Israel Study Tour with Calvin Theological Seminary

January 3-15, 2016

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The Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock

Today we entered Jerusalem like first-century Jews on pilgrimage to the Temple. After spending the night on a hilltop outside of town (in the luxurious Dan hotel) we descended into the old city. Pilgrims would come up from the valleys and wash in a pool, such as the Pool of Siloam, which we visited. Then they would change money to pay the temple tax and buy an animal for sacrifice. Walking up through the City of David, they would see the temple complex upon the hill. The stairs and gates on the south temple hill would lead up into the temple outer courts. We wandered among the ritual baths and temple steps for a while, imagining what pilgrims experienced two thousand years ago.

Today, some of these places are visible, others hidden beneath rubble, and a few restricted to certain religions. The Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock is a holy site for three religions comprising half of the world's population. While within the grounds, Muslim religious law enforcers watched us closely for illegal activities: prayer, Bible reading, and immodest clothing. Israeli police in black jackets and submachine guns patrolled the area. A group of radical Jews entered the grounds and walked around, encircled by police. Muslim men and women were gathered in circles studying scripture shouted "Allahu Akhbar" when they passed. Our tour guide told us this unrest happens twice a day on most days.

Just outside, the Western Wall is the closest Jews can get to the probable location of the Second Temple. We joined them in prayer and some wrote prayers and pushed them into cracks in the wall.

Western Wall

The Western Wall is the most holy place accessible to the Jewish people because of Muslim control of the Temple Mount. Known in recent centuries as the “Wailing Wall,” this was built by Herod the Great as the retaining wall of the Temple Mount complex. The plaza was created as an area for prayer when Israel captured the Old City in 1967. At times tens of thousands of people gather here for prayer.

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Some of the group braved Hezekiah's Tunnel: a long dark walk through an low, narrow tunnel in knee-deep water, passing beneath David's city and emerging at the Pool of Siloam. It challenges the claustrophobic ones and thrilled the adventurous. We closed the day with a joint dinner with our fellow GTI tour group from Cornerstone University and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.

By James Zwier

Hezekiah's Tunnel

A 1750-foot (530m) tunnel carved during the reign of Hezekiah to bring water from one side of the city to the other, Hezekiah’s Tunnel together with the 6th c. tunnel of Euphalios in Greece are considered the greatest works of water engineering technology in the pre-Classical period. Had it followed a straight line, the length would have been 1070 ft (335m) or 40% shorter.

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