Alternative Title: No Room inn the Cab.
We started our day by walking through the Moslem cemetery on one side of the city wall to enter the Lions Gate to find the Pool of Bethesda, which is close to the Sheep Gate. The Lions Gate is also known as St. Stephen’s Gate, as they say this is where Stephen was escorted out to be stoned. St. John describes this pool as having five sides and porches, which made it odd considering most pools were rectangular. In the 19th century, though, archaeologists uncovered a pool by the known “Sheep Gate.” (which is now a place for garbage pickup for the old city – gotta do it somewhere – but the “Dung Gate” – next over – seems more appropriate) Anyway, this pool is one very large pool with a wall through the middle, built like miskahs – ceremonial baths. So it is a pool with five sides, one of which runs through the middle for more access to the people using it. This city and the area of this pool has been torn down and rebuilt several times during invasions by people who did not want Jerusalem to stand, so the pool has become deeper over the years, as civilizations have built up the structure around it. The pool of Christ’s time is deep down below several walls now, not like it would have been to Him:
This is the bottom of the pool where Christ healed His patient. It was built around 150 years before Christ came into the scene. You can see where the wall changes from solid to bricks: the solid was the time of Christ, and the bricks and everything above was built afterwards. And this whole story raises issues with my faith and sense of justice, right and wrong, theodicy even. But as our guide has said many times this week, “there is no time for that now.” A later post…
We visited the Church of St. Anna, Anna being revered by many as the mother of the Virgin Mary. As we entered this was what we experienced:
Mark 15. As Christ was suffering through His trials, he met Pontius Pilate, who was the Roman Governor who was in town from Caesarea Maritima to manage crowd control during Passover. Pilate would have been located at the Antonia Fortress, which has been mostly torn down since, with only the floors remaining. This is where the crowds chose Barabbas the criminal over Jesus the Savior. Crowds have been making similar decisions ever since. We stopped in the fortress and prayed while standing on those very flagstone floors:
After the people that He came to save broke His heart by choosing Barabbas over Him, the guards began breaking Him mentally and physically as they walked Him through the streets to Golgotha. This traditionally accepted path is now, and has been for a thousand years or so, known as the Via Dolorosa.
There were crowds of people there then, in Mark Twain’s time, and in modern times, and yesterday. Marco Polo even walked this street to reach the Holy Sepulchre in the 1200’s, according to his journals.
We found our way to the Church that is built on Golgotha. This is, according to many historians, the very building the Crusades were started over. The Muslims were taking over their world by force and violence and Christian nations funded the Crusaders to hold them back; specifically to make sure they did not desecrate this sacred place. People have found other ways to desecrate it though. More on that later. It looks much the same today as when Mr Twain described it:
When Niccolo Polo first met Kublai Khan, before he returned with his son Marco, the Khan requested that Mr. Polo bring back “some of the holy oil from the lamp that is kept burning over the sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ.” For that reason, Marco Polo visited this spot to obtain a sample of the oil for the Khan. Now, as Mr. Twain explained, there are multitudes of lamps, so from which one Sir Polo siphoned some oil for the Khan I can’t say.
Honestly and to my surprise, I wasn’t much stirred by this place, but again, I’ll explain that later.
When we came out of the church we had lunch in the marketplace: the usual choices – falafel or shawarma.
We ate and then people shopped with an agreement to meet at the Church of the Redeemer in 45 minutes. I used this opportunity to go up into the tower of the church for some quiet time with God in His city. Turn your volume up as far as it will go for this:
That’s what I got. As I looked out over the old city of Jerusalem, on Mount Moriah, where Solomon’s Temple stood and the Ark of the Covenant once resided, I saw the Muslim Dome of the Rock and heard the call to prayer for Allah, again.
I submit Zechariah 8:
8 The word of the Lord Almighty came to me.
2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.”
3 This is what the Lord says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.”
4 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. 5 The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”
6 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the Lord Almighty.
7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. 8 I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.”
9 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Now hear these words, ‘Let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.’ This is also what the prophets said who were present when the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord Almighty.10 Before that time there were no wages for people or hire for animals. No one could go about their business safely because of their enemies, since I had turned everyone against their neighbor. 11 But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past,” declares the Lord Almighty.
12 “The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. 13 Just as you, Judah and Israel, have been a curse[a] among the nations, so I will save you, and you will be a blessing.[b]Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.”
14 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Just as I had determined to bring disaster on you and showed no pity when your ancestors angered me,” says the Lord Almighty, 15 “so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah.Do not be afraid. 16 These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; 17 do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.
By the way, I learned yesterday that the little parade we saw in Bethlehem made the news and Israel is on high alert, as that yellow flag was a Jihad flag.
On our way back to the hotel last night, a few of us had dinner at the Notre Dame Center and then stopped at the Israel Museum to view the actual Dead Sea Scrolls. Amazing. No words.
We tried to catch a cab the rest of the way to the hotel but the cabbie insisted on twice the normal fare so we refused and began walking as the nasty smelly man cursed us, America, et cetera. If only I had my camel again…