Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Monday, April 30, 2012

Final Jerusalem Overlook Field Trip

Today was our "Overlook Field Trip," when we took the students to various points around Jerusalem where we could get views of the city and its surroundings, helping them gain a better geographic context for the things we will be studying.

First, however, a methodological comment: as I move into my final semester with the Jerusalem Program, each of my field trips is going to be the last time I go to these places and have these experiences.  I am still going to to take group pictures at most, if not all, sites, but I am not going to do the extensive photographing and blogging that I have done up to this point.  This is because I want to enjoy the sites myself and try to experience them more with my own eyes and a little less with a camera.  I also want to have a little more free time in the city and with my family and a little less away from the computer.

Still, I want to have a record of these students, because I anticipate getting close to them as I have my previous two groups.  And I also suspect that some of their families may discover the blog as my earlier groups have: I want to provide them regular insights into what their children and friends are doing.  So please check the links to previous blog posts on each trip to read more of the history and background and to see more detailed pictures.  But count on checking in on this blog regularly to see a picture or two of your loved ones at each of the sites.

So see the posts for the fall and the winter overlook field trips and then look at the pictures of today's outing below:

Nabi Samwil
  • Read Joshua 10:6-14, 1 Kings 3:3-4, and 1 Samuel 3:1, 19-21
  • Sang "Come Listen to a Prophet's Voice" 

Augusta Victoria
  • Talked about all the things that have happened and will happen upon Mount Zion, focusing on the Triumphal Entry and the Second Coming
  • Sang "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" (in honor of Martin Luther), "All Glory, Laud, and Honor," and "All Creatures of Our God and King"

A couple of views from the tower:


Seven Arches Overlook

Mar Elyas, overlooking Bethlehem to the south
  • Read Luke 2:8-16
  • Sang "One in David's Royal City," "Angels We Have Heard on High," and "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks"

Teyelet Overlook (formerly Haas Promenade)

  • Read 22:1-6
  • Sang "Beautiful Zion, Built Above"

It was at this stop that I actually had a pang of sadness, realizing that each of these field trips will not be the third time I do these things and visit these places but rather the last.  As we stood facing the Holy City as we sang "Beautiful Zion," I was struck by what a blessing and wonderful opportunity it has been to be here.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

More Bruce and Vivienne in Jerusalem

Today I spent most of my free day with our friends, taking them to a number of places in and around the Old City, a couple of which were new even to me.  First, I walked down from Center to meet them at Herod's Gate.  We then walked through "Zedekiah's Cave," which is the traditional name of a huge system of artificial caverns that were actually were an extensive quarry.  One tradition holds that it was the quarry that Solomon used in the building of the First Temple.  Another maintained that is was the route for Zedekiah's escape when the city fell to the Babylonians.  The most likely possibility is that its major use was by Herod for his major building projects.


Because Solomon and his temple are important in Masonic legend, this large hall has been used by Freemasons for their ceremonies since the mid nineteenth century

The pool that catches, and spills, "Zedekiah's tears"

We then entered the Old City via the famous Damascus Gate (Sha`ar Shekhem or "Shechem Gate" in Hebrew and Bab al-Amud or "Gate of the Column" in Arabic).  The gate is built on the top of a much earlier Roman gate, some of the arches of which remains.  Indeed, the entire line of the existing Turkish city walls follows the path of the Roman walls, c. A.D. 135 and not the earlier Herodian walls.

Looking across the street from Damascus Gate towards Gordon's Calvary next to the Garden Tomb

Looking at one of the outer arches of the Roman gate below Damascus Gate

Street scene just inside Damascus Gate
We then went onto the roof of the Austrian Hospice, which affords great views of the Old City.

With the Dome of the Rock in the background
With the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and the Holy Sepulchre

Walking along the Via Dolorosa was next

We then took an extensive tour of the Holy Sepulchre, where they received more detail than I will try to relate here!  The only thing that I will add is that we arrived in the rotunda over the tomb during an Armenian service.  There was a wonderful baritone soloist, backed up by an energetic chorus of your men in blue robes.  Bruce and Vivienne (and I!) loved it.

By the Greek altar over Golgotha
In the rotunda, I always tell people to "look up" rather than be overwhelmed by the unfamiliar patterns of worship around the tomb

The Armenian service between the tomb and the Greek Catholicon

The baritone soloist

The Armenian patriarch (he looked like Gandalf the White!)

Bruce and Vivienne in front of Crusader Romanesque and Byzantine columns, showing the different periods of construction, renovation, and change in the Holy Sepulchre
Vivienne in the Chapel of the Invention (Discovery) of the Cross

In connection with our visit to the Holy Sepulchre, we visited the nearby Church of Alexander Nevsky.  This Russian Orthodox Church includes in its lower levels not only the remains of the Roman arch that formed the entrance to the temple of Venus that Hadrian built over the Christian sites in A.D. 135 but also the earlier Herodian "Gate of Judgment," which Jesus may well have walked through on the way to his crucifixion.

Re-used Herodian ashlars in the Hadrianic precinct wall

Part of the Hadrianic Gate

The threshold of the Herodian-era Gate of Judgment is now enclosed in an altar


The sanctuary contains 18 beautiful Passion paintings by Russian artist Nikolay Koshelev (1840-1918)


We had done a lot, and it was just noon!  But that mean it was time for a BIG lunch: shwarma, kebab, and schnitzel plates in the Muristan.

Here's a close-up of the food
We then worked our way through the Jewish Quarter, checking out the Temple Institute, which has made vestments, utensils, and other sacred implements for the hoped-for Third Temple (no photos were allowed inside, however) and then walking around the Hurva Synagogue, where we saw some bar mitzvahs and other celebrations.

We then went to Mount Zion, where we went up to the Cenacle.  Despite the crowds around us, we sat in a corner, where we read about the institution of the sacrament in 1 Corinthians 11 and Mark 14 and then quietly sang, "Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King."  Other plans for that area were not realized: St. Peter's in Gallicantu was closed, having only been open earlier in the day for mass because it was Sunday, and the Oskar Schindler graveyard also being closed.


While we were in the area, we walked down to take some pictures of the Hinnom Valley, which was the biblical Gehenna or Hell, both because it was a dump where trash was burned and because it was also where child sacrifice was practiced in Judah's more dissolute and idolatrous periods.

The last thing we did was visit the Davidson Archaeological Park, which allowed us to explore the areas just below the Temple Mount.  Particularly moving was sitting on the steps below the Huldah Gates, the entrance and exit for pilgrims.  In other words, some of the original steps there would have been the ones that Jesus and the disciples would have walked up and down.

Thinking of the importance of temples to us today, we sat there and sang several hymns about the importance and sanctity of temples.

Remains of Robinson Arch that once stretched from the top of the Temple Mount to a staircase that led to the street below
"There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (Mark 13:2)
Stairs down into a mikveh bath

Sitting on the steps below the double Huldah Gate
Vivienne below the triple gate
The pinnacle, or southeast corner, of the Temple Mount