Israel Trip – Day 08 – November 13 – Sunday

We had another early start day today.  Breakfast was back to a regular full Israeli breakfast (as compared to the Shabbat breakfast).  I had an egg dish that had a spicy tomato sauce (at least I can say I tried it), along with scrambled eggs, yogurt, pancakes, and … well I took more than I actually ate – there’s so much good looking food on buffet line that it takes discipline to not take one of everything … a discipline I’m working on.

We got on the bus by 7:15am to get a head start on getting onto the Temple Mount.  There is a security line you have to stand in to get onto the Temple Mount, and it takes time.  We were in line for probably forty-five minutes before making onto the Temple Mount.  Our guide Miriam did a great job explaining the various buildings and practices that go on at the Temple Mount.  There’s the huge Al Aksa mosque, the Dome of the Rock, and lots of little domes all over the place.  There were open air Koran classes going on while we were there.  Islam has a different take on most things – instead of Abraham sacrificing Isaac on Mount Moriah (which is the Temple Mount), they say that it was Ishmael.  The Dome of the Rock was built over a large rock that was supposedly the place of the attempted sacrifice.  The majority view in Judaism is that this is also the location of the Jewish Temple, and the “rock” is also the location of the Holy of Holies.  One of the little shrines is called the Dome of the Spirits, and some say that there is a possibility that it is the location of the Jewish Holy of Holies, partly because of the ancient bedrock that still shows at the bottom of the shrine, as well as it’s location being in a direct line with the Eastern Gate, whereas the Dome of the Rock is not correctly aligned.

We exited the Temple Mount through a gate that led down a Muslim quarter shop street and made our way around the bottom of the Temple Mount and then to the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall.  Once this was the only part of the Second Temple that was visible, and is held as a holy place for the Jews.  People pray at the Wall, some even put printed prayer requests into the cracks.  When Israel recaptured the entire city of Jerusalem in the 1967 war, they cleared out a section of the area and turned it into a big open air synagogue.  It’s a beautiful place.  It’s also fascinating to watch people pray at the Wall.

Next we got back on the bus for a quick trip up the hill to the Jewish Quarter where we got a peek at the “Broad Wall”, a wall that dates back to the time of King Hezekiah as he fortified the city’s defenses against the Assyrian threat.  Then we walked to a shop called “Shorashim”, run by two orthodox Jewish brothers.  The fascinating thing about the shop is not just the things you can buy there, but that these fellows love to talk to Christians and dialog about our two faiths.  It was really quite a fascinating time, listening to an Orthodox Jewish perspective on God.

For lunch, we scattered throughout the Jewish Quarter.  David and I settled for the schwarma – don’t ask me what it is, but it is good.  Some kind of roasted meat along with potatoes, falafel, “salad” (veggies), all wrapped up in a large piece of pita bread – kind of like a double sized burrito from Chipotle.  Really, really good.

Our next stop is known as the “Burnt House”.  It’s actually located under some existing buildings.  The excavation places the house back in the first century to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem.  The artifacts discovered tell us that the family living there were priests in the Temple.  There is even a twenty minute video drama presentation of what it must have been like in that house on the day that the Temple was destroyed by the Romans.

Next stop was a peek at the “Cardo”, the downtown shopping district of ancient Jerusalem.  The area was lined with shops in ancient days, and today the city of Jerusalem has rebuilt part of the shop area and filled it with modern shops.

Then we headed back to the area of the Western Wall where we entered what is known as the “Rabbi’s Tunnel”.  It’s a peek at the excavation that has gone on around the Temple Mount, and specifically opening up a tunnel that runs along the base of the Temple Mount, kind of extending the idea of the Western Wall under an area of the city that has all kinds of buildings covering it.  I’ve been in the Rabbi’s tunnel before, but only went half way before turning around.  This time we went the full length of the tunnel, all the way up to where the Antonio Fortress was in ancient days.  One of the places you pass in the tunnel is considered the closest place to where the ancient Holy of Holies was in the days of the Temple.

Our last stop of the day was to head to the other side of town and visit Yad Vashem, the world famous Holocaust memorial.  We only had an hour and a half to walk through the museum, a place you could spend days in.  It traces the rise of Hitler and the ensuing catastrophe that descended upon the Jewish people in Europe.  It’s filled with eye-witness testimony – survivors telling the stories of what happened to their families as the Jews were rounded up and sent to the various death camps.  Pictures, video, articles of clothing.  It’s an incredibly moving experience.  I saw people at the end in tears as the enormity of the evil of Naziism begins to dawn on them.  It makes the miracle of the existence of the nation of modern Israel an even greater miracle when you see what the Jewish people have survived.  If you visit Israel, you must see this place.

Next we headed back to our bus, back to the hotel, and then dinner.  David spotted a corner of the room that had a burger set up.  All is good.

Tomorrow we plan on visiting the Christian quarter of Jerusalem.  And it looks like we’ve got some rain in our forecast.  See you tomorrow.