Thursday, May 29, 2008

Israel: Day 5, January 9, 2008

Wednesday began at 5AM (10 PM your time). Wednesday was a huge day for us. We started our first watch a 6am. Some of our team was having trouble sleeping with the time change and was not feeling well. We went for the first worship set missing a couple folks. We were worried about them as the cold in the house and the lack of sleep was not a good combination. During our first watch, there was much prayer and intercession for President Bush’s time in Jerusalem. This was to be a day of negotiations in the political arena. It was a God ordained time for us to be there at the first watch of the day. We got the chance to set the atmosphere for the negotiations that were taking place. I really felt like this was one of the reasons that we were supposed to be in Jerusalem. A person from Alaska led prayers interspersed between the expressions of worship towards the Lord from the team. During this early morning worship time, we watched as the sun rose on Jerusalem. Before the sun was up, I saw the towers on Mount Zion glow from the light. After the rain of the previous day, the sun was a very welcome sight! After our worship watch, we came back to the house, tried to find the warmest places and some of us took naps or read a bit to recharge for the 12 noon watch we were scheduled for.

The afternoon’s session started with Freedom Reigns. There was a focus on freedom for the nations. We sang for the release of people. Isaiah 61 was our focus scripture for the worship time. As we sang about the year of Jubilee (The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord) there seem to be freedom and a release in the spirit realm – the people coming to Mount Zion were from all nations and peoples. Seat Mate 2 had a vision where there were a dazzling array of dress and cultures all coming to Mount Zion to worship Jesus.

President Bush was much on our hearts during Wednesday. We asked the Lord to guide him, especially during the meetings, and protect him.

After our watch, we immediately met up with a friend of Tim’s from last year, Gingi (Hadar), who agreed to guide us around to some of the sights of Jerusalem. Gingi really grew on all of us and we really appreciated getting to know him. Since he grew up in Jerusalem’s area, he is really knowledgeable about so much there plus he was known by the many people who greeted him during our time with him. Even in areas where we were a bit uncomfortable, we were welcome once they knew we were with him. Gingi was also a very gentle, friendly person and lover of Jesus. We had a very full afternoon as Gingi took us to an amazing array of sights, tastes, vistas, and shared details of both ancient and recent history along with some stories and explanations of the local Mid-East cultures. We started at Gordon’s Garden Tomb and then viewed Gordon’s Golgotha, now a site of a bus depot. We had our first ‘negotiating’ experience as we met a vendor selling olive wood carvings (camels, nativity scenes and figures) on our way out of the Garden Tomb site.

We had lunch at the Shualeh Restaurant, on Salah Eddin St, Jerusalem. This was just a couple blocks outside the north eastern walls of the Old City. To get there, we walked past the Damascus gate. The old Damascus gate, that Jesus and Paul would have known, is down about 20 foot below the newer gate built in the 1600’s. Gingi showed us the difference in the size of the stone blocks. They were much larger at the bottom. Those are the original stones. Paul would’ve come out from Jerusalem through the Damascus gate on his way to his Damascus Road experience. The restaurant was in a very Muslim section, although there was a great mix of cultures there. One of the buildings at the corner was built by the Kaiser, before WWI. There was a girl’s school, completely hemmed in by walls, along this street. To reach the restaurant, we walked a couple blocks up through crowded streets, keeping the girls to the inside as much as possible. At the restaurant, they had slabs of beef being cooked on a vertical pole and they sliced it and grilled it with other vegetables before putting the mixture into pita breads. The beef was so tender. They brought out Pepsi’s and things to dip the pitas in. They also brought out pickles that looked homemade and were spicy and sweet – very good. A couple doors down, we stopped for baklava and something else that I can’t pronounce or spell – but it was incredibly good (I would like some right now please!). They had goat cheese baked in honey, sugar and spices, with a sweet sauce poured over the top. That was the best thing! On the way back to the van, we saw a diagonal layer of rock that the walls were built on. This was the area of Solomon’s quarries. Gingi said this tunnel went all the way to Jericho, at one time.

A short van drive, we went to an overlook on top of the Mount of Olives. It was an incredible vista to see. All of Jerusalem was below us and the mountains and valleys that surrounded Jerusalem were plain to see. Gingi told us about the Hill of Evil Counsel. This is where the British Mandate Government buildings were and now it is the UN compound. Originally, Solomon’s wives who were not Jewish and their priests – they were from many countries, were placed in a compound and so it became known since the times of Solomon as the Hill of Evil Counsel. He also explained all the clusters of houses in the area south of the Old City were built upon the ruins of the City of David. We also viewed Absolom’s Cave and overlooked the huge cemetery on the Mount of Olives. We drove on and Gingi had us turn down a small, zigzagging, narrow road with walls and doorways on each side. Part way down, we stopped and were given entrance into Gethsemane by a robed priest.

The garden of Gethsemane was an amazing place, with huge trunked olive trees with stone lined paths through them. The Church of the Nations is to the side of the old olive trees – supposedly the trees were there at the time of Jesus. Upon leaving Gethsemane, Gingi showed us the view of the Golden Gate from where the van was parked. Jewish tradition has the Messiah coming down on the Mount of Olives and entering Jerusalem through the Golden Gate. In the 1500-1600’s, the Muslims sealed the gate shut with stone so the Messiah couldn’t come into Jerusalem. They also put a Muslim cemetery right outside the gate and walls to prevent entry by the Messiah.

Next, we drove around the south-east and south walls, through an area where they are excavating ruins from David’s original city. We were right up against the walls of Temple Mount (Mount Moriah – the threshing floor that David purchased to build the Lord’s Temple on) - in the area where Solomon’s stables were located long ago. The David Baroni song, Mount Moriah was running through my head). The Kidron Valley we crossed contains the original water source for the City of David and so Jerusalem.

On our way to see the Upper Room and the door to the Spirit room, we walked by the tomb of King David and through narrow and sometimes dimly lit corridors. After seeing the large Upper Room, Gingi took us up to the roof to show us where the Jews came to pray, before the 1967 War where they retook Jerusalem from Jordanian Arab hands. Before 1967, when he was just a boy, this was the closest Jewish people could get to their Temple Mount, their most sacred place.

We dropped Gingi off on our way home and then stopped at the grocery store (see Day 2). The store was at the far end of an enclosed parking lot that had enough room to park and for one lane. If you couldn’t turn out of the parking spot, you had to back out. Again, there was a security guard at the door in body armor to check bags. We spent a considerable time in the grocery store looking at all the parcels. There were few packages that we could read what the contents were. Some cereal for instance, you just had to guess what was inside. I found some coffee for DSH and some chocolate for the kids. We all had a nice adventure in a foreign grocery store! Quite an ending for such a big day!

Sunrise View from Succatt Hallel. God's timing!

Sunrise View from Succatt Hallel. God's timing!

Sunrise View from Succatt Hallel. God's timing!

This is the parking lot that we tried to get into. the attendants wouldn't let us in until they saw Gingi was with us.

Walking towards the Garden Tomb. Do you recognize anyone in the picture?

Gingi. He was such a sweet guy! He always had a smile on his face!

Garden Tomb sign.

Walking towards the garden tomb entrance. This is where we encountered our first vendor negotiations. BTW, I was considered the team negotiator.

Entance to the Garden Tomb tour.

Part of the tour.

Crucifixion sign

This place is called Gordons' Calvary. It is where people would get stoned. The people getting stoned would be thrown off of the top of the cliff. If they didn't die by the fall alone, there were people placed among the small caves in the cliff. Their job was to throw boulders to finish the job.

The parking lot is where the crucifixion was to have happened. In the words of the tour guide, "Can't say that it was, can't say that it wasn't." The Arabs own this lot and whenever they see a tour group, they start the buses and blow their horns so the tour group can't hear the tour guide.

Self explanitory.

The entrance to the tomb.

The tomb where Jesus was buried.

The tomb and entrance. Notice the blocks on the right side of the door? Those aren't original. There was an earthquake and part of the wall fell down so it was rebuilt.

Wine press. Doesn't that look like fun?

Lunch. I could eat another one of those!

On the way to lunch.

Dessert. Goat cheese with a melted honey & sugar mixture and then sprinkled with pistachios. It was so good. We also had baklava. It is one of the most popular desserts in Jerusalem.
Damascus gate. Upper, used today.

Upper and lower. We saw lots of rats at the lower one, tried to get a picture, but I was too far away.


Lower, the one Jesus walked through while carrying his cross. This is the gate that Paul walked through when he had the Damascus road experience.

Another view.

Can you imagine building this without the help of heavy machinery? Notice the size of those blocks. They must weigh thousands of pounds. Also, can you imagine carving the curves into those stones? It just blows my mind.

Close up of the stones.

As the sign says, Soloman's Quarries.

This tunnel at one time went from Jerusalem to Jericho and was used as and escape route.

The wall.

Another view.

View from the Mt of Olives.

Jewish graveyard on the Mt of Olives. Notice the caskets are made of stone and are above the ground. We were told that they are all facing the same direction with their feet pointing towards Jerusalem so that when Jesus comes back, all they have to do is stand up and fly away (no turning of their bodies needed).

Another view from the Mt of Olives.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

A tower at the Mt of Olives.

Ok Folks, Please bear with the next couple of pictures. It was dark while we were here and also my camera was running out of batteries. Sorry they aren't better!

Garden of Gethsemane.

Stone paths running around the olive trees.

A stone carving. Notice Jesus draped over a rock while praying?

Olive tree.

Again. They were HUGE.


At Gethsemane looking toward the Golden Gate.

Ruins of City of David SW City Wall Corner. Very hard to see in the picture, but amazing in real life.

Supposedly King David's Tomb.

Upper Room.

Door to the Spirit Room where the actual last supper took place. It is only open a few times each year, so we couldn't get in to see it.

It was beautiful.


The chocolate hippos I brought home for the kids.

That's all for today. Stay tuned...More to come!