Arrivals and Departures
On day 7, we awoke to a cool, clear morning in Jerusalem which was a welcomed departure from the rather warm temperatures of the previous days.
Ronen set today's stage with some background as has become customary. Jerusalem would not have been selected as a city site by man. Only one spring to provide water, not on the major thoroughfares and not really defensible. Fortunately, God selected the city, not man. This location (Mount Moriah) where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22), would be our canvas for a day of learning and reflecting. The Holiest place on Earth for Jews and Christians and 3rd Holiest for Muslims provides extreme diversity and historical conflict that continues today as Israel and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital.
We began our journey just outside of the city on the Mount of Olives with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem at our backs. Matt started us off at a breathtaking vista looking across the Kidron Valley where his teaching was themed "Arrivals and Departures". The imagery of David weeping as he left the city through Lion's Gate. The spectacle of Jesus arriving at the city on a colt (as a King), down through the garden of olives and up to the Sheep gate while people celebrated and laid down palms and coats. Ezekiel's vision of the presence of the Lord rising up and leaving Jerusalem toward the Mount of Olives. Powerful.
Mount of Olives
Separated from the Eastern Hill (the Temple Mount and the City of David) by the Kidron Valley, the Mt. of Olives has always been an important feature in Jerusalem’s landscape. From the 3rd millennium B.C. until the present, this 2900-foot hill has served as one of the main burial grounds for the city. The two-mile long ridge has three summits each of which has a tower built on it.
We would take a path similar to Jesus' as we entered the city. The group prepared by finding space and taking time to reflect in the Garden of Gethsemane. Possibly near the corner of the garden where Jesus took the disciples prior to being arrested (John 18).
Walking down through the Kidron Valley and ascending Mount Moriah the closeness of the areas provides color to the text. Passing through Lion's Gate into Bethesda (House of Love and Kindness) we paused to sing in St. Anne's Church experiencing the acoustics and growing closer as a group. Continuing to The Pools of Bethesda (John 5:2) we contemplated the significance of Jesus asking the unclean paralyzed man, who was not welcome at the temple and had turned to the Asclepion pool for healing, "Do you want to be healed?"
Experiencing the Via Dolorosa at the current street level as well as many levels below provided reference that Roman soldiers were present and likely support that Jesus walked on these stones.
Our first day in the old city came to an end at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. As you enter the dark building, it is easy to see contributions from many Orthodox and Catholic groups. Although non-uniform, the unique layout adds to the mystique and experience of visiting the site of cleansing, crucifixion, and resting of Jesus' body.
Walking the path of Jesus's persecution through his crucifixion was spiritually heavy. We continued challenging ourselves as we ended the day at the Holocaust Museum. A well-implemented memorial to those who perished in the atrocity as well as an educational reminder of what did and what could again happen. The children's memorial was deeply moving.
Our first day in Jerusalem was rich, and we still have more to come...
Written by Trevor Caulder
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