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Israel, Day 6

There's so much to say about today I don't know how I'm going to write it all down, but I'll try...

Mount of Olives (Just added, a Google Map of Jerusalem)
Beginning the morning here, I was able to get a geographical sense of all the "mountains" noted in the Scripture relating to Jerusalem. To begin with, out hotel is on Mt Scopus. It was where the ruler Titus and the Romans watched over Jerusalem. Next to it on the south side is the Mount of Olives. Directly in front of the Mount of Olives (west) is the Temple Mount, Mt. Moriah (the traditional site of Abraham's offering of Issac, the threshing areas purchased by David for the the sacrifice, the site of Solomon's and Herod's temple, and now the covered by the Dome of the Rock). To the South is Mt. Zion and the city of David (Solomon built on Mt Moriah). The Kidron Valley or the "valley of Jehoshaphat" ("God will Judge") runs along the eastern wall and around the southern steps where it meets up with the Hinnom Valley. The KV separates the The Mount of Olives from Mt Moriah (inside the wall). HV runs along the back side of Mt. Zion. BTW, what is enclosed behind the wall is only about 1/2 of what it was during Jesus' life. The original walls of the city included the city of David and Mt Zion. You could imagine these canyons echoing with songs and prayers during the holy-days, the gathering for which Jerusalem's poplulation could swell to over 1M people.

From the Mt of Olives there's an amazing view of the eastern wall of the city, specifically the Eastern Gate, which has been sealed up (fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel). Behind the Eastern Gate was another gate that gave access to the TM (temple mount). It was the gate called "Beautiful" (where Peter and John healed the lame man). Only on Palm Sunday did Jesus enter Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate. The Temple would have been behind the Gate Beautiful, facing east. The main entrance to the TM was through the Southern Gate, which I'll get to later.

The hillside of the MoO that faces Jerusalem has been a cemetery even before Jesus' day. It is related to the Messiah's return on the MoO, and the belief that at that time, the dead will be resurrected. This hillside is completely covered with gravestones. My brother pointed out that those were what Jesus referred to when he said, "if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out." On the anniversary of the death of loved one, they would visit the grave, pray over it, and place a stone on top of it. This is reference to the Pharisee's belief in the resurrection of the dead and a direct messianic announcement to them. On another occasion, Jesus accused the Pharisees of being "white-washed sepulchres." They knew exactly what Jesus was referring to as it could be seen from the MoO.

During a devotion to begin the day as we were to walk down the path Jesus followed on Palm Sunday I heard something interesting (I'm documenting here for my own future study). Jesus held the Jews accountable for not "knowing the time of thier visitation." Why should the Jews have known that the Messiah had come? Using the "69 weeks" from Daniel 9 as a timetable and calculating from the historically accurate date the decree was ordered to rebuild Jerusalem (March 14, 445 BC), it was 173,880 days (69 weeks X 7 days X 360 days in the Jewish year), we're able to determine that the day this falls on was a Sunday that would have been during Jesus late adult life, possibly even of the very day of his welcome into the city (a little Chuck Missler for you).

"Geth" = olive press, "Semane" = oil. The place of the pressing. Some of the oldest olive trees in the nation are in this little garden on the hillside of the MoO.

The "Old City" has 4 parts: Armenian, Jewish, Moslem, and Christian. The "OC" has about 25K residents, 20K of which are Arabs, 2K Armenian, and only 3K Jews (since they couldn't live in the "OC" until after the Jewish Quarter was rebuilt in 1969). We entered through the Zion Gate through the Crusader Wall. The only gate that's still in place from the temple period is the Damascus Gate on the north side. We did see a 2CE Roman "Cardo" that would have went from the Zion Gate to the Damascus Gate which was 60' wide and would have been covered - an ancient "mall." We also saw a solid gold menorah that I would estimate to have been 6'+ tall and span the same. Amaizing thing is it was carved from a solid piece of gold, not melded. The rest of these sites will be in the OC and around the temple mount.

The "Wailing Wall"
I offered a devotion reading from Solomon's dedication of the 1st temple before we went down to pray at the most holy site for today's Jew. It was a meaningful time getting to pray there.

The "wailing wall" is part of the Western Wall, the last remaining section of the retaining wall which surrounded the temple mount during the 2nd temple period. In the ongoing excavations near the SW corner of the wall, they have found a street that Jesus would have likely walked on is last day in Jerusalem from Caiaphas' house to where he would have appeared before Pontius Pilate. This western side of the TM would have been where the priests lived and would have entered the TM from the gate of this side.

Another interesting thing is that then the trumpet would sound from the TM to signal the start of a festival or the sabbath, the sound would trigger signal fires to be set on a range of hilltops that would go all the way to Babylon so Jews, wherever they lived, could live thier lives as directed by what happened in Jerusalem.

The Southern or "Teaching" Steps

These are the actual steps that would have been the public entrance to the gates which almost all people would use to access the TM. These steps were where the rabbis would hold classed and teach their disciples (like Gamaliel did with Saul). Jesus would have used these steps as he came over the MoO from Bethany, and would have taught there as well (in fact, it's probably where as a child, he stayed behind and talked with the priests who were amazed at his understanding, while his parents searched for him). These steps were carved out of the bedrock of Mt Moriah, so many of the original steps remain. Many scholars believe this is where Peter gave the message on Pentecost, and because of the many ritual cleansing pools on the way up to the steps, where the new believers were baptized. This was a cool site. Interesting note: The Jews believe that it was on Pentecost that ,the law was given to Moses and that David was born and later died on this same day.

The Shepherds' Fields
We left the OC and our guide took us to a special overlook. Bethlehem is another city we're unable to visit as it is in Palestinian territory, but we stood on a nearby hill and saw the stone and olive tree covered hillside where the angels appeared to the shepherds announcing Jesus' birth. I really was moved by seeing this site and the hard life these humble shepherds would have had., but the announcement of the Christ's birth was given to them. wow.

Tishah B'av - Remembering the destruction of the Temple
Tomorrow is the 9th of Av, a national day of fasting and mourning for Jews all around the world to remember all the tragedies that have happened to them as a people. It was on this day that the Temple was destroyed twice centuries apart (which is why a glass is broken at the end of a Jewish wedding, to remember the destruction of the Temple). Napoleon once observed Jews on this day and commented that a people who mourn for their temple will never be conquered for they will never forget their past. I find it interesting that we would be here on this reverent day. May God return his glory to Jerusalem and to his people.

PS: To view all our photos from today, CLICK HERE

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