Friday, May 5, 2023
Shabbat has just begun. We were too worn out to head over to the Western Wall and experience the beginning moments of Shabbat. Some went on a shopping excursion after the day was a wrap, and that did me (and them) in. It’s not the knee for me, it’s the worn our feet. We have walked 11,738 steps (5.0 miles) today. Much of those steps on stones and the massive staircase at Herodium. So that is enough.
We started the day at 7:30, headed back out toward Bethlehem. We didn’t have time the other day to visit Herodium. I enjoy that visit because it allows us to put into geographical context the visit to Bethlehem. That visit doesn’t really provide the context for the birth of Jesus, but heading to Herodium does. And I was most surprised by the visit today.
There have been many changes made for the visitors at Herodium. We saw the same overview movie at the visitor’s center. Then you walk up a brand-new path (with handrails and not all that steep of an incline). At the end of the ramp, you visit the reception rooms built by Herod the Great. There are three of them, each with their own multi-media presentation. They are amazing. They recreate the original look of the spaces which helps us experience their beauty and they tell the story of why and how they were built.
After exploring those three rooms we headed back outside and up the grand staircase built by Herod. We also saw the remains of the theater Herod had built (an intimate 300-seat version of the ones we had seen around the country already). Only this one he destroyed (It couldn’t have been too old) so that he could build for himself a burial monument. There above the hills of Bethlehem would be a monument to Herod the Great. And somewhere out there, the King of Kings would soon be born.
Anyway, back to the ascent…which was rather long. At the top we entered the palace itself. You can see a bathhouse these days, and the synagogue built by rebels over 100 years after Herod’s death. We shared the spiritual heritage of the site for our lives in that synagogue.
We wandered a bit, then went up to the top of it all for one last view before taking the stairs down that we usually take up. They have vastly improved the site and there were good many buses in the parking lot when we left. Its popularity is rising.
Back on our bus and off to the Israel Museum, a stop we added at the last tour meeting in California. We toured the model of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. By now it was pretty hot and we were melting. It was crowded as well.
Off to the Shrine of the Book. We got stuck behind a very large Italian group, so it was not our best visit, to say the least. Manny left us to go on our own in the architectural part of the museum. I love that part, and hope everyone else did as well. We covered the highlights in 45 minutes, which was probably a bit fast.
We saw the original high place from Arad. David’s pillars. The Caiaphas ossuary. The Pilate stone. Herod’s sarcophagus from Herodium. And the original artwok from Herod’s reception rooms. That was cool.
Back to the bus around noon and off to lunch. Ahmed (our bus driver) picked the spot. We had shawarma or falafel…but the best part was the panoramic view of the Old City from the north. It was just lovely. We splurged for some French fries, and they were delicious.
We headed back to the hotel for some rest (I worked on uploading pictures to the blog).
We met on the bus at 2:45 for the short trip to the Garden Tomb. We had a guide from Garden Tomb explain everything to us and then we shared the Lord’s Table together. It was lovely. By then the weather had begun to change. The temperature dropped and the wind came up. It was very refreshing.
Half the group walked back to the hotel with Manhal and the other half went with me on one last shopping adventure. They thoroughly enjoyed the time it he Old City. It wore me out, though, but was fun.
The dining room was packed for dinner (the hotel must be full tonight). But the day is done, and I am so ready to sleep. I must not have had enough water today, as I have a bit of a headache. Some sleep should help and I’ve been replenishing my water deficit.
All is well but tomorrow is a long day.