On the Sabbath day, we went to the Mount of Olives, which overlooks the Eastern Wall of the city. It is the place the Bible tells us that the Messiah will enter the city through when He comes back to the earth. It was a drizzly day, which is how I was feeling, looking over at the Muslim Mosque situated where the Temple of God should be…..not permanently though. We went to Mount Zion, adjacent to the southwestern corner of the old city….like I said, the area of Jerusalem is a lot of large hills and deep valleys. You can see a view of the Kidron Valley from there. I always imagined these places far from each other, but they are all right there in the same vicinity. Mount Zion is where they believe King David is buried. There is a tomb there and it is a holy sight for the Jews. Directly above the tomb is where tradition says the upper room is, where the disciples had the last supper and also gathered after Jesus’ ascension to await the power of the Holy Spirit. The reason they believe it is the sight of the upper room is because Jesus refers to the spirit of David being among them. There is more to it, but my brain is fuzzy on some of this.
On Sunday we walked through the Lion’s Gate and had a worship service at the Church of St. Anne. This was an amazing church, with huge domes. Our worship leader got up and spoke without microphone because the acoustics are so amazing. When he began to sing though, in a rich low voice, and it filled the room as our hearts were drawn in to worship.
We went to Ein Karem, the traditional sight of the cave of John the Baptist. If you’re interested, look this up on the internet and read about it. It is a really cool place, discovered on a kibbutz. This day we also went to the Memorial to the Holocaust at Yad Vashem. It was a beautiful memorial museum, but very troubling to the spirit and after a few displays I had to just walk through and couldn’t read or take in anymore. I think sometimes our minds can handle that kind of information and process it, but this was not that kind of day for me. It made my spirit very heavy and my stomach nauseas. The memorial to the children of the holocaust was beautiful. It was a separate building and when we went in, it was a dark room, filled with mirrors at all different angles and just six lit candles which reflected on forever it seemed, to represent those children who died. The mirrors are hidden by the darkness and the reflections of light seem to go on, like stars in space. As you walk through, the names of the children who died in concentration camps are read aloud. It takes 2 years for all the names to be read. Our guide said that she was once taking some tourists through the memorial and actually heard her cousins names read aloud while she was in there.
Monday found us in the Judean Wilderness, which is vast and barren. I took five rocks from the place we stopped to remind me of the temptation Jesus had to turn the rocks into bread when He was so hungry after fasting 40 days in that same wilderness. From this place, we were able to look over the modern day town of Jericho. From there, we went on into the desert to the Dead Sea, where we visited Qumran, the caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered and some braver folks put on swim suits and floated in the Dead Sea on this chilly day. Then we went a short distance to the ruins of Massada. We rode a tram up to the sight of the ruins and were astounded by the engineering feats of those ancient people. They had a water system, for safely gathering rain water from all the surrounding mountains into a cistern. There were mosaic tiles on the floors, vivid colors of paint in patches on some of the walls, a Roman bath house and even a steam room. Herod’s palace was built on the 3 tiered, steep side of the mountain, which stands totally disconnected from the rest of the mountain range. This is the night we had dinner at a Bedoin Camp in tents….very good food, which is good, since we were kind of nervous about this one. ;)
Tuesday I took a break. I was exhausted and needing a day off, so Charles went alone to tour the Old City of Jerusalem. They walked through winding, narrow streets, went through the tunnel system under the Western Wall, saw the street markets (which he took wonderful pictures of) and tour through the Jewish Quarter and the Herodian Quarter. After hours of walking, they returned to the hotel and I went with them to an Israeli Air Force Base to have dinner with the cadets in training. (see story in part 4) Amazing young people….