The “Western Wall Tunnels” aren’t seen by a majority of travelers who come to Jerusalem, but our guide was able to secure us an 8:00 a.m. entry to the excavation, which runs the length of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Only there can visitors see Herodian stones such as the 60 ft., 450 ton “master course” – a single stone that was situated nearly halfway up the wall, which was around 150 feet tall at that point. Herod’s engineers were able to do amazing things.
A short bus ride took us to the top of the Mount of Olives, where we posed for the requisite group photo with the Dome of the Rock and the Al ‘Aqsa mosque in the background, then made our way down the Palm Sunday Road, where we stopped to view Jewish cemeteries dating back more than 2,000 years and to view a first century tomb containing ancient ossuaries, or bone boxes.
That was near Dominus Flevit, the traditional spot that reminds us of where Jesus wept for the people of Jerusalem, and Karen Pruette led us in a devotion before we headed down a steep hill to the Garden of Gethsemane, not far from the bottom of the Kidron Valley. Olive trees there date back as much as two millennia.
Bethlehem Bible College offered us an opportunity to visit courageous Palestinian Christians who remain in the land and do their part to be the presence of Christ in a variety of ways, including humanitarian aid. Alex Awad, author of Palestinian Memories, pastor of a church in East Jerusalem, and a teacher at the college, gave a perspective-changing lecture to help us understand Israeli-Palestinian issues from the Palestinian point of view.
From the college we traveled to the Church of the Nativity, at the highest point in Bethlehem, the traditional site of Jesus’ birth. The ecclesial complex is a hodgepodge of buildings comprising three churches that share the space and zealously guard their parts of it (Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and Roman Catholic).
The abbreviated end to this rambling is due to a combination of late nights, random Internet outages, and lost work … but better to post something poor for the folks back home than nothing at all!
Blogs from other members of the group can be found at these links:
David Stratton: davidsdeliberations.blogspot.com
Josh Owens: joshuakowens.blogspot.com
Susan Sevier: sevierlybaptist.com)