A Long Day

Trip Start Aug 31, 2010
Trip End Sep 12, 2010

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Flag of Israel  ,
Monday, September 6, 2010

We started off with devotions at 7 AM and never stopped moving after that.  We got on the bus and went into the Old City of Jerusalem, going in through the Zion Gate to the Jewish Quarter.  As we walked along, we saw many school children going off to school and cars weaving their way through the narrow streets.  We stopped many times to behold things from the Byzantine era, the first Temple and the Roman times.  It is hard to keep everything straight because you are absorbing so much information; it is sort of like taking a drink from a fire hydrant!  Every guide, however, goes to school for more than two years to be able to explain everything that we see - and also to make sure we don't get lost.

We eventually worked our way down to the site of the Temple Mount, where the first and second Temples were located.  The first Temple was Solomon's and was destroyed by the Babylonians; the second Temple was Herod's and would have been the one Jesus visited on numerous occasions.  It was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.  We saw a movie about the Temple site, and made our way through some ruins to the site of the southern steps of the second Temple.  It is a sure thing that Jesus would have used these steps to enter the Temple in His earthly ministry. We posed in our trip shirts on the those steps, as you can see.

Then we walked over to what is known as the Western or Wailing Wall, which was a wall not part of the second Temple, but part of the retaining wall for the mount where the Temple was located.  For Jews, this is the closest point to where the Holy of Holies would have been located, which is why they go there to pray.  We took some time to visit the Wall, with women going to the right and men to the left section of the Wall.  For some it is moving, for others it is ho-hum. On Monday and Thursdays, they hold bar mitzvahs at the Wall and there were many taking place today. 

Then it was time for lunch.  We went to a kibbutz for lunch that overlooks Bethlehem.  It is difficult to get into Bethlehem since it is now under the control of the Palestinians, so we opted to see Bethlehem and the Shepherd's fields, where the angels may have appeared to the shepherds to announce Jesus' birth, from the kibbutz restaurant veranda.

Then it was time to visit Yad Vashem, which is the Holocaust museum.  You could spend days there and we only stayed 90 minutes, but it is a critical stop to understand the Jewish national modern psyche.  Our last stop was the Children's Memorial, built to remember the 1.5 million children who were killed in the Holocaust.  It is quite a simple but moving memorial.  No cameras are allowed in Yad Vashem, but you can read about it online if you are interested.

We then were able to get a reservation to tour the Western Wall tunnels, which were opened a few years ago. These remarkable tunnels allow you to walk below the current city to the base of the Western Wall built by Herod the Great.  We had a reservation for 7 PM and got back to the hotel at 9, tired but filled with wonder and amazement.

Tomorrow we visit the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb, the Upper Room, Mount Zion, and the Mount of Olives. The highlight will probably be communion at the Garden Tomb. You never know what will move and surprise you in the Holy Land, so tune in tomorrow for our report to see what transpired.
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