We began by making our way through the Jaffa Gate in our mini-bus to drive all the way to the Western Wall Plaza inside the Dung Gate. This was our first surprise. Not to Nir and David, but to use. We never rode a bus inside the Old City. It was wonderful to deliver Tim right to the place we needed to go without a lot of uphill walking. Our first objective was to go up on the Temple Mount. The line was long, almost back to the Dung Gate. Patience paid off as we went up, spent a little time exploring the Temple Mount, and then made our way to a 9:15 appointment at the Rabinnical Tunnel. We had to deal with one or two dressing issues (a woman showing off her elbow and some short pants (just above the ankle). Other than that, it was all well. :-)
The tour through the tunnel took us along the length of the Western Wall, basically on the street level of Jesus day. One stone near the base of the wall is 44 ft. by 14 ft. by 11 ft. and weighs about 570 tons. Massive. All put in place without the aid of modern machinery. The tour helped us envision the changes from Herod building the platform around the Temple; to the Roman and Persian destructions of the city; the Mamluks building of homes over the area; the Jordanians destruction of the Jewish quarter at the end of the Six Days war; and the reconstruction of today. Modern audio visuals and models helped us "see" how everything happened. This was when a second unexpected event occurred. Nir was anticipating our exiting the tunnel above the water pool at the end. The guide required us all to return the same way we came. Cultural difference. But after some looking and a phone call, we finally found each other and continued.
We visited the first three stations of the cross on the Via Dolorosa. Then we returned to the Western Wall plaza to get needed items off the bus and spent time praying at the Western Wall. Some of us place prayer requests from others in the wall. It was a special time. Time for lunch. We walked to the Jewish Quarter to have lunch at a restaurant with a view of the Southern Wall area and the Mount of Olives. Here is where our next unexpected surprise happened. We sat down to lunch behind Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who was meeting with a delegation from Texas, including the Agriculture Secretary Sid Miller. Rabbi Glick had an assassination attempt made on his life in 2014 because of his advocating Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. He survived and is now a member of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. He said hello to our group as his party left their table.
Following lunch, we returned to the Via Dolorosa. Along the way we stopped and entered the Herodion Quarter excavations, taking us back in time to the Upper City of Jerusalem at the time of the Roman destruction of the city in 70 A.D. It was amazing what was just 10 ft. below the surface. This large home of a rich family included mosaic floors, multiple mikvahs (ceremonial washing pools), porcelain and stoneware, and evidence of destruction by fire. It was like walking back in time. This was an unplanned but added pleasure. Thank you Nir.
We visited the Cardo area and gave a half hour shopping break before winding our way to finish the Via Dolorosa at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We walked through the crowd inside, past the stairs leading up to Calvary; and the edifice built over a slab placed in the spot where tradition holds Jesus may have been buried. All of this had been destroyed by the Persians, left in rubble. So all we are seeing today is re-creation. We visited a burial cave behind the edifice which shows that this was a place of burials back in that day. Historically, this probably is the location where the crucifixion and burial of Jesus took place. But we are awaiting the "feel" of all this when we visit the Garden Tomb.
We made our way through the Old City streets to the Jaffa Gate where David met us for the short ride home. Tim was an absolute trooper all day. And so were all the guys helping him get to most everything we did. This is a wonderful group for which we are thankful.
Tonight our friend Steven Khoury is coming for coffee after supper.