Thursday, February 14, 2013

Israel Experience (Day 3)

We went into Old Jerusalem today.  Our first stop was to visit the West Gate known as the Mt. Zion Gate by outsiders and as the King/Prophet David gate by locals.

The old city of Jerusalem is split by population into four sects.  Armenians (the side we entered in), Jews, Muslims and Christians.

From there we visited Mt. Zion and the original site of David’s Palace and where the first Town of Jerusalem would have stood.  It would have stood just West of where it now stands and been much smaller.  We saw where David may have looked down and seen Bethsheba bathing.  We saw where the Kidron Valley and Hinnom (Gehenna) valley met.  Gehenna was the local trash dump.  We translate the word Jesus uses as hell, but it was an actual place.  This area is also the field of blood where it is said Judas hung himself.

 Walking into the City of David

The dotted line is the original town of Jerusalem, it was much smaller in David's day.

 Kidron Valley


From there we walked to where one tradition has the upper room in an area where the Dormition Abbey is located.  The current building was from the 12th century.  Of course this is where the Last Supper, Ascension and Pentecost all could have taken place.  We read the story and had a moment of prayer.  It was a powerful experience.  

Next we visited the Dormition Abbey – where the Catholic tradition has it that Mary was resurrected.  It's ironic because you can also visit the tomb of Mary.  The church that is there is absolutely beautiful.  It literally took my breath away when I walked in.  I hope the pictures I took do it justice. 

 It's not very often Jael is featured in art.  That's a tent peg and hammer she has in her hand.  You can read about her in Judges 4.

Mount Zion was not at all what I expected.  It’s more like the hill of Zion.  I thought it would be this huge mountain and while it is raised up over some areas, the current city of the Old Jerusalem is higher than where Mt. Zion is today.  Also, I did not know that where old Jerusalem is now and where it was in David’s me and Jesus’s time had changed.  Over time it has basically expanded and shifted.  It has moved further up the hill.

From there we went to where the house of Caiphas was located.  Again, there is a church built there that is absolutely beautiful.  This is where Jesus was brought after his arrest at the Mount of Olives.  Under the house there was a dungeon used as a prison.  Jesus was there and kept overnight.  We read Psalm 88 and experienced a moment of what it must have been like for Jesus that night.  We learned that we was lowered into the dungeon by rope, then raised out by rope.  There were no doors in or out.  So far, being there and reading the Psalm has been the most powerful moment for me.  I got a sense of what Jesus must have felt and experienced.  It was absolutely incredible! 

The hole Jesus was lowered into. 

The hole from the other side.

 The dungeon/prison cell.

Just outside Caiphas's house...this was the original road that they would have traveled to bring Jesus to the dungeon.

From there we went to the Haas Promenade, which is just a nice place to take pictures. 

After lunch we traveled south to our final destination of the day: Ein Karem.  This is where Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  And this is also where John the Baptist was born.  Ein Karem is probably the most beautiful place we have been so far.  We went into the church of the visitation and then into the church dedicated to John the Baptist.  Both churches were absolutely beautiful.  The church of John the Baptist is said to be built where he was born.  It was a amazing to think about John being born in Ein Karem and how beautiful it was, then for him to move away and into the Judean Dessert, he left the beautiful and comfortable for the dessert.  I also thougth about the trek Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem and then on to Ein Karem.

It was a wonderful day and I was exhausted at the end of the day.  I learned a ton and had some powerful experiences, specifically in the upper room, the city of David and the house of Caiaphas.  

One random neat thing is that from anywhere in the city and from my hotel I could hear the Muslims praying from the monastery several times throughout the day.  They would start at like 4 or 5am.  I think it is amplified and sent through the speakers of the monastery so that Muslims within hearing distance can worship with the prayers being said.  It sounded like chanting.

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