What a day! We saw so much. We started out by going to the Mt. of Olives. On the way, we walked to a tomb so that our guide could explain to us how the tombs were built and used during the times of Jesus.
The outer part of the courtyard was for mourners. They would lay the body out, strip him naked, wash, annoint with spices, and wrap in a white cloth. (Demonstrated by our guide and a member of our tour group)
The body would lie in that spot for one year. After a year, there would only be bones left. They would measure the largest bone--the femur--and have a bone box made for it. All the bones would then be placed into the box. (You might remember how Joseph wanted his bones taken to the Promised Land after he died. That would have been common for bones to be able to be transported that way.) The bone box would be placed into one of the cave-type holes you see around the perimeter of the tomb.
Homeless people now live in that particular tomb at night. Our guide mentioned the story of Legion, the demon possessed man who lived among the tombs. The tombs offered shelter and those in the pagan lands also ate food left by those who brought it for the dead.
We continued on to the Mount of Olives. I was yet again struck by how close everything is. I always picture everything so far from each other. The Mt. of Olives is only 3/4 of a mile from where the Temple was. In Ezekiel it was foretold that the Messiah would come down through the Eastern Gate. (sorry--don't know the reference) Jesus rode down on "palm Sunday" from the Mt. of Olives--down a fairly steep hill. There was a rode that went directly from the Mt. to the Eastern Gate. When you are looking at the terrain, it is pretty breathtaking to imagine how Jesus humbled himself, submitted to the cross and started the descent into Jerusalem that day.
This is not the greatest photo, but if you double click on it, it will help you see it better. The Mount of Olives is on the top right--where the trees are. You can see the gold dome, which is where the Temple used to be. If you look closely at the city wall, you will see a double gate. It is the Eastern Gate and has been sealed (foretold in scripture that this would happen after Jesus was gone). Jesus rode directly into the city through that gate. (Matthew 21:1-17) Scripture says that it will continue to be closed until the Messiah comes back. (Ezekiel 43:2) Currently there is a Muslim cemetary in front of the gate and the road is no longer there.
When the sun rose in the morning, the light went through the Eastern Gate and lit up the temple. When Jesus returns it says His glory will light up the land.
The Eastern Gate
The city wall continues--this is the corner of the eastern side and the southern side. Some consider this corner the 'pinnacle' of the temple where Satan tempted Jesus to throw Himself down. As you can see, it's not far at all from where we are standing--near the Mt. of Olives.
Closer view of the corner. You can also see the rubble, which was from Jesus' day. The steps you see (top left), used to go up into the temple grounds.
Mark, Meredith, Kris, me, Dad, Mom
We then walked part way down the hill to the Garden of Gethsemene. It is a small garden and is even closer to the Temple area. It's probably only half a mile away. Incidentally...in Scripture when you see the term, 'a Sabbath's day's journey,' it does not mean a full day of walking. A Sabbath's day's journey was about 1/3 of a mile. Jesus was arrested here by the religious officials. It was very touching to be there...although I think maybe it would be more moving at night. I highly doubt anyone is allowed to be there at night, though.
Our tour guide with his Bible in the air! So cool! He used it instead of a flag. Everywhere we went, we just had to look for the Bible in the air to find him.
I can picture Jesus kneeling here
View of the Eastern Gate from Gethsemane. Jesus rode the donkey right through the gates, which will remain sealed until He come back again.
We then went to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest at the time of Jesus. Jesus was questioned here the night he was arrested. (John 18:12-27) Because John new Caiaphas, he was invited into the courtyard. Peter was left at the door. John spoke so the servant girls and told her to go get Peter. She was the person who heard Peter's first denial. It was at this site that Peter denied the Lord three times. It's a small courtyard with a wall around it.
Tradition suggests that Jesus would have been beaten here, not only by Caiaphas, but also by Pilate. It was the logical site of the public jail.
Later, the apostles John and Peter would have also been held here in the jail and beaten for preaching the Gospel.
View from a porch at the site of Caiaphas' home. You can see the dome where the temple used to be. It's within walking distance. The photos actually make things look farther away than they are.
Beautiful site overlooks the city
We then traveled to Bethlehem, where we ate lunch. Bethlehem is controlled by the Palestinians, so we had to get on a different bus at the check point and also get a different guide. Israeli buses and guides are not allowed to work on the Palestinian side (and probably vise versa). We went to the church of Nativity. Ugh. It was the most gaudy, tacky place. The church is very old--I think they said it dated back to 320AD. That part was amazing...seeing how old everything was. It was just the decorative stuff hanging around that was over the top. They say that the exact spot of Jesus' birth is there, as well as the manger that he was laid in. Doubtful...but it was at least in the vicinity. While there, a mass was being said and a few people in our group laughed about something at the back of the room (waaaay back--it wasn't near the mass at all--but we were supposed to be quiet). What ensued after that almost became an international incident. First a police officer came over and got into an argument with our guide, threatening to take away his license (ironically louder than 'the laugh' as it came to be known). Things seemed to eventually get resolved and we continued on our tour. A few minutes later, a priest came out and went postal on our Palestinian guide. All of us stood there stunned as the guy started yelling and telling our guide to make us 'GET OUT!' Someone in our group started video taping the altercation and the priest walked over and slapped the camera. Grrrrrrr..... He then continued yelling and basically being a total jerk. Someone else in our group started taping, and he caught sight of it and went over and slapped that guy's camera. Luckily, he hadn't seen me snap his photo. I would not have taken his slapping sitting down. My blood was already boiling at the injustice of our guide being humiliated like that. After what seemed like forever, it was finally over. It pretty much ruined the rest of the tour because we all felt so horrible for our guide.
Again, one thing that struck me was how close it was to Jerusalem. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are only 6 miles apart! For some reason I have always thought they were a great distance from each other.
Church of the Nativity
The 'actual' birth spot
Mr. PowerTrip going off. The stony faces in the background pretty much register the shock (minus the awe).
When we got back on our regular bus, our Jewish guide was waiting (he has been our guide from the beginning of the trip). He grinned at us and said, "I hear that some of you have been causing some trouble. You see what happens when your Jewish mother is not there to take care of you."
I love droll Jewish humor...so hilarious.
Speaking of Jewish humor, he is always cracking jokes about Jews. He told us today that where there are two Jews, there are five opinions. :) He said that their favorite thing to do is 'DISCUSS.' They discuss everything to death. Kind of explains some of Jesus' comments about how they loved to impress each other with their knowledge and 'much speaking.'
Cute little Arab boys
Our driver stopped to show us the site where it is thought the angels visited the shepherds to tell them of Christ's birth. The hills at the top of the photo is where shepherds kept flocks in those days.
On the way back to our hotel, the guide said he would drop anyone who was interested at the Jaffa Gate. Whooo! My sister, sister-in-law and I were the only ones to take him up on that offer. I knew my family would love exploring and I am so glad they were up for it! We had a blast! We found the market and wandered through, buying a few things but mostly window shopping and interacting with the shopkeepers. And of course, you must haggle over prices. I don't think they were expecting that from us. They started off ridiculously high. One guy started at $50 for an item I wanted and I eventually got it for $11.50. I'm sure he still made a nice profit.
Did he think I was born yesterday?
Thankfully my sister was along to help because she did the math while I haggled. ARGH...I am so lame at math.
(But Jeff, thank you for teaching me how to haggle! You are still the hard core haggler in the family.)
One guy said, with a huge grin on his face, "Please come into my store so I can rip you off!" We busted out laughing.
We decided to walk back instead of taking a taxi after some vague directions from a friendly shopkeeper. Umm....yeah. It took us 45 minutes to walk back and we had to keep stopping and asking for directions, but we were pretty proud of ourselves when we made it to the hotel. haha It's because we
The steps had accessibility for wheeled carts. I kept slipping on the little ramps because I was gawking and not paying attention to where I was walking. They were as slippery as snot. I wouldn't have wanted to walk on them in the rain.
The Palestinian section--where we wandered on the way back to the hotel. We didn't feel unsafe, although got ZERO help from the police station when we went in to ask directions. Grrr.... Finally some sweet women (mother, daughter, and granddaughter) showed us the way to go.
Please excuse this political commentary but I need to explain something. You have probably all heard the flap about Obama saying Israel needed to return to 1967 borders. He is now backpeddling a bit and I hope he will not try to force this to happen. However...in case it becomes an issue, I wanted to explain something about the terrain here. One one side of a 9 mile wide plain, is the Golan Heights. On the other side are the mountains of Gilead which are controlled by the country of Jordan. Going back to the 1967 borders would mean that Israeli's could only live in the 9 mile wide plain and that their enemies would be able to live in and control the mountains all around them. There is absolutely no way they could ever protect themselves in that situation. It's ABSURD. And that is not all... the West Bank is often referred to as a place where there are 'settlements.' Well, those 'settlements' are cities, homes, schools, banks, shopping areas. They are not temporary places to live. The West Bank is IN Jerusalem. They would lose most, if not all, of Jerusalem. If Israel is forced to go back to the 1967 borders, they would cease to exist.