Thursday, March 5, 2009

Day 8 – Western Wall Tunnel, Western Wall, Temple Mount, Southern Steps and Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum)

Our second to the last day of touring began earlier than all the others. We had to be on the bus at 6:30 AM, rather than 8:00 AM, because of an early appointment to tour what they call the Rabbi’s Tunnel. It is actually a tour that takes us along the foundational wall of the original retaining wall that Herod built for the Temple Mount. It really is quite an amazing thing to consider the stones that Herod used in building the foundational wall. One of the stones of the wall is estimated to weigh in the neighborhood of 610 tons. How he was able to maneuver such large stones is hard to fathom. They fit so tightly together that you could not even slide a business card in between them...crazy!

Both the entrance and the exit of the tunnel are at the western wall, also known as the ‘wailing wall’. This is the holiest of sites to the Jews as it is as close to the temple as they are able to get. Even though the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, they still regard this spot as holy and spend much time there, praying and lamenting over the destruction of the temple. The wall is divided into two sections, one side for the men to pray and the other for the women to pray. One Jewish man with prayer shawl, phylacteries and all was happy as could be, in a corner all by himself prayers and dancing around.

Additionally, we (the men) were able to go into the synagogue which is just to the left of the wall. One of the most startling things in watching the emptiness of their worship, knowing that they have denied Christ as the Messiah, is that they are worshipping the same God as we worship. How tragic it is, knowing that in all of their zeal for religious things they fall short of the kingdom, because of the failure to acknowledge Jesus Christ as God incarnate.

As you can see by the photo on the left, security is extremely tight. This is the Israeli Swat Team and Police, ready to get the job done in whatever manner needed to stop any violence in the area. Our guide told us that they can take those motorcycles up and down the steps of Jerusalem at a moment’s notice. One of the Marysville team had a pocket knife which he put on the table before going through the metal detector. Apparently they didn’t like the idea of any knives going onto the Western Wall area. Our guide had to go and talk them into letting him go, they were wanting to take him in for questioning. It seems that it is not unusual for people, even children, to enter the area with knives as there have been a number of stabbings in the past. It is times like that, that you realize that you are in an area of tremendous conflict.

When we were finished at the Western Wall, we headed up to the Temple Mount. What a contrast, going from the holiest of Jewish sites to one of the holiest of Muslim sites, the Dome of the Rock. This is the gold domed building that has become a symbol of the Old City of Jerusalem (see photo at left). While it technically still belongs to the Jews, they have allowed the Muslims to retain the rights to use it as their holy sight. Our guide told us that they do this in respect to another faith’s religious site. It seems odd when you consider all of the tension that exists between the two. There is a Muslim presence on the mount, as caretakers of the property, but there is also the armed presence of the Israeli police as well. We were not allowed to take our bibles up there.

One of my favorite spots on the Temple Mount is what the Muslims refer to as the Dome of the Spirits. This is the one place, on the whole Temple Mount, where it is believed that part of the original floor of the temple exists (see photo on left). You can tell that it is different, because the stones are distinctly different than any place else on the Temple Mount. The Muslims obviously know something about it, hence the special acknowledgement as ‘The Dome of the Spirits’, but they are not about to say anything more about it. It is believed that this will be the location that the Antichrist will allow the temple to be rebuilt in the first part of the Great Tribulation period. It is located in such a manner that both the Dome of the Rock and the New Temple would be able to co-exist on the same site. This of course would make sense, given the ‘pseudo’ sense of peace that the Antichrist will usher in.

We concluded out time in Old Jerusalem with a tour of the Southern Steps. Truly this was the nicest weather we had had since our arrival and it was a great day to visit the Southern Steps, also known as the ‘teaching steps’. These are the steps that Jesus would have used to enter the temple mount when the temple was still standing. Our guide refers to them as the ‘teaching steps’ because Jesus, along with other Rabbis, would have done much of their teaching from there. I had the blessed opportunity to teach a study on Matthew 22. What a glorious feeling, teaching on the very steps that our Savior would have taught some 2,000 years ago.

After the study, we had the opportunity to walk around the area and see the area where the Romans had pushed over the temple wall when they destroyed the Temple. As you can see by the photo on the left, these stones were so big that they shattered the streets of Jerusalem below them. Needless to say, it was pretty impressive to see the pile of rubble, that has been there for close to 2,000 years.

Our last stop of the day was clearly the most somber of the trip up to this point. We visited the Yad Vashem, Holocaust Museum. Words cannot express the different displays and that were there. It is absolutely shocking and hard to believe, that so many millions of innocent people could have been brutally and senselessly murdered. Clearly it was a diabolical plan of Satan himself. Hitler was a possessed human being that epitomized the depravity and wickedness of man’s heart. It was heartbreaking to hear the testimonies of the few survivors. How anyone could ever even think that such an event did not take place, is beyond comprehension. One cannot come away from time at the museum, without a greater love and compassion for the Jewish people. I am so thankful that, at least to this date, we live in a country that supports Israel. May God help us to continue in such a manner of support.

Well, one more day of touring, ending with communion at the Garden Tomb. I will be writing the last of the blog entries on the plane and posting it when we are back in the United States.

Thank you so much for your prayers during our trip. I pray that each of you will be able to join us on our next journey. We are anxious to be with you all again...see you soon!

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