Sat 18 Mar 2017
When we bring friends to the Holy Land, we always stress that few of the sites will look like “Sunday school art.” Most of the sites have been preserved under churches which, over the centuries, have been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times.
In response to some questions and comments we have been receiving, I want to show you some pictures. I have used free ones from the Internet this time along with a couple of my own. (Some computers have been showing my photos sideways so I am hoping they stay upright for everyone!)
The Western, or Wailing, Wall is all that remains of Herod’s Second Century AD Temple, the one Jesus would have known. Where the Temple once was, one now sees the gold dome of the Muslim mosque, the Dome of the Rock, the third most holy site in Islam, where Mohammad supposedly landed when he made his night ride.
The group of Jewish men praying in the corner below shows an opening that only men can go into that goes further along the wall but underneath modern buildings.
There is a tour that one can take down underneath the street and see the huge stones, some the size of a school bus that may have been the ones the disciples were so impressed with.
The end of the tunnel tour dead-ends into the street we live on in the Muslim quarter, at Ecce homo on the Via Dolorosa, but because many Jews perpetuate the myth that all Muslims are “dangerous,” the tunnel tour either turns around and walks back or has an armed escort to “safer” areas.
The Muslim mosque sits over the top of Mount Moriah, where it is believed Abraham was called to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and which Herod leveled off to create a flat space that covers about 36 acres.
Below the wall are excavations related to the Temple Mount and stones from when the Romans pushed the walls down in 70 AD including one that indicated where the trumpeter should stand when blowing the ram’s horn (shofar). The current walls of the Old City were built and re-built by various conquerors over the centuries and are not quite in the same place as when Jesus walked and taught here.
Moving around the Temple Mount, outside the Dung Gate (it leads to Gehenna, which was the garbage dump area), we find the “Pentecost” steps, where it is believed that Peter preached to the 3000 on the day of Pentecost.
Across the valley is the Mount of Olives. At the bottom is the Church of All Nations that has the rock on which Jesus supposedly prayed before being betrayed by Judas. The olive trees near the church are 2000 years old and so are pretty authentic.
The rock inside the Church of All Nations.
The church with snow on it (from the Internet–despite how cold it has been, we never had snow and I am happy to say, it is slowly warming up).
Another place that can be disappointing if you come with a Sunday school art expectation is the Church of the Hole Sepulchre. A pretty authentic site of where Calvary and Jesus’s tomb were located, it was altered by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century so that a massive church for worship could be built and the tomb itself was put under a smaller building. (Google a map of how Golgotha looked before Constantine had the hill cut in two to make his worship complex. It is helpful to understand what you are looking at in this overwhelming but incredible building.)
Over the centuries, the Church and Tomb area have been destroyed and rebuilt, the latest time by the Crusaders.
The current church rebuilt by the Crusaders:
The building over the Tomb inside the Church:
I hope this gives you an idea that one has to come with a very open mind when traveling to these holy sites.
Shalom and good night!