Participants in the 2015 Campbell Divinity School Bible Lands Study Tour got more than they bargained for on Sunday, as our full day in the Old City happened to coincide with “Jerusalem Day.” The pictures below tell the story. Clearly, this was hurriedly done: I apologize for the lack of polish.
We spent nearly an hour in line to get through security for Temple Mount because a hundred or more Jewish settlers — Zionists who violate international agreements by establishing and living in settlements on Palestinian land — were trying to get onto Temple Mount and make trouble. We were able to squeeze through in a single line.
As we climbed a ramp to the Temple Mount, we could see hundreds of settlers gathered before the Western Wall, waving Israeli flags while singing religious/patriotic songs and doing a circle dance.
On Temple Mount, our guide explained possible locations of the temple, and reminded us that, despite the zeal of Hassidic Orthodox Jews to build a new temple, from a New Testament perspective no new temple is needed.
At St. Anne’s Church, Lakisha Basnight led us in a devotional before we went inside to sing. We also viewed the remains of the Pool of Bethesda.
In a place called Ecco Homo (“Behold the Man”) we remembered how Jesus was scourged and sent out to be crucified. We had the opportunity to walk on a section of the first century Roman road that Jesus may have walked on the way to Calvary, beginning the Via Dolorosa.
We stopped for a lunch of pizza, falafel, or shwarma. Outside, frustrated settlers who were unable to disrupt Temple Mount took to the streets, singing religious songs and doing circle dances — all under the watchful eyes of the police.
After passing a few “Stations of the Cross,” we took a short cut through the Arab market on our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was not as crowded as usual, allowing us to get up to see the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion.
We had to change our schedule due to some of the craziness with all the settlers in town, and made our last stop at the Israel Museum, where we saw such things as this stone inscription from the Second Temple, warning foreigners to stay out of the temple, on pain of death.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.