Day 12 was a rich mix of experiences around the Temple Mount, the City of David and Bethlehem.
Aerial view of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in Jesus’ time compared to today. Click images for full size.
We were woken at 5:45 to get up to the Temple Mount as early as possible. Thursday is one of two Bar-Mitzvah days and the Arab proprietors of the Temple Mount only allow people up on to the Temple Mount in the first part of the day.
Here are some moments.
We walked in through the Dung Gate through security to climb a covered gang-way. The atmosphere grew thick with multiple levels of awareness. God was here but so were many other spiritual influences. The first photo is what we saw looking down on the portion of the Western Wall used for prayer: women to the right of the barrier and men to the left. Yes, men have much more space!
The ramp took us onto the Temple Mount which is administered by Arab/Palestinian Muslims. The size of the temple platform is 14.4 hectares. It is vast! I had to pray while walking around as my spirit was both exited and troubled. It felt stormy and not at all a place of peace.
From the Temple Mount we descended on foot to the City of David. This is where it all began. It is the city David took from the Jebusites and made his city. We watched an excellent video presentation. Incidentally the many excellent video presentations are all in well air-conditioned facilities which is much appreciated!
From here we prepared do do something I have waited years to do: walk the half kilometre of Hezekiah’s Tunnel from the city of David down to the Pool of Siloam. So with suitable footwear and iPhone as my torch I walked the tunnel dug by Hezekiah around 700 BC to enable Jerusalem to withstand the siege of Sennacherib the Assyrian.
For some reason the water of Hezekiah’s tunnel did not reach the pool of Siloam described as the ‘lower pool’ which has been excavated only in 2004 but remains dry. This is where Jesus sent the blind man he had healed in John 9:7.
We were offered the opportunity to walk back to the top of David’s City on a Herodian street. This had been a secret passage to enable people to get to the Temple and was now well below ground level. It was a stifling damp climb.
Back at the top we changed from tunnel walking clothes and returned to the Temple Mount. Amazing sights awaited us. As mentioned, Thursday is one of two Bar-Mitzvah days and the joyful procession of 13 year old boys with their supporting family towards the Western Wall was in full swing. I found this very moving to behold and recognised the powerful initiation being acted out as the boy-man is led in singing and dancing by male relatives to the wall of the Temple to be initiated as a Jewish man under the Torah. It made me think of what vigour and joy we lack in our much more domesticated liturgy. At some point the music turned to Shofar blowing which makes the hairs stand on your neck as the blasts resonate on the Temple Mount.
After some time soaking up the Bar Mitzvah processions we moved on to a part of the Western Wall not used for praying. The picture below shows just how high that retaining wall is and the results of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Around the corner on the South Side of the Temple Mount are a large array of steps. These once led to a gate which was cut off by the Al Aqsa Mosque built on the Temple Mount above. It is suggested that this area could have accommodated the 3,000 or so mentioned on Pentecost Sunday. Was this the site of Acts 2?
The afternoon was a bit thin on significant matters but we did get to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This is the only remaining Byzantine Church – and so of interest – but it is not connected to the Birth of Jesus despite having a stone purporting to mark the spot! While being led around the crypt it was casually mentioned that the room we were in was where Jerome worked on his Latin translation of what came to be known as the ‘Vulgate’. I was very impressed! That was significant to me.
This was an intense day for which I am very grateful. More tomorrow!!