DAY 11 –WEDNESDAY – MAY 29 – JERUSALEM – BETHLEHEM – HERODIUM – JERUSALEM
This bright and sunny day started with an orientation to Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives. Driving to the top of this mountain situated on the east side of the Old City (with the Kidron Valley in-between), the view was great. We then descended the Mt. of Olives down the traditional “Palm Sunday” route, stopping to read passages such as Luke 19, Acts 1, and Zechariah 14 (a prophecy about Christ’s return). We spent a quiet time among the olives trees of the Garden of Gethsemane, reflecting on the passion of Christ, his betrayal, and his impending crucifixion.
Walking into the Old City through the Lion’s (or Stephen’s) Gate, we saw the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda (John 5). We also enjoyed singing in St. Anne’s church, perfectly preserved from the Crusader period. The remarkable acoustics made us sound like a full choir. From here, we walked the Via Dolorosa, the “Way of the Cross” all the way to the Holy Sepulcher Church.
Leaving the Old City through the Zion’s Gate, we ate lunch in the newer shopping area near the Jaffa Gate.
In the afternoon, we visit Herodium. Located on the edge of the Judean Desert, this is where Herod the Great was buried. The visibility was really good from here, allowing us to see as the Dead Sea, Jericho, Masada, and of course the hills of Moab to the east (in Jordan). We end the day by driving into Bethlehem. We visit the Shepherds’ Field where we gathered in one of the caves and read from Micah 5 and Luke 2, as well as singing a few Christmas carols. We then visited the Church of Nativity. Being remarkably empty (we were the only group there!), we saw even the traditional birthplace of Christ.