The rabiis, or Orthodox Jews, wear their hair very short with a long, long strand near the ear. It would be interesting to find out why. They are probably trying to fulfill a law of theirs. On the way to our first stop, Pastor Grimes told us that it hardly ever rains at the Dead Sea.
Our first stop entailed a visit to an Israeli shrine in commemoration of the Jewish Holocaust. The question remains, was the Holocaust God’s push of the Jews into the Holy Land? First of all, we saw the Israeli military cemetery. We saw many stones representing the war in 1948, when 650,000 Jews had a six month war with the Arabs and lost 6,000 people. The Israeli national movement is called the Zionist Movement, named after Mount Zion, or Jerusalem. Other stones were from soldiers who died in 1967. (the Six Day War). Next, we proceeded to the Memorial to the Holocaust. One and one half million children were killed. Seventy two hundred (7,200) Jewish people escaped from Denmark to Sweden. We saw pictures of gas chambers in Poland. Death and Concentration Camps were all over Europe. The hair and gold teeth were extracted from the Jews and used in the war effort. The Holocaust is one reason the Jews go to Mount Masada and vow they will never surrender, but fight to the death, This entire Memorial is a good reminder of the wretchedness of the heart of man.
Next, we looked at the Dead Sea Scrolls. We saw part of the book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Aramaic. It was discovered Qumran in 1947, and it dates to about 100 B.C. It was made by the famous Essenes. Then we saw the Temple Scroll. The Temple Scroll is God teaching the Torah in the first person. We saw the Manuel of Discipline – the regulations of the Essenes. We saw the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness. The biggest blessing, however, was to see a scroll of Isaiah dated 100 B.C., and filled with the prophecies of Jesus Christ! (examples: Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, chapter 53, etc.) We saw the Nahum Commentary which identified the Essenes. We saw the scrolls of forty one of the Psalms, including the apocryphal One Hundred and Fifty First Psalm. We saw the jars which held the Dead Sea Scrolls. We looked at the old marriage contract, a divorce bill, business letters (selling dates and fruits), and a social letter. The Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-135 was the last revolt of the Jews against the Romans. This was mentioned in a social letter. Over seven hundred scrolls and parchments have been found around Qumran.
Now we proceeded to Hezekiah’s Tunnel. We entered the Hinnom Valley, filled with olive trees. Then we came to the Kidron Valley. Hezekiah’s Tunnel is almost one half a mile long, and is a tremendous engineering feat. There were many residences right outside the tunnel, where donkeys worked right at the tunnel site, and children rode the donkeys. The tunnel consisted of two parts: 1) The original Canaanite Shaft and 2) Hezekiah’s Tunnel into David’s city. We saw the entrance to Hezekiah’s Tunnel – dated 750 B.C. Then we saw where David found the shaft, near the tunnel, which he used to enter Jerusalem around 1000 B.C. We walked up Mount Ophel – David’s city was a steep hill which was surrounded by valleys, the Kidron and Tyropoeon Valleys. The shaft and the tunnel diverted water from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam at the south end of David’s city. When David took Jerusalem, Joab went up the Canaanite Shaft in order to open the gate for David and his men. Because of what he did, Joab received one of David’s daughters in marriage.
We noticed that Muslims paint their doors in relation to their “status” in faith. A red door, for instance, means they went to Mecca. There is no end to the customs and oddities in this land.
From our location in Hezekiah’s Tunnel, the ancient walls of the city of David could be seen. We observed the Pool of Siloam, which was the water receiving area for David’s Jerusalem. Swimmers were seen who entered the Pool of Siloam, having gone through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Nearby, are the traditional sites of the tombs of both Jehosephat and Zedekiah. They are not one hundred per cent positive about the authenticity of these tombs. There is more certainty however, about the tomb of Absalom.
Today is Friday, the Muslim Holy Day, and the soldiers were equipped with sticks and riot gear.
Next, we saw Zedekiah’s Cave or Solomon’s Quarries, a mountain where rock and stone was cut out for the temple. It was a hollowed out mountain, a huge and vast cave opening into an amphitheater. It kept going down deeper and deeper. Ton upon ton of rocks were removed. The traditional site of Golgotha or Calvary was seen across the street from Zedekiah’s Cave. This was a Muslim area and we could not go there. We noticed military halftracks and troops in the area.
On the way to Bethlehem, we passed another of Herod’s fortresses in the distance. It was the Herodium, a man made mountain where Herod flashed signals from, way out in the desert. (Because of his paranoia over assasination attempts, King Herod slept in a different place every night). His tomb could be in this fortress which is noted for its flat top, looking like a volcanic mountain from a distance. We passed Rachel’s tomb in Bethlehem off the main street.
For lunch, we went into St. George’s Arab Restaurant in Bethlehem. An Arab waiter attempted to take away my salad while I was eating it. Pastor Grimes was seated next to me and quickly took the waiter to task, straightening out his decorum. We had lamb shiskabob, and it was good. Speaking of Arab and custom, I would like to mention that the Arab toilet we saw near Petra, was in a large room, and on the floor. I was totally mesmerized when I first saw it. One would perform their bodily functions before a crowd. Unbelievable.
We walked over to the Church of the Nativity after lunch. This is the traditional birth place of Jesus Christ. The church is built on a cave. The only entrance, the front door, was short so camels could not walk in. The cave was charcoal black, due to many people bringing in torches and candles. The 1)Greek Orthodox, 2)Armenian, 3)and Roman Catholic all control this church, each with their own section. A Greek Orthodox Priest, dressed in black, rang bells filled with smoky incense all over the church – making it “holy.” Many of us gagged and coughed because of the smoke. The church goes back to the 5th Century and is rugged looking, like a fortress. The church has the original Byzantine 5th Century floor, Muslim columns, and Crusader decorations on the walls. Another cave or manger was on the other side. After leaving the Greek Orthodox Church, we entered the Catholic section. This was a very ritualistic church.
Now we proceeded toward the shepherd’s fields. There was a natural cave in these fields, and there were many shepherd’s fields to be seen in the area. These fields were similar to, and may have actually been, the fields that Ruth worked in and Boaz owned. Beth-lehem means “house of bread.” There are wheat fields and shepherd’s fields all around the town, hence the name. From Bethlehem, we had a breath-taking view of the mountains of Moab, across the desert and the Dead Sea. Moab, we know, was where Ruth came from, and the country originated between Lot and one of his daughters.
We then saw a beautiful panoramic view of Jerusalem from the south. We could observe David’s city at Mount Ophel up the middle, the Mount of Olives was seen on the right, and Mount Zion was on the left. The valleys are as follows: the Kidron Valley bears off to the right, the Tyropoeon Valley goes to the left, and the Hinnom Valley can be found in the middle. We could oberve the ever present Dome of the Rock in the middle also, above the Hinnom Valley.
Next, we went through the Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem – also called Gehenna because it was a trash dump where “the fire never went out.” The word Gehenna, of course, refers to burning. The never ending burning of hell.
We went to a store in Jerusalem belonging to a gentleman named Was-Was. Along the way we smelled the aroma of many good Arabic foods. Haggling is common place in Jerusalem, as you can bargain with people. For a reasonable price, I bought two brass candlesticks for my wife, and an olive wood donkey to add to our collection of over twenty donkeys at home.