8:31 pm

This is one of those nights that feels like midnight – but fortunately it isn’t.  Not even close.  We are just back from a trek down to the Kotel (Western Wall) on Yom Kippur.  We were told it would be less crowded tonight, since you cannot drive anywhere in the Jewish parts of the city.  But, alas, we were told wrong.  It was actually quite crowded down there.  And the color of the night for attire is white.  Lots and lots and lots of white.  The signs were out for no picture taking (rats!), but I did get a couple taken before I came across the sign.  I will have to post those.

But that was just the end of the day.  Well in Jewish thinking it is the beginning of Wednesday, but that’s just too confusing for the western mind.  So let’s start with this morning and see if I can share what a grand (and that means exhausting too) day.

Gethsemane - Church of all Nations
Gethsemane - Church of all Nations
We started off 15 minutes later, remember?  Well, that really didn’t help the rest and recovery much.  I could hard talk this morning, and it never really got better all day.  I just hope I’m not sharing those sicko germs with anyone.  At any rate – we walked outside the Jaffa Gate to the waiting bus (no stairs!).  Our first stop of the day was at the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations.  First thing is the morning the sun was still not over the church – and there were not very many people visiting at all.  We could walk leisurely through the spaces and even got some (almost) alone time in the church.  Haven’t done that much lately.  It was nice.

Then we went across the street to a private time in a different part of the Garden of Gethsemane.  We got our little chapel area (right next to the street – so it was a bit loud from cars at times).  But it was nice to share the story of the Garden from Luke’s account and then have some time to walk around and soak it all in.  Luke highlights the spiritual battle taking place that evening like no other Gospel writer does – it was interesting.  Well, if I could be heard, that is.  The voice is not good at all.

A short trek back to the bus, where Tarek took us around the Old City and up the Mt. of Olives (passed his home, btw).  We got off and took our group picture (which turned out pretty good, actually – we already got our copies back).

Mt. of Olives - Donkey Ride!
Mt. of Olives - Donkey Ride!
We then had a couple of folks who wanted a donkey ride, which ended up more of a donkey sit.  Oh well.  We were soon off to find a shady spot to sit and soak up the view – and Andre’s explanation of it.  It was a beautiful day, no clouds and not really that much haze.  I could to Nebi Samwil for sure – and of course everything we wanted to see in the Old City.

We walked back around to the Palm Sunday road and started our trek down.  It’s a bit steep, but also a lovely walk with the Temple Mount lying in front of you – and a huge Jewish cemetery swallowing up the landscape to the left of us (behind a wall). Down we went until we arrived at Dominus Flavit – the tear drop church, the church built to remind us that Jesus wept over the city once he saw it as He came over the Mt. of Olives on Pam Sunday.

The bus was waiting at the bottom of the hill and whisked us away to….lunch!  We did learn one piece of important trivia today.  Andre’s (our guide’s) last group was also with IGM (our tour company) and they had someone measure all the walking they did.  With a program very similar to ours – they walked 75 miles in their time in Israel.  I can believe it.  And, that doesn’t count the ups and the downs of the daily walking. No wonder we are beat!

We drove up to Mt. Zion and came into the Old City through the Lion Gate (the one riddled with bullet holes from the struggle for a Jewish homeland).  Then down (key word in all of this is down) into the Jewish Quarter.  It was like 11:30 am, early for us.  But stores and shops in the Jewish Quarter were closing already.  Earlier than we had anticipated.  Andre went one direction – we headed another (toward the bathrooms).  Well, the fast-food shops by the bathrooms were still open, so we all headed that direction.  You could choose shawarma or falafel or pizza.  I chose shawarma.  Christie chose pizza.  Both were good options.  There wasn’t a looser.

We ate rather quickly and made it back to our rendezvous point with a couple of minutes to spare.  Off we were now to the City of David.  A bit of a walk, but DOWNhill.  Stairs, but in the direction of down.  We went out the Dung Gate and just enjoyed seeing people go here and there as they prepared for Yom Kippur.

We made it down to the City of David to begin the tour (which would end up in Hezekiah’s Tunnel) – but they were CLOSED.  We were there by 1:00 pm – for a 2 pm tour – and it was closed.  Really?  We have a reservation?  CLOSED.
Now we get to punt today.  But there is so much to see in Jerusalem, we just changed the program on the fly and didn’t miss a beat.  We went up to St. Peter in Galliantu.  The church built on the high priests house – where they imprisoned Jesus for the night and where Peter denied know who Jesus was.  Powerful stories, and tears were shed.

We even got to go down into the prison/dungeon that would have been below the house of the high priest.  Oh, and as we were going down into that space, Cardinal Mahoney (from LA) was coming up.  Of course, there were pix to be taken.
But we made it down into the pit, where Karen read Psalm 88, a powerful psalm which describes the plight of the Savior on this long dark night in the pits.  We came up and saw a model of Byzantine Jerusalem.  Then for a marvelous overlook of the city again.  Great spot. Then, back to the bus (where we had just picked up our group photo from this morning….wow, that was quick).

Back in some comfortable air conditioning, we headed around the city AGAIN, this time stopping just opposite the Rockefeller museum on the northern wall.  We got out and walked DOWNhilll and around the corner a far bit to get to the Lion’s Gate.  We made a sharp right turn and went down the street to St. Anne’s church – and Bethesda.  The two pools of water with the five porches at which Jesus healed the lame man (John 5).  We read the text and tried to picture in our minds what it really looked like.  That’s a tough spot to that, actually.

While there, Judy struck up a conversation with some Indian tourists.  They were from Chennai (go figure) where I had just been.  When their pastor came by – we all became instant best friends.  Lots of pictures were taken – group and couples.  He doesn’t know Bobby Gupta, by the way.  He’s an Assemblies of God pastor with 70 people on his tour.  Big group.  We did go sing in St Anne’s church once that picture-fest was history.  Trying to lead some singing without a voice is tough.  But so is reading John 5.  Oh well.

Eventually we wound our way back around to the bus – and then around the city one more time, with a stop outside the Garden Tomb, every tours possible highlight.  Off the bus and down the street to a not-all-that-crowded Garden Tomb.
Our guide was Andrew, a retired pastor from South Africa.  He did a great job and we enjoyed our time touring the garden and Gordon’s Calvary and….the empty tomb.  It was not crowded at all, and a very pleasant time together.  The highlight?  The Lord’s Supper together, of course.  Our regular guide, Andre, joined us as we remembered and celebrated the Table of the Lord.

It was a moving time together.  Again.

Then back to the bus for the jaunt to the hotel.  With Yom Kippur upon us, Andre got out closer to his hotel than if he’d stayed with us on the bus.  Tarek was in a bit of a hurry (tho he’d never say it) to get the bus back “home” before all the streets would be shutting down for the beginning of the holiday – the most holy on the Jewish calendar.

We made it back in time (well, at least I think we did).  Tarek had time to get the bus to the yard and then get home.  Really, only the Jewish areas shut down for the holiday.  Someone told me that there is no day when the entire Old City shuts down, because each culture has its own holiday. They don’t share well in that department.  So it doesn’t seem as if we will be stranded all that much tomorrow.  Just walk to a different Quarter.  It is nice staying inside the Old City – if we were in a Jewish area, we’d be stuck just walking wherever we wanted to go.  Which might not be close enough to really go anywhere.  But we should be fine.

We all decided to eat dinner a little early (6:30) so we could get out to the Kotel earlier and back earlier.  Good plan.  Dinner was fine.  Beef, turkey, pigs-in-a-blanket (the chef’s term, not mine).  I thought that interesting on this holiest of Jewish holidays.  Oh well, we are in the Christian Quarter.

After dinner we were off (10 strong, not 12) for the Kotel – or Western Wall.  We just wanted to see if it would be any different tonight.  And it was.  The walk to the wall was not like last night – we didn’t see more than 1-2 soldiers/police.  Weird.  Last night was crawling with law enforcement, tonight not so much.  That probably meant we were actually safer last night than tonight.  Oh well.

The wall plaza was more crowded tonight than last night.  But the color of choice to wear tonight was not the basic Hasidic black – but white.  Most wore white.  And on the men’s side they rolled out their huge silver scroll containers.  Not sure what you call them, but there were several out and about – and lots of “synagogues” were singing and praying and reading together.  It was interesting.  The guys just went down into the central area and just stood there – soaking it all in.  Looking up at the wall.  Listening to Hebrew prayers and chants and songs all around it.  There wasn’t space to get to the wall itself, but we also didn’t want to distract anyone form their worship and drawing near to God.  It was interesting, that is for sure.

After less than 15 minutes we left that area and rejoined the ladies up in the mixed-gender plaza area.  We were not there too long before an officer began shooing people away.  I guess they’d found an unattended back pack.  So they were clearing people away out of caution.

So we just left.  Back up the streets to our hotel.  Well, with one more stop – just outside the Jaffa Gate.  It is now dark and Yom Kippur is in full swing  I had to see what a car-less street looked like.  It looked pretty quiet, actually.  I did count two stray cars in our time there – and a couple of police cars.  But children were riding bikes down on the usually busy street below us.  It was just weird.  In a good way.  No cars.  Lots of bikes.  It was pretty quiet.

Back to the hotel to put some letters to paper.  That’s about done, so I get to start making the trek to bed.  Whew.  Long day with lots of walking – but a great day for sure.  Tomorrow should be just a half day because of the limitations of the holiday.  We will do the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and of course my all-time favorite thing to do – the Via Dolorosa. Oh boy.  I can’t wait to hear of more extra-biblical accounts.  I will enjoy being in Jerusalem though if nothing else.
That bring the day to a close.  I still can’t talk.  But I can sleep.  So let’s hope that happens a lot tonight.  It will be interested to see the city on Yom Kippur.  Hopefully we will get around enough to experience the day.  But first…it’s time to get some rest.

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