through all four quarters of the city: the colourful, congested Muslim quarter, where spices fill the air and people jostle you on either side; the quiet streets next to the walled Armenian quarter, which is locked to all but its 2,000 inhabitants; the European-inspired Christian quarter, that almost reminds you as much of Austria as of Jerusalem; and the pristine Jewish quarter, a little piece of Europe in the Middle East.  Each quarter is home to a vibrant, proud community, all of which face different challenges in their daily lives.

The streets of Jerusalem are more than just stones and buildings, they are layers of history, each revealing just a hint of the people who have lived in this holy city.  Who knows, in 500 years, someone else maybe be descending into a tunnel, hoping to catch a glimpse of the 21st century.

Vanessa Snyder-Penner

An Intro to Jerusalem

I apologize for posting this a little late; the last few days have been packed full of learning and exploration, and I never really got around to posting online (I was being lazy).  Instead of giving an event-by-event description of our first day in Jerusalem, I'd like to give a more sensory/first-impression account of the city.  How to begin describing the old city?  For starters, it is surrounded by a wall built by the Ottoman empire.  We entered through a gate, a large gate, called Damascus gate, and after passing through its arches, we were immediately confronted with the incredible energy of this bustling, crowded, ancient city.  After plunging into the market streets, which twist through the city like arteries, we experienced the colours, smells, and sounds of a deeply entrenched, and what seems ancient, way of life. The stones that make up the roads/paths are slick and polished from countless years of activity; the walls are stained by countless years of work.  It is difficult to retain the abundance of experience as we wander these intricate pathways and enter the stone walled buildings.  It is even more difficult to try to convey in writing the plurality of feelings and ideas that formed as a result of relating to the city for the first time.

A theme that was striking to me on our first day was how Jerusalem is a poetic city.  It has such beautiful people and architecture, and yet there is an undeniable history of animosity.  The streets are electric with activity, and two steps to the side one is immersed in the most serene of sanctuaries.  Underneath all these occupied buildings are vacant, lost remains of old Jerusalem, much like varying colours of sedimentation in an archaeological dig, except each layer is an ancient civilization.  In Jerusalem, there is so much opposition, and that is what makes it beautiful; that is why it is poetic.