Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Home, My Habbibi

Home: (noun) a place where something flourishes

I am so overwhelmed with gratitude to be here in Jerusalem that I can hardly explain it. As I mentioned in my Egypt blog, it was so wonderful to return to the Jerusalem Center. It feel so much like home now. I cannot even describe how great everything has been. Every day, in fact several times a day, I am filled with appreciation about how great life is here. Sometimes school can be tough and things are hard with mid-terms, papers, quizzes, two-hour classes, and long days of studying, but it is more than worth it to be here. I have learned so much here and I feel it is knowledge that will be everlasting.

In front of the JC before leaving for En Kerem

Yesterday evening we were blessed to have a forum where our newest Jerusalem Center Director, Dr. Kent Brown, spoke to us. He gave us a detailed history of how the Jerusalem Center came to be and the opposition it faced along the way (which was extreme and often…) I had heard many of the stories he told us, but was surprised and fascinated by others. One of my favorite stories of the night was about the initial occupation of the Center. The students in the Winter of 1987 were residing in a nearby Kibbutz when Brother Gallbraith decided that they would need to occupy the Center by 6 am the next morning. He told the 100 students to pack up their things and silently move into the Center overnight. Due to the opposition the Center was facing, the idea was to get inside without drawing any attention. If they came in the early morning and took possession of the building it would be hard for them to be kicked out if they were already in. This move-in was obviously unexpected and the Center was not completely finished… in fact, they didn’t have heat for more than a month  and relied on the sun to warm the building. There were problems with the running water, lighting, and other aspects of the JC, but Dr. Brown emphasized, “Our students were home and that was the important thing.” ß This was probably my favorite thing he said that night… this is home. 

Our students were home... and that was the important thing.” 
~ Dr. Kent Brown  

The Center has a GORGEOUS Auditorium and I have heard time and time again that there is NO other room on the planet like it (I have not yet taken my own pictures of it… but will do so soon.. the one below is one I found online) Dr. Brown described the acoustics of the room and added that the sound on the stage runs along the floor as it ascends the room, the holes in the chairs absorb some of the sound (a very small amount) so that the sound in the room is reinforced by the sound ascending beneath you.

This picture doesn't do it justice... You've gotta come see it :)

He spoke about the Center being created to have the feeling of a living, breathing structure. Light will enter the JC from all different angles (there are SO many windows in this place!) and thus the light will change during various times of the day. From almost any window in the Center you have a great view of Jerusalem to make it feel like the City is coming into the Center. I’m definitely not stating things as eloquently as he did, but he used some beautiful imagery. Another interesting idea was that they constructed all the residential corridors to resemble the streets of the Old City. This is done with 1) the narrowness of the halls and 2) parts of the corridor being covered and other parts being outside.

Do you kind of see what he's talking about?

Also, the rumors are true… the beautiful Jerusalem Center will one day be turned into a temple with a “change in use” permit. It is currently chartered as an educational facility. However, this day when it will become a temple is very far off and seems almost impossible with the committees it would have to go through. For now it is used largely as an educational facility... oh and what an education it is!

This sign is true many hours of many days

Diligent students. This picture was not posed... it really wasn't; the current Branch President said we are the most studious group he has seen yet. 
But... I don't think he meant it as a compliment.

Where much studying, socializing, e-mailing, and researching occurs.
Also... 78 students many failed attempts to sign onto Facebook.

The Lounge. Almost Vacant. See... I told you everyone is studying... 

Okay, so we really do have a lot of fun at the JC that doesn't include studying. In fact, we have an AWESOME "In-Center Activities Director" (Alexis Redd) who has planned some way fun events. Tomorrow night we are learning how to Cha-Cha. The following are pictures from our "Freaky Friday" party held on Friday 13th and an "Egyptian Night" we had after we returned from Egypt. Freaky Friday kind of turned into goth/emo night, lol. I looked pretty dang scary... so I apologize beforehand... I don't think I've ever worn so much make up. Egyptian Night was really fun and everyone had an opportunity to showcase their many Egyptian purchases.

Albino/Goth, Heath Ledger, Cate Todd, Little Indian

Sister Bradley, Me, & Sister Foss

Egyptian: Gypsy, Mummifier, Me, & Bathroom Attendant

Our awesome group with our awesome Egypt stuff

Anne Shirley, Kara Van Wagenenenen..., Me, Steffy Lou
We won runner up for "Cleopatra Look-alikes"

Okay, so unfortunately I didn't get a lot of pictures of the wonderful "formal" talent show we had here. The amount of talent in the JC would blow your mind. I was absolutely shocked with how many people in our group can dance, sing, play musical instruments, and do all three. The people I have been privileged to get to know here never cease to amaze me. Here is one picture of Ryan Rampton and Jen Stacey singing "This is the Christ." It was incredible.
Jen has a gorgeous voice. If only pictures had sound...

Yes, I have already dedicated an entire blog to the food here, but meal time at the JC always proves to be a fun, social time. I have had hilarious, fun, awkward (haha, purposely awkward... Anne), great, deep, insightful, and spiritual conversations in the Oasis (dining hall). It's sad to skip a meal at the JC because you never know what you might miss out on... 

Richelle (aka the Pita-nator) with the most frequented part of the Oasis:
The Pita Table
(complete with toaster, hot chocolate machine, & condiments: nutella, peanut butter, halva, honey, jam, butter, etc)

Michael James Westover dishing some delicious food
A Happy Shabbat Table.
Amy, Mudrick, Leash, Aubs, Stef, and June.

Chels, Chelle, Cate, Money man, Rach, Emma, Jen

As you can see, we truly have some great times at the Center… and these pictures are only a small glimpse into what we do here. I feel extremely blessed to be able to spend 4 months in Jerusalem and I’m in denial that I only have 2 months left. I recently learned that the cost/tuition we pay for the Center only covers a fraction of what it REALLY costs to care for each student every semester. It’s been reported/rumored (depending on how skeptical you are) that the up-front cost only covers 17% of the total cost… meaning that 83% comes from other sources. This was humbling for me to learn and makes me feel very grateful for all those who make it possible for students to study here. I am so thankful that the Brethren see the benefit and importance of having a Center here in Jerusalem. I have had some incredible and life-changing experiences here and I am striving to make the most of the time I have left. I see the importance of the academics here, but even as beautiful as the Center is, I recognize the need to explore the eternal city. The Center would cease to exist if it weren’t for its beautiful and historically significant surroundings. 

The place where I spend the most time pondering when I'm at the Center:
Our Beautiful Balcony
Roommates minus Stef.  Shar Bear, Me, and Kar Bear
The JC Gentlemen surprised us with flowers on Valentine's Day. It was very sweet :)

It's still hard for me to get over how beautiful the Center is. I love it.

Jerusalem: My Home, My Love

Thanks for reading! I love you all :) Let me know if there is anything specific you'd like me to post about...


Emilie said...

Wow Heids, this is a great post! Thanks for the pix and details. I need to remember to do that.

Kara said...

wow heidi, you are one of the best bloggers ever. I love it! haha I love that you called me a different name in each picture you have of me! you are the best roomie ever. love ya

Anne Pearson said...

oh my goodness heidi. i love you and your blog inspires me.

Anonymous said...

Hey! That was totally Singers...from who knows when, but still! YAY! Love you!