Via Dolorosa & the Pool of Bethesda

Once we left the Mount of Olives, we walked up through the Lion’s Gate (also called St. Stephen’s Gate, where some think he was martyred), and traveled the Via Dolorosa. Near the beginning of the way, we stopped at the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a paralytic man. Apparently, the Pool of Bethesda consisted of two large pools, and built on top in the middle was a Crusader church.

Pool of Bethesda

Pool of Bethesda

Next to this site was the Church of St. Anne, renowned for its acoustic qualities. We entered this quiet church, sat down, and sang “Holy, Holy, Holy,” listening to the echoing through the chamber–very beautiful.

The Via Dolorosa  is supposedly the path that Jesus walked while on trial to His crucifixion. This particular “way” is probably not the real path, but has become famous and has been walked by many who want to worship Christ. It ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

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Mount of Olives

Bright and early Tuesday morning we set off from our hostel in the Old City. As near as I can tell from the map, we went out of the western Jaffa Gate, around the Old City, and to the eastern side of the Old City to the Mount of Olives. We stopped at a Necropolis, to see how the Jewish people were buried. There are thousands of sarcophagus boxes on the side of the Mount of Olives, as many Jews want to be near where the Messiah returns.

Jewish Sarcophagi

Jewish Sarcophagi

Mount of Olives Sarcophagi

Mount of Olives Sarcophagi

We then traveled down the mountain to the Garden of Gethsemane. This is a beautiful garden of olive trees, planted around 1000 AD by the Crusaders. I am reminded when Jesus agonized over his coming crucifixion in this quiet place.

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

Continuing down the mountain, we could look over the Kidron Valley to the Eastern Gate, through which Christ will enter into the Old City of Jerusalem some day in the future!

Kidron Valley & Eastern Gate

Kidron Valley & Eastern Gate

Tuesday, June 13

The last 2 days of our trip were spent in Jerusalem. There were so many things we did there that I will probably have to break up my comments into separate posts.

Our accommodations for three nights were in the Old City of Jerusalem, at the Lutheran Guest House. The rooms were small, but adequate. The room I shared with another traveler had no air conditioning, so we slept with the window and door opened every night. Of course, Ramadan was in full swing the entire time we were there, so every evening and morning horns were blasting, and people were celebrating until early morning. The horns started at 2:30 a.m. each morning–you can imagine the amount of sleep we got!

Lutheran Guesthouse

The streets of the Old City are narrow, in some cases much too small for cars, and everywhere were steps up or down.

Jerusalem Street

The guest house had a beautiful plaza in the back, overlooking the city. A number of us would spend the late evening hours outside, enjoying the cool air and scenery. It was a wonderful place for spending time in the Word in the morning.

Dome of the Rock

 

Sunday, the 11th, 2nd Half

You realize we did so many things each day that it is hard to keep everything straight. Anyway, we then viewed a large model of 1st century Jerusalem, and were able to get a bird’s eye view of the layout.

Model of Jerusalem

Model of Jerusalem

The highlight of my day was to visit Qumran. Even though we couldn’t literally climb up to the caves (though this is an option for tourists), just being there was exciting. To think that God preserved so many texts from the Old Testament, just to show critiques that His Word is the same yesterday, today and forever, is a wonderful blessing. There are even reports that some New Testament Scriptures were preserved as well.

Qumran Caves

Qumran Caves

Sunday, June 11

We first visited Scythopolis, a first century Roman city, just below the Old Testament city of Beth She’an.  It is located at the junction of three valleys, Jezreel, Jordan and Harod, and was an important crossroads. We spent some time here discussing the various martyrs of the Christian faith, and reflecting on what the future may hold for us as Christians in the last days.  This entire area was destroyed in 741 AD by a huge earthquake.

City of Beth She’an/Scythopolis

We then traveled south on the “Pilgrimage Route,” from Scythopolis by the Jordan River, to Jericho and then up to Jerusalem. The Jewish families were required to travel to Jerusalem three times a year for feast days. It usually took two weeks walking.

My mind must be playing tricks with me, because we visited Jericho twice in our 2 weeks. The first time was on June 5, and the we went there again this day. Anyway, one particular part of the wall is still standing–must be “Rahab’s house”! We also saw “Zaccheus’ tree,” a sycamore tree similar to one he would have climbed.

Jericho - standing wall

Jericho – standing wall

“Zaccheus Tree” in Jericho

 

 

 

Monday June 12

Our first stop for this day was outside Bethlehem at a place called the “Shepherds Fields.” If you want a real name, we visited the Franciscan Monastery, where they feature a small cave that was probably used to house sheep at night. Jesus may have been born in a cave like this. All around this area are fields, and we even saw some sheep in the valley below.

Shepherd’s Cave

We then climbed up to the Herodium, a man-made mountain (by Herod the Great) with a palace on the top close to Jerusalem. In thinking about the places that Jesus was taken during His trial, He would have had to travel quite a bit during that night just to reach these places. as I may have mentioned, everything is up a mountain or down in a valley.

Herodium

During the afternoon, we visited Tel Maresha, a dig site in the Lower Judean hills. We were privileged to spend some time digging in the dirt, trying to find artifacts. Tel Maresha was originally given to Caleb (Joshua 15:44) and Micah the prophet was from here. It is also the site of a Canaanite village from the Intertestamental period, so everything we found would be dated before Christ (and we did find some items). I think we all enjoyed getting “down and dirty” for a little bit.

Les Bruce at Tel Maresha

Saturday, June 10

Saturday morning started early with a rededication baptism in the Sea of Galilea. Throughout the whole tour we were encouraged to listen to what the Lord would have us do with out lives and to submit to His will completely. What a blessed time, even for those who were not baptized!

Bethsaida, meaning “House of Fish,” was Peter and Andrew’s home town. During Jesus’ time, Bethsaida was on the upper shore of the Sea of Galilee, but currently is considerably north or the shoreline. Apparently, the delta from the Jordan River has filled in some of the land, and coupled with numerous years of drought in the land, the city is no longer close to the water.

Bethsaida

Close by Bethsaida is another possible site of the feeding of the 5,000. Shortly after that, Jesus walked (and Peter) on the water of the Sea of Galilee.

Hillside, possible site of the feeding of the 5,000

Next in our tour, we visited Dan, where the Israelites had set up an altar to Jehovah, which later turned into a place idolatrous worship. Dan is also the site of one of the springs that feeds into the Jordan River. It is a delightfully peaceful place, at least by the spring.

Kursi is the place where Jesus cast demons out of a man, and the herd of pigs ran down into the water. There are many caves and tombs in the hillsides, where the demon-controlled man could have lived.

Jesus took his disciples up north to Caesarea Philippi, also called Banias, or Panias. There is a massive cliff city names for the emporer, dedicated to Caesar as well as the goat-god Pan. Herod had built a temple over a cave, which was called “The Gates of Hell.” In this place, Jesus asked his disciples: “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock [that Jesus is God] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:16-18).