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right, the jerusalem. from the ‘jerusales tulipesias’ genus… day eleven

May 8, 2010

Yeah, so… nevermind on that whole ‘let’s try and get caught up by putting two days into one’ thing. An evening stroll through a neighborhood bazaar ended any chance of that happening. So instead, we’ll just continue to roll with the ‘one day behind’ format. Doesn’t really change things for you, does it?

Two evenings ago we arrived safely in Jerusalem after a long drive in from Jordan. Our hotel is quite nice (aside from the Internet). Actually, it seems like every successive hotel on this trip has been nicer than the one that preceded it. And to think that we get FOUR CONSECUTIVE NIGHTS in the same hotel… ah, so nice. Needless to say, my clothes are strung out all over the floor in my hotel room.

But moving on to things that actually pertain to the trip…

Yesterday morning we started at the beginning, in that we made our way to the City of David; that is, the Jerusalem that King David occupied after defeating the Jebusites in the 11th century BC. Located just outside the SW corner of the Old City walls, much has been uncovered that shows what the city looked like at its earliest. Actually, our guide, Elie, worked on this site in the 1980’s and even uncovered an ancient toilet seat! Obviously, a fair amount of imagination has to be used when looking at ruins of this nature, but it was still nice to get a feel of where the “Jerusalem” that we all see on the map in the backs of our Bibles emanated from. Most of the view of these remains comes from walking above them on a suspended metal bridge, the kind with all the slats(?) in it. Because of that, most of my pictures make it look like the City of David is doing hard time.

While in the same vicinity, we made our way to Hezekiah’s tunnel. One of the great feats of ancient engineering, King Hezekiah (ruled from 716-687 BC) set about to strengthen the fortifications of Jerusalem by expanding on an existing Canaanite tunnel that brought water from the Gihon Spring into the city (II Kings 20:20). Impressively, the engineers elected to begin digging at opposite ends and meet in the middle. This tunnel is just over 1,700 feet long. While you can walk it (flashlight and clothes you don’t mind getting wet are required), our group wasn’t able to (I guess due to there being so many of us). That’s just one more reason to make a return trip. The first picture below is from within the tunnel where Hezekiah elected to deviate from the existing tunnel. You can see the change in rock type drawing a horizontal line through the middle of the frame; the lower portion is where Hezekiah elected to keep going down. The second picture below is of the entrance into the tunnel that can be walked. The water can get fairly high, easily as much as a couple of feet. That’s what you’ve got to walk through for 1,700 feet if you want to make it to the reservoir. Oh, and all in a space that, aside from being pitch black (hence the flashlight), is generally no more than two feet wide.

Once having taken in the tunnel, we saw one of the pools that got its water from the Gihon Spring: the Pool of Siloam. It was here where Jesus told the blind man to go and wash in order to receive his sight. Probably some 85% of the pool is covered by overgrowth, but the other 15% can be seen in this picture:

The next stop on the day’s itinerary was to go within the walls of the Old City. We entered through the newly restored Jaffa Gate.

Once inside the Old City, you are inundated with a barrage of individuals trying to sell you something. Anything. Just about the worst thing you can do is show the faintest bit of interest, as you now have a travel buddy for the next 50 yards. The old city is a mixture of old and older. The Turkish additions that were built in the 16th century are considered modern.

We did walk the Via Dolorosa (Latin for ‘Way of Suffering’), which is just about the most crooked street I’ve ever been on. (Yes, the street is actually called the Via Dolorosa.) Granted, the Stations of the Cross aren’t necessarily historically accurate as only eight of the 14 actually appear in the gospel accounts (some of the stations, in fact, have been altered on numerous occasions over the centuries), but it was still cool to walk a path that has, culturally, become so ingrained into one’s visit to Jerusalem.

The Via Dolorosa ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It’s here where tradition says that Christ was crucified, buried, and rose. Historically and archaeologically, it’s doubtful that any of those events happened here. But as Elie says, “We’re not here to challenge anyone’s tradition, just to give it a firmer foundation to rest on.” Most of the countless traditional “holy sites” don’t exist until after 325AD, when the Roman emperor Constantine (and to a larger extent, his mother Helena) begin searching for locations and relics that have Christian significance after declaring Christianity the new state religion of Rome. Take into consideration the fact that by then nearly 300 years have elapsed since the death of Christ, and you can see how some “room for error” might find its way into the picture. But then you add some 1,700 years of tradition on top of those sites, and what you’re left with is a rigid belief that is hard to sway. We see it in Chicago all the time as people come from all over the Unites States to see the hallowed walls of… Wrigley Field. (And it’s not even 100 years old.)

Traditional Stations of the Cross located within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre include the rock where the cross stood (which can be touched via a hole in the ground if one chooses to wait in line to do so) and the tomb itself. (I’ll have more to say about those locations in tomorrow’s post when we look at the Garden Tomb and the Place of a Skull.)

To close out the day, we saw the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. It is here where some scholars believe that the house of the High Priest Caiaphas was located, which therefore would make it the place where Jesus was questioned on the night of his betrayal. From this location, one has a sweeping view of the Kidron Valley, flanked by the Temple Mount on the left and the Mount of Olives on the right.

Once our group had made their way back to our hotel, Erin and I decided that we wanted to head back out on our own. And since sundown was just a half hour away (thereby bringing in the Sabbath), we decided that the Western Wall was the place to be.

We weren’t really sure how to get to the Old City on our own, let alone the Western Wall, but after about 100 yards it became quite obvious where we needed to be going. All we had to do was follow the sea of fast-moving Jews who were anxiously coming from all over the city to pray at the Wall at the onset of Sabbath.

We entered the Old City through the Damascus Gate on the north and were herded past men and women (mostly men) of all ages. Orthodox Jews, with their big fuzzy hats (called ‘shtreimals’), seemed to comprise most of those who quickly jostled past us. Once at the edge of the Wall complex, we had to pass through a security checkpoint. We finally made it into the courtyard. Turning the corner and seeing the Western Wall in front of me is probably one of the most powerful things I’ve ever witnessed. The swelling surge of Jews made the moment that much more intense. Photography of any kind is forbidden at the Wall on Sabbath. Long-time readers of this blog know that can only mean one thing: Erin took a photo.  I might as well not let it go to waste…

After a few minutes of waiting outside the prayer area and just watching, Erin and I decided that we would enter the prayer area for a closer experience. Men and women are not allowed to approach the wall together and are kept apart by a dividing wall, so she went her way and me mine. Once inside the prayer area and closer to the wall, I felt like a pebble among boulders. The swirling sounds of song, chants, prayer, reading, and laughter brought about near sensory overload. After some time, I decided that I would go up to the wall and pray. Not because I felt that doing so *at the Western Wall* would make any more of a difference, but because it just felt appropriate. I know it’s just a wall. (I’m not sure the people next to me did.) But watching the actions of those around me so fervently directing their thoughts makes it nearly impossible to not want to do the same. I don’t think being at that place at that time was very conducive to just being an innocent bystander. Interestingly enough, I stood between two Israeli soldiers, guns and all. Joshua’s Israelites are still here.

It really was a pretty surreal experience for both Erin and me. We eventually just stood there, watching the sun inch its way down and the darkness take its place, surrounded by a level of devotion that is exceedingly admirable. Lessons can always be learned.

I’ll have more to say about the Western Wall in a day or two.

And so that’s where we’re at. Erin is asleep on the lobby couch next to me. For those of you who want to hear more from her, text her and tell her that all she needs to do is stay awake past 10:00.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Stacy permalink
    May 8, 2010 8:56 pm

    Great job! I’m enjoying reading this one-day-behind blog. 🙂

  2. Don and Terri permalink
    May 8, 2010 9:00 pm

    Erin must have gotten her mother’s common sense and her dad’s sense of adventure. Hope you don’t get arrested!

  3. Jeff permalink
    May 8, 2010 11:18 pm

    If you do get arrested, I’d go with the cat-o-nine-tails… just to “keep it real” while there.

  4. Stacy permalink
    May 9, 2010 7:57 am

    Arrested? Too bad you can’t claim Roman citizenship …

  5. Aaron Gann permalink
    May 10, 2010 12:33 am

    Wow, way to go Erin! Break those laws & the U.S. gov. won’t do much about it. The only question is now if the Israeli gov. finds out about it once y’all get back into the states and demands that you take down the picture. Would the U.S. government protect you and allow you to keep the picture up or would they hand you over? You could start WWIII. Ok. I’m exaggerating.

  6. May 11, 2010 2:10 pm

    Erin’s photo is pretty neat, though.

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