Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Day 5

One day in Jerusalem. One day back in my city. One day to see and smell and taste and touch and buy all the crap that I’ve been vainly trying to grasp with my memory senses and how does the day begin?

In the bathroom, on the toilet, with the candlestick and a barf bag. My one day and I wake up sick as a dog with 40 minutes to get my family up, packed and ready before the bus ditched us (and trust me, they would have).

As I sat there in my mini cabin bathroom trying desperately to get a grip on my intestinal system, all I could think about was the very real fact that I might barf my way through the Old City and completely miss my one day.

So I prayed. It wasn’t anything big or dramatic, but it was fervent and desperate and as it ended I was hit with such an onslaught of [insert bathroom related symptoms] that I couldn’t move for another fifteen minutes.

(Let the record state that in hindsight I highly recommend the Mediterannean Barf Bug halfway through a cruise. It ruined my appetite for the remainder of the cruise and I am happy to report that I returned home one pound lighter than the day I left.)

When it was finally time to go I made my way to the bus in flats with greasy hair and zero makeup, my throat raw and my stomach blessedly empty.

And I didn’t get sick again.

Two hours later we crested the last of the hills in the Jerusalem suburbs and I looked, once more, on my beautiful city. This is one of those moments when words are so lame; Jerusalem far surpasses anything I could key out on this laptop.

Picture a city so beloved by so many races and religions and sects that despite their hatred towards one another (and we’re talking some serious deep issues here) they still manage to work and live and worship right on top of each other—sometimes taking turns in particularly holy places so everyone has access. Incredible and dramatic and routinely messy.

We drove right to the Mt. of Olives and our bus let us out to meet the rest of our group. They had managed to secure a very small amphitheater right on the crest of the ridge at the very top. It was a magnifiscent sight to look out over the Old city in the early morning light.

It was my turn to do the group devotional and I was feeling sick and weak and incredibly humbled by the situation.

Now I love words, but there is no doubt other people (like prophets) are way better at them than silly old me. And so, feet firmly planted on the Mt. of Olives, I read straight from Zechariah 14 and D&C 45 where it states:

“And then shall the Lord set his foot upon this mount, and it shall cleave in twain, and the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro, and the heavens also shall shake. And the Lord shall utter his voice, and all the ends of the earth shall hear it; and the nations of the earth shall mourn, and they that have laughed shall see their folly…and then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet? Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God.”

I have to take a second and tell you that I struggled in Jerusalem 13 years ago. I expected it to be a hugely spiritual experience but continually found myself feeling empty, always waiting for some magical moment when the Spirit would bear witness to me in some big fat spiritual way that yes, it was true!

I knew it was true, I’d felt it thousands of times, but it seemed to evade me in Jerusalem all those years ago. The answers that I sought did not come until I was gone, and my time there has been a beautiful sweet and slightly bitter memory.

But on that mountain, in that moment, reading the words of Jesus Christ, I was overcome with their majesty and power and absolute truth.

I closed my scriptures and ended my devotional the only way I could think of. I sang.

Sick, weak, my voice in shreds I sang  “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” It was the second time I’ve sung that song with the walls of Jerusalem at my back, only this time I didn’t worry about how it sounded.

We don’t get many redo’s in life, hardly any now that I think about it, but that moment was a little gift just for me. Someone knew that I needed that chance to testify with no doubt or frustration or any of the concerns that had plagued me so long ago.

The rest of the day was wondrous. We visited the Garden Tomb and it was beautiful. Early in the 1900’s the garden was discovered by a British gentleman. It is not the old “Way of the cross” site that so many visit but a newer discovery that is, I believe, the actual tomb Jesus was laid in. I won’t go into the details but Calvary is within view and everything about the tomb and the remnants of the garden (now beautifully restored) bear witness that it is The Site.

Looking down into the old cistern that dates back to the time of Christ, proving that it was in fact a garden.

If I only had one place to visit in Israel that might be it.

After that we made a stop at Omar’s for olive wood. Would you believe that our friends Dan and Holly looked up on the walls of his shop and saw their family photo from and old Christmas card??!! Very small world.

Last time I was in Jerusalem I bought a cheaper nativity set because I didn’t want to spend the money for one at Omar’s. Instead, I bought from him a beautiful statue of Mary holding baby Jesus that has graced my piano for the past 12 years. This time I was determined to get a good nativity.

But I walked into the shop, gazed up on the top shelf, and what did I see? A cougar. A BYU cougar. I swear it growled at me. I wandered around for two dozen minutes with Jason trying to find something appropriately Christian and Jesus like, but that cat stalked me the entire time.

Needless to say, it didn’t take any convincing once Jason had it in his hands. I guess I wasn’t meant to have a nativity from Omar’s after all. The kids are all bananas for our new super devout cougar.

Someone should teach me how to take a real picture.

We spent the rest of the day wandering through the Old City, just like I wanted. The kids were fantastic, the Arabs and Jews were everywhere, and I didn’t throw up once. It is such an assault to the senses, entering through Damascus Gate, even in my sick condition I couldn’t help feeling energized by how very alive Jerusalem still is. Vegas has nothing on the Holy City.

Note the slightly concerned look. Such a brave soul, we made him pose for the first picture.

The Old City throbs with energy in this quarter, things and people are constantly in motion.

In front of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. You don't want to know how many times Gigi's blanket dropped on the ground that day.

As Jason pointed out to the boys, these were the same streets (a few layers up) that Nephi and his brothers ran through to escape Laban. All the time I spent in the Old City and I'd never thought of that before.

One last photo with our AMAZING tour guide, Tal, in front of the Western "Wailing" Wall. We love her, she rocked it. Also someone should brush my family's hair.

The only regret I have was not making it up to the BYU Jerusalem Center, but you can’t do everything and I wouldn’t change our day for the world. Oh Jerusalem, I will be back.

One last view of the Mt. of Olives where we started the day.


  1. Annie, I love these pics and it was fun to read more on your trip! Sorry you were sick, but it sounds like your devotional was amazing. I’m sure it was a great experience for everyone. Thanks for sharing all this.

  2. just reading about your devotional + singing gave me chills! loved it! how absolutely blessed you guys are to have stood on the same ground and in the same places as nephi and jesus christ. and then to be able to just BE in the old city and to feel its pulse constantly raised past & through you. someday i’ll be there and experience the same as well. 🙂 at least that’s my plan. oh man! gosh, this day’s report is by far i think my favorite! wish it was a day you could have a groundhog’s day experience over & over with. ::hugs::

  3. HOLY WOW…and Holy City. I can’t imagine going on a trip like that. What a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed the photos Annie !!! (you are looking great)