Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked - Part 9

I forgot to mention one important detail about our Monday excursion to the churches - important to us, at least. As we boarded the bus that morning we discovered that our guide, Yair, had been activated by the Israeli Defense Forces for a one day training exercise. Being in the active reserves he had no choice but to go. He was replaced by another guide from the same company named Rafael. He called himself Rafi. He was very knowledgeable even if he didn't have the outgoing, humorous personality of Yair.

From the Church of the Holy Sepulcher we walked specific streets to a shop recommended by Dr. Tolar. Some in the group wanted to do some more shopping. Arden and I wanted coffee.

We entered the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, where traditional Jews and orthodox Jews live and worship. There are approximately 3000 Jewish residents and 1500 students currently in the Jewish Quarter.

Our pathway took us through an ancient part of the marketplace where part of historic old streets and buildings have been uncovered by archaeologists.

Eventually it led to a courtyard from the days of the First Temple. A painting on the wall depicts it as it would have appeared in those days.

These walls, streets and columns are preserved for all to see.

As you exit this particular tunnel you see the outside of the once buried courtyard that has been left open to the public.

At the top of the stairs was this old wine press.

We wandered across a new, modern courtyard, past a synagogue, and down another side street headed toward the Western Wall.

Note where the new synagogue meets the old building.

When we came out of from the buildings to an open area we could see the Mount of Olives on the horizon.

Just before you descend down to the Western Wall you encounter the Golden Menorah, a recreation of the original, the design of which is said to have been given to Moses by God. The original menorah and the one from the Second Temple both disappeared. This one was made to place into the Third Temple when it is eventually built.

From the top of the stairs you can also see the Dome of the Rock above the Western Wall. Standing in the Northern most corner of the wall's courtyard was as close as we got to the original temple mount.

The view from the top of the stairs was pretty spectacular.

Just above are remains of part of the uncovered Western Wall from the Second Temple period. Most of the walls were destroyed by the Muslim invaders.

On the way down the stairs one encounters this sign, explaining the reverence of the place, and these poppies growing out of the ancient wall of rock.

When we got to the bottom of the stairs, on the level of the Western Wall courtyard, we had to pass through a security checkpoint where they checked our bags and we walked through a metal detector. On the inside we encountered another sign. Rather than go into detail about the Western Wall I will post this.

What a thrill it was to be here. I had seen the Wailing Wall on TV and in movies and documentaries, but here I was  It looked just as I expected, although there was a wall dividing the male side from the female side. I didn't know about that.

Men's heads must be covered to enter the immediate area of the wall. Any kind of head covering will do but they provide yarmulkes for those who need one. 

It wasn't terribly crowded that Monday afternoon. I folded my written prayer tightly and inserted it into a crack between the stones, as is traditional. I murmured my prayer to God and asked for His blessings, with my hand on the ancient wall. It was quite moving.

This beautiful cabinet that held the Torah scrolls stands next to the wall on the male side.

When I was finished I headed back toward the spot where we were to gather. Most of our group went down separately or in smaller groups to offer their prayers. We met about 30 minutes later and walked down to a small archaeological museum, then on to the Western Wall excavations.

These are remains of the wall from the Second Temple era that were toppled by the Muslim conquerors. The stones were left where they fell.

The slanted stone and the base under it in the center of the picture is an original piece from what is now known as Robinson's Arch. 

This is an artist's rendering of what the arch looked like in its day.

An ancient stone stairway that has seen better days.

Finally it was time to say good-bye to the ancient city once again and get back on the bus. Upon exiting through the wall, we encountered this non-native and his handler. There's always someone trying to make a buck.

From the Western Wall we traveled further West to the Israel Museum of National Art and Archaeology to see a scale model of the old city of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. The model is quite detailed and remarkable.

This museum also houses the Shrine of the Book, where there are authentic and replica copies of  the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran. The roof of the museum is shaped like the top of the pottery containers that housed the scrolls and is temperature controlled by water. You can see the water jets in the picture. That's all well and good unless it's 50 degrees with a 10 mile an hour wind and you get caught in the spray...

There were no photographs allowed inside the Shrine of the Book. The security lady by the front door chastised people if they even looked like they were going to take a picture with their phones. So I couldn't get any pictures inside. But it's done to preserve the scrolls from light so it's understandable. Below is an image published by the museum itself that shows the most complete scroll. It is the book of Ezekiel. 

Naturally, the exit takes you out past the gift shop. Just beyond it was a small cafe. I couldn't resist taking a picture of one of the signs I saw inside.

With that it was time to get back on the bus and return to the hotel. Tomorrow, Tuesday, would be our last full day in Israel. The tour would end earlier than normal but it would be no less full of attractions. We would begin with the ruins of the ancient City of David, go from there to the church built on the site of the house of Caiaphas, then end our pilgrimage at the Garden Tomb, the other place some believe Jesus was buried.

Then it would be off to the airport for a 12 hour, overnight flight home. I'm sleepy just thinking about it.

To be continued...

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