Our Final Day
Though it was our final day in Israel, we did not waste one minute of the precious time we had left. With Ronen’s guidance we were able to hit the first site of the day, the Mount of Olives, before masses of tourists arrived. Despite rain and wind, Troy’s message was clear. In Jesus’ last days his work did not let up: here, on the Mount of Olives, Jesus challenged his disciples to be obedient and was intentional in his worship and mission of sharing the Good News. The Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested, lies at the foot of the mountain ridge and from the top we had a spectacular view of the city and specifically of the Dome of the Rock. Today, a Catholic church stands there called The Church of All Nations, or the Church of Agony, which we were able to visit as well.
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.
Following the Church of Agony, we walked the streets of the Old City again, this time stopping at the stations of the cross, which eventually led us to the Pool of Bethesda. Here, Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, proving that he was a God who didn’t just claim to be Messiah, but instead demonstrated it through action. Our God is one who heals, who forgives, who touches us, and who cares more about having a relationship with us than following rules, as Marshall reminded us.
Ruins of a Byzantine church and the Church of St. Anne are located at this site as well. Known for its acoustics, the group sang together Amazing Grace, as the lyrics echoed throughout the halls of St. Anne’s and other tourists listened in awe.
We ventured on to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is built upon the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Filled with Christians of a host of different denominations, nationalities, languages, and cultures, it was moving to be in the presence of such splendor. Each of us took a few minutes to reflect independently on the sacrifice that was made there for us two thousand years ago.
From there, we walked to the Israel Museum where we stopped for cappuccinos and saw a model replica of Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period, an art garden, and the ancient manuscript of the Aleppo Codex.
Leaving behind our tour guide we entered into the West Bank to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity, which was built upon the traditional place of Jesus’s birth. Afterward she shopped at an Arab Christian souvenir shop called Johnny’s, where the very popular olive wood items are sold.
Back at the hotel, we sat for one final dinner and were joined by our tour guide and bus driver.
Hearts and heads full, our time in the Holyland had come to end.