To read about our trip from the beginning, start here.
Today was jam packed – almost overwhelming! But also amazing! We started at the Temple Mount, and explored the surrounding area. Currently, the Palestinians control the Temple Mount itself (don’t ask me how that makes sense). This meant we had to go through pretty intense security just to get to the Western/Wailing Wall, and even more to get inside the Temple Mount. Once inside, our guide Ron was extremely careful with what he talked about as we had Palestinian guards trailing us everywhere we went. Up on the top, we saw the Dome of the Rock mosque and the demonic image on the marble by the entrance. We didn’t get to spend too much time up here, nor is there much that the Israelites have been able to study or verify as original from the time of King Solomon, as they have not had any real access to the Temple Mount since it was last destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. However, we did hear that there is a stone step that has been clearly identified as belonging to the steps from when Solomon originally built the temple. We also heard about some of the recent plumbing plumbing issues they had at the mosque. Turns out, the Palestinians are so afraid that something will be discovered under the ground that they brought in Jordanians to fix the plumbing, instead of allowing the Israeli plumbers to complete the work and have access to dig under the Temple Mount. We walked around the top of the mount and saw the Eastern/Golden gate that would have been used by Jesus every day during the last week of his life, since he was staying on the Mount of Olives – directly to the east of the temple. Unfortunately, the gate was built over by the Byzantines, and later closed off so that a Muslim cemetery could be planted directly on the other side of the wall. This is supposedly because the Jewish tradition is that the Messiah will enter the Eastern Gate (just as Jesus already did!). However, since the Jewish priests can’t enter a cemetery, they thought this would prevent his coming! (Granted there may be flaws in this retelling as I missed part of what Ron was saying, but I got generally the same idea from a quick google search and it appears the original reasoning was also flawed :) )
We then exited the Temple Mount near the Lion’s gate to go see Bethesda. This is where Jesus healed the lame man by the pool in John 5. The church on this site has amazing acoustics, so Mom, Patty, and I led our group in singing “Amazing Grace”.
Next we went quickly through the Catholic Via Dolorosa (more on where we think it actually happened later). This is more based on tradition, and things they say happened as Jesus was carrying the cross, but there is very little Biblical evidence to support most of it. It begins in the Muslim Quarter at the site of the Roman fortress on the northwest corner of the Temple Mount, and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where they traditionally believe is the sight of Jesus’ death and burial and resurrection. As we were going along the Via Dolorosa, we were walking all through the Muslim Quarter and saw all of the little Arab shops and tiny walkways.
Next we walked through sections of the Jewish Quarter. The feeling here is far different from the Muslim Quarter. We saw various parts where ruins were discovered, including the old cardo (main street) of Jerusalem. The Jewish quarter used to be the slums where many Jews were living in the 1800s. When one of the Rothshilds came over from the US, he saw the poverty and wanted to help his fellow Jews, however, he wasn’t able to give his money, unless it was for public use. So, he built them a hospital, schools, a synagogue, and a loan house that poor families could live in for a year. After the 6 days war in 1967, the Israelites finally had control of the area and immediately began to excavate. They found the ruins of large houses beneath the ground, which are mostly likely the houses of the priests from before the temple was destroyed. They also found a young girl that had been killed by a Roman spear during the siege of 70AD, immediately before a building fell on her. However, all of the Muslim houses and buildings that had been built right up to the walls of the Temple Mount, were left untouched by the Israelites. More on that history below.
After lunch, we visited the Western/Wailing Wall. We had to stay on the women’s side, but I snuck a picture of the men’s side! The women’s side was packed from end to end with women praying. Many of the women had their children with them, and were showing them the different traditions they practice, including not turning their backs to the wall.
Next, we went into the Davidson Center, which preserves the southern wall and the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. I so wish we could have spent more time her!! But what we did get to see was pretty amazing. It is in this area, where the Israelites began doing some serious excavation after the 6 days war in 1967. We saw the ruins of some ritual baths, the remains of the arch that lead to the entrance of the Temple Mount used by the merchants, and one of the largest stones found in the wall from the time of Herod. Our group then gathered on the southern steps where Pastor Jeffress preached and about the sermon Peter gave on these very steps, as recorded in Acts 2 ~ A child of God, speaking the Word of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, is unstoppable!
That night, some of us did an optional outing to the Western Wall at night to explore the tunnels underneath the Muslim Quarter! As I mentioned above, the Israelites immediately began clearing out everything that was built up near the Temple Mount after the 6 days war in 1967, however, they were not able to clear out the Muslim houses. That means that the only parts of the Temple Mount walls that are exposed today are the eastern wall (where the cemetery is), the southern wall (inside the Davidson Center), and the southern half of the western wall (aka the wailing wall). Right after the war, the Israelites did try to begin digging under the wall, but the Muslims found out and put a quick stop to that. However, before they caught on, a Jewish rabbi saw what may be the ark of the covenant buried underneath the wall, but it was closed up before he could verify it. But, this is not stopping the Israelites from digging up and under anything they can, just stopping once they reach the wall. So, we got to explore down one of the tunnels they have built along the western wall, beneath the Muslim quarter, but down on the level that would have been street level at the time of Jesus! We saw arches that would have been the walkways leading up to the temple, the front of stores along the cardo, and the largest stone in the wall discovered to date – it is larger than a charter bus!! We walked all the way to the end of the wall, and saw where the construction on the cardo stopped when Herod died, and some of the stones that were ready to be laid! We kept going a little farther, to where they discovered the aqueduct pools used to catch rain water built by Herod, right by the Roman fortress. One of the other interesting this we saw was where they reached the bedrock of Mount Moriah when building the temple mount. Instead of cutting into it, they had it beveled to look like cut stone and blend in with the rest of the Herodian stones.
And that was the end of the fifth day! To be continued…
Read about day 6 here.