Our first site this morning was the City of David, a major archeological site that had been recently excavated and opened to the public. This site is where scholars believe David built his palace and established his capital around 1,000 B.C.E. Located on a narrow ridge, south of the Temple Mount, it has natural defenses through its steep valleys on three sides. David had to conquer the Jebusites who lived in the city to establish his palace and government. Then he ordered the Ark of the Covenant moved from Shiloh to Jerusalem where it stood in the tent form until Solomon built the first Temple on Mt. Moriah where the Dome of the Rock stands today.
We first watched a 3-d movie on the development of the City of David, and that helped us to put what we were seeing into better perspective. Then we climbed down through the ruins of the City of David to reach a tunnel that was dug underneath in 701 B.C.E. during the reign of Hezekiah. The tunnel leads from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam and was designed during King Hezekiah’s time to provide defense for the city. Our group was led down extremely steep steps, deep into the earth where the tunnel begins. The water started out as high as my upper thigh, so I know for some shorter people, it was almost waist-high. Then it dropped to just a foot or so. The passage is extremely narrow and sometimes low, so one has to bend over for a while. Two teams dug the tunnel from opposite ends, each team digging through the limestone rock until finally they met in the middle. Our group walked the 3/4 mile through the very narrow rock walls, singing hymns along the way. It was quite an accomplishment that everyone in our group was able to make it through with joy and freedom.
The newly discovered Pool of Siloam is at the end of Hezekiah’s tunnel. This location was just recently found and is beginning to be excavated. We sat on the steps of a nearby tunner (which ultimately led to the Temple Mount) while Kristy spoke to the group about the healing of the man who was blind from birth. This is one of the most inspiring healings.
After we met the bus, they drove us to the Jewish Quarter where we saw many sights. One was the Burnt House. The Burnt House is an excavated house from the Second Temple period situated six meters below current street level in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Burnt House is believed to have been set on fire during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. According to Josephus, Jerusalem’s Upper City was known for its wealth. It was located close to the Temple and inhabited by priestly families who served in the temple. The house was destroyed one month after the Temple and Lower City. When the Romans stormed the Upper City, they found little resistance: Much of the population was near death from disease and starvation.
After the Burnt House, we all dispersed in the Jewish Quarter to find our own lunch. We ate at a cafe which had falafal, swarma, and kosher hot dogs. It was exceptionally good.
Then we walked through the Cardo, where we saw the ancient shopping street, and a bit of Hezekiah’s ancient wall and finally to the Davidson Archaeological Center near the corner of the Temple Mount. After viewing a wonderful movie on the development of the Temple, we walked around the physical Temple site with Eitan as he pointed out the steps that Jesus may have walked, the shops just outside the Temple platform, Robinson’s Arch, and a large pile of stones from the Temple that were torn down by the Romans. The pinnacle of the Temple was where the priest would blow the shofar (trumpet) for everyone to stop and pray. There is an inscription on one of the large stones saying “This is the trumpeter’s place.” Also James, the brother of Jesus, who was the head of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown off the pinnacle of the Temple by the Jews as told by the historian Eusebius.
Another important location that we saw near the Temple Mount was the Wailing Wall or Western Wall. This is the only piece of Herod’s Temple remaining after the destruction. Today orthodox Jews from all over the world pray here (believing that the presence of God is literally there) leaving their handwritten prayers on little slips of paper in the cracks of the wall. It has been a holy site for this purpose for centuries. Women are on one side and men on the other, divided by a long fence. As they pray and retreat, they must never turn their backs on the wall, backing out with bowed heads as they leave.
We have a very early day tomorrow as we get ready to go to the Temple Mount. We have to be in line by 7:00 am. Tonight we canceled the Light Show because of the weather. It rained and was cold and windy most of the day, but our spirits never waned. Everyone was upbeat and excited about what we were seeing. Its a wonderful group!!!