Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Israel 2016, Day 3

Yesterday, I walked the perimeter of the Old City, starting on "The Ramparts". The Ramparts are the tops of the walls used to defend the city from attackers. Jerusalem sits strategically high on a hill making it difficult to attack. The tall, thick walls made it nearly impervious to being invaded. The only way to defeat a city like Jerusalem was to lay siege to it, cut it off from food and water and wait it out. 

You can still walk most of the Ramparts, getting a good look at the ancient city inside the walls as well as the modern city outside.

Starting at the Jaffa Gate, it's a climb to get to the tops of the walls.

But the view is rewarding. This looks back toward the Temple Mount.

Simply turning in the opposite direction, though, reveals the startling contrast between the iconic ancient city within the walls and the modern cosmopolitan city outside.

The walkway can be narrow at times but each section of the wall bears the evidence of centuries of improvements and craftsmanship. 

Above each gate is an alcove used to fortify defenses of that gate in the event of an attack. 

Some of the alcoves offer spectacular views into the city as well.

I had to come down at Herod's Gate but continued to walk the perimeter. Just prior to descending, I got a glimpse of what the British claim to be Golgotha. Immediately to the left is the Garden Tomb site which is managed by the Brits as well. They present some compelling evidence that this is the site where Jesus was crucified and buried. 

Many of the traditional Christian sites outside the walls have been developed and marginalized by religions unsympathetic to Christianity. This one, if it is actually Golgotha, has an Arab cemetery on top, a bus station below and a popular hotel out front, all preventing further examination and excavation of the site. Additionally, some sites like this one are disputed as to their authenticity. For instance, many think the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the actual site of the Tomb.

Most of the gates are strategically placed to make them easy to defend. This is the Lion's Gate, the only functioning gate on the eastern side of the Temple mount. 

There is another gate on the eastern side, this is the Eastern Gate or what was known as the Golden Gate. It is the gate tradition tells us through which the Messiah will enter. It was closed by the Ottomans and a graveyard placed in front of it in hopes that the Messiah would not be willing to walk over the graves of the dead thus being prevented from entering the city.

Moving down through the Kidron Valley, not much of a valley this close to the Temple Mount, the road passes in front of the Garden of Gethsemane. An ornate chapel has been built over the rock that where Jesus prayed. The olive grove is to the immediate left of the chapel. Some of the trees in the olive grove are over two thousand years old. They were there when Jesus was taken prisoner.

Just above the Garden, on the Mount of Olives, is the Chapel of the Ascension, said to be the spot where Jesus Ascended into heaven. 

The Kidron Valley begins to widen below the temple. Immediately to the East of the Temple Mount are a series of Jewish cemeteries and the tombs of some historic figures.

Here's Absalom's tomb. Absalom tried to wrest the kingdom away from David (2 Sam 16-19). The man supervising the site said, "Not a very good son!"

  Here is Zechariah's tomb, right next to Absalom's.

All this is at the base of the Mount of Olives, a large part of which is now occupied by Jewish grave sites.

This is the Kidron Valley as it opens up to the South of the Temple Mount. 

Coming around the southern end of the Temple Mount, the El Aqsa Mosque, a most revered site for the Muslims, can be viewed from street level.

The area just below the walls is where Solomon built an elaborate network of rooms and towers.

Immediately opposite and to the South of the Old City and the Mount, is the City of David, where David's palace was located. 

Inside the site, are a number of ruins. This was a multi-story townhouse once owned by an influential and wealthy member of the community. 

There's a toilet seat next to the townhouse, pretty rudimentary for us but quite advanced in David's time. It is evidence of a highly developed water system in the City of David. 

The city was advanced and sophisticated and almost as easily defended as Jerusalem. 

Looking back on the Temple Mount from the Dung Gate, near the entrance to the Western Wall. 

I'll have more info and photos of these locations as the trip progresses. I met Dr. Grisanti, our guide and teacher, this morning. I'll meet the rest of the group this afternoon at orientation. Later this evening we'll travel to the Western Wall and take a tour of a few sites nearby. 

Tomorrow, the study begins!

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