DAY 9, MONDAY, NOV 18
What another great day in Israel. This was our first full day in Jerusalem, and we certainly saw a lot. We began with a 7:30 am departure straight for the top of the Mt. of Olives. Arriving before the crowds, we were introduced to Jerusalem and all its rich Biblical history. From here we looked across the Kidron Valley and saw the Old City, including the Temple Mount, the City of David (OT Jerusalem) among many other things. We processed down the Mt. of Olives, similar to how Jesus would have gone on Palm Sunday. Stopping at Dominus Flavet, we read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14. We continued down to the Garden of Gethsemane area. We spent some quiet moments reflecting on Jesus’ passion in this place where He would be betrayed by Judas.
From here we walked into the Old City through the Lion’s or St. Stephen’s Gate (we were delayed about 10 minutes on the walk as we had to wait for security reasons with the President of France passing by). Once inside the Old City, we began walking the Via Dolorosa. While only stopping at the Sisters of Zion (location of the Lithostrotos mentioned in John 19), we walked all the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of two suggested places for the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus.
After lunch in the Christian Quarter, we walked out Jaffa Gate and boarded the bus. Our next destination was Herodium, one of the fortress/palaces of Herod the Great. We walked up to the site (an artificial mound), taking notice of the surrounding Judean Wilderness to the east. We read from Isaiah 40. The archaeology of Herodium is quite impressive. Here we saw the towers of the fortress, a bathhouse, synagogue, and cistern system. We also saw the tomb area where Herod was buried.
Close by are the Shepherds’ Fields. Here we descended into a cave and enjoyed singing a few carols as we considered that “just at the right time God sent His Son” (Galatians 4:4). It was a meaningful time as we also sang carols in the chapel. Here we joined Asian and Polish groups in singing with them. The blend of our voices was magnificent!
While our next stop was an olive-wood store, we enjoyed some shopping here before our visit to the Church of Nativity. We were the last group to enter the grotto below before they turned out all the lights (an unique experience). We drove back to our hotel, enjoyed dinner together, and an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street in west Jerusalem.
DAY 10, TUESDAY, NOV 19
We plan to visit the Western Wall, Jewish Quarter, Israel Museum, and Yad Vashem