DAY 8 – SUNDAY, MAY 3
Today was another great one. With sun and perfect temps (mid 70s), we left the hotel at 7:35 and drove around the Old City to the Mt. of Olives. What a spectacular view of the Old City and Temple Mount from here. We walked down the “Palm Sunday” path, stopping along the way to consider the Biblical stories. We read from Luke 19 (Palm Sunday) and Zechariah 14 (prophecy about the splitting of the Mt. of Olives into two and Christ’s return) at the Dominus Flavet chapel. We walked further down to the Garden of Gethsemane where we read the narrative of Christ’s passion and Judas’ betrayal of Jesus (Luke 22). Here we had a time of worship and reflection.
From here we continued our walk into the Old City through St. Stephen’s (Lion’s) Gate. We visited the Pools of Bethesda (John 5) and St. Anne’s Church. Here we sang a few songs and enjoyed the 8-10 echo. We then walked the Via Dolorosa (the “way of the cross”). This is the traditional pathway of the cross (although it was probably from the other direction). We read from John 19 about the lithostrotos (“stone pavement”). We ended the walk at the Holy Sepulcher Church, one of two possible sites for the place of Christ’s crucifixion and tomb. Nearby we ate lunch in the Christian Quarter.
Leaving the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, we drove south and east to Herodium. This was a palace-fortress built by Herod the Great. He was buried here when he died. We hiked up to the top of this “artificial” mountain, descending down through the cistern system. Driving west towards Bethlehem, we entered a cave in the Shepherds’ Fields. We read from Luke 2 and sang Christmas carols in the cave and in the chapel. Next, we drove into Bethlehem proper and visited an olive wood factory owned by the Nissan Brothers. We enjoyed some shopping here.
For the “surprise” of the day, Shlomo invited the entire group to his home for cake and coffee. It was special to visit his home. Rachel, his wife, warmly welcomed us.
We drove back to the hotel for dinner and an optional walk on the Promenade, a quiet walkway that heads south of the Old City. It was a great day!
DAY 9 – MONDAY, MAY 4
We plan to drive east and south to the Judean Desert to visit Masada, Engedi, Qumran, and then “float” in the Dead Sea.