DAY 8 – MONDAY, MAY 1:
Today was our first full day in Jerusalem. On this Memorial Day here in Israel, it was a beautifully sunny day, with comfortable temps around 80.
Leaving at 7:20 this morning, we drove to the southern end of the Old City and entered the Kotel – Western Wall area. As we left, we read from Mark 13:1-2 that mentions the “massive stones” of the Temple, setting the theme for the morning. This is the most holy place for Jews because of it’s proximity to where the 1st and 2nd Temples once stood. This “Western Wall” (also called Wailing Wall) served as a retaining wall for the Temple platform expanded by Herod the Great.
After going down to The Wall for a time of prayer, we entered the Western Wall Tunnel. This has been an archaeological site since the 70s. We walked parallel to this western retaining wall for about 250 yards. We saw massive yet carefully-placed stones of the Temple Jesus saw, including one stone called the Master Course (weighing 250-600 tons, depending on who you talk to).
Leaving the tunnels, we returned to the Jewish Quarter for a visit to the Temple Institute. This is operated by a small sect of Orthodox Jews who are preparing for the building of the 3rd Temple. It was quite interesting to see and hear about all the Temple vessels already prepared in anticipation of the Messiah’s coming.
Walking out of the Jewish Quarter through the Zion’s Gate, the memorial siren sounded at 11 a.m. We all stood in respect of the fallen IDF soldiers.
After this moment of silence, we drove to the Israel Museum. Here, we saw three things – a 1:50-scale model of Jerusalem like it look like in 70 AD prior to its destruction (we retraced the ministry of Jesus, including the Temple Mount), the Shrine of the Book museum (where the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display), and lastly the archaeological wing of the museum (where we saw highlights of artifacts, e.g. the Dan & Pilate Inscriptions, Canaanite weaponry, cultic items, figurines, ossuaries, Herod’s sarcophagus, the Moses’ Seat, etc…).
We ended the day with a moving and emotional visit to Yad Vashem (literally a “place/memorial and a name” from Isaiah 56:5). This is Israel’s Holocaust Memorial & Museum. We first walked through the Valley of the Communities where we heard Shlomo share his personal story of losing 12 family members from Vilna, Poland. We then walked through the Children’s Memorial and the museum itself. It was a very moving experience, especially being here on Memorial Day.
We returned back to our hotel for dinner. We then bussed to Ben Yehuda for a fun time of celebrating Israel’s Independence Day. It was packed with people. After enjoying some shopping, we walked back to the hotel.
DAY 8 – TUESDAY, MAY 2: MT. OF OLIVES, POOL OF BETHESDA, VIA DOLOROSA, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM