OT Guided Tour and Self-Guided Meandering

Trip Start May 19, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Jerusalem University College
What I did
Hezekiah's Tunnels Jerusalem
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Western (Wailing) Wall Jerusalem
Read my review - 5/5 stars

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So the blank in the Title sections says "C'mon, you can think of a clever title" before you fill it in, and that pressure is just way more than I can meet.  Not cool.

Woke up about 6:20 today-couldn't bring myself to go for a morning workout when we had to be rucking by 7:00.  We began the day by going into the Western Wall.  For those who don't know and wouldn't wikipedia it, the Western Wall "aka wailing wall is a portion of the retaining wall for King Herod's expansion to the Jerusalem Temple, a project that began in 4 BC and continued up to about 63 AD, meaning it was going on while Jesus was there.  The Dome of the Rock now sits upon what we believe to be the site of the Temple and therefore Jews are not allowed to go up onto the platform, but this section of wall has been designated as the closest spot one could get to the original Holy of Holies.  For the record, the Jewish account we heard acknowledged this but also says that Jews choose not to go onto the platform for fear of inadvertently stepping on what was once the Most Holy Place, defiling it, and thus being smitten.  To me that sounds like rationalizing a situation out of one's hands, but that might just be me, and frankly it does make some sense.  Here are a few of my disjointed impressions about the visit:  I felt a deep sense of appropriateness reading and reciting Psalm 8 at the wall, and inserting my own prayer note into a crevice in the stones.  There is a certain way in which God is more easily met in places he has designated as holy space, although he doesn't need us to go there to hear our prayers.  We would later have a discussion with some very friendly and very knowledgeable observant Jews who own a bookstore in the Jewish Quarter, to the effect that they know this, but they want to go above and beyond the law in order to live lives pleasing to God-he called it the wrapping on the present of our life-offering.  Two thoughts on this:  it was humbling first "we, or at least I, tend to do as little as possible to get our ticket to heaven", second, it honestly felt like, in this attempt to do more than the law requires as a way of honoring God in lieu of a Temple, the Jews are attempting to dictate the terms on which they have relationship with him.  While it's honorable that they strive for the relationship, God smote the Tower of Babel for attempting to dictate the terms on which humanity would interact with him.

So those are my theological reflections for the day.  After this we moseyed over to Hezekiah's tunnel.  For those of you who don't know and wouldn't wikipedia it, Hezekiah's tunnel is an underground water system designed to collect the outflow of the Gihon spring "outside the Jerusalem city walls" to within the city walls so that in the event of siege the population can survive.  What this translates to is digging a tunnel 1/3 of a mile through solid limestone with hand picks in a bleeding hurry because the Assyrians are really mad at you for smashing up the worship symbols that signified a political alliance between y'all.  What this translates to is very chilly water running mid-calf deep through a tunnel fit for, let's say, my 6 year old brother Benjamin.  What this translates to is an awesome experience, a significant appreciation for the desperation and work that would have gone into mobilizing the manpower to accomplish this, a sore back, and bumps all along my elbows and head.

In the afternoon we were back in class, learning about mostly the geology of the region and how it dictates cultural responses.  Yes I found it interesting, no you probably wouldn't, so I'll skip to the part where Molly, Jackie, and I went running after class.  By my best estimation we went 6 miles, running from campus up to modern Jerusalem and getting stared at the whole way but, speaking for myself at least, thoroughly enjoying being in a part of the city that is fully lived in, back and all the way around the perimeter of the Old City with a detour to the Church of All Nations, and back to campus.  For those in the condition to try it, I fully recommend running as a way to get to know a city in a much more personal, street-level way than shopping or tours.  You get all the sites and smells, get to love the valleys and hate the hills, and realize just how many stairs are in Jerusalem.  That and you get to appreciate the Mediterranean Sea breeze that begins rolling in around 1 that makes life ever-so-comfortable.

After the run we went for a meander back down to the Old City, I in search of a different Israeli sweet "yes, I like sweets", but mostly just to wander.  The ladies I was with wanted to look for dresses and I played the escort, right up until I got bored and left them in the very competent hands of another guy and wandered off on my own.  For the record, I am much more disposed towards fool-hardiness than cowardice:  I'd rather do too much and regret it than not do enough and regret it.  That said, I operate by a general guiding principle which says everything will probably be alright, and guess what, it was.  I had a lovely time wandering the alleys of closed shops in first the Muslim, then Jewish, then Armenian Quarters in the dark, and, as a note of pride, not losing my way once and buying baclava in a small side bakery with competence.  Then I moseyed back to campus, where, after mostly listening in a group conversation on the events of the day, mostly the Western Wall, I sat down in the computer lab and typed this up.  C'mon y'all, if this blog isn't long enough for you nothing will be methinks.  Peace, blessings, and tomorrow comes the NT tour.
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