We spent the day in Jerusalem--exploring the history and landscape (above ground and underground) of the Old City. We visited the Wohl Museum where we explored the excavations of Herodian Villas from the first century--very possibly homes of High Priests who reigned in Jesus's day. After lunch, we made our way to the southern wall of the Temple Mount. It is from this side that pilgrims would have entered the Temple area. As you will see in the picture below, this wall is massive! The entrances are now blocked up. However, at the foot of one of the entrances, there remains in place Herodian pavement stones from the first century. This may be the one place where we can say with a high degree of certainty that we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus.
From there walked south for a few hundred yards to the area where King David built his palace and the ancient city of Jerusalem was centered. There we descended down MANY stairs to Hezekiah's Tunnel. This was a water tunnel constructed in the time of King Hezekiah to provide water to the city in anticipation of a siege by Sennacherib, the King of Assyria (ca. 700 BCE). The tunnel takes water from the Gihon Spring, which was located outside the city wall, and draws it into a pool within the city wall. The siege did come and lasted two years. The city did not fall. Hezekiah's Tunnel saved the day. About half the group chose to wade our way through the 1500 foot tunnel (which is still fed by the spring). At times the water level rose above our knees! (Bill Evertsberg--Senior Minister of Kenilworth Union Church--and his wife Kathy made it through! See their picture below.
We made our way back the hotel for a few hours of rest before dinner. After dinner, we convened for a conversation with Rabbi Ma'ayan Turner. She is from New Zealand and has lived in Jerusalem for 25 years. Ma'ayan works for an organization that focuses on human rights related to land and urban planning issues for Israel and the territories it controls. She provided us with an excellent orientation to the contemporary situation in Israel particularly as it relates to the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It was great preparation for the conversations we will be having with other guests over the next few days.
It was another rich day. We hear rumors that the election season there continues to defy all prediction. We feel fortunate to be contemplating other times and places. One of the things we are learning is just how much Jesus challenged the religious and political status quo of his day. So even here, we find ourselves wondering what it means to walk in the way of Jesus in our day and time. We feel we are just getting our feet wet.
Grace & Peace,