TEMPLE MOUNT, OLD CITY WALK, GARDEN TOMB, WESTERN WALL TUNNELS
We begin our day with a visit to the Temple Mount. Occupied today by two famous landmarks, the Golden Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Temple Mount once housed the First Temple (built by Solomon; Old Testament period) and the Second Temple (built by Herod; New Testament period). No remains of either Temple survive. However, the Temple Mount is a historical mountaintop which is associated with many points in Scripture. It is here that Abraham presents Isaac as an offering to the Lord (Genesis 22); David purchases the mount from a Jebusite (2 Sam 24:18-25); Solomon builds the Temple on this site (2 Chronicles 22) which is later destroyed. Later, King Herod builds a magnificent Temple on the mount, and it is here where Jesus taught and foretold of its destruction (Luke 19:40-44; 21:20-24) which took place in 70 AD. Upon exiting the Temple Mount, we will venture into the various “Quarters” of the Old City to introduce you to features of importance. Some free time and a visit to the Garden Tomb will conclude our afternoon. In the evening we will visit the Western Wall which is today the most revered site of the Jewish community. Immediately adjacent to the Western Wall is a tunnel complex that exposes the northern continuation of the Western Wall. A local guide will escort us and share his expertise of the excavations. Overnight Jerusalem, Notre Dame.
Pastor Paul's reflections on the day:
For millenia, Jews have looked to Jerusalem and to the Temple as the centre of the world. To spend most of the day on and around the Temple Mount was intense, interesting and draining. To recount that King David lived on the western hill (The City of David) and Jerusalem began on the eastern hill (Jebus). David buys a threshing floor from a Jebusite Aruna and builds on the N. slope of the hill. King Solomon builds the first Temple here and it is destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC. The Second Temple is built under the guidance of Ezra and Nehemiah, following King Cyrus of Persia conquering Bablyon and looking favourably on the Israelites allowing them to return and rebuild. King Herod expands and doubles the surface area around the Temple. The Eastern line remains (Wailing Wall) occupying part of this foundation.
All of this history is with us and the tensions are real as we walk 'over' the court of the Western ("Wailing") Wall with metal detectors, check-points and soldiers with automatic weapons. The enclosed walkway leading up to the Temply Mount is to keep people away from each other, two competeing expressions of faith, Judaism and Islam - both are people in prayer.
We were requested not to carry a Bible in our things on this trip. While on the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, I witnessed a small group of Orthodox Jews touring the area, with armed guards in front and behind, and others watching from multiple points. To understand why this was the 'normal course of affairs', one needs to understand the wider context. Although I have heard and read about the second Intifada "Uprising", I copy and paste the following -but first this note: "The death toll, including both military and civilian, is estimated to be about 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis, as well as 64 foreigners." - Wikipedia:
The Second Intifada: Background and Causes of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
by Jeremy Pressman
"What caused the outbreak of the second intifada? The conventional wisdom places the blame on one of two central figures, Ariel Sharon or Yasser Arafat. In one version, Sharon, then the leader of the Israeli opposition, started the intifada by going on an intentionally provocative visit to the Temple Mount on 28 September 2000 [with 1000 Israeli Defense Forces soldiers]. Alternatively, Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), decided that the new State of Palestine should be launched in blood and fire; he unleashed Palestinian militants rather than accept a negotiated resolution of the conflict.
Both of these claims overplay the role of individual leaders and overlook a wider array of elite decisions and deeper political and social conditions. Decisions by Sharon and Arafat did matter, but not in the way that is conventionally portrayed. Instead, a chain of events starting in 1993 set the stage for renewed conflict...Sharon and Arafat helped shift the status quo from a tense situation to a violent one. Sharon's visit [to the Temply Mount] was the spark that set the second intifada into motion; it was a match in a dry forest and should be viewed historically among a long line of individual events that served as triggers for major confrontations. "
The memory of Ariel Sharon's visit looms large still. As we walked toward the sealed Golden Gate (believed by many Jews to be the gate that Messiah will enter) and Steve began to lecture, a man approached and asked Steve what we were doing. Steve told him, we continued, and the man stayed close by.
I found it so interesting to discuss the possible sites of Jesus' trial and flogging (including the recorded interview by Pontius Pilate) and his "Via Dolorosa" (Way of Suffering) from either the Antnia Fortress, where the Roman Garrision was based, just outside of the Temple precinct, or from the Jaffa Gate area. Both are plausible, but Jesus would have taken different routes, carrying the cross.
It was a break in the intensity to travel a short way by bus to the "The Garden Tomb" (the other more probable? site being The Church of the Holy Sepulcher - inside the Old City, but likely outside the city walls of Jesus' day). See John 19:16-18.
Whether at this site or the other, I believe in the Life, Death Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ, and it was good to celebrate our faith in Christ with a service of Holy Communion and engergetic hymns and choruses. There are a number of small gathering places, where visiting groups can worship. At times it was cacophanous with all of the groups singing at the same time, different tunes in different languages. I thought, "One day we will all be together in worship."
This was an unusally demanding day (I can think of one other like it) in that we were out in the evening as well, under the city! There are no excavations allowed under the Temple Mount. It is just a too highly invested area. The boundary lines are drawn. But there are excavations right along the foundation of the Temple Mount, and we went 'down' and further down to see the huge dressed foundation stones that date from before Roman times. We also walked through a dry aquaduct and some found it claustrophobic. The claims to the land are expressed in these excavations. It is a claim on the land, just as Canada has outposts in the Arctic bordering the Northwest Passage.
It was a good day, and it was good to go 'home' to bed! Boom. Sleep came fast.
Shalom, a Salaam-alaikum, Pastor Paul