Greeks learn in order to comprehend.
Hebrews learn in order to revere.

~ Abraham Joshua Heschel

Monday, June 8, 2009

We're Back!

Hello everyone. Well, we made it back and everyone survived the flight! It was a little rocky with Denyon getting motion sickness in the van ride to the airport (which left a pretty foul odor on his carseat for the remainder of the trip), security problems with our bags, having difficulty getting our stroller in between flights, and an unexpected additional layover in Montreal. Despite all the extra hassle, Denyon was excellent on the flight and we all got some good rest. Most importantly, we arrived in Detroit with all of our luggage and everyone in one piece.

The last two weeks have been busy with getting settled back into our condo in Holland, visiting with Brad's family briefly, and visiting friends. It's been a pretty smooth transition although we are definitely adjusting to American life. Now, we are just seeking what God has next for us and we hope to take the next couple of months to discern that. We will keep you posted on our future plans and thank you for all of your support throughout this year. You are all a blessing!

Brad, Shallon, Denyon, and Little G2

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Few Dates

Over the last week, Brad and I have had the opportunity to go on a few dates to see some last things around Jerusalem before heading back to the states. With the offer of two of our regular babysitters and a friend to watch Denyon for free, we thought we'd better not miss the opportunity. There are so many things to see in Jerusalem, so there were (and are) still things we hadn't seen yet on our list of "things to see."

So, last Wednesday afternoon, we revisited the site of the City of David and Hezekiah's Tunnel. We had previously been there, but not without Denyon which limited us from walking through the tunnel (which we had only done once together in June 2006). The tunnel was built by King Hezekiah and it was built to create an underground water channel from the natural spring of Gihon, through the city, which was then simply called Jerusalem. It is now called the City of David because it is no longer within the old city walls of Jerusalem. It was mainly built to protect the city's water supply during times of siege. And still today it flows with water...very cold water. The tunnel is not much more than shoulder width wide at any given point, and often it's necessary to duck so as not to hit your head. It takes about 45 minutes just to walk through. It's completely dark so flashlights are necessary. At the highest point the water reached just below my hips, but mostly it was about mid-calf deep. We were glad to get our feet wet!

Last Sunday, we not quite so "fun" as we went to Yad Vashem--the Jerusalem Holocaust Museum. It was an intense day and we were so glad we did not miss going to this site while we were here. The museum is extensive and extremely well done. You weave your way through about 12 rooms in the main part of the museum recounting the history of the Nazi rise to power, Hitler, the various concentration camps and extermination facilities, the final death march before the Jews were liberated, immigration patterns and difficulties after the Holocaust, personal stories of survivors, etc. At the end of the museum is a Hall of Names where over 3 million of the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust are remembered each in book with a report about them. The goal of Yad Vashem is to one day have all 6 million names. In addition to the main part of the museum, there was also a Children's Memorial, Military Cemetery, Hall of Remembrance with an eternal flame, Holocaust Museum of Art, and what I call a "Look what I'm doing now" Holocaust survivor exhibition. It honors the accomplishments of numerous Holocaust survivors in Israel such as the inventor and creator of El Al Airlines in Israel (just to name one among many).

We spent nearly five hours there and left feeling very informed, overwhelmed, and also depressed. It is so difficult to think that any human being could do such a thing. I will paraphrase a quote that left a lasting impression on me that I read in the museum (although I don't remember who said it): It's not that 6 million innocent Jews were murdered, it's that there are 6 million murderers out there. I know I butchered it but it is hard to fathom that so many people could commit such extreme crime and not be punished. We recently watched the film, "The Boy in Striped Pajamas" which is excellent (although tragic) if you haven't seen it.

On a lighter note, just yesterday we went on our third date. This time we headed to the northern part of the old city near the Damascus Gate. Here we went underground to visit Zedekiah's Cave and the old Roman Gate. Zedekiah's cave is thought to be a cave that was used during the time of King Solomon for quarrying many of the stones he used to build the temple. There were some places that even looked like you could see where rocks were cut from the cave walls. An interesting thing we saw there was our archaeology professor Gaby Barkay having a private lunch/filming session in one of the small side "rooms" of the cave. We only wished we could've inquired about what he was doing but unfortunately our class is done and we probably won't have the opportunity!

The Roman Gate is directly under the current Damascus Gate and it was the gate erected during the Roman time period (approximately during the time of Paul from the New Testament). The gate is still in good shape and every time I see something like this I'm amazed at how something built nearly 2000 years ago can still be standing! I wonder what will still be here two thousand year from now?

From there we went to the Garden Tomb. This is the location where we celebrated Easter Sunday this year. Although we were there before, we didn't really get to see inside the tomb or look around much because of the busyness and crowd of the morning. This time it was nice to see up close one of two possible locations for the burial and resurrection of Jesus. We even got to see the nearby skull-shaped cliff which could be the reference to the Bible's "the place of the skull". It would be so much easier if someone just left a sign that said, "This is where ______ happened" for all the major historical events that we just don't know for sure where they took place!

After the Garden Tomb, we climbed up atop the old city walls to what is called, "The Rampart's Walk." This path along the city wall allows you to walk entirely around the old city (excluding the Temple Mount) from above. The views as we walked along were amazing and it was such a great perspective looking down into the city from above. We were surprised at how many basketball courts and soccer fields we saw as we walked along. And there were lots of children playing on such a beautiful day! After being here nearly nine months, we are finally starting to feel like we can navigate our way through the old city and this only helped us to get our bearings even better. After our long trek, needless to say we (especially me) had some tired legs!

We are hoping to see a few more places in the city before we go, but seeing all the above was such a blessing! It is just more to add to our fabulous experience that we've had so far!

Thanks for being part of our journey and see you soon!


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Israel Independence Day

Last Tuesday night, around 8:30 p.m., I climbed up on our rooftop to await the fireworks. April 29 is Israel's Independence Day and we were told that fireworks displays would happen all over the city to commemorate this day. Our neighbors told us that our rooftop was a great location to watch them from and they were right! Between 8:30-11 p.m. I saw a total of 12 different sets of fireworks. Brad wasn't able to make it up to the roof until about 9:45 p.m. and he still saw 8 displays! The best was the last one we saw (and the one we'd been waiting for all night) because it was the one that took place in our neighborhood--Baka. These were very close and we could here them very well unlike some of the others that were quite a distance away. They lasted probably 15-20 minutes and were quite good. Denyon was fast asleep although I'm sure he would've enjoyed all of the beautiful colors. Although the fireworks were not the best I'd ever seen (I grew up near Louisville, KY where Thunder over Lousiville happened each year--at one point the largest fireworks display in the world), the location for viewing them was the best! The rooftop was great because there were no trees or people to get in the way. It was another great experience here in Jerusalem!

See you next time,


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Denyon's BIG Announcement !!!

Well, after nearly nine months of living here in Jerusalem and my mommy always getting to write on the blog, she finally let me do my first entry. I have some exciting news (I think!) to share with you. My mommy and daddy tell me that I’m going to be a big brother! I’m not exactly sure what that means but they seem very excited about it. They keep asking me if I want a brother or a sister and I just tell them whichever one they say last to me. I don’t want them to really know what I want. They showed me these cool pictures of the baby in my mommy’s tummy so I thought I would share one of them with you too (see below). This little baby already has arms and legs…just like me! I bet I can kick and throw a ball better though! I am excited to meet my little brother or sister around November 11. My mommy seems to be the same to me except sometimes she is tired and sometimes daddy says I have to leave her alone in the bathroom because she is feeling sick. I don’t like it when mommy gets sick but she says it’s okay and not to worry. I’ll keep you posted and in the meantime, if you have any tips for how to be a good big brother, please let me know! Have a great day!



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Last But Not Least! (Eilat & Petra Trip)

Last Wednesday morning, we headed out for our last overnight trip as a family while in Israel. It was definitely not the least of the trips as we headed down to the southernmost city of Israel—Eilat. This city sits along the coast of the Red Sea and borders Egypt on to the south, Jordan to the East, and Saudi Arabia is visible across the sea to the southeast. It is an amazing geographical sight to be able to view four countries at once, all the while enjoying the beautiful Red Sea.

The drive was about 3 ½ hours long, so once we arrived, we checked into our cozy villa about a mile from the coast, ate lunch, and headed to the beach. We went to a less crowded, but no less beautiful, beach called Coral Reserve Beach. There, you could rent snorkeling equipment and snorkel right off the beach. This was great since obviously one of us had to stay with Denyon. He’s pretty advanced but he’s not quite ready to snorkel. The Red Sea has some of the best visibility for snorkeling of all the salt bodies of water in the world due to three things: 1. Higher salt content than most (3.9% versus 3.1% in other major salt bodies). 2. Slightly cooler temperatures. 3. When the fish die, instead of floating to the top and contaminating the water, they sink to the bottom so the visibility is not impaired. So because of the great visibility, the snorkeling is amazing! It was one of those times I’d wish I’d had one of the cheap underwater disposable cameras. There were so many beautiful fish, colors, and coral. We were able to snorkel there both on Wednesday and Friday and both days were spectacular.

On Thursday, we crossed the Jordanian border and headed to the site of Petra. It’s hard to describe this phenomenal place but it’s a Nabataean city that originated over 2000 years ago. The Nabataeans were ancient Arab tribes that came from the Arabian Peninsula. The city was taken over by the Roman Empire in 106 AD, but the Nabataeans left impressive structures behind. The rock there is sandstone in what seems as though all colors of the rainbow. The light of the sun also changes the colors throughout the day. The buildings are carved out of the sandstone, so basically the builders start with a huge slab of natural rock structure, and cut away to make whatever building they are trying to construct. It is so impressive and really pictures don’t even do it justice. Although in southern Jordan and usually very hot this time of year, it was ironically very cold. We were not dressed prepared for that so we bought a couple scarves/blankets in order to keep Denyon and myself warm. Brad just had to tough it out (it did eventually warm up a bit)!

We arrived back in Eilat in ample time to have a delicious dinner at a place highly recommended by the owner of our villa. It was called the Gulf Restaurant and we had delicious fried calamari. Even Denyon liked it! It’s always so fun having new foods from different places when you travel.

Friday was another day in Eilat enjoying the Red Sea. This time, the bulk of our day was spent at the Underwater Observatory and Aquarium Park. It was fascinating and Denyon was beside himself at knowing which exhibit he wanted to see. He wanted to go in and out of exhibits and up and down ramps and stairs. We couldn’t keep up! The park included a couple different aquarium exhibits with rare marine species, all types of fish, and coral. It also housed a shark and sting ray pool, turtle pool, children’s play area, small snorkel area, and the coolest underwater observatory. This was a large building built right in the middle of the sea that you could go down underwater and see the fish live! There are some amazing coral reefs where the structure is located so the marine life was incredible. Here Brad was able to get some pictures so it does capture some of the Red Sea’s beauty.

Of note at the shark tank is a funny story. The sharks were going to be fed so dozens of people were packed in to see. There was a bridge over the tank that you could stand on and look down below to see the sharks being fed. We were standing there and Denyon was in the backpack on Brad's back. He then requested a snack, so I handed him his cheerios container. It has a flip lid that he can open and close, which I had opened. He closed it then and got frustrated so I opened it again. He closed it again, got frustrated, and this time threw it down and the container spilled open and a large portion of the contents went into the tank! There were signs in numerous places in the park that read, "Do not feed us. Your food is not digestible for us!" Brad told me to quickly put the container away so that we didn't get kicked out for not following the rules! Denyon just thought the sharks needed a little snack!

We then went to the beach again, and surprisingly ran into some friends from the school. They have three children so Denyon enjoyed playing with them, and it gave both of us couples a little bit more room to relax because the kids kept each other entertained. They are the same family that we ran into at the Garden Tomb Easter service. Katie and I had said we’d wanted to organize a play date…God orchestrated two! We had a wonderful time on the beach with them, and then had another amazing dinner. This time at a place known for its steaks and we both had one of the best we’d ever had. Yum!

Saturday, we left Eilat and visited two spots on the way home. First, we stopped at Timna, which is a reserve in the desert in the southern part of Israel which houses ancient copper mines. The climbing was incredible and we found some great rocks. Another place of interest there is a replica of the Tabernacle of Moses’ time. The guide there was so nice and actually knows some of the people we know from West Michigan that lead trips there. It was great to talk with her and remember how small the world is.

Second, we went to Mizpe Ramon and saw (as well as drove thru) the largest natural geological depression in the world, called "Mahktesh Ramon." Many are probably thinking of the Grand Canyon but that is a canyon and not a depression formed from years of earth silting away. We basically drove through the depression, and then made our way to the top where we could look out into the depression from above. It was beautiful and well worth the stop. The drive home was lengthy but these two stops helped pass the time and allowed us to enjoy some areas we hadn’t driven through previously. Hopefully the pictures captured the beauty!

We were all very tired upon our return and enjoyed long naps the next day. The trip was very relaxing and a great break for Brad before the big push of the last two weeks of the semester. It’s hard to believe we’ve only got another month here. The time has flown and we feel so blessed to have experienced so many wonderful trips including this one. We have created a lifetime of memories!

Have a blessed day!

Brad, Shallon, and Denyon

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy Easter!

Although we were quite exhausted after a wonderful week with my parents, we couldn't miss out on celebrating Easter at the Garden of two possible locations for the burial and resurrection of Christ in Jerusalem. The day was beautiful with bright sun, a light breeze, and warm air. The service was held outside in the beautiful garden and nearly 1000 people were in attendance. The celebration consisted of almost all singing with a small message near the end. It was amazing to worship and celebrate the resurrection with so many other Christians in the place where perhaps the first Easter was celebrated! Denyon even enjoyed the morning seeing as though the floor was a bed of rocks! We also sat with some friends from the school who have three children so they all kept each other occupied. It was well worth waking up for and probably our favorite Easter celebration yet. We feel blessed to have been part of such an incredible experience. We hope that you all had a wonderful Easter celebration as well!

Happy Easter with love,

Brad, Shallon and Denyon