DAY 11 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 23: JERUSALEM: MT. OF OLIVES, OLD CITY; HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM
Today was our first full day in Jerusalem. We enjoyed some sun in the morning, with showers in the afternoon. Temps were on the chilly side, with highs in the high 40s.
Today was also a day when about 40 leaders of the world gathered at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, for the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz. Thankfully we avoided the heavy traffic and closed roads. In the afternoon in our bus we watched a portion of the speeches given by Putin and Pence at Yad Vashem.
Mt. of Olives
Leaving our hotel at 7:30, we drove around the west and northern side of the Old City to the Mt. of Olives. We read Psalm 125 as we started the day. Our first view of the Temple Mount and the Old City from the Mt of Olives was spectacular even though it was a bit foggy at first. We walked down the slope to the chapel of Dominus Flavit where we read from Luke 19 (Palm Sunday story) and Zechariah 14 (the return of Jesus). We celebrated Christ’s kingship, both past, present, and future. Further down the slope of the Mt. of Olives we paused for a time of reflection in the Garden of Gethsemane. We read from Luke 22 and considered Jesus’ words, “Not my will but yours be done.”
Before entering the Old City through the St. Stephen’s/Lion’s/Jericho Gate, we walked to the Eastern Gate (Ez. 44). Right inside the city we visited St. Anne’s Church. This was a church built by the Crusaders. We enjoyed singing a few songs in the church with its 8-second echo. On the same grounds is the Pool of Bethesda. This was a pool outside the walls of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day. We read from John 5 about the healing of the paralyzed man.
From here we walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Old City wasn’t overly crowded and the world dignitaries did not yet come to make their visits yet. This church was built in 325 AD and archaeologically speaking, this could be the possible location where Jesus was both crucified and buried. Close by to the church we enjoyed lunch together in the Christian Quarter.
“I loved being in Jerusalem today. The first view of the city form the Mt. of Olives was breath-taking! The connections with the Bible kept on coming too from Dr. John. Jerusalem is certainly a special place!” -Tour Member-
Following lunch we walked out of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate. We then met David and our bus and drove to Herodium. On the way we saw the new US Embassy. Herodium was one of Herod the Great’s palace-fortresses. It was also where he was buried in 4 BC. We walked up to the top of the site for the view of the area. To the north is Jerusalem, to the east is the Judean Desert; to the south is Tekoa (the home of Amos the prophet), and to the west is Bethlehem. We saw the ruins on top, including the newly-exposed royal archway. We left the site by walking down through the water cistern.
Our last two stops were to the Shepherds’ Fields (located in Beit Sahour) and to Bethlehem. Descending down into a cave, we enjoyed learning about the role of shepherds in ancient days. Perhaps Jesus was born in a cave like this Himself. We read from Luke 2 and Galatians 4:4 (“Just at the right time God sent His Son…”). We also sang a few carols in the cave as well as in the chapel. We also drove into Bethlehem to an love wood factory and store. It was incredible to see how they work with olive wood.
We drove back to the hotel for dinner. Some in the group went to Ben Yehuda Street for some shopping and a taste of the modern part of the city.