Trip to Israel Journal Entry Day 5

I woke up this morning to the sound of a loud ringing phone. I picked it up to hear a computer generated voice speaking in Hebrew. Dave told me that he never had our wake-up call arranged so it must have been our bus-driver. The reason our bus-driver would even care is because the hotel is situated in a very Jewish orthodox area of town and if someone drives after 9:00 (the third hour in Jewish custom) they will throw rocks at your vehicle. We were on time, so we never had any rocks thrown at us.

On my way to Church this morning I had my first view of the Dome of the Rock. My whole life I waited for this moment and this being the 5th day of my trip I was beginning to think I would never see it.

The Church Service at the B.Y.U. Jerusalem Center was probably the best service I have ever been to. Because our bus-driver insisted on leaving so early before the service started, we were left with an hour to look around the centre.

Unfortunately the main chapel was closed for renovations, but hopefully it will be open next sabbath. The view in the main chapel is hard to describe. There is a fantastic view of the old city with the Dome of the Rock in plain view. The seats of the chapel all face giant sized windows giving a panoramic view of the old city. Although I never got the chance to have service in there, I am sure the view and effect would be great.

Church went by so quickly. I would have really enjoyed going for another couple of hours at least. After church some people wanted to go back to the hotel. I was really excited to go and see the Garden Tomb. About 15 of us went together and walked from the B.Y.U. center to the old city. We were fortunate enough to be allowed into a small privately owned Garden right beside the commercial Garden of Gethsemany. It was a very nice park, but we were only there for 15 minutes, I would have enjoyed staying longer.
The next place we visited was the old city. We walked through the Lion Gate. We wanted to visit the Dome of the Rock, but the Temple Square was closed due to some threat of civil unrest.

We walked through the old city but did not buy anything today because it was the Sabbath.

Some of our group were tired and went back to the hotel, but a few of us kept walking and were able to see the grave-site of Oscar Schindler.

When we finally caught a Taxi back to the hotel, the Taxi driver did not know the way and had to ask directions. He asked a person on the street, and that person lied to him. The Taxi driver told him he was full of it, and then drove off. Our group thought that was kinda funny.
One of the turns we took trying to find our hotel lead us into a very orthodox region of town. The road was blocked off with carts that were full of garbage. The Taxi driver didn’t have enough room to turn around, so he jumped out and said, “I’ll move it myself”. I thought he was going to try and drive through this orthodox area. Mandy was in the front seat and quickly rolled up her window. But as it turned out the Taxi driver turned us around the first chance he had and no rocks were thrown at us.

Later that night we went to the Market on Ben Yahuda Street. I bought a couple of necklaces but that was pretty much it.


Trip to Israel Journal Entry Day 4

We are on our way to the lowest point on Earth.  1300 feet below sea level lies the Dead Sea.  One of the reasons it is called the Dead Sea is because it is a dead end.  The only way water escapes is through evaporation.  The other reason it is called the Dead Sea is because nothing can live in its salty waters.  It is made of 33% minerals.  The four main minerals in the Dead Sea are: potassium, magnesium, bromide, and ______.1

Ami told us that a swim in the Dead Sea will help for many illnesses.  If you are healthy, a swim in the Dead Sea puts five years on your life.  Another puts 10 years. One more and you may lose your pension.

We can see the mountains of Moab across the Dead Sea. (These mountains are in Jordan).

Before we swim in the Dead Sea we are going to visit the mountain fortress of Masada. King Herod built Masada as a summer palace and a place of refuge in the unlikely event of a revolt. He died in the year 6AD and never had to use Masada as a fortress.

In the year 70AD, 968 Jews escaped the Romans in Jerusalem and found refuge in Masada. They remained there for several years while an army of 10 000 Romans and 10 000 of their Jewish slaves attacked them. The siege was not an easy one (to say the least). Masada only had entrance before the Romans arrived; the snake path. When Roman soldiers would try to climb up the path, the defenders would roll huge boulders down on them. Finally the Romans realized that they would never make it up the snake path, so they had their Jewish slaves build a giant dirt ramp up to it. The 968 Jews defending Masada realized that when the ramp was finished they would have a life of slavery. All 968 killed themselves (except for three people, who lived to tell the story).

I ran down the snake path, and you could tell that it wouldn’t be an easy siege.

Our next stop was swimming at the Dead Sea. Ami told us that the water would probably be very cold, but as it turned out, the water wasn’t that bad. It was so awesome to be able to float with your hands and legs out of the water. The next place we visited was the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden when the Roman Army of 10 000 were seen approaching a small city. This was the same army that was headed toward Mt. Mesada.

The scrolls were found almost 2000 years later in 1947.

A sheep was separated from its flock, hiding in a cave. The shepherd through rocks into the cave to try and scare the sheep out. When he heard the sound of broken pottery he investigated and found probably the most important find of the 20th century—the Dead Sea Scrolls.

After supper Dave called a wood-carver “friend” of his named Omar. Omar is an Arab and an “entrepreneur”. Entrepreneur is Dave’s friendly way of warning us that he is a scan-artist. Well maybe scam-artist is a bit strong but he just wanted us to maybe take whatever Omar said with some reservations.

Omar and his two brother’s drove up to the hotel and this being Friday evening (the Jewish Sabbath) the hotel security was not happy.

Dave came and straightened everything out, but the security personnel were still mad.

When we arrived at Omar’s shop there were a lot of different wooden carvings filling the shelves.

Omar seemed very friendly assuring everyone that the carvings in the store were all carved out of high quality dry olive wood. He said that all the wood was dried for at least seven years before he carved it. He also said that he did most of the carvings himself and that he did all the important features, like the faces, himself. I asked him if he had any blocks of olive wood to sell but he said no, which raised my suspicions. Why wouldn’t he have olive wood in the back of his shop if he actually did all the carvings himself. I asked him what kinds of tools he used for carving and he didn’t seem like he wanted to talk about it at all. He answers quickly, “I use diamond tipped cutting tool.” And that was all I could get out of him. Later I talked to Dave about the guy and Dave explained that Omar couldn’t carve anything if his life depended on it. However, some of the carvings truly were beautiful. He had statues of Jesus, Moroni, Lehi, Mormon, the Liahona, Joseph Smith, Joseph and Hyrum, and a lion with a lamb, the BYU cougar, and many more.2

1. This was left blank because I couldn’t keep up with the tour guide. Looking this up in 2019 I found that the forth element is sodium chloride. Israeli companies generate around US$3 billion annually from the sale of Dead Sea minerals (primarily potash and bromine), and from other products that are derived from Dead Sea Minerals.
2. Before we went to Omar’s, Dave told us that it was probably a good idea not to buy anything tonight, but that we would come back next week. Well, I don’t know what happened but in the excitement I think I was one of the few people who didn’t buy that night. Oh well.


Trip to Israel Journal Entry Day 3

The flight was long! We are about 180 miles away from Tel Aviv right now. I am sitting in a window seat because Greg, one of the people in our group, was nice enough to let me sit here. The view isn’t that great though. All I can see is clouds and blue sky (and the wing). We have started our dissent and are currently at 35,500 feet above the ground (actually above the Mediterranean) The movies I watched were “The Mirror Has Two Faces” and “Ransom”.

Jesse commented on the fact that we were going to “get bread”. Greg asked what he meant and Jesse said, “get bread, lots of it, from peoples hands… Just give them a dime and BREEEEAD!” (Jesse is kinda a big guy so you could tell he would like some bread. Yum.

We have arrived in Israel! The airport check-out went smoothly and I loaded onto the bus eager to see the sights. Our tour guide explained to us that our weather looks pretty good and that on his last tour it rained the whole time. He also explained that the sites we have seen on CNN will not be on our tour.1 The countryside is beautiful. It is very green here. I have already seen soldiers with their guns. Some other places we passed our Golan Heights, and the place where Joshua lost the battle of _____.2 We are on our way to Jerusalem and past the point where the road was cut off in 1947 when Jerusalem was under siege during the war of liberation. We are climbing the mountains (hills) of Judea or the Mountains of Jerusalem. There are a lot of rocks and stones in the soil here. (Limestone). I just saw the first camel here. (eating grass in an Arab village).

We are entering Jerusalem from the west side so we can’t see the old city yet. After 1967 and the 6 Day War, Jerusalem was able to double its size. Right now it has about 1/2 million people. There are many terraces (steps on the mountain) for growing food / vegetation. Some of the terraces are from biblical times. Welcome to Jerusalem! We are going to have “Porters” carry our bags in. OK just regular bellboys. We are at our hotel now. The hotel is nice and very big. It is a very orthodox/Kosher hotel.

After almost an hour to get set up and cleaned up we took a bus to see Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem is a park honouring the lives of those who were killed in the holocaust. One of the most beautiful things I saw there was a very tall room (more like a long, tall hallway) that was dimly lit by the reflection of only five candles. Although there were only five candles they were reflected millions of times giving the appearance of candles leading into infinity. In the background a tape recording read names of children who were killed in the Holocaust. To hear the same name twice you would have to come back to Yad Vashem in 2½ years.

After we left Yad Vashem I was very tired and fell asleep on the bus.

The next place we visited was the model city. It was so cool. (I have lots of pictures.) It showed a 1 to 50 scale representation of the city of Jerusalem during the year 66AD. The detail that was put into the model is really amazing.

Before we went to Yad Vashem the tour guide took us to Israel’s answer to the greasy spoon. “Clean” in the Middle East actually means “Clean enough. The North Americans will eat off anything.”

So we all got in line for some food. This meal was not paid for ahead of time. I got up to where the food was and it dawned upon me that I would not like ANY of the food. I had already grabbed a Sprite so I opted out for the rest of the meal. 600 shekels, or some sort of Hebrew currency anyway, round up on the machine. I said, “American money”. He said “two dollars”. Ouch I thought.I had already grabbed a Sprite so I opted out for the rest of the meal. 600 shekels, or some sort of Hebrew currency anyway, ran up on the machine. I said, “American money”. He said “two dollar”. “Ouch,” I thought, “for a can of pop?” Luckily, I didn’t order any food as the rest of the kids did. Theirs cost between $10 and $12 USD and they thought it was the most disgusting thing they had ever eaten. Live and learn I guess.

1. During this time there was intifada in Israel and some places were not safe for travel.
2. I think this was left blank in my journal because I couldn’t keep up writing as fast as the tour guide was speaking.

life travel

Trip to Israel Journal Entry Day 2

Swimming was good except for the fact that I hit my head on the side of the pool. I have a big scrape on my forehead now. Everyone is asking what happened.

The food at our hotel was excellent. The breakfast they had was an “all you can eat” buffet. I went away stuffed.

Jeff at the airport

The flight to New York took about an hour. We had to wait another hour for people from New York to board the plane. Some of them have long curly sideburn things on their faces. I asked the person beside me, Jesee, why they have those things (I knew it must be something religious). He answered, “I don’t know, but they sure are cool!” I thought that was pretty funny. Sitting in New York is very boring. On the way into New York I moved to an empty window seat. I saw lots of large ships as well the shadow from our plane on the clouds below. We were really high above the clouds. The houses that I saw in New York looked pretty big and lots of them had pools and large yards, so I imagine the area near the ocean must be a really nice place to live, although as we cut closer there was a lot of litter and garbage on the fields near the airport. It seems weird that I will be leaving New York at 2:20 p.m. local time and arriving at 9:20 a.m. local time in Tel Aviv. “Ransom” will be the in-flight movie, although the flight attendant wasn’t positive.

Jack Hicken just talked to me, and he told me how he remembered my dad, “especially when he used to shoot baskets.” Jack is originally from Raymond, but now lives in Sterling.

Jeff in Israel

life travel

Trip to Israel Journal Entry Day 1

Yesterday I left home for my trip to Israel. I am very excited. Mandy picked me up around 4:30 and we arrived in Lethbridge with no problems. Mandy’s grandparents are very excited for us and have shown us video’s of Israel and have been giving lots of travelling advice. I am very excited. We will be leaving Lethbridge at noon by bus. I can’t wait.

Mandy and Jeff

I am now on the bus on my way to Calgary. I was kind of surprised at how old the adults coming on the trip are. They probably are all retired and have waited their whole lives to travel to Israel. I don’t know anyone here except for Mandy and her cousin and I don’t really know her that well. Everyone is excited. I guess the other kids don’t know each other that well either. All the boys sat at the back, the girls in the middle and all the old people up front. I think I will enjoy the plane trip a lot more than the bus ride. The bus ride is so boring. There are some girls just ahead of me telling each other how much they already miss their boyfriends and who is going out with who and other girl stuff like that.

I am now on my descent into Toronto. Nothing can be seen out the window except darkness (which isn’t very exciting). The seatbelt light is on now. Arrival in Toronto at 9:25 local eastern standard time. Toronto is HUGE.

It was very cold outside the airport waiting for our ride to our hotel. The pilot told us that it would be 6° C, but I think it was colder. Toronto seems like a nice place. When we flew in I could see lights going on far over the horizon, until the point where they were so far away they just faded off. The hotel here is very nice, and very big. My roomate Rob Goth seems like a nice guy. We watched T.V. for a while and then talked. He told me that he doesn’t really know anyone on the trip either. I am so tired right now. It is 12:48am (Toronto time) which is only 10:48pm Alberta time but I need to go to sleep, we have to get up at 7:00am tomorrow. I think I will go swimming first thing tomorrow.


International Junior Art Camp in Japan

It’s March 6, 2012, but I’m writing this here to point out some of the oldest stuff I ever put on the web.

My “International Art Camp” trip to Japan.

Update: My brother scanned all of our family negatives including the photos I took on my trip to Japan. Here they are:

Art life travel

International Art Camp in Japan

International Art Camp logo - 1993 International Junior Art CampIn Japan - Hokkaido, Japan; August 7-13, 1993

From the program guide we received at the end of our camp:


The 1993 International Junior Art Camp, the 7th camp since its inception in 1987, was held in Sapporo and at the Aloha Resort Tomamu in Shimakappu from August 7th through the 13th. This year 56 junior participants and 13 adult escorts from 7 countries; Canada, China, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States, attended the camp.

The seven-day program was designed to provide an opportunity for junior participants to experience Japanese culture. The program started with Japanese lessons and went on to contain many different activities. Additionally, the junior participants experienced a home stay with a Sapporo family and a camping trip to Tomamu, a main event of the International Junior Art Camp.

The staff was well prepared, so the unseasonably cool summer weather, and even a forecasted typhoon during the Tomamu camp, did not present major problems. It is debatable if the participants were even aware of the projected weather as they ran around the campsite and fully enjoyed the beautiful natural surroundings. Overcoming differences in cultures, languages, and customs, junior participants met new friends from different countries, and deepened their friendships during the stay in Tomamu.


Country Juniors Escorts
Canada 8 2
China 8 2
Korea 8 1
New Zealand 8 2
Singapore 8 2
Thailand 8 2
U.S.A. 8 2

Over-view of Activities

Activity Date Place Participants
Trip to Mt. Moiwa Japanese lesson Bon festival / dance lesson / Opening ceremony / Summer festival parade Aug. 7 (Sat.) Hokkaido Youth Center Downtown Sapporo Overseas juniors
City tour / Japanese cultural classes Aug. 8 (Sun.) Downtown Sapporo Hokkaido Youth Center Overseas juniors Sapporo students Volunteers
Art school Visit to a factory Aug. 9 (Mon.) Sapporo Art Park Coca-Cola Bottlers Overseas juniors Sapporo students
Meeting with host families Reception party Aug. 9 (Mon.) The Hokkaido Shimbun press Hotel Alpha Sapporo Overseas juniors Host families Escorts People involved with int'l exchanges
Homestay Aug. 9 (Mon.) ~ 10 (Tue.) Host home in and around Sapporo (Greater Sapporo Homestay Association) People involved with int'l exchanges
Camp in Tomamu Aug. 11 (Wed.) ~ 13 (Fri.) Alpha Resort Tomamu in Shimukappu Village Overseas and Hokkaido juniors

Stage Performance

Canadian Participants doing a line dance — Kelly, Kai, Jeff Milner, ... , and Julie Thompson

As a steady drizzle fell outside, a stage performance was held in the Resort Center in which junior participants from each country presented well-known songs and dances from their homeland. Participants from New Zealand presented songs and dances of the Maori; juniors from the United States sang songs in a western film style; Korean participants performed songs and dances in their traditional national costumes; Chinese juniors sang songs; Canadian participants presented cowboy dances; Thai participants danced in beautiful national costumes while holding candles; and those from Singapore presented rhythmical songs and dances. The Resort Center was filled with applause and cheers throughout the Stage Performance.

What we did!

I drove with my family to Calgary and then flew for 8 or 9 hours and landed in Tokyo. We drove to a historic city and by that point I could hardly stay awake. I had been up for over 24 hours. When we finally arrived at our hotel it was dark and I was glad to finally get some sleep. The room was very small and the window looked out into a crowded little alley. The next morning was so cool. I got up and looked around the area. Things look so different the next morning. I took some pictures and then we went touring the city. They have some weird insects there, like a really big green caterpillar. I noticed a few of these on my trip. We toured a place called Kyoto and Osaka. Then two days later we took a bus back to Tokyo and flew up to Sapporo (on the island of Hokkaido). There we meet the other participants and our translator. We stayed for a day and a night in Sapporo doing Japanese arts and crafts and stuff like origami. Then we went for a homestay (basically just to see what Japanese life is like). After two days we met together and took a train and a bus to Tommomu Resort where we camped out and made giant totem poles. (Not real ones but ones made out of huge cardboard tubes, I think the tubes were used to hold carpet at one point.) And that is about the whole trip (summed up a whole lot though).

Looking back on the 7-day Camp

Ryuichi Ito
Advisor, International Junior Art Camp
(professor, Hokkaido University of Education)

Once again the grand natural summer surroundings of Tomamu were blessed by the arrival of 300 teenage artists. This has become one of Hokkaido’s popular summer events, and during this seventh annual camp the participants once again enjoyed and participated in the creation of art. This camp provides a wonderful opportunity for kids from all over the world to come together and experience the world of art. Therefore, the theme of the camp, which changes yearly, has to be a topic which attracts and fascinates the participants.

This years’s theme was the creation of totem poles, a symbolic statue mad by American Indians to protect themselves from evils. All juniors participated in a team to produce a totem pole. They designed, roghed out, and then colored a pole of approximately 4 meters. Each totem pole represented the team’s unique characteristics. It was a wonderful experience to see the 22 tall totem poles standing together in the open spaces and blending in with the background of green mountains. I am sure that if evil spirits were watchhing they would not dare venture near.

I hope the participants will always remember this wonderful summer experience. This year’s Junior Art Camp was yet another successful and enriching experience for all of us.