Today was an early day because we had to get in line to go through the heavy security to get up on the Temple Mount. We got there around 7:00 because The Temple Mount is only open until 11:30. Probably because it was pouring down rain, we stood in line only about 30 minutes, and we were able to be one of the first groups on the mount. The Temple Mount was the original home of Solomon’s Temple (built in the 900’s B.C.E.), Zerubbabel’s Temple, (built after the Babylonian Exile in 586 B.C.E.), and then Herod the Great’s Temple replaced it during Jesus time (he began around 20 B.C.E.).
The Temple itself is no longer available to see because it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. In 691 C.E. the Dome of the Rock was built by Muslims on top of this holy site, over the rock where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. This foundation stone is the holiest site for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. For Jews, it is the location of the Holy of Holies during the Temple period. For Christians, it is close to where Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and for Muslims, it is the site where Muhammed ascended and is one of their three holiest sites, along with Mecca and Medina.
We walked in the Muslim Quarter and to the Church of St. Anne, that houses the “Pool of Bethesda”. This is always one of the most crowded sites, but we were able to find a quiet setting for another insightful talk by Kristy on the ‘man at the pool’.
The group walked down a very, very steep road on the left side of the Kidron valley up to the Mt. of Olives to reach the Garden of Gethsemane, one of the most popular places for pilgrims to visit. Nearer the church, we walked around the thousand year old olive trees and took pictures as much as we could in the rain. Finally, in pouring rain, we got on the bus, and were driven around the Old City to the site of Caiaphas’ house. His house is underneath a church built on top of the rooms where the trial with the high priest, Caiaphas, was held. We could see the steps where Jesus would have been led to the high priest’s house.
Our last stop was the church of St. Peter en Gallicantu (“cock-crow”). This church and area commemorates the place where Peter denied Jesus during the night of the crucifixion. We listened to a talk by Kristy in the church in a quiet spot along one side.
Eitan then led us through the Muslim Quarter for about a mile, and we got to see all the shops, their colors, smells, and sounds. We were able to eat together in a cafe place that was swamped with people. We came out of the Damascus Gate on the northern side of the Old City and then walked a few blocks to the Garden Tomb.
This is one of our favorite places to visit. Although this is probably not the exact location of Jesus’ tomb and resurrection, it more nearly resembles what it might have been like. There is a garden environment, run by the Anglican Church of England and a large rock cliff nearby that looks like a skull. This location has a very large cistern that could have been used in a garden. It also has a first century wine press which shows there were vineyards near by. Against the rock cliff there is a first century tomb cut out of the rock with a rolling stone to cover the entrance.
Protestant pilgrims find this site of the Garden Tomb very inspiring! There are many places for groups to meet and hear their pastors or preachers give sermons at the site, and Kristy delivered a wonderful inspiring talk on the resurrection.
Now we are back at the hotel taking showers and getting ready for dinner and a final talk this evening by Kristy. Tomorrow we head to the Galilee!!!