Israel...Day Six - Eight

* I am writing this many months after the fact.  I know I've mentioned it before but there is something to be said for the in the moment memories.  Some thoughts were captured in my journal entries while abroad, others I am recalling and doing my best to put to paper.  The photos help.  My natural inclination is to rush through, place some pictures on the page and call it done.  I am trying not to do that but to share some thoughts, heart promptings and otherwise with you from a trip that has marked me in ways hard to convey.  Thank you for reading, thank you for not expecting much and thank you for your patience.

Another day.  This time no running outside, a quick work out in the hotel gym and then it was off to breakfast and the day's agenda.  I won't lie, today had me a bit worried.  Hezekiah's tunnel was on the docket and I can err on the side of claustrophobic if I'm not cautious.  I about worked myself into a tizzy, on the inside of course.  After all I was a chaperone and I'm supposed to be the one keeping it together, right?  Hardly.  Let me back up.  Our day begin at the Jerusalem Archaeological Park.  We walked through the grounds, touching the stones, standing where Jesus would have, looking at the agora, the steps to the Temple Mount and the Huddah Arches.  I pondered the Temple Mount this morning.  Mostly in ways I hadn't been able to give context to prior to this trip.  It's significance.  The state of the sacred site currently.  All the battles waged over the ownership and how it must grieve our Lord to watch His people.  Thankful to have confidence in the redemptive power He holds and the restoration that will come.  One day.  For now, we're moving on.  I am inclined to head in a downward spiral discussing these issues and I can get tangled up in the politics, religiosity and historical significance of it all.  This time I say no.  Not today.  We'll move on to our next stop.  At least I think it was our next stop.  We went to Hezekiah's tunnel.  The walls enclosing this site had a golden harp embedded  in them.  A center piece, if you will.  To say here, David was here.  We watched a short movie before preparing to navigate the tunnel system.  King Hezekiah built this tunnel system to bring water in from the Gihon Springs to the Pool of Siloam.  It spans 1600 miles and over 100 years ago a six line Hebrew inscription was discovered that describes the construction and creation of the tunnel.  This day we walked it.  Thing 2 and I were towards the front of the line and I felt much more secure there.  Against my better judgment I proceeded with my cell phone flash light.  While it provided comfort I did worry about dropping it in the calf deep water we were treading through.  Thankfully that did not happen.  I was able to capture a single photo of my girl and I with big smiles.  Our group started singing while we were wading through and it brought such relief.  The sound of their voices echoing off the stone walls and a group in unison was oddly reassuring.  In some places even I had to duck and I couldn't imagine what it would have been like to be down there, in the darkness and dampness day in and day out carving out the stone.  A remarkable feat for certain.    We continued from the other side, or maybe we visited David's tomb first, either way off to the site of David's tomb, supposedly, and a place that many call the "Upper Room" as referenced in Acts.  There is a room beneath filled with graffiti that connects the "home church" that Jesus speaks of.  That had me intrigued.  Home church is something that resonates deep within me.  The way it was done in the beginning.  People gathering in homes, being welcomed in,  allowing the Holy Spirit to invade them and love prevailing.   Yes please.  No frills.  No activates for one and all.  No mass produced worship stage.  No pre-written, stamped out sermons.  Presence.  Authenticity.  Unity.  The architecture had me captivated with the arches and stone and high walls, vines hanging down and the acoustics echoing in beautiful chorus.  We ventured to St. Peter's church of denial and Caiphas' house, possibly the place where Jesus was arrested and stood in prison. It was there, in what felt and looked like a jail cell, that thing 2 read scripture.  I stood on the steps, staring at her.  Almost in disbelief that we were in this place together.  That the words she read actually happened here, where we were.  The gravity of that never ceases to amaze me.  My days are running together here , but since the title of this post is, days 6-8, just know that all these sites were seen within the span of those days.  I think.  We made an unexpected stop at a new museum of sorts, the Friends of Zion, by Mike Evans.  Essentially this space is dedicated to the unsung heroes and figures that have partnered and remained committed to the state of Israel and the history of the Jewish people.  There are various floors, each representing a time period and filled with stories.  Upon our exit of the museum we stumbled upon an interesting sign reading, "Time Elevator".  As in, time travel?  We were taken by it's suggestion and thus ensued the photos and story telling.  Amusing.

The Western Huldah Gate

In the tunnel

Within these few days was our visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.  Whew.  This one took it all out of me.  We were able to walk the exhibits on our own, going at our own pace, stopping where we pleased and spending time with our thoughts and questions.  My take away, where was the church?  I mean come on people.  There are numerous recounts of individuals offering assistance, sacrificing their own safety and making a way.  What I didn't see was a mark or set apart note of how the church body came together to be the church body.  Don't get me wrong, I am no historian.  I wasn't there, didn't live through it or experience it first hand.  And I won't claim to understand the time in which the church lived through this.  As Husband Jared often says, there are no surprises in history.  We can look back 1000 years and then today and see similar strife, hardship, persecution, even the political climate.  What I wasn't prepared for was the exit from the museum.  A vast and open view of the city. Peaceful.  Holy.  Sacred.  This moment stood apart.  After the darkness and heaviness of the museum this respite was welcome.  I paused and processed.  Reflected on what was seen and taken in and just took a few breaths.  I felt a weight that I didn't when we arrived here.  Or more accurately, that I hadn't given much head space to.  The Jewish people's history.  The persecution they've endured, continue to endure and how they have triumphed and will do so again.

In addition to these great sites, we spent time in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It wasn't what I had envisioned it to be, at all.  To begin with, it was across from a church, the Church of All Nations, named after the sixteen countries that assisted in it's building, and while beautiful it still seemed a tad out of place.  There was more than one gated entrance and I came to find out after the fact that the  area of the garden we were in is overseen by a group of Mormons.  I found that to be interesting.  In the garden we walked and prayed and the students spent time reading letters from their family members.  I perused the garden, finding trash and then forcing my mind to return to Jesus.  To the time He spent here.  The trees may not be the ones standing from His time but they are an outgrowth from them.  There may be modern structures surrounding me and the sounds of cars filling the air but if I closed my eyes I could see it.  Him there, the betrayal, the heartache and the agony of knowing what was to come.

Garden gate

And to finish these few days we visited the Mount of Olives with a stunning vantage point of Jerusalem.  Or at least the peaks surrounding the city and where so much of our history was lived out.  We paused for photos and I stared out into the city, studying the city walls, looking at the gate that has been closed and guarded by a cemetery.  The stories that could be told here about the shrines that Solomon built for his wives, David fled here when Absolom was hunting him, the place where Jesus began His journey into Jerusalem on a donkey and the place where the Holy Spirit was promised to the disciples.  There we stood.  Holy ground once again.

From the Mount of Olives

Through the Old City Gate