Tuesday, July 28, 2009


We don't have too many paydays around here. Oh wait. We don't have paydays. At least not in money form.

But Joni recently gave me a mommy payday. The conversation went like this...

Joni: "Hey mom, I'm sure glad you're my mommy."

Me: "Well, thanks. I'm glad you're my little girl!"

Joni: "And I'm REALLY glad you found such a great husband because I looooove my daddy!"

I'll take that over money any day. :)

Friday, July 24, 2009


Yesterday I was finally able to go see a couple of my friends in the West Bank. I hope to convey the feelings it created in me. This might get long but please read.

I wish everyone could experience going through a checkpoint. Until you do, I just don't think there is any way to really understand what it is like.

First of all, it is illegal (hello!) for them to even build the West Bank wall in the first place. It really is a crime against humanity. I am baffled by the very idea - even more so now.

Going into the West Bank they don't stop you at all. You just drive right through. And the city of Ramallah is a beautiful place. I fell in love with it from the very first moment. It may not be beautiful in the way you might think, but it IS beautiful. I loved the Souq, or open air market. It was full of the most beautiful produce you've ever seen. Sweet old women sell handmaid Arab dresses with beautiful colors and designs. And the bread! Oh the bread! It is a carb-lover's paradise. If you have never had fresh pita straight from the oven, you haven't lived.

I have two friends that live in Ramallah. Natalie is a Ph.D student doing research there. She has spent time over here, off and on, for the last 14 years. She was our tour-guide, and a good one at that. After walking around the city for a while, she took us to see our friend Carolyn that I mentioned here. She is an American that married a Palestinian almost 25 years ago. She has recently been unable to come to church because of the wall and its checkpoints. Grrr.

She was a wondeful host. She lives in this magical Arab house that's over 100 years old. It has lots of character and is very eclectic. Loved it. We had a wonderful lunch, served on beautiful dishes, and laughed until our sides hurt.

Then it was time for our journey back. Jerusalem and Ramallah are only about 6 miles apart. But it took us over an hour to get home. The checkpoint alone took us about 40 minutes. Can you imagine it taking you an hour to go 6 miles? You might as well be in L.A. traffic at rush hour. At least that way the wait isn't due to racial discrimination.

When you arrive at the wall, they make everyone get off of the bus. You then walk across a big parking lot to get to the checkpoint. After taking a few steps into what would be compared to a narrow cattle chute with barred walls about 8 feet high, I turned to one of my friends I was traveling with and asked, "Are we cows?" because that's exactly what it feels like. Then we waited, and waited, and waited in the blazing heat for no apparent reason. I'm guessing the 18 year old soldiers inside were taking a break, while keeping working men and women from getting home to their families. We wanted to take pictures of it all, but we were scared to do so. SCARED TO TAKE PICTURES. If you have never felt that way, consider yourself lucky. It's a horrible feeling.

Finally the big rotating gate (like what you walk through when leaving an amusement park) unlocks and they let about 4 people through at a time. But you better be fast through that gate because if they lock it again while you're in the middle of it, you are stuck until the next four people are allowed through. You then put all of your belongings onto a conveyor belt, then step to the side and show your passport/visa or other permitting papers to the 18 year old kids behind a window. Then you hope that they will motion for you to move along (like you're a child) and that they don't take you to the side to interrogate you, or even strip-search you.

Then you step up to the next rotating gate and wait for them to unlock it. Again, you hope it's unlocked long enough for you to make it through. They will not notice that you are essentially locked into a cage not much bigger than your body.

Can you tell I think it's disgusting?

After all of that we went back out the other side to get back on our bus, but it had left us because "we" had taken so long. We tried to get on another, but were soon kicked off. But the next bus worked out thankfully and we were on our way. It was the longest 6 miles I have ever traveled.

Many people have to do this EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Even worse, many people are not even allowed to go through at all.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Just walking

Today I was looking back through some of my blog posts since coming here to Jerusalem. It reminded me of how simple our life is here. I love that aspect of moving out of the country. I love that we left so much of our "stuff" behind. I'm used to the bare walls and the lack of decor. I'm used to having no car and no dishwasher. I'm used to not being able to go to Walmart and getting whatever I need/want. Have I ever mentioned that I used to dream about it? For the first several months I was here I would have dreams about being home in the states and going shopping. In my dreams I would feel so relieved that I was done shopping in Israel and that I could get whatever I needed at any time. Then I would wake up. And I would spend the rest of the day longing for a Target. But those feelings and dreams have been gone for a while now.

Our Relief Society President in our branch here gave a talk last week about the pioneers. It was based off of a talk given by Virginia Pearce. She talked about how we grow up hearing all about the heroic moments in the lives of the pioneers who crossed the plains, but what we forget is that most of their time was spent walking. They most likely went through the same monotonous ritual each morning and each evening, spending countless hours walking in between. What mattered is that they KEPT walking. And although their slow pace must have seemed pretty routine to them, every inch, every step, every day had a purpose.

Even though it may sound exotic or exciting to be living a daily life in Jerusalem, most of our days are spent much the same as they would be anywhere. We play with our kids, get involved at church, have a few close friends, go to the park, and read our children stories before bed each night. We have days that are hard, and then there are days that are extra exciting. But like the primary song about the pioneers, we walk, and walk, and walk. We're on our own personal journey across the plains. This is just one leg of the trip.

And I'm enjoying it.

*Click here for a spiritual boost. And keep walking!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Little Stinker

We've been doing this a lot lately...

He's a stinker, but he sure is cute!

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Small little factoid about myself - the 4th of July is my favorite holiday. I love the celebration of freedom. I love the opportunity we have to think about and appreciate those who have sacrificed to serve our country and defend the MANY freedoms we enjoy. Several people in my family have served in the military and that makes me proud. My own grandfather served in WWI and WWII. I will forever be in his debt, as I am to so many others.

Today this holiday holds a whole new meaning for me. I now live in a country much different than America. I see the differences every single day. Today I'd like to share something that is very near and dear to me, so please take a moment to read and understand the serious subject at hand.

Below is a map of Israel/Palestine. The lighter part is "Israel" and the darker parts labeled West Bank and Gaza are "Palestine". I put quotation marks only because these names are subjective around here. Not everyone agrees on these borders. As you can see, Jerusalem is tucked up into a small area surrounded by the West Bank.


The Gaza Strip has a fence that encircles its boundaries, called the Gaza Strip barrier.

Not far from us, is the West Bank barrier. It is a huge concrete wall still in the process of being built that gets as high as 26 feet in some places. We can literally see it on our walk to church. The efficacy of this wall can be argued for hours so I'm not going to do that here, but it must be known that this wall does take away freedoms. The Palestinian economy is crumbling. You think the US economy is bad? Try living in the West Bank! Many of these people have completely lost their livelihoods. Many of the towns and cities in the West Bank are deteriorating at record speeds. Many families have owned land and businesses in Jerusalem for many decades, and they're no longer able to get to work because they're not allowed through the border! Can you imagine?!?

The reason I explain all that, is first of all, we need to remember all the freedoms we have! We don't have walls that go through our cities that keep us from going to work! Or that keep us from going to church! But people here face that every. single. day.

The second reason I share that is because I believe it needs to become a matter of fasting and prayer. As I've mentioned before, our Sabbath is on Saturdays. Today we were asked to use our "Fast Shabbat" to specifically fast and pray for those members of the church who are unable to come to church because of the barrier, and that hearts will be softened in order to allow them access to church worship. The branch here is currently working on getting them some kind of religious pass that would allow them to come in order to worship. These people NEED this to go through. It will most likely have to be approved by many people, and we need the Lord to soften hearts and allow these wonderful members of the church to worship the way they please.

So if you are fasting this "Shabbat", I ask that you include this issue in your prayers. Pray for my friend Carolyn who is an American and isn't allowed to come to church just because she married a Palestinian! And my good friend Sahar who was born and raised in Bethlehem and ended up joining the church while on a scholarship at BYU. For years it used to take her hours to get to church, hiding from patrolmen, sneaking through holes in the wall, hiding behind trees, praying she wouldn't get shot. And a sweet man named Mohammad. He is the only member in his family, and because of the wall hasn't had work in YEARS! He desperately wants to come to church, but is only able to come occasionally.

Picture of the West Bank barrier.

Men wait for hours in line at checkpoints to be able to get into Israel for work and church.

So if you're one of my many American friends reading this, Happy 4th of July! Take a moment amid the parades and fireworks today to enjoy and appreciate your freedoms! And if you can, take a moment during Fast Sunday tomorrow to pray for those who don't even have the freedom to come to church, both here in Israel, and around the world. We should all be able to worship our God. But not all of us can in the way we'd like.

Happy Freedom Day!!!