Monday, May 18, 2009

Dome of the Rock Part 1

We had the most amazing experience Sunday morning. Through a good friend of ours here who has a lot of connections, we actually got to go INSIDE the Dome of the Rock! For a non-Muslim, this is a very special and rare opportunity. And it was amazing. Something I will never forget.

We only had one problem. Even though I thought ahead enough to charge my camera battery through the previous night, once we got to the Old City I realized I was missing my photo card!!! I'm not sure I have EVER been that mad at myself. But luckily friends of ours were there and promised to share their pictures. Then part-way through the tour, another friend (our "connection" to get in) realized we weren't using our camera so he let us borrow his.

So, hopefully sometime in the near future, I will be able to share those photos.

In the meantime, I thought I'd post some pictures I took back in October when we went to the Dome of the Rock for the first time. I'm not sure why I never posted them, but I'll share them now. Just to give a little background, the Dome of the Rock was built 1400 years ago. The dome is built over a most sacred rock that holds a lot of religious significance to Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Muslims believe that this is where Muhammad ascended to heaven. Jews and Christians believe that it is the spot of the Holy of Holies during the Temple Period. It is also tradition that this is the spot where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac.

We actually saw and touched this rock, and words cannot describe how excited I was. From the moment we found out we were coming to Israel, one of the main things on my list of things to do was to find a way to get inside the Dome of the Rock. So I was thrilled to actually be able to do it.

Here are our pictures from October....

The dome was originally made of pure gold. But it was later replaced by copper and aluminum but covered in gold leaf.

Joni standing in front of one of the many entrances.

Porcelain tiles cover another dome called Dome of the Chain that is built next to the Dome of the Rock. It is uncertain why this structure was built. You will see it's proximity to the Dome of the Rock in a video below.
Joni standing in the Dome of the Chain. It is all so beautiful. Lots of marble and intricate porcelain.

Muslim woman standing in front of one of the doors. Look at all that gorgeous marble!

The exterior is made of beautiful porcelain tiles and marble. The Arabic inscription near the top are quotes from the Qur'an.

This is a washing place called al-Kas where Muslim worshipers wash themselves before entering the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque (which we also got to go inside on Sunday!). It was first built in 709, and then in the 20th century they added the taps and stone seats.

Here are a couple of videos that show the layout of the buildings and the surrounding archways.....

(you can see the Dome of the Chain very clearly over to the right of the Dome of the Rock)

The Dome of the Rock is such a special place for so many reasons. You can see it from so many places throughout the city, and it is a constant reminder of the significance of this Holy place.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mom's Day

Tom and I just want to give a shout-out to our wonderful moms today.
We have both been so blessed to have the moms that we do. They are supportive and understanding in all of our adventurous undertakings. Think about it - how many moms would be supportive and excited for their kids and grandkids to move away to the Middle East for two years? Neither of our wonderful moms had a moment's hesitation (or at least didn't show it!). Instead, they told us how brave and faithful we were, and have supported us every step of the way.

So Mom, and Mom, thank you for loving us and supporting us. We couldn't ask for better moms, or for better grandmas for our kids. We love you and can't imagine our lives without you!!!

"Omi" Sowards

Grandma Joni


Saturday, May 9, 2009

I will never be the same

Front entrance to Yad Vashem

Yesterday Tom and I were able to go to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial here in Jerusalem. Yad Vashem is the worldwide headquarters for holocaust research and documentation. I hesitate to even post about it because it is something you have to experience for yourself to really grasp. It's a huge campus of different buildings and monuments. The biggest part is a huge museum that took us a couple of hours to walk through. I was amazed at the things they had preserved. They had clothing that prisoners wore in concentration camps, piles of shoes, even half-burned photographs that were found in the pockets of those who were murdered. All throughout the museum they had videos of holocaust survivors, and pictures of those who didn't make it. It was heart wrenching to hear their stories. There was one survivor remembering back to a time where it got so bad that the other prisoners would kill themselves by grabbing the electric fences. He would try to do whatever he could to remind himself all day that he was a human and that he was alive. He remembers being slapped around one day by a soldier, and it made him happy because for that day, the pain made it easy to remember that he was a human and that he was in fact alive.

They don't allow you to take pictures inside the museum, but here is a quick virtual tour they provide on their website.

I can't explain what it did for me to read and listen to the stories of these people who suffered so much. I studied the holocaust many times in school, but this was..... different. Much more profound.

I know it's a negative subject, and maybe a little two heavy for my weird, quirky little blog, but I know this means a great deal to the people here. They don't want the Holocaust to ever be forgotten. And it shouldn't be. The experience of Jews and others of that time are unimaginable to me. It helps my love and understanding for the Jewish people grow so much.

The beautiful view as you come out the back end of the museum. The feeling I got as I came out and saw this view helped me get a little bit better understanding of why this place means so much to them. It's finally a place they can call home.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Need a laugh?

Do you think it's okay to use your kids for your own personal entertainment?


We obviously do.