Help support our friends in Israel in their time of need.

Israel Study Tour with The Well Community Church

November 1-12, 2021

Subscription options are no longer available for this tour.

Day 07 - Temple Mount, Western Wall, Hezekiah's Tunnel

After arriving last night, we awoke in Jerusalem today, 11/9/21, in our new abode —the hotel Dan. It is beautiful, and the people have all been kind and welcoming. There was a deliciously fresh (and large!) buffet breakfast, after which we were on the bus/ready to go by 7:45am.

Meir (pronounced Mayer —our excellent bus driver!) navigated the ascent up the hill with ease and adroitly secured a place for our (massive) bus, and we walked to our first site: the Temple Mount. A guarded security checkpoint met us prior to entry; the process was speedy and efficient. A metal, wooded ramp led us over the Western Wall and onto —the Temple Mount. Visually, it is much to take in. It is *massive, like courtyard upon courtyard with ruins and greenery.

Once settled, our guide, Ronen, skillfully led us through a birds-eye view of the history of the Temple Mount/the Temple via a series of 7 stories, concluding with a brief history of Islam and the dome of the Rock. One of the readings we did together was in Genesis 22 —the sacrifice of Isaac. Standing on the Temple Mount on Mount Moriah, the place believed to be where Abraham offered his son to God in faith —there was one verse that struck me as it was being read. Genesis 22 verse 7 states, "And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"" The "where is the lamb" struck me so deeply and seemed to be said in my mind almost in slow motion in light of the entire Old Testament and with such .. longing and with such anticipation. Tears welled in my eyes, and time slowed for a few seconds. Following verse 8, "Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together." The "God will provide for Himself the lamb" echoed in a similar fashion in my mind, but this time it was difficult to restrain the loud singular clap/fist and a "Yasss!" Which burst in my mind.

From the Temple Mount, we went to the Western Wall. We learned later in the day the Western Wall was part of the original retaining wall of the temple (not the temple wall itself) King Herod built. The first thing I noticed upon entering was how few people they were there. Perhaps because of the size difference, fewer people on the enormous Temple Mount didn't phase me as it did at the Western Wall. There were no (maybe one, but I truly don't recall seeing any) other tour groups. There were families, single men, and women, and later school children laughing and taking pictures, laughing and enjoying one another. We were given 25 minutes of free time to wander/have some quiet time. There is the main square in which everyone is allowed, but as you get closer to the wall, men and women are divided: men on the left and women on the right. This experience was challenging and difficult to describe as there were/are too many emotions mixed together to process. I just typed out but then deleted the things I saw to respect the women who were praying, but I will try to share how I felt.  With the deepest respect, honestly, it felt heartbreaking and humbling. It was heartbreaking to think of the sincerity of prayers —as God's chosen people to reveal the Messiah to the world —awaiting His promises to them —but He came! And He is risen! It was humbling to think of the *richness of the Jewish History both in His revealed word and all around us so tangibly —and to have been forever grafted into that as a gentile nobody from Wisconsin. And (also with deepest respect) it felt… hollow to me. Lifeless. It's (just) a wall. It's just ground. It grieved my soul to compassion for people (all people) that do not know Christ and the gospel.

We gathered again and took a tour underground. (The Western Wall is being excavated from underground because Muslim communities live on top of it). It's incredible —a living tel. The original retaining walls of the Temple Mount being excavated were up to 80 feet high(!) with some stones weighing over 500 tons(!), the largest Ronen named "Albert Einstein" was 570 tons! 😳

After exiting and on our way to lunch, we stopped to get some freshly squeezed juice in a small courtyard of what said to be an Armenian church. The pomegranate was delish! Lunch was served a short distance ahead in a courtyard with olive trees and tables. The menu? Falafel pita sandwiches and a marshmallow/chocolate/wafer tower thing called a "creme." Also delish! There was a stone that had Psalm 122 engraved on it, which was sweet to see.    

After lunch, having already changed into our water shoes, we headed to King Hezekiah's tunnel! (King Hezekiah is believed to have helped prepare the Israelites from an attack from the Assyrians by diverting water from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam). We watched a short video in 3D, rolled up our pants, and walked in. The water was cold, clean and clear! Brad told those who wanted to go quickly to go with Pastor Slayden but that those who wanted to stay behind could go at a bit slower pace and "have some fun" by turning all of our lights/headlamps off. A handful went with Pastor Slayden and the rest of us followed Pastor Bell, shuffling into the water which was clear, cold, and immediately up to our knees. The walls were consistently about 2 feet wide but sometimes less the five feet tall. After a minute or so, Pastor Bell asserted: "lights out!" Immediately is there is zero light. Pitch black. I had one hand on the top of the wall and one on the side and still managed to hit my head and elbows more than once. The cool water rushing below your feet and the darkness and harshness of the rough walls was more challenging than I thought and it took about 15 minutes to walk through! We broke through and escaped at the pools of Siloam (which means "sent"). There were new pools that were newly discovered we had the privilege of seeing! Pastor Slayden taught and reminded us of how Hezekiah's tunnel is such a tangible depiction/reminder of our felt need and dependence on the Lord (always) but particularly in times we can't see clearly/at l and don't have an option other than just to trust God and walk through/follow Him and His leading. Pastor Slayden taught from John Chapter 9, where Jesus heals a man blind from birth. He reminded us that though all of our hurts and ailments are a direct result of the fall as we now are subject to live in a broken world, not all ailments or hurts are a direct result of our own sin or someone else's toward us, "but that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9 verse 3). Jesus healed these man's eyes —who had never seen! Brad ended with reminding us of John 7: Jesus is our *living water.

Our last site was the southern steps of the Temple Mount. On our left were white tombs and in front of us over the hill were Muslim houses. Brad taught in Matthew about Jesus' authority coming from God, not men. And that God desires mercy, not sacrifice and He comes for the sinners, not for the righteous. And that the religious leaders (or those in our day) are like white-washed tombs (we could see some on our left). As Brad continued to John 14-18, we could all imagine the places Jesus would have been in chapters 15-17 in John as Brad spoke (but it would be difficult to describe other than Jesus likely walked from our far right to our left) with our view from the southern steps. I wasn't disinterested but today at that time my mind was kind of mush and I want to go back and relisten to what he posted. I remember the feeling I had when he was speaking but not the specifics of the content past what is above.  

We were back on the bus at 5 for our PCR test at 6, dinner at 7, then an evening of free time which some chose to rest and others peruse the city.

As an addendum: in the Olympics, we get to see athletes who train their entire lives to do magnificent things with seemingly such ease they look almost effortless. —That's what I think of when I think of Ronen. As he teaches, answers questions explains things —we are seeing a lifetime of preparation and to imagine all of the engines firing in his brain to crank out the things he says, and things he does is incredible. It is impossible to imagine this tour (or any GTI tour) without him. He is an invaluable resource and we are truly blessed to have him.

This trip is such a privilege and really does make the Bible come to life in one's mind in a way it hadn't previously. So grateful for the time here and hope everyone has the opportunity/encourage all who can to go one day.

Thank you Cassie who asked if I'd write today's blog. It was sweet to be directed to slow down with the Lord. The gospel is the best news ever. Thankful.

Caitlin Benson 


Upcoming Signature Tours

With 30 years of experience creating trips for other ministries, we've prepared our own signature study tours featuring some of our favorite itineraries and compelling teachers! If you've never been on a GTI Study Tour, take a moment to learn more about what you can expect.