No, the trip report isn’t over; I’m just falling behind. Let me tell you what we did on Day 11, back in June.
This day was spent in Jerusalem. It was an overwhelming day, as we saw much more than we could really take in.
We went first to the Old City, walking what is known as the Via Dolorosa or the Via Crucis. These are the traditional “stations of the cross,” the places where it’s believed that Jesus walked on his way to the cross.
We finished up at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The building includes what is believed by many to be Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion, as well as the site of Jesus’ burial. On our trip, we saw many places where it was obvious that tourism was down. However, that wasn’t true in Jerusalem, especially at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The place was packed, and it wasn’t easy to get around to see the different sites.
I’ve included a picture of the ladder that I wrote about on Heartlight a few weeks ago. That ladder is a symbol of the division that exists, not just in Christianity, but in the care of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The fighting between the orders represented there is so great that none of the Christians keeps the key to the building; it’s overseen by a Moslem.
I hate to write so little about such important places, but as I said, it’s really all to overwhelming. Plus many have written much more eloquently about the Via Dolorosa than what I could do. I’m admittedly skeptical about some of the traditions, but it was still moving to be in the area where Jesus spent the last few hours before his crucifixion.
From there we went to the Tower of David museum. We were supposed to go there on Friday evening, but they close early for the Sabbath, and we arrived too late.
Next stop was the Western Wall of the Temple, also known as the Wailing Wall. This was part of the base of Herod’s Temple, the temple itself having been destroyed by the Romans.
There is a mosque built on the temple mount, commemorating the place where Abraham offered Isaac; it’s called the Dome of the Rock. That’s the famous golden dome you see in the Jerusalem skyline. Because it was the time of Ramadan, no non-Muslims were allowed up there.
The Western Wall was a moving place. It was especially interesting to see the bar mitzvahs going on; there were lots on the day we were there. Big celebrations with singing and dancing; kids throw candy at one another. Much of our group was distressed by the fact that men and women are separated at the Wailing Wall; this meant the women had to watch the ceremony from across a partition. Let’s just say that there wasn’t a lot of cultural sensitivity in our group upon seeing that.
It’s very telling to me that there’s one part of the wall where men and women do celebrate together; they had to create that space for American Jews. Yes, it’s evident that our culture has a particular hang-up over gender issues.
We next went to the southern steps of the temple. This is quite possibly the site where Peter preached on Pentecost. Down below are dozens of mikvehs, ritual baptismal pools. Plenty of room to baptize thousands of people.
We then went to Hezekiah’s tunnel, the passageway King Hezekiah created to provide a reliable supply of water for the city, even during times of siege. It’s fascinating to walk through these dark, wet tunnels. We came out at a pool called the Pool of Siloach. We went through the tunnel just behind a group of school girls; a couple of them panicked and refused to go through. I was sorry they missed it and hope they get to go back sometime.