Exploring and Adventuring: Israel Style
May 17, 2012
OK, here’s the thing: Jerusalem is made of stairs and hills. When you are walking through the city, you are either going up stone stairs or going down stone stairs. Or you’re climbing a sloping hill. Or you are descending a sloping hill. Or you are whining about stairs and hills. No need for a stairmaster if you live in Jerusalem. My calves are going to be awesome three weeks from now.
So in class we’ve been talking a lot about the land — God specifically told the Israelites that their new land would be different from Egypt. It would be a land of hills and valleys, and it really is. Jerusalem is a city on a hill — in order to get to it you have to come up on any side. And then once you are in it, you have to climb a lot of stairs. In case I hadn’t mentioned it.
I think we need a little pictorial essay, yes? Let’s title this one, “Walking the Ancient Paths With Modern Feet: A View of Israel Through Endless Stairs.”
Yesterday we did a New Testament tour of the Old City. We spent time on the Temple Mount, which was really interesting.
The Temple Mount is where the temple of God would have stood in biblical times. Solomon built the first temple, and then it was rebuilt after the Babylonian exile. Herod expanded the courts of the temple, and that platform still exists and is what we visited yesterday. That temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. and has never been rebuilt. So, the platform still exists, but now the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine, sits there today. The Temple Mount is obviously very important to Judaism. It is built on Mount Moriah, which is where Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac. If the Dome of the Rock were not on it, the Jews would have built a third temple there by now. But the Dome of the Rock is here — built right where the Holy of Holies was in the temple. When we went up there we had to wear long pants or skirts and long sleeves. Modesty, you guys.
We also got to see a longer portion of the Western Wall. They have excavated a big portion of Herod’s platform, and it is crazy huge. It is built of giant stones, that each weigh tons and tons, that they somehow put one on top of the other to basically build a skyscraper. On the south end of the temple, there are the original steps where people would have come up from the city below in order to enter the temple. Parts of the steps are original to Jesus’ time — he would have climbed them to get to the temple to worship.
This is the Western wall of Herod’s temple mount. The stones on the left were thrown down from the roof by the Romans when they destroyed the temple in 70 A.D.
This is Steve walking on some steps Jesus might have walked on. When’s the last time you did that? Exactly.
This is Dr. Dallaire and me. She is one of my professors at Denver Seminary, and she has managed to teach me quite a bit of Hebrew. She lived in Israel for nearly four years and definitely has a heart for what the Lord is doing here. She’s awesome.
Today we did more of an Old Testament tour of the city. We visited the City of David, which is actually just a few blocks south of where the Old City of Jerusalem is today. It is the city David would have conquered and where he built his palace. Also, it was so hot today. We were going down a hill on a busy street and it was baking hot and everyone on the street was honking because apparently they think that will help them go faster. They are mistaken.
Underneath the city of David and flowing East out to the Gihon Spring is Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Because we are spelunking adventurers, we walked through it. It is so awesome and one of my favorite things so far. It is briefly mentioned in 2 Kings 20:20 and in 2 Chronicles 32. It’s basically an aqueduct that provided water for Jerusalem. It’s super ancient and is carved out of the bedrock underground. Somehow Hezekiah and his men were able to make this long tunnel by chipping through the bedrock with two different teams of men — one at each end. It’s an amazing feat, and no one really knows how they were able to do it. It’s long — it took us at least a half hour to walk through it. It’s a little wider than a person, and most of the time I could stand up straight, but sometimes I had to duck down. Water is flowing through it, a little higher than my ankles. It was super awesome.
Andrea wore a headlamp because: adventurers.
Then because we are Pioneers of Adventure and Exploration, we went back up to the city through another tunnel, mainly because someone had put in sandbags and smoothed out the stone and put lights all the way through. We visited some other stuff, but by then my feet hurt and I was tired of taking pictures. We did see an excavation of a house that existed during the second temple period (Jesus’ time) that most likely belonged to a priest. It was a 5,000 square foot house. What?! Priests! Come on now. Jesus and I think you are a bit extravagant.
Busy days! I am so tired once we get back to the hotel each evening. But then I wake up in the middle of the night because of jet lag. Worth it, though. It’s all pretty cool. Tomorrow we’re heading out of Jerusalem to see some other areas, including Jericho. I’m bringing a trumpet and my wall-marching shoes.
It is cool, you guys, to be in a place where the people of the Scripture once were — where God did so many things and proved himself faithful to his people over and over again. He is such a good God, and it is a blessing to be in this land!
OK, I hope you’re having a great week. Talk to you soon!!