Walking over 12 miles in mountanous Jerusalem is quite a different experience than walking those same 12 miles in flat south Florida. While it was tiring, it was an amazing experience. One that I will not soon forget.
We started our day exiting Jaffa Gate with the intention of heading straight to Mount of Olives. Little did we know God had something else in mind. We discovered a little used display, called “The Builders of Jerusalem Garden” outside the walls. Or should I say part of the walls?
Here we saw a series of first temple tombs, an entrance to the city during the first temple period, clearly delineated sections of the wall showing 5 different periods dating back to the time of King David. The most…moving discovery was the steps to the gate leading to Herod’s palace. It is possible that Yeshua walked these steps during his night of trials. This was quite sobering, since that was our plan for the day, to walk in Messiah’s steps.
What blew me away was that in all the research I did for this walk, no one was certain if Yeshua went to Herod’s palace or Antonia Fortress. That God brought us here, leads me to believe he came to the palace. How awesome is our God, that he would honor our heart’s desire to walk in the way of our Rabbi? Like I said, mind-blowing!
We then began the decent down Mt Zion and the climb up Mt of Olives. Rather than stopping at the Garden of Gethsemane, we headed to the top of the mountain. It is a steep climb, but were rewarded as we entered Pater Noster church. Here, there is a grotto that we were told Yeshua taught in. The walls of this church of filled with The Lord’s Prayer in 52 languages. I was able to sound out the Hebrew one, which is very exciting! I’ll be happier when I fully understand what I am reading.
The best part of this church is the olive grove. Maria and I spent about two hours reading the Torah, the Matthew’s account of Yeshua’s last Seder and his trials, and worshipping. I moved off to be by myself for a bit. I was listenting to Sue Samuel singing The Lord’s Prayer and Maria was listening to another rendition, when the Muslim call to pray started blasting from Jerusalem and someone on the mount where we were. It was a rude jolt out of a beautiful time of worship. Yet as we were collecting our things, Maria noticed that the tree we were sitting under was the shape of the shin! This is the letter that is on mezzuzahs for the Shema (Hear oh Israel, the Lord your God is one) and the first letter for God’s name Shaddai. It is the symbol that reminds us of God’s presence. So while we were bombarded by the sound of the Muslim call to prayer, we were in God’s presence.
Good thing too, because we were almost locked in. We didn’t know that the church closed from noon until 2:30, but as we were leaving, one of the caretakers spotted us and led us out.
We then enjoyed a great lunch of falafel on the rooftop of a local restaurant. The view of Jerusalem and surrounding areas was astounding. And all the while we could see the Golden Gate. This is the gate Yeshua will return through.
After filling our bellies, we started the decent down the mountain. As we went, we discovered the Tomb of the Prophets. Maria opted to stay at the entrance, talking with the guide, while I explored the cave by candlelight. I couldn’t see much by the dim light, but there are 70 prophets buried there. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and their disciples. The guide was Christian, and Maria ended up praying for him. It was a divine appointment.
Next we entered the Garden of Gethsemane and the church there. As I entered, I saw the baptismal font. And though I have not done this in a long time, I dipped my fingers in and made the sign of the cross. Why? Because I realized that this act is the Catholic churches connection to Judaism. Before entering a holy place, you wash. In the time of the temple, you would enter a mikvah. And what I saw new at the Wall this year is a place to wash your hands before entering the wall to pray – one for the ladies, one for the men. At the wall, I didn’t feel I should wash, because it might upset the people, though I desperately wanted to do so. I desperately wanted to be part of the rituals, part of the people. But I will leave that in God’s hands.
We didn’t stay in Gethsemane long. There were several groups of people, and our worship time was spent in another garden. So we descended into the Kidron Valley and back up Mount Moriah to Caiphas’ house. We spent quite a bit of time here as well, sitting on the steps where Yeshua would have walked on his way to trial. There was a plaque that noted he was likely scorged here as well as at Pilate’s. We saw the dungeon where he was likely kept. It was a hard experience, but one we didn’t shy away from.
By this time is was nearly 4 o’clock, and the Garden Tomb would be closing soon. We wanted to end our day with communion. And though we didn’t walk the entire route, we were experiencing both physically and spiritually what a fraction of what our Messiah experienced. So we walked a few more miles to the Garden Tomb, spent time reading Matthew’s account of the last seder and partook. Then we worshipped some more and basked in the presence of our Lord.
We wanted to join the Jews in the sukkah that is located in the plaza in the Jewish quarter, but when we arrived, we realized we weren’t dressed appropriately and moved on. What I saw there was so precious. Families were gathered, chatting away with each other as the children played…it was a good feeling. What I also noticed, having walked through the Arab quarter, and the Jewish quarter, is the stark difference between the two. In the Arab areas, there is a lot of trash and everything feels dark and disorganized. And in the Jewish quarter, there is light, and love, and everything looks and feels cleaner.
If I had to summarize our day, I would have to say that it was a day of stark differences – both physically and spiritually. And I am most grateful to my Abba for bringing back to his land and teaching me that no matter what, he is still in control. His presence is here, and he is able to make all his land – and his whole world – full of light and love. That is, after all, how he created it, and why he came to rescue it.
Today we will explore Jerusalem Archeological Park, spend time in the sukkah by city hall, and join in praying for the peace of Jerusalem at Christ Church. Will update you in the morning.