I am pretty sure I experienced one of the coolest days of my entire life today!! This day is traditionally celebrated as Palm Sunday or the Triumphant Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem which marks the last week of his life. This makes me think as I am writing this right now… what would I do if I knew I had one week left to live and mission to fulfill? Anyway, it was full of amazing experiences and memories that I will never forget!
The day started with a trip to the Temple Mount which I haven’t gone to since the first weekend that I was here. I think I appreciated it about ten times more just from everything I have learned about Islam and about the biblical history that occurred there. We decided to go to the Temple Mount today to celebrate Jesus’ “Cleansing of the Temple” which is actually traditionally celebrated tomorrow but we won’t be here. Apparently hundreds of other people also wanted to go to the Mount so we had to wait in line for about an hour (oh tourists…) There are two things that I loved the most about visiting – first, I gave a beggar woman some shekels. Immediately, she pulled my hand to bring me closer and kissed my cheek saying “Habbibi! Habbibi!” This means “I love you” in Arabic and all I can say back is “Habbibi!” back to her because I honestly felt that towards her. I just feel like I can do more to serve others (after listening to conference yesterday) even if it is a couple of shekels. Second, I oriented myself on the Temple Mount as to how it would have looked with the temple on it. Due to my lack of geographical expertise, my friends helped me out but it was so amazing to just picture! I love it! We walked back through the city to the center and got some egg bread on the way. It was like a pizza with a layer of ground beef, some onion tomato sauce, and then topped with egg. I must admit, I was a huge fan! As we approached the center, a man followed us, offering all the women in our group a kiss. He is the same one who attempted to kiss Annalise two months ago in West Jerusalem. Hahah! Also, I had my favorite lunch in the center – raviolis in a vodka sauce, sweet potatoes in a cream sauce, borek, peas, and a salad. I love it!!
Here comes the most exciting thing EVER!!! I celebrated Palm Sunday with thousands of Christians and Catholics today!! We met at the Beth- church that is located on the top of the Mount of Olives. The night before Jesus Christ enters Jerusalem, he stays with Martha and Mary in Bethany, which is located just past the Mount of Olives. At this church were so many different kinds of congregations, ethnicities, and races all gathered together to celebrate Jesus entering Jerusalem!! How amazing is that!? David and I bought a palm leaf together (which was honestly overpriced and a tourist trap but what can you do?) that we were able to carry. Random side note: before we headed out, a random guy came up and started to dance with me. It was fine until he practically suctioned me to his body! Luckily David came to the rescue and pulled me away from him. J Anywho, we finally headed out to make our way slowly down the Mount into the city.
There were so many groups singing joyously around us it was really amazing! There was an Asian group singing in front of us with guitars and speaks, a Hispanic group with tambourines and men in robes beside us, and an African group with drums behind us. Every group let us come over to join their singing and dancing. At one point, a nun came over and started cheering with us as we shouted “Jesus!!” to the African songs. I never thought of the Triumphant Entry to be so joyous and celebratory!! In fact, I have never seen so much excitement and praise for Jesus before. I joined a Filopino group at one point too and the leader came over to sing with me and teach me songs. I loved it!!! What I loved the MOST about the whole experience is the gathering of so many believers of Jesus Christ. Sometimes I think we forget that there are so many other good and faithful believers of Christ in the world besides us. I loved celebrating Palm Sunday with all of them too – it was so wonderful to shout joy with thousands of other believers. I also think we should praise Him more with joy – even the Atonement. It is such a special and reverent subject and I believe in treating it with respect but I also believe it is meant to be celebrated because of the Resurrection. Jesus Christ really did come to this earth and he did walk the lands of Galilee and Jerusalem. I don’t know this because I am HERE but rather because I have studied the words of the holy book of God and felt a confirmation of the Spirit. It is absolutely amazing to be here in Jerusalem though and to feel the Spirit so strongly here – for this I have been truly blessed. I do know that my Savior and Redeemer lives! I LOVE JESUS!!!
Scriptures: Matthew 21:1–17; Mark: 11:1–11; Luke 19:28–46; John 12:12–19). Suggested Music: Sing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor.”
Also, I will update on Turkey and Galilee when I return home and have more time than here. :) Thanks for reading!!!