It is going to be hard for me to do justice to this day. Anything I write will fall short of the actual events and the way they felt. It was one of those times when you feel so deeply and so much. We decided to go to the Jerusalem branch instead of our own in Tel Aviv because we wanted to have more time to show our kids some of our favorite sites. We also wanted to take advantage of living so close to this sacred place and hold our “family church” (“Come Follow Me” LDS program) in a spot that had scriptural significance because we are studying the New Testament.
After attending two-hour church (hooray!!) at the BYU Jerusalem Center, one of our favorite places on earth, we wandered out to their front garden that overlooks the entire Old City with is ancient walls and many famous landmarks. I don’t know if there is a better view. My heart might burst sometimes with gratitude that we get to be here right now with our kids. And to see them experience all of it is more than I could ever hope for.
What’s better than sitting in church and overlooking this place and knowing you’re just next door to the Garden of Gethsemane while worshipping? Nothing.
After church, we drove to the Garden of Gethsemane and walked through it for the first time with our kids (every time we have come here in the past its been closed or we haven’t had the chance to get to it). It was pretty awesome to explain what happened here and see the recognition in their faces that the scripture stories they’ve read and heard so many times in fact happened, and happened right where they were standing. They saw the ancient trees (some of which were actually alive 2,000 years ago) and went inside the church to view the rock that is traditionally believed to be the rock that Christ had his Intercessory Prayer for each of us.
Its a different conversation with your kids about the scriptures when you’re actually seeing where these things take place. They had lots of great questions and definitely a recognition that this is all very real and true. It was extremely special to be there with them in this moment.
After that, we walked across the street to the Gethsemane Cave and were able to look inside (the screen was locked, but the door was open so you could see) where Christ often sat with his disciples and close to where Judas betrayed Him. They had regularly gathered here, so when Judas betrayed Jesus and was asked to show the guards where He was, it wasn’t hard to find him.
From there, we walked up the hill to the garden across from the traditional site of Gethsemane, which probably looks almost exactly like it may have those 2,000 years ago. After telling our kids about Orson Hyde (the park dedicated to him was just above us here) and why his mission in 1841 to Israel was important, we decided to find a quiet spot right here to hold our family meeting.
We gathered our scriptures and journals and sat overlooking the Old City while we reverently began talking about the story of Mary, Joseph, Elisabeth and Zacharias.
As we talked about our own experiences and lessons of how God can help us accomplish anything, even the impossible, a spirit of love and faith was felt so strong. We shared with each other for a long time and felt our testimonies strengthened that the Savior is real and He knows us and loves us and stands waiting to help us whenever it is needed.
I cannot say enough that we completely recognize how special this moment was and how grateful we are to be here and experiencing it with our kids. We know that we have been blessed immensely to be able to do this and we hope we can take as much advantage as possible before our time here ends. It was one of those moments that I don’t think any of us will ever forget. And, I do know this…today the scriptures came alive for our girls.
We really wanted to show the kids one of our favorite new places (for us) next. The Pools of Bethesda near the church of St. Anne. The story in John 5 of what happened here is so touching, so I wanted to include it here:
5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked.
This site is gorgeous and feels so much more untouched than most in Jerusalem.
St. Anne’s Church is famous for their acoustics and because it was relatively empty on this day, I asked my girls if they’d want to sing a song together after we walked the pools. Lauren chose “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus”, which was perfect for the occasion. We walked inside and sat on the front bench together while we gathered our courage- all of us are pretty shy- so this was a stretch. What started out quietly, was soon picked up by the incredible acoustics and made to sound much louder and more in tune than we could have hoped! Knowing a magical memory was being made, we sang louder the powerful words “Love one another as Jesus loves you. Try to show kindness in all that you do. Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought, for these are the things Jesus taught." and my heart almost burst again with how much I love my girls, this city, this memory and above all, the love that Christ has for each of his children.
Brian was taking pictures and didn’t know we were going inside to sing. He walked in at the chorus and recognized our voices and the song and began filming immediately. I hadn’t planned on recording us and he didn’t know what we were doing, but I am so glad he caught this! I’ve watched it hundreds of times already remembering how it felt. One of the best moments ever.
Right there, right then was something I never hope to forget. I cannot describe it…it was mostly felt.