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Prayer and Reflection in Holy Places

The fourth blog installment from the Holy Land, written by Shawna Rembold.

I know I usually start my emails with “It was a busy day”, but today was one for the books. We had a VERY early start. Wakeup call was at 5 A.M. We had to be dressed and ready to go by 5:30 A.M, when we promptly boarded the bus. We arrived at the Holy Sepulchre, where we were able to celebrate Mass in the tomb! Inside the tomb there are two “rooms”. Upon entering, we crowded together and celebrated in this very holy place.

After Mass, we ate a quick breakfast and left the hotel again for downtown Jerusalem. Our first stop was the Western, or “Wailing”, Wall, the last remaining structure of the old Jewish temple. This place is especially amazing because it is tradition to write prayer intentions and place them in the walls. Most of us wrote our own intentions and placed them in the wall, while reflecting on what happened here thoushands of years ago.

In the same area, we walked upstairs to see the Dome of the Rock, the place where Abraham was going to sacrifice his son for God. The location is now owned by the Muslims, who believe Mohammed ascended into heaven at this place. After the Dome of the Rock, we walked to the ruins of the Bethesda pools. The Bethesda pools were used for bathing, and is the location where Jesus healed a man who could not walk. It is amazing to see how well preserved these places are after thousands of years!

Lunch was at the Notre Dame center, which is run by the Legionaries. Since the center is located at the top of a large mountain, we were able to take some really amazing pictures after lunch.  We then got back on the bus and headed to the Jordan river, where Jesus was baptized. Father Daniel led us in renewing our baptismal vows, using the water from the Jordan. Some of us collected water and cooled off in the river before heading to Jericho, considered the oldest city in the world. We stopped here briefly to purchase some souvenirs and take camel rides. After our visit, we headed to the caves where the dead sea scrolls were found. The actual scrolls are located in the Israeli museam, which we will see tomorrow.
Finally, after a long day of walking, we headed to the Dead Sea! Most of the students were very excited and jumped right in. However, they did not take into account how slippery the mud would be. Instead of jumping in, they more or less slipped, slid, and fell in. The dead sea is so dense with salt it is almost impossible to sink. We “swam” around in the water for a couple hours before heading back to the hotel for showers and dinner. Father then took the first group of students to the Holy Sepulchre for the night. (The other group will be traveling to the Holy Sepulchre tomorrow night to pray and reflect.) A few of us tagged along to visit the Western Wall at night, and do a bit of shopping.  Most of the remaining students fell asleep very quickly, after the long day.
More to come! 

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