We began this morning in Jerusalem at the Jaffa Gate for a walk around the ramparts of the Old City. I have done this walk before, but there were two big differences from the 2009 trip. First, it was quite cool, cloudy and very windy. It was not unpleasant, but it was sometimes difficult to keep your hat on, and our ladies were all wearing skirts for the churches. Second, the last tour did the rampart walk on the first day, so everyone was still wild-eyed about being in Jerusalem. This is now our tenth day together, and we have already done a great deal of walking. The result is that we were able to get t the Damascus Gate in about an hour. A few people bought some bread, I would have liked a few more people to try Jerusalem bread and hyssop.
We went down to the Roman Damascus gate, but a great deal of the wall was covered in scaffolding. Still, we went up the narrow stairs and finished the rampart walk. As a side note, the ticket taker at the Damascus gate is serious about his post. There is a little museum there, and if you do not have a ticked, he does not want you to take photos or even look at the place. He followed us to the stairs to make sure no one broke the rules.
On the second leg of the Rampart walk you get a good view of the Garden Tomb and Gorden’s Calvary. I was able to answer many of the common questions people have about the two burial sites for Jesus, the Garden Tomb and the Holy Sepulcher. The Garden Tomb is as likely a spot as the Sepulcher, but does not have the ancient witnesses. Still, there is something deep within my evangelical, Protestant heart that prefers the Garden Tomb. I look forward to our time of worship and communion there on Friday.
Since we made good time on the Rampart, we got to the Lion Gate just before eleven am. We visited St. Anne’s church, a lovely Romanesque church built in honor of the virgin Mary’s mother. When we came in to the garden, I saw the priest who greeted us in 2005. He is just about the friendliest man in the world, taking the time to greet us and ask where we were from, etc. He even looked and pictures of the Tweist’s children. He told me he has been there for eleven years, always greeting the guests to St. Anne’s. He also told me that in the first four months they had over 150,000 visitors! It was a bit crowded, several very large groups were in the church when we went in. We listened to several groups sing and then we had our chance, Ryan led us in the doxology and Amazing Grace. It was very beautiful to hear the echoing of our voices through the church.
We still had some time to look at the pool at Bethesda. I read from John 5 and commented on the archaeology we were seeing at that moment. There is a Roman pool, dedicated to their god of healing and a mikveh to provide ritual cleanliness for Jews. Jesus presents himself as an alternative to both, healing the man directly.
After the pool of Bethesda we had lunch at the Pizzaria Basti, near the third station of the cross. The meal was good and fairly priced, thirty shekels for pizza (or shwarma, falafel, or kabob). I particularly enjoyed the Turkish coffee.
After lunch we visited the Western Wall plaza. There was quite a crowd since there were a few bar-mitzvah parties going on, but it was great for everyone to see the traditional readings and here the young men reading the Torah. We even had a proud father share sweets with us.
We then had an adventure in the Arab markets, several purchases were made, the cultural experience is always good. Despite what you may hear, I was never lost in the maze of shops, I merely took the scenic route.