Our next day was a day of contrasts. We started out at the Wailing Wall. It is a relatively small segment of a much longer ancient retaining wall, known also as the “Western Wall”, as a whole. It is considered holy because of its connection to the Temple Mount. Jews and Gentiles alike bring prayers written on paper to slip into the cracks of the wall.
Men and women are split into two different sections. Women actually stand on the plastic chairs sometimes to peer over the little fence that separates. I did this to get the photo of the men. It gave me a taste of what it would have been like in Jesus’ day when women worshiped in a separate area from the men.
Many people held their Torahs and rocked back and forth as they prayed and chanted.
This woman caught my attention. She was crying into her Torah, literally “wailing” quietly, staining the pages with her tears.
The Orthodox, or Hasidic Jews wear mostly all black, and the males have the curled side burns coming down from their temples.
Looking at the photos below, notice the wall that fits adjacent to the wailing wall. This is part of the Muslim Quarter. There is conflict because the wall cuts into the Western Wall as a whole and the Jews want access to it.
In contrast, we then went nearby to the security area leading to the Temple Mount, currently controlled by Muslims. We were told to cover up to the neck and below the knees, men and women. People who try to come in with tank tops and shorter shorts or dresses are sent to a certain area where they need to buy something to cover up.
We came into this courtyard, mostly barren, with just dirt. No beautiful trees or flowers. There were crows cawing and cats walking around. It was quiet and felt lifeless to me.
A very large mosque that can hold 3 to 4 thousand.
While Daniel was teaching to us quietly, Israeli guards walked in with a Jewish family. We were told that most Jewish families do not come in here, but certain people insist on it. They are told by the muslims that they are not allowed to pray. They are escorted by the Israeli police for their protection and followed by muslim men to make sure they don’t worship or pray. It was a sobering sight to see.
We were told not to touch each other in pictures and forgot. We were reminded after this photo.
Chris and Kelly forgot too. It just comes so naturally.
We headed up the stairs to the Dome of the Rock, a muslim mosque. It is also the site believed to be where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac.
The smaller dome structure is called Dome of the Chain and has been used as a place of prayer.
We stopped to watch Israeli helicopters in the distance.
We were walking behind the structures and stopped for Daniel to read a few verses of Scripture. A man came over to put pressure on us to stop and so we moved on.
Next was the Beautiful Gate. It was sealed by those who would try to keep Jesus from coming back at that spot. I think it would take a lot more than stone blocks and metal bars to stop the Lord Almighty.
Women in their head coverings watched as we exited the Temple Mount area. One stopped Andy to ask where we were from. When he said America, she said, “May God take care of you.” We weren’t sure if it was meant in a kind way or not. It saddens my heart that we don’t speak of the same God.
In contrast, as soon as we left that area (and were able to expose our shoulders and knees) we came upon a beautiful garden. It was like an oasis after being in the desert.
It was right next to the Pools of Bethesda! Daniel pronounced it Bet-hes-dah. The area was so large. The place where Jennifer is standing next to these stairs all the way to where the people stand in the background had not yet been excavated.
Can you find the weed eater in this photo? 🙂
From the pool area we walked next door to a beautiful stone church. There we sang praises as a group to our great God of freedom and grace. The acoustics were the most beautiful I had ever heard.
From there we traveled outside the Old City walls to the place believed to be where Jesus had communion with his disciples in the Upper Room. The Last Supper.
Another beautiful view.
The upper room where the last supper took place was at the site of this building. It made me wonder if the picture in my mind of a quaint home may have been wrong all along. No one knows for sure. This church is said to be built over David’s tomb.
Daniel told us that peacocks symbolize eternal life and pelicans symbolize Eucharist (remembering Christ’s sacrifice through communion). They are both carved into this pillar.
Back through the Zion Gate this time, we traveled through the Jewish Quarter to areas excavated and exposing Roman roads and columns.
This man is a Messianic Jew who has had biblical store for 30 years.
Everywhere we went, we saw adorable children.
We spent time shopping and eating lunch at a restaurant called The Quarter Cafe which had a spectacular view and delicious food!
We met two men who were biblical scribes. It takes them about a year and half to print one copy of the Torah with feather quills.
Traveling on from there we went to The Israel Museum where they had a huge replica of ancient Jerusalem. It was so neat to hear Daniel point out the different areas where we had walked.
And then the Holocaust Museum. I had never been to one, and it affected me deeply. This statue really got me. It is a representation of Dr. Janusz Korczak who was offered a position as a doctor with the Nazis and he chose to stay with the orphaned children he took care of, all the way to the gas chambers. After spending many years working as director of an orphanage in Warsaw, he refused sanctuary repeatedly and stayed with his orphans when the entire population of the institution was sent from the ghetto to the Treblinka Extermination camp. No photos were allowed inside the museum.
A tree planted for each family or individual who helped protect and hide Jews.
Driving back to the hotel I was reminded about how Daniel told us that Jewish families have white water barrels on their homes. Muslims have black barrels. Everyone knows where you fit into society by how you dress and the appearance of your home.
A day of contrasts. A day to ponder. We know our spiritual struggle is real. Here in Israel, it is glaringly apparent.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.
– Genesis 12:23 (NIV)
Photos by Susie Stewart and Lorie DiSaia