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Morrison ’14 Torn Between Beauty, Ugliness

Valley of Hinnom through the city of Jerusalem.

Valley of Hinnom through the city of Jerusalem.

Scott Morrison ’14 – This week in Israel has been challenging in more ways than one, and I will probably leave this country with more questions than answers. How fitting, right?

Natanel Cohen, founder of Shabbat of a Lifetime, talking with Wabash students.

Natanel Cohen, founder of Shabbat of a Lifetime, talking with Wabash students.

It’s fitting because Wabash tells students about the importance of questioning. We base our classes on discussions and we ask a lot of questions; these are questions we are told to continue asking throughout life. The experiences of the past days since my first blog on the first day of the trip have been amazing, enriching, and beautiful in a lot of ways. But they have also been ugly in a way, and this is what has raised the questions in my mind.

When I say ugly, let me explain. But, in order to make myself clear, I will relate the many positives.
Of course the religious sites themselves were fantastic. I have gained a greater appreciation for all of the faiths based in this Holy Land. The experience of being led by a Muslim waqf through Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock was in a way, life-changing. For one, they were very rare experiences which allowed me to see intense beauty as I have never seen. Additionally, seeing the peace of the Muslims praying and studying was in a word – intense. We faced no hostility and were treated with respect and humility. The waqf was down to earth, criticizing Muslim leaders in Arab countries like Saudi Arabia. For him, the Quran comes first, and he peacefully worshipped God.
My experience as a Catholic visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher really helped me appreciate my faith more than I have in the last few years. To see the many pilgrims, the place Jesus was crucified, where his body was prepared, and where he was buried was beyond words. It is hard to come to this land and not have your faith sparked.
Wabash students breaking bread with Benjamin.

Wabash students breaking bread with Benjamin.

That leaves Judaism. The Western Wall is a moving sight. To be able to pray alongside Jewish Haredim was awe-inspiring. We broke bread on Shabbat in the home of an Orthodox Jewish man named Ben, along with his wife and a friend. We shared in food and song as family and as friends. I truly believe this is something that would please God. It too was amazing.

Yet, all of those great experiences were complicated beyond belief. I stood with Kalp Juthani on the Mount of Olives on Friday as the Muslim call to prayer echoed over all of Jerusalem. Simultaneously, I heard the bells of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (which I should mention is divided between six Christian groups – a conflict in itself). And while I listened to those beautiful but competing sounds from the east of the Temple Mount, I knew that on the other side, pious Jews were rocking, praying, and wailing to God. That is what this class is about, contested sites. My tough hike up the Mount of Olives was worth this unique experience.
This is a beautiful land full of beautiful faiths and beautiful people. We have met many great people from all faiths and walks of life from Jews to Christians to Muslims. But there were constant, painful reminders of ugly lurking below the surface. We had great dinner conversation with our Shabbat host, Ben, about the conflict with Palestine. By the way, in the week we have been here 7 Palestinians have been killed, and rockets have flown both ways across the Gaza Strip border.
I find my heart goes out to our new Palestinian friends, Issa Ba’bish and Qamar Hamati, we met at the University of Bethlehem in the West Bank. They spoke of the corruption in the Palestinian government which they are hopeful can be fixed. They spoke of 50 percent unemployment, extreme poverty, settlements, and the hardship it is travel into Jerusalem to pray at religious sites. They told a very real story and they worked around the whole issue in our discussion. We plan on keeping in touch.
But we didn’t need much more explanation; we saw the wall that has been erected between Israel and Bethlehem in the West Bank. We went through more Israeli checkpoints than I ever care to go through in my life. All of this confused me more than I ever thought I would be about the political and religious conflict here. Whose side should I take? It’s not an easy question to answer.
But I am truly thankful I could experience this country, these religions, and these people in the Holy Land. I have gained new understanding, but many more questions. Can these people coexist? What will happen to Jerusalem? Will Israel and Palestine come to a peaceful agreement? Will Issa and Qamar be able to support their families? And so many others.
The human stories brought a mistiness to my eyes at times, and I know these everyday people want to peacefully live. But religious claims, scarce resources, and complex political ties will keep the situation tense here for the foreseeable future. As I head back to America, I know I will continue to ponder this situation, asking both myself and others questions. I am left with the words of Issa during our visit to Bethlehem. He asked us to be their media – to tell their story. So often we see one side of conflict from the media. Palestinians, Israelis, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Jews, none of these people are evil, and none of these people are completely to blame for the religious conflict here. I know that this was for a religion class. I learned a lot about religious history, but I think this trip provided me with a true liberal arts education.
As we leave tomorrow, I will hope and pray that these great people can find peace with one another. People like Qamar, Ben, our guide Habib, and Jews, Muslims, and Christians around the world deserve that much. We must put the people first. It’s not that hard, but yet it is.
Photos by Ian Baumgardner ’14

Story of Bethlehem Sheep More than Legend

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The Wabash men heard from the former President of Bethlehem University on Thursday

Cody Buresh ’15 – Looking back over the experiences of this trip I am extremely grateful and amazed that this group of Wabash men have had the opportunities to go on many adventures such as: staying on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, visiting the city of Jericho, having the privilege to tour the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and many other mind-baffling occurrences. Today we had the privilege to travel to the Western bank to the small town of Bethlehem. Throughout the day we gained a plethora of information about Bethlehem during biblical times and also the current situation from our visit at Bethlehem University.

Sharing lunch with Bethlehem University students.

Sharing lunch with Bethlehem University students.

I am going to be focusing mainly on the knowledge that we gained about the biblical period from our experiences today. The weather was not cooperating today. It decided it would be another good day to rain and be cold, all of our wet feet did not agree. Our plans were to (first) travel to the actual location where Jesus Christ was born and view the manger, but surprisingly the Prime Minister of Great Britain (David Cameron) also had the same idea so we had to make a quick change. We headed to the Shepherds’ Fields within Bethlehem that was specifically dedicated to the shepherds depicted within the nativity story. The beautiful small church is absolutely breath taking and was cleverly designed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. I thought it was quite intriguing that all of the fixtures within the church served purposes, which are absolutely amazing tour guide Habib explained. The church was designed to have only one high point in order to represent a tent that the shepherds would live in. There also were many spaces within the ceiling to allow the natural light to illuminate the room representing the star light and also the light of the heavenly host. If our tour guide were not with us we would not have noticed the importance of the design and the significance of the fixtures within the church. Habib simply amazes all of us with the amount of knowledge that he possesses about all of the scared places within Israel. He is without a doubt the best tour guide within all of Israel and today he showed all of us why.

After we were finished taking pictures of the incredible Franciscan church we made our way to a natural cave close by. This is the location that showed the entire group how fortunate that we have Habib as our tour guide. When we first entered the cave there was another group of tourists within. There tour guide was explained to them how shepherds used caves to live in because when it is warm outside it is cool within in the cave and vice-versa with cold weather. Once the other group left the cave Habib informed us that there is much more to the story of the shepherds. All of the information that follows is all from our tour guide, Habib.

Cody Buresh '15

Cody Buresh ’15

The shepherds of Bethlehem were in charge of raising sheep for the temple sacrifices. According to the laws of the time the sheep that were used for the offerings had to be a one-year-old male sheep that had been outside for 365 days (one-year). Since these sheep needed to remain outside the shepherds were also outside, not using the cave during the awful winter (rainy season). You can see this in Luke 2: 8, “That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep”. Once the sheep were of age the shepherds would bring them to the city of Jerusalem to be sacrificed for the Sabbath (Friday). It was important that the sheep that was to be sacrificed did not possess any blemishes (broken legs, or injuries). Once the sheep’s blood was completely spilled for all of the sins the priest would return to the people and proclaim, “It is finished”. When Habib was explaining the many intricate steps of the sheep’s life I was astounded by the parallelism to Jesus Christ. He was born in the small city of Bethlehem. When his time had come Jesus was led to Jerusalem to be sacrificed. It was extremely important that he did not have any imperfections (blemishes). On Sabbath Jesus Christ was crucified and gave up his life. He proclaimed, “It is finished”, and then passed away.

I personally was not knowledgeable to the depth of the parallels between the sacrificial lamb from Bethlehem and Jesus Christ. I want to thank Habib for helping this entire experience come to life for this group from Wabash College. The information learned from Habib will not be forgotten and has helped the biblical passages show new life. Thank you Habib.

Visiting Sites Affirmed Jackson’s Faith

Joe Jackson '14

Joe Jackson ’14

Joe Jackson ’14 – I wish that I possessed the skill to paint an adequate picture in 500 words of the side of the world I’ve seen here in Israel, but I do not. Although I know that I cannot do my experiences of this country justice, I would still like to try and capture to some capacity the history and the importance that is found here. Despite the fact I could talk for days about the breath-taking sceneries, armed soldiers on street corners, ghettos, Israeli women, food, the prevalence of Americanization, or that doing any of these things would only be getting at the tip of the iceberg. Most notable though, for me at least, was the fact that in two days I was able to visit the most revered places of all three of the world’s major, monotheistic religions. Between Al-Aqsa, the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Church of the Nativity, I was blessed with an opportunity to experience a part of history in a way many people only dream of.

We started yesterday by visiting Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, the holiest mosque and one of the surrounding structures placed by Muslims on what the Jews and Christians refer to as the Temple Mount. Disregarding the conflict that surrounds the history of the location, the mosque itself was impressive to say the least. By a stroke of luck, we were actually granted access inside both Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, something that rarely is allowed for any non-Muslim. What I found to be particularly interesting, was that it was abundantly clear the majority of Muslims did not approve of our admittance into their sanctuary. From the time we took our first steps into the building, we were greeted with unaverted gazes and we actually left the building to frantic shouts from women that are traditionally directed at intruders of the mosque. As a practicing Christian, this place did not speak to me on too much of a personal level, but the response of the Muslims to our presence served as a testament to the sacredness Muslims feel towards the site.

Wabash guys on the cells with Israeli students.

Wabash guys on the cells with Israeli students.

Visiting the Wailing Wall, arguably the most-important site to a present-day Jew, proved to be a comparable experience to that of our visit to Al-Aqsa. Although we hardly left to chants directed at our presence, I must admit I still felt a little out of place due to others’ stares and facial expressions. If you know the history of the Wall, the site obviously does not hold much significance for a non-Jew. It stands to reason then, that a traditional Jew might not get overly excited at the idea of having to share the remaining fraction of their Temple with a bunch of tourists, so similarly to the Muslim response, the Jewish response I perceived was understandable. Much like I felt the next morning at Al-Aqsa though, despite not having any religious connectedness with either site or feeling any religious epiphany, it was impossible not to feel something in the pit of my stomach. There is honestly no other way to describe the feeling or to explain it, but between the beauty of the structures themselves and the histories surrounding the structures that date back to the beginning of human existence, it’s hard not to feel something.

Surprisingly enough, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity did not do too much for me than did the other sites I have mentioned. A part of me wishes that I could say I had some life-changing experience, but I did not. I knew what I believed before coming and I suppose I’m happy that simply visiting a site did not change that. That being said, seeing the place where my savior was born, died, and buried, did do something. I felt connected to the history of my faith and to those that share my faith, and seeing all the others worshipping and admiring in the same building I was solidified all that I already believed.

Vaught ’16 Sees East-West German Differences

Samuel Vaught ‘ 16 – Tuesday was our first day in Erfurt. Leaving Mainz, we made the journey eastward into new territory. We left the low-lying vineyards of the Rhine for more mountainous regions, such as Eisenach, our Wednesday destination. This was our first day in the former East Germany, culturally and politically separated following World War II and under Soviet control until 1989. The difference was notable – English is spoken much less frequently, and tourists are few and far between. When we stepped out of the train station in Erfurt, I could immediately tell I was in a different Germany. It could have been my imagination, or some Western-inspired delusion, but I felt icy stares from many people as we schlepped our luggage over the cobbled sidewalks through town to our hotel. We stood out like the twelve sorest thumbs I’ve ever seen.

I soon got a sense, however, that not all of this cultural difference is negative, and I would be remiss not to point out the aspects of eastern Germany that I have enjoyed. While the population is poorer than in the west, they seem more community-focused here. Vendors filled the Domplatz – the main cathedral plaza – with fresh food, flowers, clothing, and other goods in the morning, welcoming Spring with bright colors and fragrances. The man selling the local favorite, Thüringer bratwurst, stayed open until 11 PM – we were his last customers that night. It is a nice change not to squirm our way through tourist-crowded avenues, like we did in both Mainz and Heidelberg. We don’t have to deal with the rampant commercialism that has taken hold in the west, which can lead one to believe that the streets of these German cities are no different than those of Chicago or Philadelphia. The people here in Erfurt don’t dress like supermodels, and our own clothing blends in more than it did on Sunday and Monday. I’ll let you decide if these less-Western traits are good or bad for the region. Regardless, it is a remarkably different experience.

St. Mary's Cathedral

St. Mary’s Cathedral

The cathedral in Erfurt, Mariensdom (St. Mary’s Cathedral), presides over the entire city. The cathedral is a fourteenth-century masterpiece of French gothic design, built atop a substructure that dates from several hundred years before. It was founded by Saint Boniface, the Anglo-Saxon apostle to the Germans, revered throughout the country with statuary and namesake and given patronal status. It was here, at the high altar, that Martin Luther was ordained to the priesthood in 1507, in the city in which he went to university and lived in as a monk for eleven years. Next to the cathedral sits Severinkirche (St. Severus’ Church), a companion to the larger cathedral but still magnificent in its own right (the organ is a spectacular Baroque creation – the most ornate I’ve seen so far).

I’m struck by the fact that these churches are the backdrop, the skyline, for so many people as they go about their daily lives. They walk to school and work, shop, eat, and socialize, all in the shadow of this majestic work of art and piety. I genuinely wonder if they take it for granted, like we often do in Crawfordsville. Do we know when we walk the brick paths of campus that we stand in the presence of the mighty Eric Gugler, who transformed Wabash in the mid-twentieth century and gave us the mall as we know it today? Do we know that the hands that sketched the plans of the President’s Dining Room in the Sparks Center also sketched the “President’s Office,” in an oval shape, in the west office wing of a white mansion in our nation’s capital? I’m not suggesting that we compare the likes of Erfurt Cathedral with Wabash College, but it is important to keep in mind how we perceive the storied and fashioned landscape that surrounds us. Erfurt taught me that.

Citadelle Petersberg

Citadelle Petersberg

The icing on the Wednesday cake was a stroll through the Citadelle Petersberg, an enormous fortress complex that rises off to the side of the cathedral and rivals it in height. Now a park, it was once a garrison for soldiers from a period of time I could not determine, but at least since the time of Luther and certainly much earlier. Most of the buildings on the citadel are dilapidated, excluding a few used for museum and concert space. Perhaps the old armory has been abandoned since the fall of the Soviet Empire at the end of the twentieth century. The most distressing example of neglect was Peterskirche, a 1000 year-old pre-gothic church that might be the oldest building I’ve seen this week. The entire space, however, is still in good use. A park, a restaurant with a million-dollar view of the city, and probably more tourists than we think keeping it running well, despite the decaying structures that dot the grassy hill.

Harrison, Matt, and I stumbled upon a labyrinth on one side of the park, formed into the earth with ridges and depressions. This is a spiritual tool for meditation or prayer, an ancient contemplative practice that centers the mind, body, and spirit on a circle as one walks the circuitous path around it. As I was treading the worn dirt, circling back and forth, I caught different views of the city. At one point, I caught a perfect glimpse of the Augustinian monastery in which Luther lived, marked by its turreted tower that avoided the destruction of most of the monastery during a World War II bombing raid. I couldn’t help but think that the labyrinth was the perfect metaphor for our journey to this point – the winding, seemingly directionless journey that took us to Wabash, and then to this moment – in a foreign land, assaulted with inspiration and Old World beauty, with the story of a man who changed the course the course of human history. When you walk the labyrinth, it seems hard to imagine you are nearing the center. You come close only to turn and walk further away. However, at the end, you round a corner to find a straight shot to the center, where a small stone beckons you to sit in silence. If our own journeys are like that labyrinth, we have little to be afraid of. We don’t always see where we’re headed, but we hope that peace is at the middle, that the destination exists. I wonder if Luther ever contemplated the same things, thinking those dangerous thoughts beneath the tower I now have my eyes on. Don’t we all?

I rose from my seat, and oddly calm, began my descent back into the city, ready to welcome the rest of this eye-opening experience.

 

 

Kubisz ’14 French Major Exploring History, Baguettes

Philip Kubisz ’14 – Bread, stained glass windows, and calves of steel – so far I have increased all of my skills in these areas throughout the many runs across Paris. From the walk down the stairs in the hotel to the impressive cathedral doors I have picked up on the conversations of the locals and put my French education to the task! There is a very strong sense that I am truly elsewhere in the world, and how my diet and process of learning has changed in the past handful of days has really helped the transition from the classroom Paris to the living and breathing Paris.

The much-visited Notre Dame

The much-visited Notre Dame

Baguettes, baguettes, baguettes – I have been deemed the bread master by many thus far. Vegan life in Paris is not always the most glamorous, yet it functions very well with the small bakeries and markets that thrive in the city. Around every corner there is a place welcoming me to experience their take on the French classic. As well as the beginning of my evening tonight leading me to the sole vegan bakery in the town, I have given my best to experience what Paris has to offer to my lifestyle.

As far as my knowledge of the language and tidbits of specialization of the French history goes, I have proved myself quite useful to the group and I have had a few more genuine opportunities of participating in the native culture than otherwise. It has been a very enlightening experience upon entering the cathedrals and seeing not only the magnificent displays of the churches, but the groups of young students who experience all of these important parts of the history of France at such a young age. The international culture that is present here speaks to me in a way the gives me something to look forward to with my future in Europe starting later this year. The people here speak all kinds of languages coming from all corners of the world – either visiting or working in this cultural center of Europe, and the city has a lot to offer everyone.

With one visit outside of the busy city and two more to come I look forward to the contrasts to the busy life in the city and to experience the country side landscapes and life of those in smaller towns. This of course in addition to checking out all of the Patisseries!

Davis ’14 Gets Deeper Look at French History

Ethan Davis ’14 – Today in Paris the separation between tourism and education became particularly apparent. After visiting Notre Dame de Paris on Tuesday and seeing the masses of international tourists, we found ourselves in a place filled with predominantly French people, taking in their history. The class visited Musée du Moyen Age. Here we saw many of the relics, particles and original artifacts that originated from all over medieval France, including Notre Dame de Paris.

The most striking part of this museum for me was when I entered a large room filled with statues that had been beheaded (many of the severed heads were also on display). Many of these statues were part of the unrestored Notre Dame. These statues told an interesting story that goes largely unknown by so many who visit Paris. You can observe the true story of what happened to a nation and how its symbols have been interpreted. We see that there is an effort to instill an Aquinas type of order within the context of these icons. A deliberate effort to reorganize these statues in this way, and not to show the reality of their history to the masses, shows that they are placing them in an order that they see fit.

The intentionality of destroying defiling these particular statues depicts the tumultuous history of the nation and shows us, as the modern viewer, how important the use of symbols are to political movements. Revolutionaries attacked not only the political institution above them, but they then continued to destroy the emblems and the associated institutions to further there point. But the continued narrative of these statues doesn’t end with their desecration, but the resurrection and ascension of their more modern counterparts back to Notre Dame, shows us that the purpose of these symbols continued to be used to send political messages.

The most curious element of these uses of symbols is the lack of involvement in the complete story by all those that visit Paris. The relatively small amount of people that wondered throughout the Museum is immensely dwarfed by the masses who flow through Notre Dame. It forces one to wonder what many of these people could learn about themselves and their own governments, if they understood a fuller portion of Notre Dame’s story. Perhaps this is the most disappointing portion of the trip. The image of Notre Dame as it is now is what so many people walk away with. To leave with an understanding of themes such as this use of symbols is what sets the education at such a deep level. Seeing the useless way that so many walk away from these structures enforces in me more resolve to observe more decisively how symbols are used in the American political system and what ideas they are trying to instil in me.

Fredericksburg Battlefield Holds Great Historical Importance

Sunken Road at Fredericksburg, VA. Bottom Row, left to right: Stephen Fenton, Nathan Whisman, Ryne Ruddock, Sam Schabel, Andrew Schmutte, Brock Hammond, Sam Mattingley. Top Row, left to right: Terrance Pigues, Blake Jennings, Jonathon Young, Quinn Bittle, Tracey Salisbury, Kenniss Dillion, Andrew Sunde, Robert Horsey, Bailey Combs, Jacob Sheridan, Robert Thompson, Aaron Morton-Wilson

Sunken Road at Fredericksburg, VA. Bottom Row, left to right: Stephen Fenton, Nathan Whisman, Ryne Ruddock, Sam Schabel, Andrew Schmutte, Brock Hammond, Sam Mattingley. Top Row, left to right: Terrance Pigues, Blake Jennings, Jonathon Young, Quinn Bittle, Tracey Salisbury, Kenniss Dillion, Andrew Sunde, Robert Horsey, Bailey Combs, Jacob Sheridan, Robert Thompson, Aaron Morton-Wilson

Bobby Thompson ’14 & Terrance Pigues ’15 –  Day five of our exciting tour through the Civil War battlefields on the United States East Coast lead us to the battle of Fredericksburg. This battle took place on December 11th through the 13th of the year 1862. Fredericksburg is part of the bloodiest county in all the Civil War, Spotsylvania County. This battle is primarily known for two reasons. The first is what it meant to the war. Fredericksburg was the first big victory for the Confederates giving them hope that they could win the war and march onwards to the North. The victory came at the feet of a Union mistake that opened the door for General Robert E. Lee of the South. Lee was paired with Stonewall Jackson as generals of the South; these two men are arguably the greatest generals in the war. Their opposite in this battle was generals Burnside and Hooker. The Union Army miscalculated the attack and will power of the South leading to their loss. After this Lincoln appointed Ulysses S. Grant commander of the Union troops.

This battle is also known for two historic landmarks, the Sunken Road and the Chatham House. We were given a tour of Sunken Road. Sunken Road was where the Confederate line was drawn for the battle. The location is significant because it is behind a series of stone walls, which are great for protection. This line of Confederate troops consisted of only 5,000 men, which was significantly less than the Union army. These men caused 8,000 casualties, yet only suffered 1,000 despite being so outnumbered. This site is also home to the memory of Richard Kirkland, a South Carolinian troop who helped injured men of both armies by rushing water to them. His monument as well as a picture of Sunken Road can be seen here.

Another prominent landmark at Fredericksburg is the Chatham House. The house was built by William Fitzhugh between 1768 and 1771. The significance of this home occurs because it was used as the Union headquarters during the war. It has also been the temporary home of three presidents: Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. The house lies on the outskirts of Fredericksburg atop a hill, making it a great lookout spot.

Aside from the monuments and battle sites the trip has been filled with fun, enthusiasm, and laughter. It shows the typical Wabash experience, a bunch of men coming together to get stuff done. Our trip will continue with a Civil War adventure camp where we will spend the night at a camp, eat hardtack, and get fully dressed in Civil War uniforms representing the North and the South.

Wabash Men Tour Civil War Battlefields

Nathan Whisman ’14 & Drew Schmutte ’15 –  After an early breakfast, we set out to visit the battlefield of Gettysburg.  As we arrived, we viewed their exhibits, while watching a special presentation of the famous cyclorama of Pickett’s Charge.  This large circular painting is the largest work in North America, and it gives you a full view of the battle as if you are standing in a frozen moment of American history.

Leaving the exhibits, we began to tour the battlefield.  We were able to see sights such as Little Round Top, Devils Den, and The Angle.  Seeing and walking these places gives you a sense of walking across ground that was, for a brief moment, a center of death and violence.  Moments of the Civil War are romanticized by movies and authors, but when you walk the hallowed grounds of this war, you realize the gravity and magnitude of the casualties both armies sustained.

Andrew Schmutte at New York 51st infantry monument at Gettysburg

Andrew Schmutte at New York 51st infantry monument at Gettysburg

As I walked on the hill of Little Round Top, I imagined the confederate troops storming up the rocky slope of the hill.  As I walked up the slope of the hill I imagined what those men faced as they had to battle up the terrain of the hill while facing murderous fire from the union troops above.

At The Angle, I was taken away by the size of the space where the troops of Pickett’s Charge attacked and the distance that they had to cover while being under constant fire.  You have to admit their dedication and the bravery of the soldiers to endure what happened at Gettysburg.

In the evening, we are taken on a ghost tour of Gettysburg.  The tour guides gave us the viewpoint of the citizens of Gettysburg during the battle.  Hearing the stories of the fighting in the streets and the churches being converted into hospitals for unending waves of wounded soldiers gives the town a spooky vibe.  At one house that was considered “active” with ghosts, I was able to go down into the old basement.  While stooped over and looking at the basement with a flashlight, I was slightly spooked out by the basement’s past history (it served as a hospital for 5 wounded Union soldiers). After squeezing through a narrow gap into a smaller part of the basement, I noticed a very old metal spring bed frame in the dirt. It was amazing to learn about all the paranormal activity and ghost encounters in the area.

Budell ’15 Understanding Ancient Conflict

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Wabash men touching the 'Stone of Annointment."

Wabash men touching the ‘Stone of Annointment.”

Austin Budell ’15 – I write on this cold and rainy day from the holy city of Jerusalem. Three of the sites we visited today constitute the “climax” of our immersion trip — The Dome of the Rock, Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Non-Muslim tourists rarely receive the opportunity to enter the Dome of the Rock, but we enjoyed the privilege of exploring the sacred site. The Dome of the Rock (located on the Temple Mount) is highly contested for a variety of reasons. First, the rock is located over the site where Abraham was (traditionally thought) about to sacrifice his son. Whether this son was Isaac or Ishmael is the object of dispute. Muslims regard Ishmael as the son to be sacrificed, while Jews believe it was to be Isaac, who would later father the nation of Israel. The site is also disputed by Jews due to the Dome’s location on where the former Temple sat. Considering that the Temple Mount is the most sacred place to Jews, it is not surprising that both Jews and Muslims continue to dispute ownership.

Al Aqsa Mosque, also lying on the Temple Mount, is considered to be the third-holiest place to the Muslim faith. Built in 705 A.D., Al Aqsa is one of the oldest mosques on earth. The significance of the site is associated with the Prophet Muhammad’s Night Journey, mentioned in chapter seventeen of the Holy Qur’an. After making this journey, the Prophet instructed his followers to begin praying towards the direction of Jerusalem (which was later changed to Mecca). The controversy surrounding this site is two-fold. First, the Prophet Muhammad made the Night Journey in approximately 621 A.D., where he traveled from Mecca to Jerusalem in a single night to “the farthest mosque,” or Al Aqsa mosque. This begs the question of how the Prophet Muhammad could have traveled to Al Aqsa Mosque before it was even constructed. The second object of dispute is, again, its location on the Temple Mount, the holiest site to the Jews. Thus, Al Aqsa is a contested site on both its legitimacy in context of the Night Journey and on its location of the Temple Mount.

Budell in the Mosque

Perhaps the most peculiar of all the sites we visited today was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This church is thought to house the location of the last five Stations of the Cross, being the division of the garments, the nailing to the cross, the crucifixion and death, the taking down from the cross, and the laying in the tomb. Each station is associated with a unique relic or legend related to a specific station, the most prominent being a tomb where Jesus was thought to be buried. Upon entering the church it was readily apparent that the features were of Greek-Orthodox characteristic, evinced by the elaborate mosaic portraying Christ’s death and the abundance of distinctly Greek candle holders hanging from the ceiling. Upon further investigation, however, it became clear that a variety of Christian sects had laid claim to this site.

Tour guide assures students he knows "all the answers."

Tour guide assures students he knows “all the answers.”

After climbing to the second floor of the church, you could actually see where the line dividing Roman Catholic and Greek-Orthodox jurisdictions occurred. The right side was apparently Roman Catholic, as its minimalist layout stood in staunch contrast to the many ornate candle and incense burners occupying the ceiling of the Greek-Orthodox side. Our guide later stated that six Christian sects have a claim to this site; the three major sects being Roman Catholic, Greek-Orthodox, and Armenian, with the minor three being Coptic, Syrian, and Ethiopian Orthodox. All six of these Christian branches occupy a space or shrine within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which demonstrates how this site is contested among Christians.

With the fifth day of our journey in the Holy Land coming to a close, I cannot help but realize how eye-opening of an experience this immersion trip has been. Between speaking with the locals, traveling to holy sites, and experiencing local cuisine, I feel like a world away from good old Wabash. Overall, the trip has been totally worth the jet lag and sleepless nights with early mornings, and I would strongly recommend anyone interested in making a pilgrimage to Israel to do so.

Vargas ’14 Amazed by Visiting Israel’s Holy Sites

Isidro Vargas ’14 – Over the last few days I’ve found myself stuck in a troubling routine. Waking up too early, feeling unrested, and staying up too late, anxious in anticipation for what the next day might bring. As I lay here typing, it’s still hard to believe that just this morning I walked though some of the most sacred religious sites the world has to offer. Our Wednesday journey included: An early morning tour of the Temple Mount, where we received exclusive access to the Dome of the Rock, and Al-Aqsa Mosque, two of the holiest sites in Islamic tradition (excluding the Kaaba). Before the sun could reach its highest point we had also made our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; which contains, according to tradition, both the Tomb of Jesus Christ, and the site of his crucifixion.

Professor Bob Royalty talking with his religion class students.

Professor Bob Royalty talking with his religion class students.

It’s such a blessing to have visited some the sites of which most Christians and Muslims can only dream about; sites, which beforehand, I had only been able to picture from textbooks and personal research. I have to say that this experience is both everything I expected it to be, and so much more.

As our Wabash group has made its way though Old City Jerusalem we have found ourselves in a new world, one which we are still struggling to understand. In the Al-Aqsa mosque, for example, there is a display case holding bullet shells and tear gas canisters from the 1967 Sixty-Day War, but the reality is that at any moment Israeli armed forces could potentially strike Palestinians in this holiest of sites. Throughout the city one can still find the scares of bullets on the bricks of walls and gates, a permanent reminder of the tensions between Israelis, Palestinians, and other pseudo-religious-political groups. As many of my group members pray and hope for an end to these conflictions, we have also found some peace in the individuals we have met throughout our stay. Individuals who have welcomed us to their home, and treated us with the type of respect we hope they will one day project towards each other.

Vargus inside Al-asqa mosque.

Vargus inside Al-asqa mosque.

To conclude our journey, we would make a visit to see Yad Vashem (holocaust research center) and the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are held at the Israel Museum. These final points in our itinerary are seemingly appropriate. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain the old oldest known manuscripts of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. Thish as been the primary text of my religious endeavors over the last four years at Wabash, and I am ecstatic to see the proof of religious antiquity for my own two eyes. At the same time visiting the Holocaust History Museum in the same land where Jews continue to be persecuted really hits home; serving as a final reminder of just how low humanity as fallen into sin, and why these so called ‘foreign’ matters need to be addressed, rather than brushed off as if the problem will solve itself.


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