Today we went to the ramparts of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, The Room of The Last Supper, the Gethsemane Garden, The Basilica of Agony, the Israeli Museum and had an amazing dinner with our friends in the Cohen family.
We first went to the ramparts, which is the walkway along and above the walled city of Old Jerusalem. It was fun to be up above the city and see parts of the inside of Old Jerusalem as well as outside the city walls. Our guide showed us these walls that looked like they were built to lean against the walls of the city, but they actually served a purpose. The word for this 45 degree angled wall is “glasic” and its purpose was to keep the attackers from being able to scale the walls to get inside the city or to be able to tunnel under and make the walls collapse.
Did you know that Jews were not allowed to be in Old Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967? The city was actually part of the country of Jordan at the time and the Jordanian Muslims wouldn’t allow the people of the Jewish religion inside of their country. Isn’t that sad and crazy? Especially since it is the holiest place on Earth for the Jewish religion and they couldn’t even pray there!
An area that we saw from our walk called Silwan is, right now, a primarily Palestinian village and has been since the 1920’s. Well, there is currently a debate over land that the Jews owned back 90 years ago and they are, RIGHT NOW (2015), trying to reclaim that land. There are a lot of people that don’t like each other in Israel and are fighting over land and have been for a long time. To me, that just doesn’t seem right. I kept thinking, “what if someone came to my house almost 100 years later and said, I lived here once and I want my house back?” It’s sad to think about.
After walking along the ramparts for a while, we walked into the church where people believe maybe Jesus had The Last Supper. The church has a really unique name called The Room of The Last Supper 🙂 . There is a very famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci that shows Jesus sitting at the table dining with his disciples the night before he is to be crucified and Judas is siting next to him looking very sad, because he is the one that betrayed him and told the guards where he would be one night where they could capture him. I’ll tell you more about the spot where that happened, because we went there later today.
After seeing The Room of The Last Supper, we saw a pretty church called the Dormition Cathedral that was built by Germans to commemorate Mary’s eternal sleep (death) and is dedicated to women in history. It is a 100 year-old church and was really nice.
Ok, so now I will tell you about the garden where Judas betrayed Jesus. Judas told the temple guards he would give Jesus, or the man who was telling everyone he was the King of the Jews, a kiss. And as he did that, the guards arrested Jesus. The Garden of Gethsemane is actually very beautiful, even though it made me sad to think of what happened to Jesus there. The garden is filled with 800-1,000 year-old olive trees. These trees are said to be the grandparent trees of the ones that we there when Jesus, his apostles and the Romans were there. Jesus was said to have asked three of his apostles, Peter, John and James, to come to the Garden of the Agony after The Last Supper to pray with him. Jesus walked away three times all by himself, and he prayed to God to help him with his feelings since he knew he was supposed to die for men’s sins but he also didn’t like the idea of being crucified and killed. Each time he walked away asking his apostles to pray, he came back to them sleeping. At one point an angel came to give him strength, but in the end he knew his future would be in the hands of God. Not long after that, Judas came and the Jewish temple guards arrested him. There is a church next to the garden called the Basilica of The Agony and it is really pretty, but also reminds me of how much Jesus struggled and suffered. There is a big huge stone rock in the floor that you can touch and it is where he prayed that night. We touched it and thought about how hard it must have been for Jesus.
After we left the Garden of Gethsamane, we headed over to one of the coolest museums I have ever been to called the Israeli Museum. The first thing you see when you enter the museum is a small replica of the entire city of Old Jerusalem. It was really neat being able to see all the places we had visited over the past few days in just one model and a model that didn’t look like today but like it was in Jesus’ time so we could see the beautiful Temple that existed two thousand years ago. But, that was not the most special part of this museum. The most important pieces at this museum were the Dead Sea Scrolls. These are ancient pieces of paper that had been written around third through first century BC, but were not found until between 1946-1956 in the hills above the Dead Sea, which is how they got their names. They are rolled up pieces of leather that have roughly 40% of the Jewish Bible transcribed on them. They are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and a few in Greek. The actual writing was really tiny and hard to read, but after all these years, still legible. It was neat to think I swam in the Dead Sea near where these were found. Crazy story: the shepards who found them were going to use the really old leather to sell and maybe even make into shoes!
After a little relaxation and a shower back in our hotel room, we headed out to our friend’s house, the Cohen’s. Dad has two incredible employees, who are also brothers, at his company back in California that work for him from Israel. Daniel works four months out of the year in Israel, so he can spend time with his mom and family, and the other eight months he works out of California. Betsalel lives in Israel full time with his wife, four children and their grandchildren.
They invited us to their home for dinner and we had such a nice time getting to know all of them, understanding Judaism and customs better and listening to them share their stories of what it is like to live in crazy Jerusalem! Betsalel was actually born in the United States, but really wanted to live in Israel, so he packed up and moved to Israel to work on a kibbutz. A kibbutz is a shared community environment, where everyone is treated equally and works together, usually on their farm. He lived on a kibbutz twice. The second time, he was there studying and met his super-duper beautiful wife. She speaks French too and was so kind to us. It was such a beautiful story. We felt very honored to be with them, learning about their life and hearing really nice stories of Israel, it’s people and the struggles they face as well. Daniel’s Mom, Sarale, sat next to my Mom and I think they were talking the whole time. Later, Mom told me that she thought Sarale was such a special woman. Like most of the people we have met in Israel, they were awesome and we loved the dinner together.
We had an action-packed day, but I loved every minute of it.