Mindful of their steps
Jerusalem continues to unravel many Biblical mysteries for us, but as we learn one thing, we end up with another question yet to be answered. That being said, seeing the Bible unearthed has been quite a treat, and our first site today was quite immense, the City of David. The oldest part of Jerusalem, it was a settlement during the Canaanite period; David is said to have captured the city and to have brought the Ark of the Covenant here 3000 years ago. Some of the highlights in the City of David were actually beneath the surface - the Siloam tunnel, Warren’s (famous archeologist) shaft, and the Gihon Spring.
We also had the pleasure to see something that was only recently made available to the public, as it was only recently discovered, the Pool of Siloam. This is the site where Jesus healed the man born blind. Jesus put mud on the man’s eyes and it was the Pool of Siloam in which he rinsed his eyes and was healed. We sat on the original steps leading down to the pool as scripture came to life.
Next, we visited the Church of Peter in Gallicantu. This is a Roman Catholic Church on the eastern slope of Mount Zion outside the old city of Jerusalem. The word gallicantu means “cock’s crow,” so you can guess what Biblical story this Church of Peter marks. This site is believed to be built on the ruins of High Priest Caiaphus’ Palace. Because of this, we were able to see a few remarkable things. This would have been the place where Jesus was held prisoner, and below the church, we were able to see the deep, dark prison caves that still contained the holes that held chains. Also, there is still a section of the stone steps on which Jesus would have walked after being arrested. These stone steps were certainly in use at the time of Christ, and this is the one place we can know for certain his feet touched. On the evening of his arrest, he would have descended them with his disciples on their way from the Last Supper to Gethsemane.
Speaking of steps, our next spot was the southern steps at the temple. Again, in this spot, we marveled at the architecture and massive undertaking this was as we saw another part of the Western Wall. Then, as we made our way along the south side of the Temple area to steps that would have been traveled by many coming to the Temple to make sacrifice, our guide Dan pointed something out to us that we otherwise might have missed. The steps that would have provided entrance to the temple did not all have the same depth and height. He pointed out how this was done on purpose to capture the focus of those entering the temple. They would have to be mindful of their steps and not distracted. With heads down, they would be walking in a reverent posture which would be fitting to the reverence that was necessary to enter this holy place.
An enormous flight of steps leads to the Southern Wall from the south. They were excavated after 1967 by archaeologist Benjamin Mazar and are the northernmost extension of the Jerusalem pilgrim road leading from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount via the Double Gate and the Triple Gate, collectively called the Huldah Gates. These are the steps that Jesus of Nazareth and other Jews of his era walked up to approach the Temple, especially on the great pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.  The stairs that lead to the double gate are intact and "well-preserved." The steps that lead to the triple gate were mostly destroyed. / The risers are low, a mere 7 to 10 inches high, and each step is 12 to 35 inches deep, forcing the ascending pilgrims to walk with a stately, deliberate tread. The pilgrims entered the temple precincts through the double and triple gates still visible in the Southern Wall. Together, the double and triple gates are known as the Hulda Gates, after the prophetess Huldah.
We ended our day’s itinerary at Yad Vashem. Israel’s official memorial to victims of the Holocaust. Needless to say, this was a powerful and sobering reminder of what happened during one of the darkest times in human history. The propensity for man to be beyond evil was eye-opening, but throughout the exhibits it was again evident that the Jewish people are strong, resilient, and worthy of our admiration. We must learn from what we saw today and make sure we do everything possible to make sure nothing like that will ever happen again. Jesus demands it.
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