By Liz Stoltzfus
Today began a bit earlier than days past. Once we were loaded onto the bus, it was off to Old City Jerusalem. This was our group’s first time going through a checkpoint to leave the city of Bethlehem. Since we are all American, this was not an issue for us. We were told, however, for a Palestinian this would have been much more difficult. Our first stop of the day was the Temple Mount. While many people believe this to be the site of the temple we have all read about in scripture (you know… where Jesus was ‘lost’ as a child to be found later teaching the Rabbis; or where Jesus went and turned over tables… you’ve all read the stories) our very opinionated (and highly knowledgeable of scripture) tour guide begged to differ. He explained to us that scripture says “not a stone will remain” and that stones have remained on the Temple Mount so the Temple must have been elsewhere. He left us to make our decisions on the topic for ourselves. Since we are not Muslim, we were not able to enter Dome of the Rock (which is located on the Temple Mount), but we were able to explore around it. It is a gorgeous picture. Blue, yellow, and white mosaic patterns on all of the external walls, a gold dome- pictures do not do it justice. While we were there, pictures were taken and conversations were had as we all enjoyed a beautiful morning with beautiful scenery in the Holy Land. Visiting this area was a different kind of a first for me, and probably for most others in our group as well, because we had to go through security to enter. It wasn’t going through the security that was new, it was the fact that Bibles were not permitted on the Muslims’ sacred ground. I don’t believe I’ve ever been anywhere where I was not allowed to take my Bible.
The next stop on our journey required going through security again, but this time, Bibles were allowed. After spending our time at the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall) we headed to an archaeological museum. I personally found this fascinating. This site allowed us to see a Herodian street, ruins of buildings, and to spend some time on the South Facing Steps. For most of our group, spending time on the steps held a high significance. These are the steps that would have been home to the money changers. These are the steps that Jesus would have walked many times. These are the steps where Jesus may have talked to many people. These are the same steps we got to spend time on today. We sat where Christ sat.
After going our own ways for lunch and some time to explore the Old City, we loaded the bus once again. This time we were on our way to Sabeel Theological Institute to hear a lecture on Liberation Theology in Israel, and how it relates to the oppression and other troubles going on in Israel between the Jews and Palestinians. In case this sounds boring to anyone reading this, it was actually a very interesting and educational lecture. Over all, I think today can be considered a great day!
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