Day 1 – Jerusalem

Wednesday, January 25. Downloading the pictures didn’t turn out in order – geographically or chronologically  – to represent the day, so the explanations may be scattered as well.

The top picture is of a room where Hasidic (Orthodox) Jews meet to pray in front of what is called: King David’s Tomb. Located on what would be called Mt. Zion, even they recognize that this isn’t actually his tomb, but it is a place to commemorate him and so they gather to pray. The video of it didn’t download either, but it shows them chanting, rocking, while praying.

The 2nd & 3rd pictures are taken from the Mt. of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, looking at Old Jerusalem, Mt. Moriah, and the Temple Mount where today the Dome of the Rock sits – once the place where Herod’s, and before that, Solomon’s Temple sat. Taken from the Church commemorating Jesus weeping over Jerusalem – the most picturesque place around.

Below that church is the Garden of Gesthemane, at the bottom of the Mount of Olives, down in the Kidron Valley. There is a church here too, commemorating the place where Jesus prayed before being betrayed. Here there are a few olive trees left that date back at least 2000 years! Those trees would have witnessed that fateful night.

The next picture is of some Orthodox Jews at the wailing wall who were gracious enought to talk with some of our group – men from our group, for the women’s section is separated by a wall.

The next picture is the front of our hotel. Evidently it’s always Christmas in Bethlehem! We are staying in Bethlehem, about a 20 minute drive into the Old City of Jerusalem. We are staying here, not only because of costs (much cheaper than staying by the Old City), but to help support the Palestinians as well. 

The next picture is of an ancient stairway from the Kidron Valley up to Mt Zion. If Jesus had his last supper on Mt. Zion in an upper room of a house there (which is likely, but not certain), then he would have walked these steps. 

The next picture is from the Wailing Wall, or more commonly referred to here as the Western Wall. It’s actually on the east side of the Old City, but it’s the Western side of the Temple Mount. People put prayers, folded up, into the cracks of the rocks.

The second to the last picture is a view from Mt. Zion looking out over the Valley of Gehenna. The Kidron Valley, on the East side of Jerusalem, and the Henon Valley, on the West and South side of Jerusalem meet south of the city to form the Valley of Gehenna, which goes all of the way out to the Dead Sea. In Jesus’ day it was a garbage pit where they burned the garbage. There were always flames seen from Jerusalem above – “the fires of Hell.” It was nice of the neighbors below to actually be burning some garbage so we could get the sense involved in our viewing. Besides sight and smell, we also engaged our hearing. On Mt. Zion, next to each other, there is not only a place commemorating Jesus’ last supper (upper room), but also Caiaphas’ house, where Jesus was first taken before being brought to Pontius Pilate. This is supposedly where Peter betrayed Jesus after the cock crowed. The neighbors also had a rooster that kept crowing! Oh, and they had a colt tied up too – just like Jesus telling his disciples they’d find that to celebrate the Last Supper! And no, this wasn’t set up – just coinincidence.

The last picture is of the Eastern Gate. This is supposedly where the Messiah will enter Jerusalem when he comes. On the other side of that is a large chair – the throng for the Messiah, built by the Crusaders. When the Muslims took over they cemented in that entrance and put graves in front of it (for an observant Jew wouldn’t walk on graves).

The one thing that sticks out as you first see this land is how many rocks there are – everywhere! My first reaction is: “And why do so many people fight over this land?” Of course it’s because of the history, not the beauty of the landscape. Rocks, rocks, everywhere! What does it mean that Jesus named Simon “Rock” or “Peter?” Was it because he was a nuisance that Jesus wanted to kick out of his way (“get behind me Satan…” or “you of little faith!”)? Or is it because Peter will be foundational to the Christian movement – like the rocks supporting the Temple, the presence of God? One certainly gets a new perspective of Luke 19:40 – when the Pharisees tell Jesus to stop his followers from yelling Hosana, Jesus replied: “I tell you, if these were silent the stones would shout out!”  We are his living stones.

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