DAY 7 – SATURDAY, JUNE 16: JERUSALEM, MT. OF OLIVES, BETHLEHEM, HERODIUM, GARDEN TOMB
Today was our first full day in Jerusalem. We were greeted by sunny skies and high temps this afternoon around 90.
Mt. of Olives
Leaving the hotel shortly after 7:30 again, we drove around the northern side of the Old City in order to make our way east to the Mt. of Olives. Our first full view of the Temple Mount and Old City from the top was spectacular! From here we could also see the City of David (to the south), the Hurva synagogue (in the heart of the Jewish Quarter), the Holy Sepulcher Church (in the heart of the Christian Quarter), and the Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 44). Of course in the center of the Temple Mount is the Dome of the Rock (built in 691 AD). This was built on the same site as the First Temple (built by Solomon in 967 BC, Chr. 3) and the Second Temple (built by Herod the Great beginning in 20 BC).
Walking down the slope of the Mt. of Olives we stopped at a small chapel called Dominus Flavet. This gave us a closer view of the Temple Mount. Here we read from Luke 19 (Jesus’ Palm Sunday event) and Zechariah 14 (Jesus’ second coming).
Garden of Gethsemane
Further down the slope we stopped for a time of reflection in the area of the Garden of Gethsemane. We paused to read Luke 22 and John 17 as we considered the prayer of Jesus, “Not my will but yours be done…” To consider the passion of Jesus here was special!
Driving southeast from the Old City, we arrived at an archaeological site called Herodium. It was here where Herod the Great was buried. Climbing the “bowl” (artificial mound) we had a great view of the Dead Sea to the east, Tekoa to the south, Jerusalem to the north and Bethlehem to the west. We left the site by climbing down through the cistern system. We also saw where Herod’s grave was located.
Shepherds’ Fields / Bethlehem
After eating lunch in Beit Sahour (east of Bethlehem), we visited the Shepherds’ Fields. From inside a cave, we read from Luke 2 about the birth of Jesus. He was first announced by angels and greeted by shepherds. Jesus came to be the passover lamb. Jesus came “just at the right time” (Gal. 4:4) to be the Savior of the world! We also enjoyed singing Christmas carols both in the cave and in the Shepherds’ chapel.
Our last stop of the day was back on the north side of the Old City. Here we visited the Garden Tomb. This site developed as an alternative location for the Holy Sepulcher Church as the place for Jesus’ death and burial/resurrection. After touring the grounds and seeing the suggested tomb, we enjoyed a brief time of worship and Communion.
Following the service, some went to the Jerusalem Prayer Center close by while others bussed back to the hotel. Following dinner, an optional walking excursion to Ben Yehuda was offered. Many in the group enjoyed the shopping and ice cream! It was a great day here in Jerusalem!