Greetings Friends and Family!
Our apologies for the one day delay in a blog post. All is well. We have had 2 full days in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. We are getting a feel for all the layers of history, spiritual significance and vibrant community of this Holy City.
(Our group on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem)
Yesterday we began our day on the Temple Mount. This complex is where the 2nd Temple once stood and Jesus walked around the same footprint that we did. Now the Muslim Dome of the Rock is built over the spot where the Jewish Temple once stood. We toured around the Temple Mount and remarked on how large of a platform it was.
(our group on the Temple Mount)
(the Dome of the Rock)
(view of complex on temple Mount)
After this we visited the Pools of Bethesda where Pastor Heather brought a great teaching on seeing those on the margins, because that is where Jesus will be. We also enjoyed singing in the beautiful and acoustic St. Anne's church.
(St. Anne's Church)
(Pools of Bethesda)
Then we walked along the Eastern edge of the Temple Mount to the southern wall excavations. Here, we were able to sit on the same steps that Jesus and the Disciples taught on and take in the panoramic view of the lower city of Jerusalem.
(Eastern Gate of the Temple Mount)
(View of the Southern wall excavations)
(View of steps from the 1st century that Jesus may have walked on when he was arrested)
(Reading Scripture on the Southern steps of the Temple)
Then we headed for Bethlehem. We were treated to a fantastic communal meal under a large canvas tent with a cool breeze blowing through it as we looked out over the Fields of Boaz and Ruth. Then we visited the Shepherd's field, a first century cave and finished with a visit to the Church of the Nativity, the longest active church in the world. We saw restored gold mosaics and explored the rich history of this special place.
(great lunch with pita bread, hummus, salad and more)
(fries, roasted tomatoes, chicken as well as lamb/beef meatballs)
(the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem)
(Inside the Church of the Nativity)
(Restored 5th century gold mosaics)
In the evening, many of us got to visit excavations at the City of David and view a audio/visual show projected onto the excavations. Very high tech stuff :)
Today, we started our day at the Western Wall. Here, people from all over the world come to pray and many of us enjoyed the sacredness of this spot, while simultaneously being grateful that we can pray to God anywhere in the world. We explored along the base of the walls through tunnels and came out on the Via Dolorosa. This path is where pilgrims commemorate the stations of the cross, culminating in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We walked with pilgrims from all over the world and were able to walk slowly and reflectively through this special and historic places. We finished our morning at the Garden Tomb, a less historical place, but a beautiful garden which enabled us to pause and reflect on the cross and empty tomb together as a group.
(Matt and Dave praying at the Western Wall)
(The Western Wall in Jerusalem)
(Walking the Via Dolorosa together)
(Churches along the Via Dolorosa)
(Station Six: Simon Cyrene carries Jesus' cross)
(The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which contains Golgotha and the Resurrection Tomb)
(Inside the church)
(The Edicule over the tomb of Jesus)
(Gordon's Tomb, looking at the Skull Face in the Rock (bottom right)
(Pastor Matt sharing a devotional and communion at the Garden Tomb)
Finally, we visited the Israel Museum with lots of fascinating artifacts the help us understand the Scriptures! A great way to finish the day!
Tomorrow we have a free day in Jerusalem. Some of us are walking down Hezekiah's Tunnel or visiting the Holocaust museum, others are planning to enjoy the sites, sounds, smells and shops of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Thanks for following along!