Institute in Israel

Wow!  The last two days have been wonderful.  Not what I had imagined – but better.  We were not tourists the last two days.  We were in an Institute class on location.  Rarely did we go to “busy” tourist place – we didn’t visit anything that didn’t apply to a gospel story (ie. Wailing wall or dome of the rock, etc).  This was due to us only having 2 days to tour.  If you take their 7 day tour then you are able to visit these site, but I’m sure they still use their off the beaten sites most often.   We slowed down and took time to let the places sink in and become a part of us. (This is something that Owen and I haven’t done so far on our excursion days – maybe a little in Lindos)  The spirit was more important than checking things off our “to-see” list.  Such a change of pace and focus.  When we were at sites, we didn’t learn what one rock column meant, we learned why this place was important to Jesus Christ, but mostly why it should be important to us.   I thought I had a good knowledge of Jesus’s life from all that I have learned up until now, but have loved to learn so much the last two days.  There is no way I can go over all that I’ve learned, but I’ll try to tell you where we went and which ones really hit me and why.  I’ll just say that Daniel and Steven Rona ( know how to bring the spirit into where they are teaching.  They know how to look right at you and keep looking at you for a while, long past comfortable.  They want you to know that they know what they are saying is true.  They don’t just rely on their words, but they have a song or two (usually only the music – sometimes they have your sing with them) to help the Holy Ghost to strengthen your testimony of all that you learn.  I have loved the last two days.

We headed Up to Jerusalem.  Due to the fact that Jerusalem is nestled at the top of some mountains, you are always going “Up To” Jerusalem.  The country has more hills and valleys than I expected. 


It is more fertile than I had expected.   They build their homes/apartments on the tops of the hills and farm in the valleys. 

 Most homes/apartments have a solar water tank on their room.  Makes for a unique and different roof top than what we’re accustomed to see.

Our first stop was at the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden on the Mount of Olives.  Steven Rona, who was our guide for the trip, read through Orson Hyde’s Dedicatory Prayer.  He explained how so many of the prophecies had been fulfilled so far.  It was great to look at Jerusalem from this stand point.

Here is a picture of an open gate into the old city. 

Next stop was an upper room where Jesus might have had the Passover meal with his apostles. 

In this room Steven described what a traditional Passover meal is like.  We didn’t know it at the time, but the Passover would be a recurring theme throughout our tour.  It is very symbolic and closely related to Jesus Christ.  Steven’s father, Daniel Roma, was born in Israel as a Jew and converted to LDS.  Steven grew up in Israel from 3 – 21.  He understands the Passover, having been part of a Passover meal for many years and still has Passover meal with his father’s side of the family – all Jewish.  Steven then explained and showed how the scriptures didn’t tell you all that Jesus did at the last supper, just the things which were different than how a Passover meal is normally.  It brought a whole new meaning to how symbolic and different his last supper really was.  Jesus introduced a new law of love then – prior it had been love your neighbor as yourself.  Now he asked all to love one another as he had loved us.  We sang As I Have Loved You in the upper room.  I was tearing up and couldn’t sing at the end.  The love Jesus had for me was so apparent that the words could not come out.  What a great gift we have to be loved by him so perfectly. Our job now is to love others that same way.

Couple of homes/courtyards in and near the walled city.

We then went for a picnic lunch on the Mount of Olives.  We went to a location, not the “tourist” garden of Gethsemane, but a place where the Jerusalem branch would often have sacrament meetings as a child while Steven was growing up in Jerusalem.  He told us of different experiences he has of the prophets joining them at meetings during their visits to the area.  I learned what Gethsemane really means in Hebrew – a winepress and olive press.  Steven explained how the winepress removes the juices from the grapes and then they take the seeds and stems and put them into the olive press and it creates red wine vinegar.  He then showed the symbolism of how in Gethsemane the most bitter cup was given to Jesus – just as red wine vinegar is the most bitter cup you can get from grapes. 

There is what a wine press looks like (from the Garden Tomb).

There is an olive press (from Capernum).

He explained a couple more of the different sacrifices and how they were symbolic of Christ.  The song at the end was I Stand All Amazed.  It was an amazing experience there.  We walked by the tourist “Garden of Gethsemane” on the way back to the bus.  I was glad that we had lunch higher on the mountain.

Pictures of an olive tree from the Mt. of Olives.

Closer picture of the dome of the rock and the closed gate with a cemetery below it from the Mt. of Olives.

The Garden of Gethsemane was a decent walk from Jerusalem. We drove the distance, so it’s hard to be sure, but it might have been a 40 minute walk from Jerusalem.  Perfect for prayer and meditation.

We then headed to the Palace of Caiaphas and to where they would have whipped and held Jesus over the night, in between two of his trials.  We recalled how all the safeguards which were in the Jewish Law were ignored that night.  Visual is a great way for me to see and understand.

Owen was able to be the example of how they would have whipped the savior.

This is an example of a hole they would have lowered Christ into to wait until the morning after the whipping.

These steps are from Christs time and could very easily been steps he walked on – even possibly when he was taken from Mt. of Olives to be charged.

There was a statue here depicting Peter after the cock crowed after he had denied Christ 3 times.  Also there is a picture of the cock on the top of this church.

Next, we visited a possible location for Golgotha and then the garden tomb.  What an amazingly peaceful place (Garden tomb) in the middle of a city full of hustle and bustle.   What an amazing thing to be where Christ was laid in a tomb and to rise again resurrected.  This was the place where President Kimball felt that Jesus was entombed.  That is good enough for me.  It was interesting to learn that crucifixions didn’t take place on the top of a hill, outside of town, but took place in a busy area, so the Romans could make sure that the people saw the punishments and would learn from them.  Appropriately, this possible Golgotha location was located right at a busy Jerusalem Bus Station – lots of people every day.

Golgotha possible site (note the eyes and nose and mouth at the bottom).

The Garden Tomb – first the track for the stone, then the opening, then inside and finally an example of what a rock stone would have looked like.

After finishing at the Garden Tomb, we headed back to the boat about 7pm.  It was an amazing day.  I was exhausted.

Tuesday morning we woke up early again.  We were ready to start all over again at 7am.  There are 4 other couples who eat at the formal dinner table with us.  Some have been on many cruises.  One taught us how to do early departure times without the stress of going up to the buffet at 6:30 to try to get off the boat at 7:00.  Room Service is the answer.  It is great.  It is free, so why not.  Great tip for all those who are heading out on a cruise.  It saves a lot of time in the morning if you are trying to get off the boat quickly.

We were docked in Haifa, which is north of Ashdod (our port on Monday).  Today we were to visit the locations near Galilee.  As we left Haifa, we headed through the Armageddon Valley and the Jezreel Valley.  The story of Elisha and the Priests of Baal was recounted to us.  The story of the battle of Armageddon was also told.  The point to remember is that The Good should not fear.

The Jezreel Valley

We arrived in Nazareth.    We stopped at a park which had an amazing view of the Jezreel Valley with Mount Tabor rising up from the valley.  We discussed all the amazing activities which happened there.  This is where President Kimball said that Peter, James and John went with Christ and were transfigured.  Elijah and Moses returned to give them the keys, just as they did to Joseph Smith in the Kirkland temple. 

There was a great spirit as you thought about all that had happened there.  It was there where I realized what an amazing year Owen and I were going to have.  Last July we were able to take our kids and go and visit The Sacred Grove with the Sherwood family reunion.  We were able to be here in Israel and feel of all that has happened here.  Then this July we get to take our kids with the Allen family reunion to go to Independence and Nauvoo.   What an amazing year.

Next we went to a little church which is on the top of a hill of Nazareth, which could have been a possible spot for where the people of Nazareth wanted to throw Jesus off the cliff for telling them that he was the Savior.  One thing I loved was that were we were rarely in a tourist spot and when we were we stopped in an off the pace and still had an institute lesson there.  Each stop was a class and usually on the bus rides between the sites we’d have another one.

The chapel on top of the hill.

Butterflies up near the church

Looking out toward Nazareth from the brow of the hill.

After Nazareth we drove to the Sea of Galilee by way of Canna (the site of the first miracle where Jesus made wine out of water). 

Traffic circle decorations on the way to Tiberias.

When we arrived at the Sea of Galilee we met up with a tour that Daniel Rona (Steven’s father) was giving to another group.  It was a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. 

The surface was very calm – it was late morning. We were able to join them and hear from Daniel as we were on the boat.  We were taught about the region and where different groups of people lived.  We were told of the many different times that Jesus was on boats (calming the seas, walking on water, wanting to get away so he would go out in a boat and people would then follow him – fishes and loaves), and a bit about the geography around the lake – where the deserted areas were, where the populated sites were, how Jesus would move and why it was useful in his ministry.  As we were coming back to shore we sang Master the Tempest is Raging and then listened to I Heard Him Come (by Janice Kapp Perry).  Great boat ride.  We then headed next door and had St. Peter’s Fish lunch.  I was lucky and my fish had a silver coin (shekel) in its mouth.

Favorite flowers around the Sea of Galilee.

Rocks on the shore

Birds just outside the restaurant.

As we headed to Capernaum, which is north of Tiberas on the Sea of Gallilee, Steven showed us an alcove which is an example of a place where Christ could have been in a boat teaching the people who were seated on the shore.

Capernaum was the next stop.  I loved Capernaum. 

I loved the feel and how I felt there.  I loved to hear the stories of Jesus while he was here.  Capernaum is where 85% of the written miracles of Jesus happened.  We were taught to ask ourselves why the Bible authors wrote about specific miracles – or, why they included them in their books.  It was always to testify of Christ.  Two miracles that happened here helped Jesus out so that he could spend most of his days here during his 3 year ministry.  He healed the servant of the chief of police, a Roman Centurion, and that man became a believer.  That helped him so that the law in the town loved him.  He also bought back to the life daughter of the Head of the Synagogue.  He now had him on his “side”.   The part of that miracle (daughter brought back to life) that had always puzzled me was why would Jesus tell them to not tell anyone what he had done.  I always thought, people will know that she is alive.  Steven suggested that maybe he had told them all about eternal families and how we will be able to live together forever.  He felt that might have been what Jesus had told them not to tell the others.  We then sang I Have a Family Here on Earth.  This was a tourist place, but tears could not help but flow. 

This is the view I had as we sang the song.

There were a couple of other groups around, and it was fun to see a lady in another group who heard us singing and said, “Me, too!” and show her CTR ring.  It was a place that I will always remember not because I learned about why they used this type of column design or what this pile of rocks meant, but that I will always remember the spirit telling me again about the truthfulness of the principle of families being together forever.

Our next stop is was Mount of Beatitudes.  This was at a hillside where many believed that it happened.  You could see the town of Capernaum down the hill and to the side a ways.  – Maybe a 30 minute walk. 

There is a nice church here and the grounds are maintained by a group of Nuns.  After looking around the church we headed for some shade (it was really hot – and it is only May) and a little part on the side of the hill which had some rocks so our group could have a place to sit and overlooking the Sea of Galilee (8 miles wide by 16 miles long – many say it looks like Bear Lake in UT). 

Here we discussed the beatitudes.  We read the beatitudes in the New Testament and from the Book of Mormon.  It is interesting to see the few words that are in the Book of Mormon and not in the New Testament.  If you come unto me – you will be filled with the holy ghost  –  persecuted for his (Jesus’) name’s sake (not just righteousness sake).   Love the quiet time we had to recommit ourselves to him.

What an amazing 2 days of slowing down the pace and having our testimonies strengthened.  Loved when we got to a stop we were to bring our scriptures with us because that was our text for the tour stop – not the history of what rocks they found.  I loved how you could tell that Steven loved his scriptures.  He knew them, loved them and lived them.  I was amazed at how much Daniel’s mannerisms reminded me of Scott Rapier.  I love that I could share all of these experiences with Owen.  Now the test is to go back and live it.  I need to make sure that I’m not only a hearer of the word, but I need to be a doer also.

Our last stop was at a museum where a 2,000 wooden boat which was found in the 1980’s was on display.  Nothing “religious” just cool to see a boat from that period.

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2 Responses to Institute in Israel

  1. Koni says:

    Oh how I have loved reading these comments, Kris! I can’t wait to talk to you more about Israel when you get back! I chose the pizza instead of St Peter’s fish (I was a wimp back then). 🙂 I am SO glad that you were able to spend that time in Israel!! How I wish we could all go as a family!!

  2. Marsha says:

    Thank you for all the details. Please – let’s find a time in Nauvoo to have you two share with all of us the wonderful testimony and understanding that you received here. We love you both and are so happy for you!

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