Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Weekend in Jerusalem
Gary Webb and Lawson Stone have there laptops with them and are also blogging their experiences here in Israel with pictures.

We spent the weekend in Jerusalem, arriving Friday night just in time for Shabbat. We stayed on the campus of Jerusalem University College" and our guide for the weekend was its president Paul Wright. For the first time I feel like I'm in a foreign country. Here are some highlights.

We saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where according to tradition Jesus was crucified and buried. Today the its all one great shrine under one roof, and six different denominations lay claim to various sections of the building. I suppose one could call it Six Flags Over Jesus. I expected to feel something, anything, really. But I didn't. It all seemed so foreign and alien. From there we walked to the Western Wall, where Shabbat was in full swing. Most of our group walked all the way down to the wall, but I couldn't bring myself to be a tourist. It seemed a holy moment was going on that was not for me.

On Saturday, we hiked through the Wadi al Kilt. The dry riverbeds of wadis carve out the canyons of the Judean wilderness. We walked down to the monastery of St. George where the cave of Elijah is memorialized (even though the Biblical text describes Elijah's flight from Ahab on the eastern side of the Jordan River). I still think the Judean desert looks just like Tatooine. Jericho is only 10 miles from Jerusalem, as a crow flies, and we made it there in time for lunch. Afterwards we toured the Old Testament site of Jericho. The remains are under the jurisdiction of Jordan in the West Bank, so the site is quite dilapidated. Why should the Jordanians care about this monument of Israelite conquest? Then Paul drove us way out in the boonies where he should us several Iron Age sites and quizzed us on just why the Israelites would have put outposts in such a godforsaken place. A herd of camels overtook our bus while we stood in the middle of the desert, and I got sunburned in the process.

Sunday we started early and walked to the City of David, the small tract of land in the middle of the city that marks the size of the city at the time of its establishment by David. Its now a national park. There are several archaeological sites to see, including the recent excavations of a 10th century palace as well as remains from Nebuchadnezzer's destruction in 586 BC. Several of us then hiked the length of Hezekiah's tunnel, the water system that Hezekiah carved through the rock during the invasion of the Assyrians in 701.

In the afternoon, I went with Paul, Ryan and Rick to the temple excavations. Paul took us to the temple steps and read to us from Matthew 23 where Jesus rips into the Pharisees. Its very likely that Jesus gave this diatribe from the steps of the temple, and each of the word pictures used in this passage are images that can be seen from the steps. The whitewashed tombs cover the Mt of Olives just on one's left. The Hinnom Valley stretches out before you where you can see individuals hiking up the extreme incline with heavy burdens on their back. This was by far the highlight of the day. On the drive home we had our Israel cultural experience by eating falafel at McDonald's. Only in Israel.

posted by Peter at 2:04 PM
| | permalink |