I’ve been home for ten days now but still need to catch up on the blog. So here’s my entry for the last day of the entire trip. It will be my longest post, and the final one too.
The Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem was so comfortable and appealing that I found it hard to get rolling. Got up at 6 am, but since check-out wasn’t required until 11 I ate breakfast in the dining room and then hung out (free and fast internet in all rooms) to work on the blog. Finally, reluctantly, I packed and checked out but left all three of my bags locked in the Hostel’s secure baggage room. Taking only my cameras I headed out to explore Jerusalem on foot. Here’s what I looked like in the Hostel’s elevator mirror:
I happened to bump into one of the creators of "The Jesus Trail" (Maoz Inon) as I was leaving the Abraham Hostel. I thanked him profusely for the wonderful thing he'd accomplished with the Trail and asked one of his compatriots to snap a shot of us at the entrance to the Hostel.
From 11 am to 1 pm I simply wandered around Jerusalem in a 270 degree loop through the area north and west of the old city. Most of the time I was completely lost and completely happy. The sun was shining, contributing to a very warm and inviting feel on the streets.
Lest you think that Israel and Jerusalem are still living in millenniums gone by, I submit here a couple of photos depicting a bridge for the new light rail transportation system. This bridge can be found all over the net on architectural websites and for good reason. It is entirely supported by one single towering post from which cables then support the bridge itself and thusly the train which passes over it. Gotta tell ya, I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent ruminating on the Biblical history of Israel in these last three weeks, but this astonishingly beautiful and futuristic bridge was also amazing.
With time on my hands since I didn’t need to start out for the airport until 8 pm, I just poked around in various stores looking to buy a gift for my wife. Eventually I found a skirt to match a blouse I’d bought in the old city for Donna about a week earlier and decided my shopping was done. I’d purchased dresses for the granddaughters too, so here’s some shots my son Mark took today (May 30th) of what Donna and the grandkids wound up with:
Asking directions from several different people over the course of the noon hour I finally made my way southerly on Shmuel Hanavi, Kheil Hahandasa, and then Hazahanim streets until I discovered the “New Gate” (built in 1887) through which I entered into the northwest corner of the Old City. I then wormed my way down through the narrow streets of the city to the Jaffa gate and bought a ticket for the Northern Ramparts walk.
The old city of Jerusalem is encompassed by impressive stone walls built by “Suleiman the Magnificent” about 450 years ago. His constructions were often set directly upon the foundation stones which Herod the Great had initially laid during the time of Christ, 1500 years before Suleiman. These walls have seen much battle and bloodshed through the centuries but are currently a tourist attraction well worth the pittance charged ($5) and the time required to walk upon them (maybe 30 - 45 minutes for the southern ramparts and about 45 - 90 for the northern). I’d walked the southern section back on May 10th, so I was eager to do the northern stretch.
I found this north side to be the more enjoyable and rewarding of the two. Beginning at the Jaffa Gate you climb up the stairs to the top of the walls themselves where the following view of David Street just inside the Jaffa Gate immediately presents itself:
In this next shot I’ve walked maybe 150 feet north, climbed up onto the very top of the wall so I could look directly south, and captured a view of the Jaffa Gate (middle left doorway), the western wall of the city (stretching across the middle of the photo to the very center), and then the upper part of the Valley of Hinnom, a.k.a “Gehenna”, (the gentle depression falling away to the right).
The stone pavement of the rampart itself is quite rough, varying in height as much as two inches from stone to stone. One must be careful with virtually each step to keep from tripping. Most of the way there is an iron handrail on the right. On your left, the stone wall is more than six feet tall, although the structure provides frequent “windows” about chest-high which allow terrific views of both the old and new city. Some of these are complete window frames (as in the next photo) while others do not have a lintel on the top. Quite a few times in the next hour I clambered up onto this “window sill” and leaned against its side walls or even stood upon the higher portions to snap photos. The following shot looks straight out at Mt. Scopus.
The wall runs pretty directly northwards for a short distance but then turns almost directly east (and a little northerly) for the great majority of the time. This long walk along the northern and eastern walls provide numerous views of Mt. Scopus and Olivet for fully three quarters of the time you spend upon the ramparts. Consequently, you are constantly overlooking the new city on your left (north) and both the “Christian Quarter” and “Muslim Quarter” on your right.
Sometimes the jarring clash between the ancient and the modern is striking:
But the most awe inspiring and thought provoking section of the ramparts appears as you approach the Northeast corner and then turn south to look down the length of Jerusalem’s eastern wall. Here the Temple Mount can be seen along with the “Golden” (or “Beautiful”) Gate, Mt. Scopus, The Mount of Olives, and the Kidron Valley.
Of course, Jesus regularly passed back and forth between the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount by way of the Kidron Valley (“as was His custom” in Luke 22:39). To do this He may have used either the monumental staircase on the south side of the Temple precincts or He may have used what was then called “The Beautiful Gate” on the east side. Both are readily accessible from Olivet, although the Beautiful Gate would be the closest and easiest approach.
Today, a Muslim gate which is closed and sealed so that none may pass stands on top of the original gate which is buried underground beneath it. In 1969 a Bible student taking photographs of the Muslim’s Golden Gate was quite surprised when the ground caved in and dropped him eight feet into a mass grave directly in front of the gate Jesus used (or possibly an archway supporting a stairway leading to that gate). Here is a photograph he took (including the bones) of the archway above the gate from Jesus’ time.
And then here's my shot of the eastern wall and the Muslim “Golden Gate”. The taller structure on the wall just above the midline of the photo is today’s “Golden Gate” which sits directly on top of the gate from Jesus’ time.
The eastern wall ramparts are walkable all the way up to the north wall of the Temple Mount. For security purposes no one is allowed to walk the ramparts where they actually border the Temple area. So, the tour ends there by descending a flight of stairs adjacent to the “Lion’s Gate” which is also called “St. Stephen’s Gate” through which I exited the city walls right at 2 o’clock.
Then, turning north, I walked a short distance uphill until I found a path leading down into the Kidron valley right at the point where it begins at the foot of Mt. Scopus. Turning south I walked down through the Kidron, all alone, as I had been throughout most of the last six days. It was here in the upper half of the valley that I snapped the “teaser shot” from the posting on Thursday, May 19th, entitled “Idling Overheated Engines”. The following two photos are from the Kidron valley, the second of which was taken from a vantage point perhaps 50 feet up on the Mt. of Olives (those are actually olive trees in the foreground) and looking across the Kidron at the Golden Gate and the Dome of the Rock.
Then, walking back down off the Mt. of Olives, I descended to the very bottom of the valley again and took this shot with Olivet on the left and the southeast corner of the Temple Mount on the right. It’s easy to see from these photos of the Kidron that anyone in Jesus’ time could have walked down from the temple, through either the south or east gates and up onto the mount of Olives in 10 to 20 minutes, even factoring in the fact that the valley was probably 60 feet deeper in Bible times than it is today. Truly awesome to drink in the Biblical significance of this valley while walking or standing in it.
But after an hour in the valley I walked up a long flight of stairs to the SE corner of the Temple walls and then up to the Dung Gate (at 3:30), past the Jaffa Gate and around to the Damascus Gate (at 4:30). So, it took me just exactly 3 hours to walk the entire circumference of the old city beginning and ending at the Jaffa Gate.
Then turning north I walked another mile or two and arrived at the Grand Court Hotel where the tour Group had originally stayed while in Jerusalem. Here I just sat in the lobby for half an hour resting in the glories of air conditioning until 5:30 when I had sufficiently gathered my strength for the 30 minute walk back to the Abraham Hostel.
Taking my bags out of the check room I spent three hours working on photo and video files until the taxi (late) picked me up and we headed out for the Ben Gurion airport. I’d been told that the taxi should get me to the airport by 9:30 but I arrived at 10:10 instead, spent fully two hours in the security checks, and only very BARELY made my flight. Fortunately, the plane was late too, for had it been on time, I would have spent another 24 hours in Israel.
12 hours on the plane to JFK in New York. Two more hours of security checks made me late for my connecting flight too. With at least a tenth of a mile between me and the furthest gate (where my plane waited) they began announcing my name over the loudspeakers and warning that the plane was about to leave. Ergo, was forced to run the entire distance. Finally, two attendants could see me way on down the concourse frantically racing toward the gate so they waited and I boarded the plane exhausted, drenched in sweat, and panting. In fact, I lost a total of eight pounds on the trip and felt like two of them melted off in just that one concourse at JFK. It took five more hours on the plane and 30 minutes waiting for luggage before I was embraced by my wife in Seattle.
Contemplating the last 25 days, I’m reminded of a movie that I’ve loved for 39 years and would probably put in my top ten list. Right at the end of the film, Jeremiah Johnson (for whom the movie is named) meets Bear Claw Chris Lapp for the last time. Jeremiah has been attacked about 40 times by as many Indians in the preceding years and is obviously weary. Bear Claw considers his friend in silence for a while and then says, “You’ve come far, pilgrim.” Jeremiah quietly responds, “Feels like far.” After a bit Bear Claw asks, “Were it worth the trouble?” to which Jeremiah mumbles, “Huh? What trouble?”
To be sure, these last three and a half weeks left me bruised, cramped, footsore, bone weary, and eight pounds lighter. Yep, it feels like I’ve come far. But the things I’ve seen and the thoughts that only this place can provoke were certainly worth more than “the trouble” they cost. Wasn’t any trouble at all, in fact.
So, I'll leave you with one last photo which I took at the foot of Jerusalem's great walls, one of the very last pictures I snapped in the country. This modern stone monument had been carved with the words of Psalm 122, verses 2 and 3 in both Hebrew and English. I am deeply grateful to my God, my family, the Kirkland Church of Christ, Ferrell Jenkins, and the folks with The Jesus Trail, who all graciously contributed to the fulfillment of David's prayer in that Psalm for me personally.
Dear brethren, friends, and strangers, one and all, please read the entirety of that wonderful Psalm, Psalm 122, for it has become my prayer for each of you as well.
Go with God and God will be good.
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