Friday, July 19, 2013
For our final days in Israel, we woke up and got to work in the kitchen at the camp just like we’d done all week. We prepared breakfast for all the campers, and then helped Carma and Tammy do a final clean-up and shut down of the kitchen for the week. We packed all our bags, said our goodbyes to all the great people we worked with that week (which was rough!), loaded up in the bus and headed for Jerusalem where we’d spend our last night and tour our final day. It was after lunchtime before we headed to Jerusalem, which was a good 2 hour drive, but none of us had eaten since breakfast (lunch was just served for the campers). You could tell all of us on the bus were fading, VERY hungry, and just generally not in fantastic moods. So luckily, our tour guide got the sense that we needed to stop for food, and I can promise you a McDonald’s cheeseburger was a taste of heaven in that moment. 😉 So I now have eaten a McDonald’s cheese burger in 3 different countries- USA, Japan and Israel. But I don’t plan to eat there again for a VERY LONG TIME 😛
Once we were revived with food, we were in much better spirits and ready for an afternoon of touring. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, we headed straight for the garden of Gethsemani, where Jesus went to pray the night he was arrested by Roman soldiers, thus leading up to his crucifixion. According to Matthew 26: 39, “Jesus fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'” Here, the disciples were with him keeping watch, but kept falling asleep, and here in the garden is where Judas led the soldiers to Jesus, who then arrested him. This garden sits along the mountainside of a valley, called the Mount of Olives. The whole mountainside is covered in olive trees (much less now than in Jesus’ time, but a lot nonetheless). There now stands a church (that Catholics, I believe) built over the rock that scholars believe could have been the one on which Jesus knelt and prayed.
Right across from the garden of Gethsemani is the Eastern wall of the Temple Mount. Here is where the Golden Gate is located. It is the oldest of the current standing gates of Jerusalem’s Old City, but even so, they were not standing during Jesus’ time. These walls were built during the Second Jewish Temple era on top of the remains of the original wall. According to a vision the Lord sent to the prophet Ezekiel, when Jesus makes his return, He will enter through these eastern gates (Ezekiel 44). However, later in history, a ruler had these gates sealed shut (supposedly to “prevent” the Messiah’s return). Good job, right? If our God can walk on water, raise from the dead, and bring on the plagues and wrath of the end times, I don’t think a gate sealed by man is going to stop Him 😉
Just below the hillside from the Eastern wall are more olive trees and various cemeteries that stretch through the valley and along the hillside of the Mount of Olives. There are actually 3 designated cemeteries on this hillside. One belongs to Christians, one belongs to Muslims and one for Jews. See the little monument structure in the very center of the picture below, with the funnel-shaped top to it? We learned that it is a burial crypt/monument of a former king dating back to before Jesus’ time, meaning Jesus would have seen that very same monument! HOW CRAZY IS THAT!? It’s stuff like that that made Israel so fascinating!
Next we hopped back into the tour bus and wound our way up the mountainside to the top of the Mount of Olives. Here we could look down into the valley and see all of Jerusalem and the old City of David. It was a spectacular view. The roads in Jerusalem were very crowded on this particular weekend because the Muslim observance of Ramadan was just beginning. Ramadan is the most sacred time of the year for Muslim culture. So Muslims from all over the country were streaming into Jerusalem and filling the mosques for prayer and reciting of the Quran. It was an amazing site to see. And during the month of Ramadan, they don’t eat from sunrise to sunset. They only eat and drink at night when the sun goes down. They spent daylight hours fasting and in prayer.
Just as we bring flowers to grave sites, these people bring rocks to lay on the graves. And I believe Andre (our tour guide) told us you either have to be very rich or very important (or probably both!) to be buried in these cemeteries. These are not grave sites of commoners.
That pretty much wrapped up that afternoon in Jerusalem. We headed to our last hotel of the trip, and this one was really nice! After sleeping a week at the camp on super cheap uncomfortable mattresses (twin-sized ones, even) and using shared community bathrooms, this hotel felt like the Ritz 😉 We had dinner together with our group in a beautiful dining room on the top floor of the hotel. The next day would be packed with more sight-seeing in Jerusalem followed by 13+ hours of plane travels. We savored our last good night’s sleep we’d get for a while…