Today, we first went to the archaeological park at the base of the south end of the temple platform, where steps have been uncovered that date to the time of Christ. This area constituted probably the main approach to the temple, via the Huldah Gates, and it’s a virtual certainty that Jesus and his apostles walked up and down these steps many times. I read from and commented on passages from the “Songs of Ascent” (Psalms 121-134), as well as reading and discussing Psalms 15 and 24 and their requirements for entrance into the mountain of the Lord, all of which was illuminated beautifully (at least for me!) as we sat there on the steps of the ancient temple with a commanding view of the hills around us and of the wadi leading down to the Dead Sea directly ahead of us.
Coming at this time of the year has its drawbacks. Notably, it’s quite hot. But we have had very small crowds thus far, and, today, we had the archaeological park entirely to ourselves. I’ve never been there with so few people, and it was wonderful.
Then Hezekiah’s Tunnel to the Pool of Siloam, and from there through the Israeli security wall (or, as the Palestinians often call it, “the apartheid wall”) to Bethlehem. We took our group to a Christian Palestinian olive wood shop called Tabash (one that I’ve never been to before) and then we had lunch at The Tent Restaurant, overlooking the Shepherds’ Fields. From there, we went to the Franciscan site for the fields, where — since nobody was there — we got to meet in a nice, cool cave.
Then we went to Justinian’s sixth-century Church of the Nativity. Again, very little crowding. (When we were here around 1 May, we had to actually give up on the idea of going into the Church’s grotto. But not this time.) I also discussed, briefly, St. Jerome’s sojourn in the caves beneath the Church, where he translated the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament into Latin, thus creating the Biblia Vulgata or Vulgate Bible, which served as the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church for about 1500 years.
Back through the wall to the Israel Museum, near the Knesset, where we looked at the Museum’s huge and magnificent open-air model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period, which is an unparalleled teaching tool, and went through the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are preserved and displayed.
Sorry for the bare bones travelogue character of this and other evening entries, but long, hot days, coupled with jet lag, make me lucky to get even this much down. I made a vow, though, and I’m keeping it.
Posted from Jerusalem, Israel.