Saturated. Overwhelmed. Overstimulated. Sensory overload. 

Just a few adjectives to describe how my mind & heart feel tonight.

The visit to the Temple Mount was dark. Extreme security surrounds the entire area. Although all of Jerusalem is under Israeli control, the Temple Mount is a different animal. Jewish security maintains the peace but, if I understand it correctly, everything else on the mount is controlled by the Muslims. The Mount is a huge site, the equivalent of 11 football fields. A Jew would be allowed up there to pray but for several reasons that is rare.

Although Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Koran, Muslims have assimilated the city and especially the Temple Mount into their religious traditions, thereby making it one of the most important sites for Muslims.

Messiah is supposed to return through the Eastern Gate, so the Muslims have blocked it, bricked it in, to prevent Him from returning. As an additional protective measure, they put a large grave yard outside the Eastern Gate as they know that would make the Messiah unclean. What do you think?  Is all hope lost for the return of the Messiah?

The smallest stone used in constructing the Temple was 2.5 tons. The largest is +\- 600 tons. It’s the 3rd largest stone in the world. At over 44 foot long it is longer than our tour bus. It’s used as a portion of the retaining wall.

The Western Wall is special to Jews because it is the closest place on the Temple Mount they can get to where the Holy of Holies would be.

We visited the Huldah Steps located on the southern side of the Temple area. These steps lead up to the Mount. Every visitor to the Temple would go up these steps as they entered the Temple. From these steps, one has a great view across the Kidron Valley of the Mount of Olives and the Jewish grave yard that lies on the hill below it. It’s likely that as Christ rebuked the Pharisees by calling them “white washed sepulchres” (Matt. 23:27), He was standing on these steps with the sepulchres easily within eyesight.

Sitting at the Southern Steps at the Temple Mount

We visited the Pool of Bethesda (John 5) where Christ healed the man who had been lame for 38 years. We took time to pray for those among us struggling with illnesses. I made sure to pray for many of you at home.

This area is under the control of the Greek Catholic church, an order called the White Brothers. A church sits just a few yards from the ruins of the pools built by the Crusaders. I learned that the churches of the Crusaders didn’t intend folks to preach in their churches. Instead, they were built for chanting. And for echoing. We were told that an echo would last for 7 seconds. So we tried it out! We sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and they weren’t fooling! It was very cool!!

After a visit to the Temple Institute early this morning, we had the rest of the day off. More about that presentation at another time. Make sure I tell you about it some time, though, because it is worth hearing about!

On my freetime, I did some wandering around and only got lost once. (That’s good for me!) I did some shopping, mostly in the Muslim section of the Cardo. Those guys are sharks! I was no match for them! Those guys are shrewd. One guy stopped me and asked if I could come into his shop, to the register, to write an English phrase for him, then he immediately began trying to sell me stuff. He knew English. He was just trying to get me in the shop! It was a lot of fun and totally different from everything else we had seen and done so far on the trip.

I have really enjoyed many of the guides we’ve met at the different exhibits. One young man was 26, born outside of Jerusalem and had served his mandatory time in the military. He recently completed his tour guide education. I asked him about what that entailed. He said it was a two year course that included botany, zoology, archeology, architecture, weather patterns, ancient history, politics and the study of Judaism, Christianity & Islam. Knowing other languages is helpful too. He said that half of those who attempt the class flunk out. Currently there are about 1500 guides in Israel. Jane, our guide has been doing this for 40 years! He gets married in May — to a girl from Lower Merion! They met while she was here studying.

We’ve met tons of Americans who live here now. I met another young man from Miami who is serving in the military. One guide this morning was from Edison, NJ. I bought a painting from a young lady from Baltimore. She suggested we buy honey-roasted cashews from the guy on the next street. She said he used to live across the street from her in Baltimore. As we were standing on a street corner today with our map out, a guy walked out of a shop and in perfect English asked what we were looking for. His hands were full from his shopping, so he handed me a heavy bag and said to follow him  because he was going to that street.  Along the way, we learned that he had lived here for 18 years, was from San Francisco and his name was Dan. When we got to our street, he pointed it out and took his packages back. He said he made it his mission to help people standing on corners looking at maps. Glad we helped him fulfill his mission!

Tomorrow is our last day. It is packed! We will be hitting many of the sites we read about in the events of the last week of Christ’s life — Mt of Olives, Gethsemane, Golgotha, the praetorium and others. I anticipate an emotional day.

I hope to get one more post off while on the bus tomorrow night on the way to Tel Aviv to catch our plane.  If not, I’ll do it when I get home.

So that’s all for now.

Pray for the peace of Israel!

Pastor Tim

P.S. There might be errors in some of my comments, dates or something like that. I’m taking notes on my iPhone or iPad as best I can and it isn’t always best for me to ask questions since I’m part of a group of 38 folks, so bear with me if you see an obvious error!

P.P.S. I just lost my latest “the trip so far” — it got deleted via an erroneous ‘paste’ command that I can’t undo in my notepad. Sorry about that but at this late hour I’ve got no juice left to recreate it!