Western Wall and Bethany

Ross Fairweather

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Today’s focus was about Jesus and the key places he spent his short time in Jerusalem.

We departed on the bus at 8 am to go to the Dung Gate in Old Jerusalem. When we first entered the Temple Mount archeological site, it took my breath away. I’ve seen the Roman ruins, but this was different because this is where Jesus spent his last week! Once again today, I pinched myself to make sure it was real.

Rodney started us off in the Jerusalem Archaeological Park museum where we watched a film depicting activities faithful Jews did when on the Temple Mount…ritual cleansing, purchasing sacrifices, offering them to the priests, etc. The semi-animated film showed the magnitude of the Temple, occupying nearly a fifth of the total square area of Jerusalem at the time, and was truly the heartbeat of the city.  After the film, Rodney had us gather around a model of the Temple Mount while he talked about the archeological history before and after Christ’s time.

The Dung Gate, one of the seven open gates into the Old City.

The Dung Gate, one of the seven open gates into the Old City.

The sign for the archeological park outside on the southern/southwestern edges of the wall.

The sign for the archeological park outside on the southern/southwestern edges of the wall.

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An illustrated timeline of the Holy Land...very helpful in keeping straight who occupied the area during which time period.

An illustrated timeline of the Holy Land…very helpful in keeping straight who occupied the area during which time period.

A replica of an ancient map of the world with Jerusalem in the center.

A replica of an ancient map of the world with Jerusalem in the center.

Illustrated exhibits in the museum on the grounds of the archeological park.

Illustrated exhibits in the museum on the grounds of the archeological park.

An illustration of what the Temple would have looked like in the time of Jesus.

An illustration of what the Temple would have looked like in the time of Jesus.

A model of what Jerusalem would have looked like in the 1st Century.

A model of what Jerusalem would have looked like in the 1st Century.

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From there we walked around to see the western side of the temple with its ruins. Then we went around to the south end to see the public-access steps that Jesus most likely used to go up and into the Temple. We finished our stop there by 10 am, and it was already very hot and dry.

One of the retaining walls of the Temple Mount.

One of the retaining walls of the Temple Mount.

Building blocks from the Herodian period.

Building blocks from the Herodian period.

More Herodian stones...notice how the width and length, very large stones used during this time period moved by wooden levers.

More Herodian stones…notice how the width and length, very large stones used during this time period moved by wooden levers.

The sign for the main street running through Jerusalem.

The sign for the main street running through Jerusalem.

Remains of Main St. Jerusalem...1st century Main St. that is.

Remains of Main St. Jerusalem…1st century Main St. that is.

The sign for the Robinson Arch, discovered by Edward Robinson.

The sign for the Robinson Arch, discovered by Edward Robinson.

The remains of Robinson Arch, which was part of a stairway to the Temple Mount.

The remains of Robinson Arch, which was part of a stairway to the Temple Mount.

Sign for the Temple Stones.

Sign for the Temple Stones.

Stones from the destruction of the Temple in 70CE.

Stones from the destruction of the Temple in 70CE.

The sign describing the mikveh outside the Temple Mount

The sign describing the mikveh outside the Temple Mount

The Temple mikveh which was a pool for ritual cleansing.

The Temple mikveh which was a pool for ritual cleansing…baptism anyone???

The sign describing the trumpeter's stone.

The sign describing the trumpeter’s stone.

A replica of the Trumpeter's Stone from which calls to prayer and worship were given...the original is in the Israeli Museum.

A replica of the Trumpeter’s Stone from which calls to prayer and worship were given…the original is in the Israeli Museum.

Sign describing the Umayyad Palace whose floor plan is still outside the city walls.

Sign describing the Umayyad Palace whose floor plan is still outside the older version of the  city walls.

A panoramic view of the Umayyad Palace imprint.

A panoramic view of the Umayyad Palace imprint.

The southern walls of the Old City...notice the nubs on the end of the stones, that was how they were moved and lifted into place.

The southern walls of the Old City…notice the nubs on the end of the stones, that was how they were moved and lifted into place.

The western Haddah Gate was one of the main gates people would use to enter the Temple.

The western Haddah Gate was one of the main gates people would use to enter the Temple.

What remains of the sealed up Haddah gate.

What remains of the sealed up Huldah gate.

The southern steps, the main steps people would have used to enter the Temple...the steps Jesus likely used to enter the city.

The southern steps, the main steps people would have used to enter the Temple…the steps Jesus likely used to enter the city.

A view out from the southern walls.

A view out from the southern walls.

A panoramic view from the southern steps of the Temple.

A panoramic view from the southern steps of the Temple.

Symbols found on some of the ruins from this area.

Symbols found on some of the ruins from this area.

A short walk from there was the Western/Wailing Wall. This is a place of historical and spiritual importance for Jewish people from around the world. This is the wall where Jews came for many centuries to pray near their ancient Temple; it was not the wall of the Temple, but rather a part of the Temple’s retaining wall. Visitors of any faith can sense its symbolic power. It has a men’s side and a women’s side. As we were walking up the ramp, a group of about 30 Jewish children were heading in the same direction, led by young adults. Rodney no sooner finished giving us an orientation about the wall, when children started singing, perhaps the same ones I’d seen. I walked to the women’s side with the other ladies. We observed for a while, then felt comfortable moving to the wall to get a coveted spot. First, you write your prayer on paper and fold it up into the smallest possible size. Once you are at the wall, you put the prayer into a crack in the limestone. Then you put your hands on the wall and pray. Some women bend one arm and cradle their faces in it; others stand there covening (the ritual of rocking back a forth as they pray); some women pulled plastic chairs up to the wall while they read the Torah. One woman was visibly shaking, her entire body, as she prayed. I finally moved forward, waited a while for a slot to open, then did as the Jewish women did to squeeze in next to wall huggers who’d been there a long time. I touched the wall … it was stone cold on this hot day! The whole time we were there, the children were singing. I can still hear them.

A sign for the Western (Wailing) Wall.

A sign for the Western (Wailing) Wall.

The approach to the Western Wall.

The approach to the Western Wall.

A security checkpoint for the western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism.

A security checkpoint for the western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism.

The plaza in front of the western Wall with two sections a large section for the men in the center and left, and a smaller section for women on the right.

The plaza in front of the western Wall with two sections a large section for the men in the center and left, and a smaller section for women on the right.

Jewish men praying at the Western Wall.

Jewish men praying at the Western Wall. (from Fr. Rob)

We left the Wall and proceeded to the Church of Saint Anne and the Pools of Bethesda. Here we entered St. Anne’s Church, a commemoration to Mary’s mother, Anne. The grounds include the Pools of Bethesda site; the scriptures tied to this site talk about the cripples and paralytics, hence the pool is dedicated to the god of healing during the Roman era.

A sign for a fountain in the Muslim Quarter.

A sign for a fountain in the Muslim Quarter on the way to the Church of Saint Anne and the Pools of Bethesda..

The fountain in the Muslim Quarter...or what was a fountain.

The fountain in the Muslim Quarter…or what was a fountain.

The sign for the Church of Saint Anne (Mary's Mother) and the  pools of Bethesda.

The sign for the Church of Saint Anne (Mary’s Mother) and the pools of Bethesda.

A map of the complex showing the church, the ruins of a crusader church, and where the pools were located.

A map of the complex showing the church, the ruins of a crusader church, and where the pools were located.

The altar in the church of Saint Anne.

The altar in the church of Saint Anne.

A mural in the Church of Saint Anne.

A mural in the Church of Saint Anne.

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Sign for the Russian style icon below.

An icon in the Church of Saint Anne.

An icon in the Church of Saint Anne.

The ruins of the pools of Bethesda...only parts have been excavated but most remain buried under the city.

The ruins of the pools of Bethesda…only parts have been excavated but most remain buried under the city.

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More ruins of the Pools of Bethesda.

Ruins of the Crusader church built upon the dyke that separated the pools of Bethesda.

Ruins of the Crusader church built upon the dyke that separated the pools of Bethesda.

(In the video above our group is singing Amazing Grace…groups are encouraged by the monks who operate the church to pray or sing in their native tongue.)

We had a long uphill walk back to the college mainly through tunnels and walkways in the Old City where trash was strewn along the sides (it was trash-pickup day).

Picking up the trash from the previous night's celebrations of Ramadan...since Muslims do not eat or drink during sunlight hours, when they are finally permitted to eat and drink, it turns into one heck of a party...notice the lights above the street, the roads and mosques are lit up like Christmas.

Picking up the trash from the previous night’s celebrations of Ramadan…since Muslims do not eat or drink during sunlight hours, when they are finally permitted to eat and drink, it turns into one heck of a party…notice the lights above the street, the roads and mosques are lit up like Christmas.

This is one of my least favorite areas because there are street vendors everywhere (except intersections), some with their wares on tables, others on the street or sidewalk. Rev. Lauren and I giggled as we eyed the ladies’ underpants laid out for sale. We were happy to get back to the college for a cold refreshing lunch of assorted salads and fruit by Chef Joseph.

After lunch the bus took us to the town of Bethany where Jesus spent his nights during his time in Jerusalem, as he had many friends there. We talked about the biblical story of Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus who had died, but was resuscitated by Jesus. We went to the Church up a hill the Tomb of Lazarus. To see the tomb, you had to descend very steep downward-sloping steps which curved until you reached a landing; from there, you see a small opening through which is his tomb. I watched Fr. Rob crouch down and literally crawl on his butt to get into the tomb. No, thanks, I said. I’ll take your word for it. Back to the college on the bus.

Approaching the Church of Saint Lazarus in Bethany.

Approaching the Church of Saint Lazarus in Bethany.

The garden walkways leading to the church.

The garden walkways leading to the church.

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The facade of the Church of Saint Lazarus in Bethany.

The facade of the Church of Saint Lazarus in Bethany.

A 4th Century mosaic floor in the Church of Saint Anne.

A 4th Century mosaic floor in the Church of Saint Anne.

The mural above the altar in the sanctuary of the Church of Saint Lazarus.

The mural above the altar in the sanctuary of the Church of Saint Lazarus.

The altar in the Church of Saint Lazarus.

The altar in the Church of Saint Lazarus.

The dome in the Church of Saint Lazarus.

The dome in the Church of Saint Lazarus…the doves in the small panels of the dome represent souls ascending to heaven.

The mural depicting the resuscitation of Lazarus.

The mural depicting the resuscitation of Lazarus.

The mural depicting the story of Mary and Martha, one of the three stories situated in Bethany.

The mural depicting the story of Mary and Martha, one of the three stories situated in Bethany.

The mural depicting the story of the anointing of Jesus, along with Lazarus, and Mary and Martha, this is the third story situated in Bethany and remembered in this church.

The mural depicting the story of the anointing of Jesus; along with Lazarus, Mary and Martha, this is the third story situated in Bethany and all are remembered in this church.

The sign outside the Tomb of Lazarus

The sign outside the Tomb of Lazarus

The tomb of Lazarus...one has to squeeze through that little space to enter the tomb.

The tomb of Lazarus…one has to squeeze through that little space to enter the tomb.

Inside the tomb.

Inside the tomb.

Inside the tomb.

Inside the tomb.

Clark taking in the small confines of the tomb.

Clark taking in the small confines of the tomb.

Up the hill from the tomb is the separation wall...at one time, not too long ago, one could walk from Bethany to Jerusalem...we had to drive twenty minutes and through a checkpoint to enter the West Bank (where Bethany is located) to go 2 miles from the heart of Jerusalem.

Up the hill from the tomb is the separation wall…at one time, not too long ago, one could walk from Bethany to Jerusalem…we had to drive twenty minutes and through a checkpoint to enter the West Bank (where Bethany is located) to go 2 miles from the heart of Jerusalem.

By now most of us are becoming accustomed to the layout of the city and can identify various landmarks. (But, don’t ask me to drive in Israel/Palestine!) We had an extra two hours; some took naps, some went for a walk, and the rest of us went shopping at St. George’s souvenir shop which is owned by Abraham. He is an honest man who has a retail space that can’t be more than 10×10’. There were 8 or 9 of us plus Abraham in his shop for 10-15 minutes when he finally turned on the AC! He has oriental rugs covering the glass cases that contain tray after tray of assorted jewelry that you have to rummage through to find the goodies you’ll take home. We all left with packages in our hands, and Abraham had a big smile on his face. We had a cocktail-hour lecture (minus the cocktails) to discuss the sites we’ll visit in our last two days which focus on the Holy Week activities. Then dinner at 7.

Now I am finished my work for the day, and my eyes are getting weary. I’m loving this trip; hope you’re lovin’ it with us!! Bye for now!

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