A BIG Day!
When you wake up in Jerusalem, you know it’s going to be a BIG day! It may be day 9, but we are all feeling strong and expectant that the Lord has new things to teach us here each and every day. This entire trip has been jam-packed with new experiences and adventures, but the city has been packed with a different kind of newness for us. Jerusalem is a sensory overload in the best way possible. Between the buzz of car horns, church bells, and the conglomeration of Arabic and Hebrew spoken in the streets, Jerusalem is not short of new sights, smells, and sounds. It is an entirely different environment than what we have been in the last eight days. There were people in the streets of various cultures, religions, and ethnicities. Some were tourists and some have lived in Israel their entire life but all have found themselves in a city booming with life, stories, and tradition.
Right when we stepped off the bus this morning, we made our way to the Temple Mount. We walked up the bridge wide-eyed at the gold dome peeking over the hills in the distance. After a few layers of security, we found ourselves at the foot of the temple. It commands attention with its ornately decorated walls and doors. Our tour guide, Ronen, even found us the “perfect picture-taking angle.”
From the Temple Mount, we made our way down a few flights of stairs to the Western Wall. Because the Jewish people are not allowed on the Temple Mount, the Western Wall has become a place for them and those of other religions to get as close as possible to pray. Men and women pray here three times a day with prayer books and copies of the Torah in hand. Even though we believe different things, what an experience it was to see such faithful devotion and fervent prayer!
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.
We hopped on the buses after the Western Wall and Matt asked us to change into water shoes and grab our flashlights, an adventure is surely ahead of us when a site starts out like that! We made our way to Hezekiah’s tunnel, a location that has recently been discovered at the base of Mount Moriah. A couple flights of stairs led us down to a tunnel with rushing water in the bottom. What a sight it probably was for 59 of us to shimmy our way through a narrow tunnel knee-deep in water. It looked like a scene straight from “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” The ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ expression became much more poignant when we emerged from the tunnel and found ourselves at the Pool of Siloam that is mentioned in John 9. It is here that Jesus sees a man who was blind from birth. Jesus tells the man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. Upon doing just that, the man comes home seeing! When the man is brought before the Pharisees, they question who performed such a miracle and are skeptical as to whether this man could really be the Messiah considering He did such a thing on the Sabbath. Even though the Pharisees doubt him, the blind man continues to rejoice and proclaim that he is not concerned with the matter because he once was blind but now his eyes have been opened to sight. What faith we have to learn from him! While we want to rebuke the Pharisees for even questioning such a miracle that is so obvious, how often do we believe in lies when the truth clearly presents itself in front of us? The Lord has laid out the truth of His grace and His faithfulness to us so clearly, but there are so many times that it is easier for us to look for excuses. As the Lord continues to give us opportunities for faith, may we urgently choose to believe that He is for us and that what He says is true.
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.
By this point in the day, our stomachs were rumbling. Our guides treated us to an authentic Jerusalem lunch. Falaffel? Nope, try again. Schnitzel? Not today. How about bagels as big as our faces! We really were biting off more than we could chew with cheeses, olive oil, and even NUTELLA!
After lunch, our day took a little bit of a heavier turn. We found ourselves at Yad Veshem, a Holocaust museum that was intended to embody Isaiah 56, “a memorial and a name” for the people who were lost. Our day ended with a trip to the Church of the Holy Nativity, the believed sight of the birth of Christ and our first shopping trip for souveners. A full day indeed!
Thank you for your continued prayers for our group! The Lord has been so gracious to give us so many opportunities for faith and to deepen our understanding of His love for us! As we enter our last day in Israel, we are sad to leave but excited for what the Lord has for us at home!
Thanks for reading!