In the words of Ruti, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem. Lift up your voice & sing!”
“Shabbat Shalom” from Jerusalem!
Today is Friday which marks our second Sabbath in the Holy Land! We’re veritable experts now.
Today was anything but a day of rest, though. Ruti had half of our group up at the crack of dawn to visit the Wailing Wall (fortunately we bloggirls were in the alphabetical group that didn’t leave until 8:45 a.m.) and we were off with a vengeance to visit the City of Jerusalem. As Ruti said, “Turing wit me es like turing from sunrise to sunset…or until jour soul leafs your body.”
We started out by picking up our group and our fearless leader, who has a new wardrobe addition…a whistle. That’s right folks, a gym coach-type whistle, which she blew directly into the microphone on the bus to demonstrate how she would call when she needed us to come running from one gift shop to the next. Apparently yelling “TEX-ASS” just isn’t enough.
Our first stop was King David’s tomb, which isn’t really King David’s tomb. It is just a representation…kinda like Nazareth Village was just a representation of Jesus’ hometown. Two years ago, the “Penguins” (Ruti’s incredibly PC term for Orthodox Jews in traditional dress of white tops, black pants, and long black coats) took over the site, which apparently moves around quite a bit. Because it is now under Orthodox holdings and considered a hallowed site, men and women use separate entrances, each view half of the “tomb,” and “holy wear” is required. For those of you who aren’t in the know, “holy wear” means that women must have arms and legs fully covered (Shawls provided for the tawdry lasses who dare to bare their arms) and men are required to wear yamikas (also provided for the Gentile Boys).
The “tomb” (that wasn’t) was nothing more than a big rock with a purple velvet blanket tossed over it. We basically got to see half of something that is not anything. The guys said their half wasn’t much better, but we’ve included a picture below of the girls’ half for posterity’s sake.
We also discussed the Star of David, Israel’s national symbol for the past 300 years. It just so happens that this isn’t really David’s star. In fact, it wasn’t even invented until many hundreds of years after his death. Ruti thinks the truest representation of Israel would be something symbolizing the country’s solidarity…we think something symbolizing a gift shop would be very fitting too! Maybe an incorporation of the Israeli National Animal…the coney!
We next traveled on to Diasphora Yeshma, or the Upper Room, on Mt. Zion, which isn’t really Mount Zion. In 70 AD, Jerusalem was destroyed and the Crusader Church built over the place of the Last Supper was also destroyed. (Interesting note: Jerusalem has been rebuilt 18 times).
This spot is also known as the spot where the Last Supper took place. Only, this isn’t really the site of the Last Supper, but a representation of where the dinner is thought to have taken place. Ruti said the actual Passover dinner didn’t look anything like how old Leo DeVinci painted it either… “What? Do jew tink the dee-sigh-pulls got two-gedder and sayed, ‘Let’s pose for a picture?’ I don’t tink so TEX-ASS!”
Since we were running a little late this morning (the bus was leaving at 8:30 and we arrived at 8:35) we had to grab breakfast on the go. Nancy Jane had one cup of coffee and Lincee had a Special K bar. Just as we entered the 500-year-old Jewish Quarter, Ruti spotted a Muslim bakery, grabbed six pita pizzas without paying and began handing them out to our group. It was a welcome treat since we were starving. The Muslims didn’t seem to mind. We think they were afraid of Ruti. Who isn’t? In fact, all food vendors seemed anxious when Ruti’s voice or brightly colored flowery umbrella was in the near vicinity. Not only did she steal pizzas, but she scored a handful of peanuts and a falafel, promising each shop that we would be back to visit them for lunch.
Our group split up again and the bloggirls went to the Wohl Archeological Museum which is ten feet below modern day Jewish Quarter. Stepping into this museum transports the visitor back 2,000 years to the Herodian period where the city looks exactly like it did in Jesus’ time. This is the real deal folks! The highlight of the visit to the museum was the opportunity to enjoy the High Priest’s “home” which was a 60 room palace. Ruti took us through the living room where Christ was questioned by the High Priest after His arrest on Passover and the open courtyard where Peter denied Christ three times. It was the first time we both felt truly in awe to be standing where Christ walked and the fact that we are in Israel slowly began to sink in.
We stepped out the door of the Museum and heard the voice of Ruti, “On the double TEX-ASS! Get over here!” She wanted us to see the huge golden menorah that will eventually be used when the third temple is built, according to Ruti and our guides.
Our next stop was the Temple Institute—a non-profit organization that exists to raise money, awareness and promotes scholarship of the world’s role in building the third temple.
Interesting note: The third temple can not be built until the Arab mosque (which has been on the site of the holy of holies since the fifth century) is “removed”. That’s a euphemism for “destroyed,” folks.
Inside the Institute, our guides Gabriella and Rabbi Glick showed us many of the “vessels” that have already been crafted for use in the third temple. These included: the big gold menorah we have already seen outside, the altar used for sacrifice, oil lamps fashioned out of pure silver and High Priest robes on a creepy looking mannequin that we are pretty certain was female. Gabriella, whose personality can best be described as that of wet paper bag, was informative and full of interesting facts about the temple. Even with a little over five hours sleep, our most yet, it was a struggle to stay awake while she imparted her extensive knowledge of ethical ways to kill animals for sacrifice, Titus and his thieving of the temple goods, the Levite musicians and how incense was burned in the temple because it engaged the sense of smell—the most holy sense because it the least physical. We forced ourselves to take a seat on the front row in hopes to prevent falling sleep.
Our tour of the Temple Institute concluded with a spiel by Rabbi Glick about how important it is for people of all faiths to donate money so the temple can be rebuilt. In keeping with national tradition, he answered his cell phone in the middle of his presentation, and after hanging up commented that he ALWAYS answers his phone—at any day or hour—because it could be someone calling to give him permission to begin rebuilding. “You all would have to help me carry the vessels out of here!” If you are interested in this non-profit, their website is: www.templeinstitute.org.
No visit to Israel would be complete without visiting the site where our Lord was born. The only catch is that Bethlehem is smack dab in the middle of Palestinian territory, the West Bank (keep reading moms…it’s okay.) Because she is Israeli, Ruti was not allowed to accompany us to the other side, and she loved being a martyr about it. “Hussein, on of jour tur gides…he es crasy. A leetle bit. But he’s okay.”
After having pre-conceived notions about what goes on in the West Bank, we were a little concerned about crossing the border without our Ruti or armed guard. But this particular trip was funded by the gift shop we visited the first day in Jerusalem, so we were committed. Despite the fact that we didn’t buy rugs or jewelry.
On our way to the Herodian palace, our b-string and completely sane tour guide Walid, took us past a church (and wait for it folks) where Mary is said to have rested on the way to Bethlehem before Christ’s birth. We arrived at the Herodian palace and Walid asked us to step off the bus, reminding us of the importance of our hats and water. Naturally, we had neither.
The climb was not water worthy. We stopped along the way for pictures, scenery and to read a sign memorializing an Israeli parks and recreation employee who had been murdered there ten years prior by Palestinian terrorists. Oh great. The conspiracy theory has started to come together. This is where they send the bad souvenir shoppers.
What was interesting about this spot is the fact that they’ve done excavation of it and are 80 percent sure this is Herod’s grave. We saw the ritual bath (mique), steam room, synagogue and Bonnie’s underwear. The high winds coupled with her choice of wardrobe (skirt) equaled something that EVERYONE at the Herodian Palace was observing. It took a team effort for our group to assist Bonnie in tying her skirt between her legs. Good times and fun memories.
After we corrected the wardrobe malfunction, we headed to Shepherd’s Field where it is hypothesized the shepherds saw the star over Bethlehem when Christ was born. We sang, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” in a cave that is thought to be where the shepherds tended their flocks at night. There were plastic stars and little white twinkle lights hanging all around. This reminded Nancy Jane of Pi Phi pref night at Ole Miss.
Our group was lead to a meeting area high on top of Shepherd’s Field where Pastor Dave offered one of his most beautiful devotionals of the trip. He delivered a message on Psalm 23 that was quite unlike what we’ve ever heard. He focused on verse two, “He MAKES (emphasis added) me lie down in green pastures.” Our head honcho alluded to the fact that sometimes when we are not following God’s way for us and life become too busy and we are not resting in the knowledge or peace of Christ, He MAKES us lie down. When sheep wandered off the path one too many times, the shepherd was forced to break the sheep’s leg and then carry him during the journey. Once healed, the sheep was allowed to walk and always stayed close to the shepherd. When we stray from the path, we are corrected and inevitably brought closer and learn to rest in The Great Shepherd.
Being a holy day, we had to race across the border to get to our Shabbat dinner, thwarted only by the threat of arrest since some of our group chose to take pictures at the gate, surrounded by armed guards and miles and miles of barbed wire. We were able to cross and after a horrible dinner of nothing that could be mechanically cooked or warmed (rules of Shabbat) we took comfort in lukewarm Macabee beer in the hotel bar.
We finished out our evening with a rousing game of “Two Lies/One Truth.” We can’t elaborate on what was exposed among our group. What happens in Jerusalem stays in Jerusalem.
We would have posted this blog earlier, however, everything in this hotel is governed by a Shabbat clock. We found ourselves blogging at midnight when all the lights suddenly went out. At first, we thought we had blown a fuse, but realized by the simple flip of a Shabbat switch, we could turn our room from Shabbat-worthy to unclean (aka: we turned the Shabbat clock off.)
We’d like to end this blog with a blessing that Rabbi Glick gave to us as we left the Temple Institute:
“From the City of Jerusalem, God’s holy chosen city, I wish you light to accompany you in every step of your life. A candle, a flame or spark, may you impart this light to your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, turning this world into a better place to live. God bless you.”