Today's first stop was the Garden of Gethsemane. This is the place where Jesus prayed and also where Judas betrayed Him and he was arrested. We also learned that the olive trees contained in the garden date back 2500 years and would have been there when Jesus was there. We also learned that olive trees do not die and will live forever unless they are cut down.
Then we went to see The Temple Rock which is also known as Mt. Moriah. This is where Abraham went in obedience to sacrifice the life of Isaac. It is interesting to note that the Muslims believe it was Ishmael who was sacrificed. This is the place where the Temple was originally built in Jerusalem and destroyed and then rebuilt a couple of times. Currently it is the Dome of the Rock which is the third holiest Muslim site in the world. When King Herod expanded the area to cover 41 acres, it also housed his palace and had a house for Caiaphas who is the one who tried Jesus. After Jesus' trial, he was taken down to the Via Dolorasa also known as the Way of Sorrow which is the road where Jesus carried the cross to Calvary. We also saw the western wall also known as the Wailing Wall, which we have seen many times on television. What we didn't know is that it is only a small part of the actual western wall. Most of the western wall now is adjoined by homes making up the Muslim quarter. When the Jews came back to Israel, since they couldn't get rid of the Muslim homes, they tunneled under that area the entire length of the western wall and excavated it. We were once again able to witness the incredible architectural feats of Herod the Great. In a portion of the excavation we were able to see one stone which was part of the foundation which weighed 550 metric tons which is equal to a 747 aircraft fully loaded with passengers and fuel. Needless to say, they used more than one of these stones.
Next we headed to the Pools of Bethesda where Jesus healed the man that had been paralyzed for 38 years. Also on this site is the St. Anne's Church where we held a devotional and sang a few hymns. The acoustics were spectacular. All of these areas in Jerusalem where excavations have been done are similar to the Tels that we had previously talked about. There are different levels that have been constructed one over the other, representing the various civilizations that came to the same area and basically built their structure on top of the previous one. We went down below St. Anne's Church where we were able to see the place where Jesus was tried by Caiaphas which is called "Behold A Man." St. Anne's Church or convent was built in 1850.
Next was another great stop at The Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This church is built over the spots where Jesus was crucified and where he was put in the tomb. It has apparently been confirmed that both of these spots are accurate locations for each event. There is a large gold and silver medallion on a marble floor with a hole in the center and the hole is reportedly the actual hole where the cross of Jesus was placed in the ground. Also in this same area is a stone slab known as the Stone of Anointing or the Stone of Preparation where Jesus' body was apparently laid to be prepared for burial. A short distance away is the apparent actual location of the tomb. The actual tomb was destroyed but there is a reproduction on this site. Also in this same building is a large room that has a dome in the center of the ceiling. Within the dome is a portrait of Jesus. In the four corners around the dome are portraits of the writers of the four gospels. Underneath the dome is a stone marker where the Orthodox Christians believe is the center of the universe. We had very bad weather today, which included snow and sleet for pretty much the entire afternoon. It actually turned out to be a blessing. Because of the weather the crowds at the sites we visited were very light compared to other times. Not only did this reduce our wait times significantly but we were able to see one additional area that our leaders had not been able to get into in the past even though they have been here many, many times.
Altar at the Stone of Agony
Stone of Agony
The Grotto is immediately adjacent to the Garden of Gethsemane and is a relatively a large natural cave which it is believed that Jesus and disciples stayed when they were in Gethsemane to keep them out of the weather. Some believe that this is also where Judas betrayed Jesus.
That's all for today. Tomorrow will still be cold but we are looking forward to seeing more wonderful sights.