From the Mount of Olives and across the Kidron

After a lighter walking day yesterday, we started at the Mount of Olives with the goal of walking across the Kidron Valley, up to the City of David, through Hzekiah’s tunnel, and then Back up to the Dung Gate, back across the Old City and out the Jaffa Gate to meet the bus.

The day begin with a local vendor getting on our bus and probably making his profit for the month. My students were were scarfing up his wears, pun unintended; we bought probably 45 scarves from the man. And by “we” I don’t mean “me”.

IMG_1951.JPGThe drop off point for the Mount of Olives walk was (as usual) crowded with tourists and vendors hawking their wares. Several people in our group decided to ride a camel, so we watched them trot around the parking lot a bit before we were able to take our group down to the railing and have a group photo (including a particularly persistent beggar) and a time of teaching. By this time we’ve been to the southern wall excavations and seen several models of the city of Jerusalem so the students were asking good questions about locations of various things we were seeing.

We walked down to Dominus Flevit, a church about halfway down the Mount where (traditionally) Jesus wept over Jerusalem before the Temple action (Luke 20:41-44). The site was more crowded than previous trips (several large Indian groups), but we managed to get a location to look over the valley and discuss the Triumphal Entry and Jewish Messianic expectations in the first century.

From there we visited the Church of all Nations, the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane. This is another site which is usually crowded, and today was no exception. After a quick look at the olive trees many of the students went into the church to see the Agony Stone, the traditional place where Jesus wept on the night he was betrayed. We read Luke 22:39-46 (Jesus’s prayer) and 22:47-53 (the arrest). This gave us a chance to discuss the meaning of Jesus’s prayer asking God to “take this cup” from him.

Something I added to the tour last time was a walk through the Kidron Valley. This involves crossing the busy street and entering the walking path on the other side of the street. The parks service has cleaned this area up considerably in recent years and there are free toilets (not the cleanest in Jerusalem but good enough!) Walking down into the valley, we saw the so-called Tomb of Absalom and the Tomb of Pharaoh’s Daughter, none of which had anything to do with those people. They are impressive Hellenistic tombs, but dating to no more than 150 B.C. One of the locals has built a Bedouin tent here, and had a camel in a pen. Strangely he was not selling anything nor was he interested in talking.

There is a promenade on the west side of the Kidron which makes for an easier walk (I did stop halfway to explain the view and catch my breath). The walk ends at the south east corner of the Temple Mount, near the Southern Temple archaeology park, offering a unique view of that end of the southern Wall. It is just a short walk from there to the City of David. It looks like there are quite a few things being renovated in this site, mostly some walkways around the Stepped Structure and administration building. We could only look down on these things from the overlook.

IMG_1976.JPGWhat most people want to see at the City of David is Hezekiah’s Tunnel. This is the water system built by Hezekiah according to 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:30. After a short walk down through tunnels to the Canaanite spring, there is a split in the Tunnel between the “wet” tunnel and the “dry” Canaanite tunnel. The wet tunnel has water flowing over the knees, and is completely dark. This is the first trip I have led where the majority took the wet tunnel. I, however, took the safer route through the dry tunnel (fear of chaffing drives many of my decisions).

The dry Canaanite tunnel exits near the Jebusite walls, and the park has re-configured the walk further down the hill to the pool of Siloam. We no longer exit the park and walk along the street (which is busy and potentially dangerous). There are now a series of wooden walkways within the park and partially through a private neighborhood. This is much more convenient and it appears the site is developing additional viewpoints along the way.

The pool of Siloam is mentioned in connection with Jesus healing a blind man (John 9:7). In the first century it may have functioned as a public mikveh for pilgrims arriving at Jerusalem from the south. Since the pool was discovered more than ten years ago, additional work has been done to expose steps which appear to lead all the way up to Wilson’s Arch. Although the presentation of these recent discoveries is clear, it is a damp smelly place.

We had a bit of a scare when one of the students did not get on the shuttle back to the Dung Gate, but eventually we found her. This did allow most of the students to enjoy some ice cream in the shade (I had neither ice cream or shade). After our scare I took the students to the Cardo, the remnants of the Byzantine Roman Road through Jerusalem, and to the remnants of Hezekiah’s Wall on our walk back to the Jaffa Gate.

I planned to return to the hotel early enough to allow the students some time in the swimming pool. They seem to have appreciated this a great deal after three days of serious walking in and around the Old City.

As I finish up this post, I can hear music from a children’s concert as people are beginning to celebrate Shabbat.

We leave Jerusalem tomorrow morning and head north to Caesarea and our hotel on the Sea of Galilee.

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