Through our time in Israel we have come to love Jerusalem. I have been thinking about why we love it so much, and quite honestly it is extremely difficult to explain. From an architectural perspective the buildings are not grand, nor very beautiful and upon first glance don’t offer much. The crowded market streets can be uncomfortable and the store owners can be pushy and rude. So what continues to draw us into the Old City walls? Maybe it is the thousands of years of history that unfold in front of you as you explore? Maybe it is the extremely diverse and devoted religious population, from Jews, to Moslems, to Christians?
Perhaps a story will do. Last night Rita and I were walking by the Western Wall Plaza as sundown and the start of Sabbath/Shabbat approached. We have heard the Western Wall was quite a magical place to be on the eve of Shabbat so we decided to hang out in the plaza close to the Western Wall to observe the festivities. By this time hundreds of Jews had gathered at the Western Wall and many were involved in intense prayer. In the plaza hundreds of young men and women gathered singing songs and celebrating the coming of Shabbat. I glanced over at Rita during all of this and I swear I saw a tear in her eye. She won’t admit it and couldn’t explain it but the environment in the plaza was simply moving – and that is the power of Jerusalem.
Earlier in the day we traveled to Jerusalem to meet our friends for a tour of the Kotel (Western Wall) tunnels. The tunnels travel through a huge section of the Western Wall that would otherwise be hidden from view. The tour lasted about 2 hours and when we were through we headed to our favorite market – Mahane Yehuda. The market was bustling with activity as people were out performing their pre-Shabbat shopping. We purchased a few items and had our friends drop us off at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Mount of Olives is covered in tombs as Jews have sought to be buried there for thousands of years. The Bible (Zech. 14:4) states the resurrection will begin on the Mount of Olives when the Messiah comes. Of course (we have heard) to be buried there now takes special connections and a lot of money.
We headed up the mountain stopping at a few sites (Dominus Flevit Church, Church of All Nations). We arrived at the top of the mountain rather quickly and sat and soaked in wonderful views of the Dome of the Rock and the Old City, a great way to end a great day in the Old City.
Church of All Nations – enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest.
View into the old city and the Dome of the Rock from the Mount of Olives.
The Russian Church of Maria Magdalene on the Mount of Olives.
Gathering at the Western Wall – Sabbath Eve (Friday February 6th), the Dome of the Rock in the background.