Today was a heavy day. In the morning after Paul Dixon led our devotional, we headed straight back to where we made a stop last night: the Western Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. Yesterday evening, we got to see for the first time ever in Joshua history the rabbinic tunnels that burrow beneath the Western Wall. In the tunnels, we were able to go down to the actual street level of the time of Herod the Great. It was a neat archaeological experience for us all. This morning we went back to the same area and visited the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. On top of second century stone, our tour guide Ronan talked about the history of the place we were standing on. Under our feet, Solomon’s temple, and Herod’s temple were all at one time working facilities. Although at this point in time, the Muslim Dome of the Rock is the building on top of the mountain of Jerusalem, it was beneficial for the group to hear from our Jewish tour guide the politics that surround the Dome of the Rock and to stand in the place closest to where the Holy of Holies existed before the time of Christ. Chilling. (click here to view photos from our day)
For our second stop, we headed outside of Jerusalem to the nearby city of Bethlehem. Once in Bethlehem, we went up to a place called Herodium. Herodium is yet another place of Herod the Great that lends evidence to his opulence and wealth. It is also the site where Herod’s body was found in a sarcophagus. From the top of this mountain fortress, we could overlook the city of Bethlehem and for the hundredth time this trip try and picture the savior of the world in human flesh residing in the physical places we see now in the twenty first century.
After we did a little bit of supporting a Christian-based souvenir store in the downtown part of Bethlehem, the Joshua class and friends headed to our final stop of the day: the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem. At the museum, Ronan walked us around the courtyard half of the museum. He helped set up a broad overview of the effect of the holocaust on humanity and then from there, we toured around the indoor half of the museum, viewing each room and exhibition personally. The content that existed from room to room was overwhelming. For me, I got physically sick with a stomachache and headache from the stories, the photos, the diaries and the interviews from Jews who experienced the holocaust tragedy firsthand. Yad Vashem was an incredible way for our group to deepen our respect for the Jewish people that we interact with everyday here and an amazing way for us to take history to heart in order that it doesn’t “repeat itself” as the famous saying iterates.
In total, our ninth day spent here in the holy land was enriching but weighty. To the family and friends reading, we can’t wait to tell you all about it personally!