From there, we went to the Mount of Olives. This is where the Garden of Gethsemane is located; where Jesus went to pray. The sight is mostly restricted as far as access goes but we could see people harvesting the olives and caring for the trees in much the same manner as they did in the day of Jesus. One tree in particular was very old and very large and we were told that it was around 2000 years old, which puts it in the garden at the same time as Jesus. Standing on the Mount, we could see the temple, Old Jerusalem, and the grave of Absalom, which had a tree growing over it. How ironic is that? (2 Samuel 18:9)
Next, we walked up to the wall of the old city of Jerusalem and in particular, the Eastern Gate. According to the book of Nehemiah, there were originally ten gates on the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Today, there are only eight gates and only one of them is closed: the Eastern Gate. The gate was sealed nearly 500 years ago when the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, conquered Jerusalem in 1517. Suleiman learned of the Scripture prophecy that a Jewish Messiah would one day come from the east to deliver the Jewish people so he sealed the gate believing this would prevent him from coming. He then ordered that a muslim cemetery be placed in front of the gate believing no Jewish holy man would defile himself by walking through a cemetery. This gate was built on top of the original gate. No matter where we went, there seemed to be city on top of city. One day, Jesus is going to bust the eastern sky wide open and nothing man can do will prevent it. I also found it interesting that this part of the wall and parts of Jerusalem are under Jordanian occupation. Israel's General Moshe Dayan allowed that as part of the peace settlement after Israel won the war in 1967.
Once we were in the old city of Jerusalem, we went to the Upper Room which really was not the Upper Room in the day of Jesus. This building was built on top of the site believed to be at the approximate location of the Upper Room. Walking down and around the corner, we went into the sarcophagus of King David. It was an interesting room with lots of marble and there were Jewish men there praying and reading. Next came the House of Caiphas. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 10. The actual dungeon that housed prisoners was preserved and actually open to go into. This was a dungeon where prisoners were lowered into or thrown if the guards we having a bad day. We went as a group into the dungeon and a Psalm was read, we prayed and finished by singing two verses of "How Great Thou Art." What a great sound that was reverberating off those solid walls! We walked outside and the original steps to the House of Caiphas were still there. I had the opportunity to speak at that site. What a moving experience!
Next was lunch in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem; another interesting meal. The food was good and I would tell you what it was if I could pronounce it. From there, we walked through the Jewish Quarter and came out of the city at the Damascus Gate which is the gate they led Jesus out of on his way to Golgotha. While the route is probably not the same, we walked from the Damascus Gate to Golgotha or "Skull Place." In looking at the Golgotha site and listening to the guide there, I began to see that most likely Jesus was crucified at the base of the hill; not on top. No one really knows the exact location but the Bible speaks of people walking by and railing at Jesus. That would not have been easy had he been perched on top of a hill. While we were at this location, we did go to the tomb where Jesus was buried and it is empty. We serve a risen Savior! We concluded our day with a communion service near the Garden Tomb. Today was one of our longer days. One of the ladies said we had walked over five miles. While this may not seem like a lot, there was little walking done on level ground. Whew, what a day!
We did take a slight detour (more walking) to see the grave of Oskar Schindler. Although I did not read the book or see the movie, I was told he and his wife were personally responsible for helping to save the lives of 1,200 Jewish people during Hitler's murderous regime. Also, to give you an update, Assher's Dad was up today talking and eating. He passed along his thanks to Avi to get to us for your prayers. We will hopefully see him tomorrow and get another update.
It was a quiet ride to the hotel this evening. Avi publicly announced how proud he was of Dave and Bud. They are real troopers and set the pace. Tomorrow, we go to Yad Vashem, the Israel Museum, Knesset, Pool of Bethesda (I get to speak) and the Temple Mount if possible. Pray for safe travels, pray for Assher's Dad, pray for Assher and Avi that they may be saved. We pray for you. Enjoy your coffee...more to come.
Love you all,