Tour Day 6: Temple Mount, Western Wall, Jerusalem Archeological Park, Jewish Quarter, Yad Vashem

This morning, Dewayne and I were exhausted from the spiritual attack the night before. At breakfast, I talked about it to a few people and thought it was just as weird as Dewayne and I thought it was.

Today was a long day. According to Tito, our guide, we should wear our respectful clothing (i.e. long skirt or pants, something to cover the arms) since we would be visiting a holy place first.

Stop 1: Temple Mount (Mount Moriah)

Our first stop of the morning was the Temple Mount (Dome of the Rock) It was super hot and Dewayne wasn’t feeling well at all with some kind of sinus/cold thing. This didn’t stop me from snapping photos and soaking it all in. Tito, our guide, was a continuous flow of knowledge and information regarding the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount (known as Solomon’s Colonnade in the Bible) was constructed by Herod the Great beginning in 20 BC.  Construction on it continued for 83 years until AD 64 when a halt was called to the project and 18,000 workers were laid off (riots resulted).  The Temple Mount is 1/6 the size of today’s Old City and covers 35 acres.

Built atop Herod’s construction of the Temple, the Dome of the Rock was erected by the Muslim ruler Abd el-Malik in 688-691. Because of its situation on bedrock, the numerous earthquakes over the centuries have not caused significant damage to the structure (unlike its neighbor Al Aqsa mosque).  This shrine was covered by a lead dome from 691 until it was replaced with a gold-colored covering in the early 1960s. Because of rust, the anodized aluminum cover was again replaced in 1993 with a gold covering.

Today it is still controlled by the Muslims and they use it to celebrate Ramadan by coming to what they call Haram esh-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary).  More than 400,000 Muslims often gather here on the final Friday of the feast.  On the southeastern side of the Temple Mount is a “seam” of stones where a later addition leans up against the earlier east wall.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
Luke 1:8-13 (NIV)

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Genesis 2:22 (NIV)

And Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.
John 10:23 (NIV)

While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.
Acts 3:11 (NIV)

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade.
Acts 5:12 (NIV)

Stop 2: Western Wall

After walking at the Template Mount, we walked over to the Western Wall. As we got closer to it, there were many people lined up to move toward the wall so they could have their time to pray. The women and men were separated by a wall (see first photo). As the men lined up to go to the wall, they were required to wear something on their head, and if they didn’t have it, then a white cap was provided. The women weren’t required to wear anything on their head, however, we were required to keep our arms and legs covered.

If you look closely to the wall, you will see bits and pieces of paper rolled up or folded and poked in the cracks. I didn’t leave a prayer on paper, however, when it was my turn to walk up to the ancient wall, I put my right hand on it and said a quick prayed for Jerusalem.

So why is the Western Wall important? The Western Wall is considered holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount. Because of the Temple Mount entry restrictions, the Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray, though the holiest site in the Jewish faith lies behind it.

Stop 3: Jerusalem Archeological Park (Southern Wall Walk)

After taking our turns praying at the Western wall, we followed Tito, our guide, into the streets and walked a short distance to the Jerusalem Archeological Park. This park is significant for the ancient city wall, the Temple’s staircase, a preserved ancient street, ritual immersion baths, and stores.

The southern wall area is located on the south-west side of the temple mount, inside the old city. The area is approached thru the Ha’Ashpathot (Dung) gate, which is located on the south side of the area. The Southern Wall (also called Herod’s Temple) in Jerusalem was built during King Herod’s expansion of the Temple Mount platform southward on to the Ophel.

Stop 4: Jewish QuarterStop 4: Jewish Quarter

After viewing all the ancient structures built by Herod, we walked a short distance to the Jewish Quarter. I didn’t know this until now, but Tito talked about how Jerusalem was divided into four parts, Jewish Quarter, Muslim Quarter, Christian Quarter, and Armenian Quarter. How they all live in peace in the city is a God-thing.

The Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City is one of the four quarters of the walled city. The Jewish quarter is home to around 2,000 people and covers about 0.1 square kilometers. It is also the location of many tens of synagogues and yeshivas (places of the study of Jewish texts) and has been almost continually home to Jews since the century 8 BCE.

While we were walking the streets of the Jewish Quarter, we enjoyed watching how the Jewish people lived, shopped, ate, and communicated.

Stop 5: Jerusalem New Souvenir Store (J.N.S.S)

After what seemed like walking all over Jerusalem, we headed back to the bus where Eli was waiting for us with the air conditioning on (thank goodness). Tito told us that we get to go shopping. We drove 4.5 km (3 mi) to the J.N.S.S Jerusalem New Souvenir Store LTD. As soon as we arrived, the owner of the store came onto our bus and talked to us for a few minutes. Apparently, the shop owner and workers carve beautiful Christian-based themes using Olive Wood. All the pieces were amazing! There was one Nativity scene that was over $12K! I bought a couple of things for friends and family while there, but nothing too big because we had to transport things back.

Stop 6: Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center

We drove about 8 km (5 mi) west outside the Jerusalem city limits. Once in, I found out we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the center. That was disappointing, so here’s a glimpse to inside the exhibit and what it looked like. The way it was set up, it was like a zig-zag structure taking us in and out of different rooms.

After going through each of the rooms and seeing videos/photos of families and people affected by the Holocaust, I was starting to feel sick to my stomach. How could Hitler and the Nazi party be so evil?! I felt like crying. Later Pastor Allen asked me what I thought about Yad Vashem. I told him it was ‘gut-wrenching’ to see all that in one place.

Of the photos I did get to take outdoors, I learned that a tree was planted in honor of each of the people involved and/or survived the Holocaust. I was super excited to see “Oskar & Emilie Schindler” represented there (see photo below then watch the movie Schindler’s List when you get a chance).

Jerusalem Light Show

We heard about a light show happening down the street from where we were staying at the David Citadel. Apparently, Jerusalem was going to display lights on the old city walls.

Dewayne and I wanted to go check it out and so after dinner we walked over to the area. It wasn’t too crowded yet, but within 15-minutes it got very busy. Music started blaring (couldn’t identify the genre) and more and more people lined the streets. It was nice to see others from our tour group there as well. This was a unique experience.

After the lights started, it wasn’t very exciting. Me and Dewayne just looked at each other and decided to go find something else to do and ended up browsing in the nearby shops. Dewayne was still struggling not feeling well, so we headed back to get some sleep.