The City of Peace
Today, we visited many interesting and well-known sites around Jerusalem and Bethlehem. For our first experience this morning, we visited the Temple Mount, on top of Mount Moriah. This was the site of the temple of the God and is now a centerpiece of many world religions. Now it is controlled by Muslims, but was still a neat place to visit and see this morning. We also saw the famous Western Wall, which is an original wall of Herod’s expansion surrounding the Temple Mount and a prominent point of prayer for the Jewish people.
Next we headed to Hezekiah's tunnel where we walked through a long tunnel of a few inches of water that was constructed under Hezekiah that would have led outside the walls of the City of David. It was neat to walk through as a group and amazing to think about the engineering of this tunnel to provide water for the city. Coming out of the tunnel, we stopped at the Pool of Siloam where Jesus healed the blind man. The picture we see from this miracle is that there was simply a man who was once blind, and upon meeting Jesus, he could see. Just like him, we too have a story like this and can share it with the world for the glory of God.
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.
Next, we went to Herodium, the location of one of Herod's palaces and his tomb. At one time, this was a massive, elaborate structure constructed and used by Herod, but today it is no more than archaeological remans. Herod's bones were actually found recently during an excavation of this site. This tells us many things, but upon comparison, we see that Jesus and Herod were pretty much opposite in every way. Herod had magnificent palaces, theaters, pools, and more, but lived for the glory of himself. Jesus was born humbly in a dirty shepherd's cave and lived for the purpose and glory of the Father! Like yesterday, we thought about our lives and what we would live for. Would we seek to build our kingdom and our lives in hopes that our name would be remembered or would we humbly take the shepherd's cave and live to leave a lasting legacy God’s Kingdom.
Herodium is 3 miles southeast of Bethlehem and 8 miles south of Jerusalem. Its summit is 2,460 feet above sea level.
Herod built or re-built eleven fortresses. This one he constructed on the location of his victory over Antigonus in 40 BC.
Following lunch, we headed to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity. This is a very possible site of the birth of Jesus here in Bethlehem and today is home to a few different churches. After this quick visit, we stopped by a souvenir shop to do some shopping! We then headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and our night experience in Jerusalem!
Biblical scholars believe Bethlehem, located in the "hill country" of Judah, may be the same as the Biblical Ephrath, which means "fertile", as there is a reference to it in the Book of Micah as Bethlehem Ephratah. The Bible also calls it Beth-Lehem Judah, and the New Testament describes it as the "City of David". It is first mentioned in the Tanakh and the Bible as the place where the matriarch Rachel died and was buried "by the wayside" (Gen. 48:7). Rachel's Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem. According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moab gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. It was the home of Jesse, father of King David of Israel, and the site of David's anointment by the prophet Samuel. It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam.
Our site this evening was incredible! We got to go on a tour of the excavation and tunnels under the Temple Mount and below the retaining wall. It actually goes much further down into the ground than what is typically seen as the Western Wall. It was fascinating to learn about the construction of the whole thing. Just for them to be able to move the gigantic stones at that time is impressive in itself! Overall, we had an awesome day! We are back at our hotel and ready to get some rest for our final day tomorrow!
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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