Shalom from the City of God! (I love saying that!)
After entering Jerusalem last night, we spent our first day touring there today. Time after time we see the Lord’s blessing and favor (though we are all so unworthy of such!) Israel is packed with tourists, yet often the Lord has given us a favorable break in getting places at just the right time to avoid long waits.
Such was the case this morning at Temple Mount. To go there typically requires a wait in line of an hour or more, just to get through security. For us this morning, we left our bus, walked a short distance to the entrance to Temple Mount, cleared security, and were gathered atop the mount in about 15 minutes. There was virtually no line…thank you, Lord!
Temple Mount is very complicated. It is the historical site of the Jewish Temple, though the Muslims control it today. Ironically, Israeli police and military patrol it to keep it safe. It is perhaps the most hotly contested 37 acres on planet earth. Jews are typically not welcomed there, and don’t particularly want to go there, given the Temple is no longer there and Muslim influence is so evident there.
However, we witnessed and interesting scene upon our arrival. While bringing up the rear of our group, I heard minor commotion behind me and turned to find two orthodox Jewish men escorting what appeared to be an old rabbi. They were flanked by over a dozen Israeli military and police officers. Those are the kinds of things that, if tensions are high, can bring about significant upheaval on Temple Mount. Thankfully, everything remained peaceful, and I suspect it may have been one of that rabbis final wishes to go to the place the Temple once stood.
Otherwise, Temple Mount today is a bit bittersweet. It is interesting to be on the site the Temple once stood, yet the sense of oppression (at least for some) is heavy. One of my favorite parts this time (which I had never done before), was to see the inside of the Eastern Gate. We know the original gate lies below ground level now, so that gate is not THE Eastern Gate of Jesus’ day. However, when the Mount of Olives (across the Kidron Valley) splits from east to west (Zechariah 14:4), could it be that the Eastern Gate (both upper and lower) will also be split wide open one day when Jesus returns!?! Oh what a day!
Next, we stopped at St Anne’s Church…significant for Catholics, though not so much for others. However, it has acoustics that make even bad voices sound like a heavenly choir! Here is a tiny taste:
The Pools of Bethesda lie just outside the doors of St Anne’s, and Aly (our guide) provided some history of the site, then spoke of the account of Jesus healing the lame man here. (Read John 5)
Then, on to one of the most exciting places in Jerusalem: the City of David. Why so exciting? Because new discoveries confirming God’s Word are being made regularly! After hearing some history of King David’s palace, our group split up to walk either Hezekiah’s tunnel (wet) or the Canaanite tunnel (dry). Both tunnels were built to allow access to water sources that laid outside the walls of David’s City. (Read the account in 2 Chronicles 32.)
After a very moving time of worship and prayer at the Jerusalem Prayer Tower, we toured an older Jewish neighborhood (understanding how the Jewish people live), then visited Mahane Yehuda Market (not to be confused with Ben Yehuda Street). The market is loaded with vibrantly-colored and very large fresh fruit, veggies, spices and all sorts of healthy things. My favorite is halvah, in which sesame seeds are crushed, flavors added, and all sorts of delicious deserts are made…without sugar! Yum, yum!
We concluded our day with at the Tower of David, watching the Night Spectacular laser light show depicting Israel’s history, projected on to the enormous walls of David’s Citadel. We are having fantastic weather, so it was not only a great show, but also nice to be outdoors.
Now….in case you are wondering what the food is like and if we are eating well, I’ll leave you with these pictures of the food bars at our hotel. No worries…we’re eating just fine!