It was a very cold and fridged day in Jerusalem. We started off by traveling to a Jewish cemetery that overlooks the old city of Jerusalem. With the sun just rising, the city sparkled and shined with splendor. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have seen in my brief lifetime of traveling. While standing in this cemetery on the Mount of Olives, we could see the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock, the City of David, the Golden Gates, the Garden of Gethsemane, and much more. There is a beautiful thing about this cemetery, it was built on the hill overlooking the Golden Gate and the Temple Mount. The Golden Gate is the place where the Messiah and the resurrected people will enter through into the city of Jerusalem and make their way to the Temple to establish the Messianic Kingdom. These people who are buried in this cemetery have front row seats to the resurrection and the establishing of God’s eternal kingdom on earth.
We then headed down from the top of the Mount of Olives into the Garden of Gethsemane. We were privileged enough to be allowed into the Romitaggio del Getsemani, which is a private part of the garden that no one is allowed into. While standing in the garden, I could see all the places in which Jesus would spend his last few hours on earth, and at this moment, I was standing in the place where it all began. It was in this garden that he was crushed in spirit over what was about to come. It was here that Jesus prayed so heard he began to sweat blood. It was here that he gathered his half drunken crew to pray with him. And it was here that one of his close friends betrayed him with a kiss. As Jesus prepared for his final hours, I look at the location in which I am standing and in which he was praying.
As Jesus prepared for his final hours, I look at the location in which I am standing and in which he was praying. In front of me is the beautiful city of Jerusalem in all of its glory. Behind me is the Judean desert, where if Jesus wanted to escape would have been the perfect place to run. He could’ve hidden in the countryside for years and would’ve never been found. However, Jesus stays and he prays, and he prays, and he prays until it’s time for the Son of Man to be handed over. When that time comes, Jesus willingly submits to the Will of his Father, and he begins the suffering that saves you and me.
Next to the garden is the Church of All Nations, which was built in 1924. Every dome on the church was donated by a different nation to signify solidarity. The altar of the Church contains a large stone that is traditionally where Jesus laid and prayed during this night in the garden. This place was truly a place that was filled with prayer, and so I went and sat beside the bedrock and I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed as Jesus had on that dark but beautiful night.
We then traveled across the street to the Davidson Archaeological Park where the old city and the Temple Mount has been excavated. As we stood on what was the original street in Jesus’ day, I looked up at the top of the never ending temple wall. It really put into perspective how massive this Temple was in the time of Jesus. Along the street, there were shops that would’ve been used for mikvehs (Jewish ritual cleansings) and the selling of animals for sacrifices. There was also a pile of stone that was left from the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 due to the Jewish Revolt.
We then worked our way over to the staircase of the Hulda Gate. This was the main staircase used to enter into the Temple. It would’ve been up these steps that Jews walked up to offer animal sacrifices. It would’ve been at the top of these stairs that there were moneychangers. Jesus would’ve walked up these stairs and with whip in hand driven out the money changers. I do not take lightly the place where I am visiting. I am literally walking in the footsteps of Jesus.
After leaving this site, we went through security to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, also known as the Wailing Wall to those outside of the Jewish Community. The Western Wall is where Jews go to pray and be near where the Temple used to stand. Jews for the longest time (and still today) are not allowed on the Temple Mount for various reasons (breaks Torah law and it’s controlled by Islam). So they began to pray at the Western Wall. Since it’s considered an Orthodox Synagogue, we had to put on kippahs (yamaka) as we entered this sacred space. Like the many Jews that accompanied us, we stood there at the Western Wall and we began to pray to YHWH. This too was a place filled with prayer; prayers of morning, prayers of rejoicing, prayers for God to come and restore what was.
We ended our day with going to the Israeli Holocaust Museum, Yad-Vashem. The name stands for, “A name and a place.” The Holocaust is always a difficult period to stomach for me. To see the devastation that ideologies can leave in their wake for the sake of progress; that because certain people are born into a certain ethnicity are treated as less. These people who were supposed to be “God’s elect people.” They were decimated for no other reason than being born to Jewish parents.
The structure itself is quite an interesting design. It is a triangular cement building that is not particularly long, which you would think that this building would be immensely long to remember all the Jews who were lost in this horrific time period. However, they make the building short for a specific reason: the journey looks short and easy with the light at the end of the tunnel only a few hundred feet away. However, as you begin to walk through you begin to zig-zag and become disoriented with where you are. As you being to read the information and look at the artifacts, you get lost as you look for the way forward. While the beginning of the end looked easy, it was a long and disorienting journey to make it. This design symbolized struggle the Jewish people went through in this short amount of time in human history; however, it has had a profound and longing effect on us.
The hardest part of Yad-Vashem was the memorial dedicated to the children murdered during the Holocaust. It was a dark room that used lights and the Gabriel’s Horn mirror effect to represent the millions of children who needlessly lost their lives. While in this dark room there were voices reading of the names, age, and origin of these murdered children. At the end, we all gathered together as a group and we all said the name, age, and place of origin of one person we heard.
The Holocaust really reminds us of the importance of the Imago Dei, that we are all created in the image of God. While we may not be able to agree on everything, this is the one foundation as Christians we must hold fast too. May God grant you the eyes to see his creation as he does.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you!