Thursday, November 24
Today was our last day in the Galilee as we made our way back to Jerusalem. It was so odd to me that it was Thanksgiving! This was my first Thanksgiving ever without my family, and so today was really the first day this entire semester that I’ve been truly homesick. It was hard to not be with my family and not have all of our holiday traditions and know that they were all together without me. Not to sound too depressed or anything, because I’ll be home soon! (Which is a whole other feeling in itself that I haven’t figured out yet). Anyways, today was a little rough, but I was surrounded by my 80 of my closest friends and saw some pretty cool stuff!
The day started off in Haifa, where we visited a Templar cemetery. I know, that seems like a really random place for us to visit, but it actually has a lot of meaning for the LDS church and the Jerusalem Center. Buried in this cemetery are two couples that converted to the gospel in the late 1800s, along with two missionaries who died of disease while serving in Haifa. It is sad that these missionaries (both from Utah) were not able to be buried close to their families, but it actually just shows how Heavenly Father has a greater plan than we realize. When the church was trying to get permission to build the Jerusalem Center, the Israeli government required there to proof that the LDS church had a presence in the country before the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. These converts and missionaries in Haifa from the turn of the century provided this presence. Without them, the center probably wouldn’t have been built. I know that I am eternally grateful for these people that I’ve never met, and who were not planning on being buried here (at least the missionaries). Aside from the historical and spiritual significance of the cemetery, the site itself was incredibly beautiful. It was just unkempt enough to feel organic and comfortable, but not too trimmed up where it felt sterile and austere. The sun was shining the beautiful way it does in the morning, and it was a nice autumn temperature. All in all, a great Thanksgiving morning. The second stop of the day was Caesarea Martima, which is a Herodian city built right on the coast of the Mediterranean. In ancient times it even extended over the harbor on big platforms and pylons. The history was really interesting, and the ruins were pretty, but I mostly just liked being by the sea again. Parts of the city that are right on the harbor have been converted into restaurants and a few little shops, which is fun. It was fun to explore around the area. I’m not going to lie though, I was ready to get back to the JC! I loved Galilee, but I just wanted to be home. Crazy that the JC is home, but I like it.
After the bus ride, we finally arrived back! All of us were so happy, and as we rounded the corner to come up Mount Scopus, we were all pointing out the arches of the Center and talking about how happy we were to see it again. We were practically running into the center, but then I legitimately broke out in a run... I saw Christmas lights! Our dear service couples had decorated for Christmas while we were away! There are now Christmas trees and lights and wreaths all over the JC, and I could not be happier! I may or may not have started crying when I saw it. It just reminded me of home, but then made me so happy that the couples would go to all the effort to decorate for us and make us feel at home. I love them and I love Christmas! It definitely got me ready for Thanksgiving dinner. After showering and cleaning up a little bit, we had out Thanksgiving feast in the Oasis. Achmed (our chef) and Sister Chapman are miracle workers! They worked so hard on making us a delicious meal that was “American.” We had big roast turkeys, stuffing, sweet potatoes, that one fruit salad with the whipped topping, it was great. Of course, I will still be looking forward to the frozen leftovers that Mom has promised me (DO NOT GET RID OF THOSE MOM- I WANT THEM SO BAD), but it was still so nice to have familiar holiday food. I sat with Robin, Adam, and Alyse, and we even went around and told each other what we were most thankful for. I’m so happy I got to share this holiday with them. And the turkey really was so good. To finish off the night, I got to talk to my whole family on the phone :) All my siblings are home, so I got to talk to my parents, siblings, and grandparents! I was so excited! (Again, may or may not have cried) It was a great Thanksgiving over all, and it really reminded me of the things I am thankful for most right now: my family and the fact that I can be with them forever; my health; my opportunity to be Israel; those who have gone before me and provided a way for me to be here; the students and faculty here; and most importantly, my Savior Jesus Christ and his infinite atonement on my behalf. I cannot be more blessed than I already am.