THURSDAY, 14 June JERUSALEM
The alarm clock started at 3.30am. We are very close to the temple mount and so can clearly hear he loud speakers starting up with the daily Quran reading prior to Dawn prayers. Lucky us. Convents have no air-conditioning, so you don't want to close the double-glazed windows to keep out the noise. Our fan is broken.
An early start to go to the western wall tunnel. We had breaky at 6 am, and the quality of the light was beautiful (took some photos across our view of the old city). We have excellent views from here. It is so central to things. Mornings and evenings are delightfully cool.
For this trip and the following one to the temple mount we needed to make certain we were dressed modestly - no knees or shoulders showing.
It's very moving, women praying there because the archaeologists have found a gate that is closer than the Western Wall to the presumed location of the Holy of Holies, therefore it is considered as close as they can get to God. It feels terrible to intrude on them, although very interesting archaeology. Its amazing that the ground level has risen so much, although with the history of destruction makes it logical.
We went up to the temple mount. You are not permitted to take bibles or religious materials as they have had difficulties with Christians going up there to pray for the mosques to be destroyed. Jews (orthodox ones anyway) are not permitted to go up there as they may inadvertently step on the place where God lives. The mosque is built in an octagon, which was an early Christian style. Apparently when they first built churches, rather than meeting in homes, they added up the letters of ιχθυς (fish) and it came to 888. Hence an octagon was the shape they preferred. we had great views over the city and to the mount of olives. As I walked around I looked for really big paving stones that looked weathered, because those are more likely to be left over from the Herodian Temple. Who knows that I might not have stepped in the footsteps of Jesus? He was at the temple, after all!
We walked out past the golden gate. This is the one that the Messiah is supposed to come through. The moslems have closed it and now use it as a room so that the messiah can't come in that way. Of course, we know that he already has come through it.
We then went to the archaeological park at the city of David. They are excavating some houses that were built into the walls of the city. They are tiny, the distance between walls constrained by how far palm branches could hold up a mud and straw roof until it dried. They have also found a stepped stone wall that held up a platform for a bigger house. Maybe David's palace?
They still hope to find things in the archaeological record that might point to David or Solomon. David took over the Jebusite city without conflict, so there is no destruction layer, but there isn't any indication of a change in occupation, either, or the grand structures that Solomon is supposed to have built. Keep digging, guys!
At this location we also entered into the water source tunnels. There is an earlier Jebusite shaft where the women would have lowered jars down into the spring. We saw where the spring gushes out, very dark and difficult to take photos. There is also a small tunnel where they dammed up the spring, and then the water would have risen to a point where it flowed along to a more convenient location. It was narrow, with not much room for feet, but wider where shoulders were - not regular walls by any stretch of the imagination. At various points where there were low spots in the roof, they'd attached cushioning, I thought that would be a great idea for Chris, but there was only one place where I needed to duck. Some of us may go back to do the "wet" tunnel if we have some spare time one afternoon.
We then had a short bus trip to one of the possible sites of the pool of Shilom (Siloam). More rubbish than water at this point, but there were stepped structures round it.
Bus back to town for lunch in the central square area. We had a walk around and found slushies, the remnants of the old wall, and the Roman Cardo. We gathered at the appropriate time only to visit the remnants of the old wall and the Roman Cardo. We then headed for the burnt house, which was really interesting. We had been told we’d have to wait for an English session, so I headed off to use the facilities. Thankfully I told my ‘buddy’ because they headed in while I was away and at least they knew where I was (and so did everyone else!).
The burnt house is an excavation that is now in a building, and they’ve made a multi-media display about the fall of Jerusalem. Incredibly well done, with screens for projection and the filming done on a set resembling the layout of the house and it has reference to the few items discovered there.
The last stop was the Davidson Centre. This leads through to the southern steps of the temple, where they have dug down to the Roman era foundations. It was getting pretty hard to keep going at this point and quite warm - we kept looking for seats in the shade everywhere we went.
Came home for a lie down - very foot sore.
Later we headed out with Greg to a little cooperative where they sell work done by Palestinian women. Lots of tablecloths, various liturgical dress components, bags, etc. Some of it excellent work. Mum really had to think hard about which she’d bring home with her.