Mixed emotions were the order of the day for our second full day here in Jerusalem. We began the day at the Israel museum being excited to see the model of the city that is housed there. It is an incredible scaled-down model of the city of Jerusalem from just before the city was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans. It was helpful to be able to place all the sights we have been seeing on a map and see the connections between Bible narrative and historical place. We continued to the shrine of the book there which is where the dead sea scrolls are on display. It was a vivid reminder of how well God has preserved His Word throughout the centuries.
After this our excitement turned to sorrow as we visited the Holocaust Memorial here, Yad Vashem. Tears were shed as we walked through the children’s memorial and listened to the names of some of the 1.5 million children that were killed. Then we walked through the main building which takes you on a journey from 1933-1945 as the Nazi’s systematically sought to destroy the Jews. With artifacts, personal testimonies and official documents it presented the horrific truth of the time in vivid colour. Walking across the shoes of those murdered in the concentration camps, reading the dairies of people in the ghetto’s and listening to the stories of millions who were murdered caused us all to feel the full weight of what happened. Just before exiting this building there is a room where they have collected 4.3 million personal testimonies and names of those who died in large black books. They also have 600 pictures of those who died, each one representing 10,000 Jews, in honour of the 6 million killed. One such picture stuck in my mind, that of a little girl with her hands folded under her chin. Needless to say we will not soon forget our time there.
After lunch we headed back to the old city and were dropped off on Mt. Zion. There we visited the room where Jesus had his last supper with the disciples and the tomb of King David. Then it was off through the Zion Gate to walk through the streets of Jerusalem with all their busy activity. We were amazed to be walking along and then find a part of the Roman Cardo (main street) dating from 2000 years ago right there. Or turning the corner and having a part of the wall Hezekiah built around 2600 years ago beside us. Our destination as we walked the crowded streets was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where Jesus was crucified and buried. This location has the weight of history behind it as the church is 1700 years old, however we enjoyed our final destination much better: the Garden Tomb.
While the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the traditional sight of Jesus’ death and resurrection there is a competing sight with compelling evidence as well, which is the Garden Tomb. This location has a hill which looks much like a skull (see the pictures below) which was outside of the city gates and was known to be a place of execution in Roman times. It also has a garden nearby with historical evidence of a wine press and a water cistern. Finally there was a tomb discovered here which matches the description given in the Bible and which has a Christian marking on the wall to indicate a special place of worship. Although the historians will debate which is the actual location our group certainly enjoyed the Garden Tomb setting much more. We were able to enter the tomb and rejoice that it is empty because we serve a risen Saviour! We further enjoyed a service in the garden with scripture reading from the Pastors on the trip, singing relating to our Saviour’s death and resurrection and remembering Jesus’ death as he commanded us with broken bread and fruit of the vine. Once again the emotions were mixed as we remembered the death that Jesus endured for our sins and then rejoiced at the truth of His resurrection!
After an incredible journey we landed back at the hotel for supper and rest in preparation for our day in the Negev desert tomorrow. Trust you are all safe in the snow and wind. We have been thinking and praying for everyone back home, but I must admit it has been difficult to remember winter since we have enjoyed 20 plus degree weather and sun every day here. I guess there will be plenty left to greet us Saturday night – stay warm and safe.
Shalom and Goodnight from Jerusalem