I’m posting this a day late because I was not able to keep up with my journal as well while walking around Jerusalem.
Today was an early morning with a wake-up call at 5:30am. It was another beautiful but chilly morning in Jerusalem, and I decided to bypass the hotel breakfast because it didn’t open until 6:30am and the bus was leaving at 7:15am. Instead, I walked down and got a latte from the restaurant and then came to the room to work on my journal and eat a protein bar before having to leave.
On the bus, Keith Parker and Tim Davidson both led us in prayers as we drove away from the hotel.
Our first stop this morning was at the Wailing Wall. On the way we had a great view of the Mt of Olives and the Church of All Nations that we visited yesterday.
After exiting the bus, we entered the Old City through the Dung Gate and briefly saw the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount before going through security.
After passing through security, we were immediately able to see the Wailing Wall, Murad explained to us that Herod the Great created a platform with retaining walls upon which to build the temple. The Wailing Wall is a remnant of the western retaining wall as built by Herod. This wall would have been present in the time of Jesus.
For the Jews, this wall, and the Temple Mount, are a reminder that they are without a temple. They believe that in order for the Messiah to come, the temple in Jerusalem must be rebuilt on the Temple Mount. The obstacle is that the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque are some of the holiest places in Islam and are located on the Temple Mount. So, Jews come to this wall to “wail” for the rebuilding of the temple and for the Messiah to come. They also write prayers on pieces of paper and stuff them in the cracks of the walls.
When visiting the wall, only men are allowed on the left and women on the right. Murad asked us if we knew why this was and joked, because “women are always right.” Men also must have their head covered to visit the wall.
My dad and I walked down to the wall together and we could see the Hasidic Jewish Men with their black hats, long tassels, phylacteries, and black coats praying at the wall.
We could also see the pieces of paper crammed in every crack and crevice at the wall. Murad commented that as Christians, the wall has no significance to us because the Messiah has come.
City of David
We passed back through the Dung Gate and then walked over to the archaeological site known as the City of David on the eastern side of the city. This is the area where city would have been located when David established it as the capital of Israel (2 Sam 5:6-10; 1 Chronicles 11:4–9) before it was later expanded by King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chronicles 29-32).
As we were waiting to tour the site, we were able to take in views of the Mount of Olives and the Valley of Kidron. From this vantage point it was easy to see why the Psalmist spoke of the “mountains [that] surround Jerusalem” (Psalm 125:2).
We descended stairs down into the site and saw the remains of a large building that has been excavated and dated to the time of David in the 11th to 10th century BC. Some have speculated that this was David’s palace, but many disagree. In this building was found a “bulla” or signet imprint from one of the officials of King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah (2 Kings 24–25; 2 Chronicles 36 / 6th century BC).
Descending even further down, we came to the “Royal Area” which contained a retaining wall for building above which was also dated to the time of David.
In the middle was discovered the remains of a house, called the House of Ahiel, which has been dated to the. 9th century BC.
We descended even further into a tunnel to see “Warren’s Shaft,” which is a vertical shaft next to the Gihon Spring. It was discovered in 1867 by British engineer and archaeologist Sir Charles Warren and dated to the 18th century BC. Climbing down to this shaft was tough but was a neat experience. Some have speculated that this shaft might have been used by David to access the city of Jerusalem when he took it from the Jebusites (2 Sam 5:8). However, Murad said that more recent excavations show this was not the case.
We continued further down the tunnel to an excavated Canaanite water reservoir from the 18th century BC.
This water reservoir was located next to the Spring of Gihon (we saw this later) and protected by a nearby tower that has been excavated.
After the tower we approached the entrance to Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which is a 533m water channel that was built when Jerusalem was preparing defenses against the approaching Assyrian army in the 8th century B.C. King Hezekiah decided to protect the water source by diverting its flow deep into the city with a tunnel system that connects the Spring of Gihon with the Pool of Siloam (2 Kings 20:20; II Chronicles 32:30). An ancient stone carving found near the entrance describes the incredible operation and identifies it to the time of Hezekiah. I would love to come back some time and go through this tunnel, though doing so would require wading through knee-deep water in the dark for 1,750 feet.
Murad told us a story about the first time that he led a group through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. He said that he had never had a panic attack in his life but got part of the way through the tunnel and suddenly had a panic attack and felt like he was going to die. He started running through the tunnel, and the 40-member group he was leading started running with him. He said that he has never been back through the tunnel again.
At the mouth of Hezekiah’s Tunnel, we could see the flowing waters from the Spring of Gihon. This spring is mentioned several times in scripture and is most noted as being the location where Solomon was anointed as king of Israel (1 Kings 1:28–53).
Instead of walking through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, we instead walked through a very skinny tunnel that was part of the ancient Canaanite water system. We exited near the Kidron Valley.
Next we walked to the remains of the Pool of Siloam, which was the location where Jesus healed the blind man in John 9:7.
Next to the pool they have recently discovered (in the past year) the road that led from the Pool of Siloam up to the Temple. Dr. Cloud said last night he believes the discovery of this road proves that the pool is the authentic Pool of Siloam.
I walked all the way up and back down this newly excavated road, and it was almost overwhelming. In the time of Jesus, this is the road that the priests would have used during the 7 days of the feast of Tabernacles. Each day of the feast the priest would take a golden picture from the temple and walk down this road to the pool of Siloam. He would fill the picture with water and then walk back up to the temple and pour the water over the altar. This was in celebration of the water that God had provided the children of Israel in the wilderness. It was in this context that Jesus said the following in John 7:37-38:
John 7:37-38 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”
Stephen Utley, an archaeology student of Dr. Cloud, was kneeling down and looking at the road. I came up next to him, and he looked at me with awe in his eyes and said, “Jesus walked on these rocks!” It was quite humbling, and easily one of the highlights of the trip.
From there, we boarded the bus for a drive to Herodium, the fortress and palace built outside of Jerusalem by Herod the Great. I’ve mentioned Herod the Great a number of times in my posts but failed to note that this was the Herod that ordered the execution of all the male children under two years old upon learning of the birth of Jesus (Matt 2:1-18).
On the drive, we saw the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna). This valley is located west and south of Jerusalem and runs into the Kidron Valley. The valley of Hinnom once formed part of the boundary between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (Josh 15:8; 18:16; Neh 11:30).
We were also able to get a glimpse of the modern city of Jerusalem, which is the largest city in Israel. Before arriving at Herodium we again entered into the West Bank through an Israeli checkpoint.
Herodium was a huge fortress built on top of a large, man-made hill that looks like a volcanic mountain. From a distance it looks very much like a Tel, but all of the hill was built by Herod the Great. At the bottom of the hill was a palace, bathhouse, and giant freshwater swimming pool. Herodium was the administrative center for Herod. In the second century AD, Herodium was occupied by the Jews during the second Jewish revolt.
At the site, we began to climb the steep hill to the top which offered incredible views all the way to Jerusalem, the Wilderness of Judaea, and the Dead Sea.
We could also see the excavated remains of the fresh-water pool at the base of the hill.
Up on top, it was really, really windy. So much so that I had to hold onto my hat to keep it from flying down the hill. The remains of the fortress are massive, and Murad showed us a number of things at the site, including:
*A reception hall that was converted to a synagogue in the 2nd century AD
*A ritual bath (Mikveh) from time period of the 2nd revolt
Murat also explained to us about how a signet ring (bulla) of Pontius Pilate was found at Herodium. Murad also explained that in 325 AD the fortress at Herodium was turned into a Byzantine monastery.
Next we began to climb down through a tunnel that led down through the hill to the outside. The first part of this was from Herod’s water system, and the second part was from the time of the 2nd Jewish revolt in the 2nd century AD.
Along the way we saw a couple of cisterns used by Herod.
Back on the outside we saw the remains of a theater that is currently being restored and the tomb of Herod the Great. No inscription has been found at the tomb, but it was described by Josephus that Herod was buried here. Herodium was a magnificent site with lots of walking and climbing.
For lunch we drove over to the town of Shepherd’s Field and ate at Ruth Restaurant. Upon arrival we were met by Ruth who explained the menu. I ordered chicken shawarma in a pita and also had a side of fries.
After lunch we walked over to a Franciscan site that is also called Shepherd’s Field.
We saw lots of Ethiopian Christians in their white robes celebrating Orthodox Christmas.
While there, we visited a natural cave that is traditionally considered to be the house of the shepherds who received the messages of the birth of Jesus from the angel (Luke 2:8-20). While we don’t know where those shepherds lived, Murad pointed out that this cave is a good example of the type of natural caves in the area, and where Jesus was likely born in nearby Bethlehem.
Murad also said that the message coming to the shepherds first (lower class) instead of the priests in Jerusalem (upper class) was an example of how wealth and power in this life mean nothing to God (James 2:1-7).
Before leaving Shepherd’s Field, we briefly visited the church there and Keith Parker led us in singing Joy to the World.
From there we made the short drive to the modern town of Bethlehem for shopping. While the current city bears no resemblance to the Bethlehem of biblical times, it was an important place in scripture. Bethlehem was the burial site of Rachel (Gen 35:19), the hometown of King David (1 Sam 20:6; Luke 2:4), and the birthplace of Jesus (Matt 2:1).
In Bethlehem, we visited Edward Tabash and Sons Store that had been recommended by Dr. Cloud. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Edward who explained to us about the some of the symbols that are significant in the Holy Lands like the Jerusalem Cross, the Menorah, and the Star of David. He also explained to us about the materials that are native to the area such as olive wood and malachite.
He ended by asking us to pray for Israel and the surrounding area to open up the eyes of leaders on both sides that fighting is not the only way. I got to meet Edward and speak with him a bit. Dr. Cloud did not travel with us today, so I told Edward about how Dr. Cloud had spoken so highly of him in the meeting last night. He asked me to please give his best Dr. Cloud and then we took a picture together.
We spent about an hour shopping, and I got a lot of assistance from Pillar who helped me with purchasing some green, malachite cuff links featuring the Jerusalem Star.
As we left the store, it began to drizzle rain, which would hang around for the remainder of the day.
Our final stop for the day was at the Israel Museum back in Jerusalem. On the way we passed back out of the West Bank Cross checkpoint back into Israel through the “Wall of Separation” Murad commented that this is the type of wall that Trump wants to build in the US.
At the Israel Museum, we first went outside to see the scaled model of the city of Jerusalem from 40 AD. This thing is HUGE and used to be located inside the Jerusalem Hotel. While moving around the replica, Murad pointed a number of things to help give what we had seen the last two days even more context. He showed us:
*Herod’s temple and the Temple Mount, including the place where the Wailing Wall stands today.
*The Pool of Siloam and the road leading up to the temple. He said that the artists recreation of this pool was inaccurate and should have included steps as we saw earlier today at the archaeological site.
*The Gate called Beautiful, which was a gate of Herod’s temple where Peter and John healed a lame man (Acts 3:2, 10).
*The Wall that Herod Agrippa II built around Jerusalem in 40 AD, just after the time of Jesus, and the wall of the city that would have been present in the time of Jesus.
*The locations where the Garden Tomb and
the Church of the Holy Sepluchre are today.
It was really helpful to see how everything fit together from around the time of Jesus.
Our final stop at the Museum was at the Shrine of the Book dedicated in 1965 to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The top of the shrine is shaped like the top of one of the jars that contained the Dead Sea scrolls discovered at Qumran.
Inside the shrine I was able to read more about the history of the scrolls and found out that the cave we had seen earlier in Qumran where they found 15,000 fragments was Cave 4. I did not remember that from when we visited Qumran. We were also able to see one of the originals jars that was found in Cave 1. The center of the shrine contained a facsimile of the entire Isaiah scroll that was found in Cave 1, and is known as Manuscript A. The was also a small section of the original scroll located within the shrine that I was able to see.
It was later than normal when we arrived back at the hotel. I had another delicious meal, and even decided to have 4 pieces of baklava, which is decidedly not part of my normal diet, but was quite delicious.
We had a brief meeting at 8pm to discuss the logistics of traveling home to receive our “certificates” as having completed our pilgrimage to Israel. Ami spoke briefly and welcomed us to come back. At the close of the meeting, Murad sad that this trip is about strengthening your faith, and to please take the headlines to our friends and family back home. He said that he hopes the journey helped us to understand our Bibles better and encouraged us to read it again once we arrive home. He wished us safe travels and asked us to remember them in our prayers. In closing he said, “if God wills we will see you next week,” which he said was a traditional parting remark.
After the meeting I talked briefly to Olivia and Kate and then finished packing before going to bed. Tomorrow we head home!