September 28, 2016 (Day 12)
Starting at the familiar Dung Gate we climbed and wandered over to the South Wall of the Temple Mount. The stones placed there by Herod the Great are huge and frequently larger than those used to build the Pyramids. While. Walls are impressive, what we were interested in was the steps that commoners used to reach the temple. We soon found ourselves walking on the same stones where a young Jesus talked and walked. It was a moving experience for all of us.
We enjoyed several movies that told the story of the stones but the archeologists have done such an effective job that it is clear what was going on so long ago. We soon crossed the street and headed down to the original Jerusalem that was built by King David some 3,000 years ago. His palace and the surrounding city have been exposed. They are still looking for a “David Slept Here” sign but the arguments for what they have found are solid.
The “fun” event of the day was to walk through the tunnel dug during the time of King Hezekiah to protect the Jerusalem water supply from the Gihon Spring. The path to the tunnel was full of steps and people. When we finally got to the tunnel entrance, we found ourselves alone with our flashlights and an absolutely black hole in front of us that was filled with 2 feet of cold water. We plunged in and the water got shallower in a few feet. The remainder of the tunnel had around 6″ inches of cold water to slosh through. The tunnel was actually pretty easy to walk in which was good because it’s 500 meter length seemed several times longer. We managed and survived and were in good spirits when we reached the sun light.
We had a quick lunch at a local fast food joint and headed to the Israeli 9-11 Memorial on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Our guide had never been there but went along with our request. We found that having a private tour has its advantages. The memorial was moving with the names of the victims which included 5 Israeli nationals. We believe it is the only 9-11 memorial located around the United States.
We returned to the hotel in the early afternoon. Peggy and I decided to return to the Old City and explore on our own. It is always an adventure to wander and get a little lost by just wandering down interesting looking streets. There are plenty like,that in the Old City of Jerusalem. There are also plenty of Isreali police and soldiers on almost every street. The people And the setting were amazingly interesting. The chance to see the myriad shops with their colorful and odiferous products was great. Mounds of spices, fruit, vegetables were mixed in with bakeries and meat markets. The partially butchered goats were a bit tough to look at with their weird furry tails on an otherwise skinned carcass. We made it out as the sum was setting with a few nice pieces of souvenir pottery.
It was during Solomon’s reign that the city walls of Jerusalem were engaged beyond the City of David. The walls included the Dung Gate near the southeast corner of the Old City. It is the closest gate to the Western Wall and originally built in the 16th Century. The name “Dung Gate” also is mentioned in Nehemiah 2:13-14 but probably was not in the same location.
The Gihon Spring in the KIdron Valley was the main source of water for the Pool of Siloam in the City of David, the original site of Jerusalem. Since the flow from the spring is intermittent, the Pool of Siloam was constructed as a reservoir. It to was undiscovered until 2004 when a drainage repair crew discovered the ancient steps leading to the pool. Until then, a smaller pool at the end of Hezekiah’s Tunnel had been considered to be the Pool of Siloam. The pool is most famous for us as the place where Jesus heals the blind man (John 9:1-41). The pool had been destroyed during the Roman siege of 70 AD and gradually filled in and the smaller pool at the entrance to the tunnel became the Pilgrimage site.
Hezekiah’s Tunnel was cut in the 8th Century BC. The tunel was dug to give access to the Spring of Gihon which was outside the city walls. The tunnel was hacked out of stone starting at both ends and they actually met in the middle of the half kilometer long tunnel. Flashlights will be handy as we splash our way through.
New excavations have led to the discovery of an ancient house with a cistern that matches the one where Jeremiah was held prisoner (Jeremiah 38:6). We will find out more when we are there.