In Jerusalem – Holy Land Tour, final days

By tour leader Ingrid Reichard

Jerusalem is the City of the Great King. It has an atmosphere of its own – at times it feels busy, crowded and commercial. At other times  it feels as if it stood out of time, keeping its own history clock, and if you pay attention you will feel that this place is holy. We spent 4 nights in Jerusalem, the details are too many to mention but here are a few.

Our first day was spent in a small circle all around the temple mount. The Dome of the Rock, the pools of Bethesda, the Wailing Wall, the southern temple complex with the beautiful Huldah Gate, the City of David with the challenging Hezekiah tunnel, the pool of Siloam – all (and more) within about a 1.5 km diameter.

Our second day was spent touring modern Jerusalem – we stopped at the Israel Museum and the Shrine of the book, at the Knesset (the Israel equivalent of Parliament Hill in Ottawa), the Holocaust museum, and then we drove a bit out of the city to the Hadassah teaching hospital to admire the Chagall windows and even further, near the place where the ark rested for 3 months (2 Samuel 6:6-12) in the Harari Harp workshop – this stop was a highlight for many.

Our third day focused on the birth and death of Jesus – Bethlehem, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden tomb were our key stops.

We entered the old city through the Dung Gate – a number of times…we will not forget this gate, if only due to its memorable name!

A view of the Mt. of Olives from the south edge of the temple area…on the right is a Jewish cemetery – those hoping for a front row seat to the resurrection which the prophet Ezekiel states will start on this Mountain. To the left are the gold domes of the Church of Mary Magdalene, below and to the left is the Garden of Gethsemane with the stunning Church of the Agony.

Standing on the south side of the Temple Mount, in front of the Huldah gates, on the steps which lead directly from Bethany (which today is called the Town of Lazarus to mark the occasion of his coming back from the dead on this spot). Bethany, of course, was the home of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, and this is where Jesus stayed while in Jerusalem. It is therefore most likely that he would have ascended to the Temple Mount via these Huldah steps.

We got through the security check at the Temple Mount very quickly. We arrived early (before 8 am) and enjoyed the spacious grounds as we considered the history and future of the temples mentioned in the Bible and the shekinah glory which was in all of them in one form of another.

We spent a bit of time praying at the Wailing Wall – the men and women have separate sections. Instead of praying against the wall we formed a little prayer circle as is our habit and prayed for whatever the Lord laid on our hearts.

Walking the Via Dolorosa through Old Jerusalem.

We loved the church of St. Anne which is right beside the pools of Bethesda. This picture really does not do justice to the beauty of this church and the amazing acoustics. We got to sing here and sounded like a choir of a few hundred.

Some of us braved the tunnels in the City of David – some the dry Canaanite tunnel, some Hezekiah’s tunnel which runs for 750 M underground with the water of the Gihon spring running through it. This picture shows those in the wet tunnel in a pretty tight spot!

The Israel Museum has this very helpful model of Jerusalem in the time of Jesus. The Temple complex is in the foreground.

The massive menorah which stands in front of the Knesset. It was gifted to Israel by England and it is intricately carved, depicting various key moments in the history of the nation.

The stunning Chagall Windows, which were donated by Chagall to the Hadassah hospital synagogue. Each of the 12 windows represents the 12 tribes of Israel and depicts the blessings as spoken over them by their father Jacob in Genesis 49.

We all got to play the 22 string harp that is mentioned as used in the ancient temple service – it really was therapeutic and we all made beautiful music.

The silver star marks the manger in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The procession of monks that stopped the progress of our group in order to serve a 10 minute mass service took us right to Christmas – their incense and the singing of O Come Let Us Adore Him in Latin, created a holy moment in the otherwise busy and dare I say unattractive(?) church.

We stopped at a shop in Bethlehem – guess what their specialty is – yes, they sell beautiful nativity scenes carved out of olive wood. This one really caught my eye, but the 4 digit figure was beyond my budget.

The Gethsemane Garden boasts olive trees that are over 1,000 years old.

After a few hours on our own in the old city (many got some great bargains and unusual pieces to bring home) we left the old city behind us, exiting through the beautiful Damascus Gate.

Only a 5 minute walk from the Damascus Gate is the Garden Tomb – a beautiful garden oasis full of colourful flowers, winding pathways, places to sit and contemplate, a wine press, a hill that bears has the image of a skull on its front, and a beautiful tomb, hewn out of the mountain.

We arrived at the garden tomb close to 5pm, closing time. This meant that we had the space all to ourselves, with lots of time to be like Peter and John, stooping into the tomb and seeing the empty spot on the right. The empty tomb is the cornerstone of the Christian faith and hope of our own resurrection and eternal life with Jesus offers to all who chose to place their trust in him.

We had our communion service in the smallest church I’ve ever been in. Worshipping in this cozy space in the garden near the empty tomb is unforgettable.

This blog is being finished while we are waiting to board our plane home. We made it through the airport checkpoints and are looking forward to coming home.

It is difficult to summarize how a pilgrimage to the Holy Land impacts one’s life. It will take us a long time to process all that we have seen and experienced.

We are certainly coming back changed – not only have we acquired knowledge we did not have before, we have more importantly met our great God and Saviour in new places and in new ways. And an encounter with the living God never leaves a person the way they were before. Our prayer is that the transformation of this trip would continue to impact us for the rest of our lives.

To God be the glory.

1 comment
  • 5 years ago, 3:57

    Thanks so much for taking the time to provide even a peek into these two weeks in the Holy Land. I am looking forward to hearing
    deeper insights from Brian as he “unpacks” this journey over the coming days and weeks.

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