For our first full day in Israel we walked around thenOld City and visited some familiar cites, and had a few surprises. It is quite warm this week, highs in the low 90s. Everyone did a good job with hydration, but they were tired campers by the end of the day.
I started the group with Rampart Walk on the north side of the Old City. The Ramparts adage to the 16th century, built by Suliman the Magnificent. This is a chance to talk about the sections of the Old City and get some orientation for the sites we will see later in the tour. There was a bit of a disappointing end, however. I usually take the group off the Ramparts at the Damascus Gate and go through the Hadrian era (post A.D. 135) and finish the walk. But the Hadrian-era gate is closed! The guy at the ticket both neglected to mention that fact. I am not sure who is in charge of the Hadrian gate, but it strikes me a bit dodgy. I would love the National Parks to step in and get the Ramparts improved, including the Hadrian Era Damascus Gate.
Instead of walking around to the Lion’s Gate on the Ramparts, we back-tracked the Via Delarosa to the pool of Bethesda and Saint Anne’s. the place was quite packed, but a large group singing in that church is rather nice. The lower levels were open, which never has been the case when I have visited before. After looking around the church, we went through the excavations at the pools. I stopped in the Roman Cistern to talk about the biblical significance of the pool of Bethesda, more or less to get out of the sun. There was a large group in the spot I usually use for the whole hour we were there.
Coming back along the Via Delarosa, we went into the Church of the Flaggelation, one of the stations of the Cross. This is the traditional site were Jesus was whipped not the way to the cross. I have not been inside this particular site before, and did not actually enter the church, but there are a number of interesting inscriptions and other items found in the church grounds. These are more or less decorative, and there are nor explanations given. Since it was about noon, we did not have much time to explore.
From there we visited Western Wall. this must have been a field trip day for the school. There were a million little kids in matching shirts, following exasperated teachers. Every once in a while they would chant patriotic songs and make noise. The older ones were more interested in the cell phones than the tour. The plaza was very busy, although we were able to find a place at the to pray.
We ate Lunch at the top of the stairs overlooking the plaza. I had what assume is the first of many falafels. Several people had the schwarma, it was big enough that two of the college guys could not finish theirs. (If Ben Stout comes home with half a schwarma in his bag, it is not my fault!)
After lunch we went to the Davidson Museum and the Southern Wall excavations. I always find this site to be one of the best presentations of the city of Jerusalem in the first century. The main part of the site is the same as my last couple of visits, but I was able to walk down to the Ophel sections. These are the most controversial of the excavations, especially with the claim that parts date to the 10th century. Seems to be that the fortifications can be described as “destroyed by Babylon.” I wonder if there will ever be a time that connects the City of David excavations with these at the Southern Walls, probably nor wit the very busy street separating the two, but I suppose it is possible.
We headed back to the hotel about five, Jerusalem traffic is always bad, it was terrible today. We will start the day with communion at the Garden Tomb, then the Christian Quarter in the Old City.