Once in Jerusalem, the pace picks up and there is much more walking and less bus time. The city and the sites are much more crowded, and the skills of bus drivers in traffic are put to the test! Surprisingly, November is still a high volume tourist month, and Israel is in the midst of several years of record-breaking numbers of tourists. The place was packed!
However, we were highly blessed by the Lord’s favor during our trip, as we dealt with dense crowds of people on only a couple of occasions. I have been upon Temple Mount half a dozen times and have never stood in line, made it through security, and emerged upon Temple Mount in less than an hour. On this day, we made it in only 15 minutes! Amazing!
Temple Mount is a complicated place. Two Jewish temples have stood upon Temple Mount, and Bible prophecy tells us a third will be erected during the Tribulation. However, following Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, various groups (most predominately Muslims) have controlled Temple Mount. In 1967, during the Six Day War, Israel took back the mount, only to hand custodial administration of it over to Jordan, in the interest of peace.
It has not always been peaceful on Temple Mount, as there are many regulations the Muslims place on who can be there and when. Ironically, Israeli security forces patrol Temple Mount, enforcing the controversial ban on prayer by non-Muslims. Yes, you read that right….Jews enforce a ban on Jews (and other non-Muslims) praying on Temple Mount!
Interestingly, while we were there, an elderly Jewish man (appearing to be a rabbi, perhaps) was being escorted on Temple Mount by a unit of IDF soldiers. Perhaps it was an end-of-life desire to go to Temple Mount. Who knows, but all was kept peaceful by the efforts of those Israeli soldiers!
I saw something on Temple Mount I had never seen before: the inside of the Eastern Gates (aka the Golden Gates)! Of course, the Eastern Gates of Jesus’ day were destroyed by the Romans, only to be rebuilt and sealed in later empires. Muslims then placed a cemetery in front of the gates, believing Jesus will never defile Himself by entering through a graveyard! However, according to Bible prophecy, it is through the Eastern Gates Jesus will return at His Second Coming! Below are pictures of the inside and outside of the Eastern Gates.
We descended Temple Mount into the Muslim Quarter to make our way to the Pools of Bethesda and St Anne’s Church. The Pools of Bethesda are best known as a place of healing. John 5 recounts Jesus’ act of healing the lame man, to whom He said, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk!” Amazingly, he did!
St Anne’s Church stands adjacent to the Pools of Bethesda and has no Biblical significance, but is a well-preserved Crusader church with incredible acoustics. Here, you will hear groups from around the world singing in their own languages. Through the magic of acoustics, every voice sounds like that of an angel!
Our next visit was to the Southern Steps. In Israel, there are places Jesus may have walked, probably walked and certainly walked. The Southern Steps are ones upon which Jesus certainly would have walked! Common people ceremonially cleansed themselves in the Pool of Siloam (down the hill to the south of Temple Mount) or in one of the many mikviot (ritual baths) excavated at the foot of Temple Mount to the south.
Jesus was a “common person.” He, His family, and later, His disciples would all have made the journey to Jerusalem several times a year for the major feasts. Before entering the Temple, they would have washed, then ascended the Southern Steps to Temple Mount.
It was here Pastor John delivered one of the best teachings I’ve heard regarding Jesus proclaiming Himself to be the Living Water. It was feast time and the Jewish people had journeyed from all across the land. They would have been thirsty. Like us today, they would have been spiritually thirsty as well, so Jesus used what was tangible to teach about Himself. He was speaking not only figuratively, but prophetically:
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.~John 7:37-39
I encourage you to read all of John 7 slowly and deliberately…and I dare you not to take nuggets from that goldmine!
Around the southwest corner of Temple Mount, remain stones from the Temple that were pushed over the edge during the Roman destruction of 70 AD. Temple Mount is simply a platform upon which the Temple was built. Thus, while Temple Mount remains, Roman legions accurately fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24:1-2:
Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”
Indeed, not one stone of the Temple remained upon another once the Romans wrecked havoc, yet many are still seen at the base of Temple Mount, as evidence of fulfillment of prophecy! Unique among that debris is what is believed to be a corner piece from the southwest corner of Temple Mount where the shofar would have been blown to warn the people of danger, or to gather them for battle. The stone bears inscription that leads us to believe it was that corner piece.
The City of David is one of my favorite places, and we made our way there to witness the magnificent discoveries that have taken place. Frankly, there is just never enough time there, as the site is jam-packed with much to see. On personal journeys, I have spent hours upon hours there, only to leave without seeing it all!
But we made the most of the time we had, viewing the informative video presentation, seeing excavated sections of King David’s palace, hiking Hezekiah’s Tunnel (wet) or the Canaanite Tunnel (dry), and seeing portions of Nehemiah’s wall.
Just like we saw at Megiddo, tremendous engineering feats were required to access water outside the protection of city walls. Thus, water tunnels were dug as a means of providing water to the population within the walls.
We ended this busy day at the Tower of David where we took in the Night Spectacular Laser Light show, where Israel’s history is splashed on the towering walls of the citadel in an amazing laser light production. Check out the highlights:
Still so much to share! But we’ll call it a day right here. Stick with us for more “tour rewind” and even beyond. At so many sites, and in so many experiences, the Bible comes to life right before your eyes in Israel. My hope is to share as much of that “life” with you as possible! I hope you are enjoying the rewind!
Blessings and shalom!