Jerusalem

Note: [Way too much happened on this trip to make this too literary. I’m just going to treat this post as an information dump from me to you. You would think that because it took me so long to post this, that would mean that it would be especially good. Not so, sadly. Oh, and the whole posting every day thing? That probably isn’t happening. I’ve already been assigned three ten-page papers for this semester.]

On Tuesday, we went to the Jerusalem for our introductory walk through the Old City. We were dropped off right outside the wall—specifically the Jaffa Gate—built by the Ottoman Turks. There was this huge fortress right inside Jaffa Gate called the Citadel, and it was Herod’s private palace during the time of Jesus, and may have been (and probably was) the place where Jesus was condemned by Pilate before his crucifixion. With that in mind, it is likely that Pilate lived here during the life of Jesus, instead of the traditional fortress of Antonia, which is where many—mainly the Catholics—think he was. On that note, it was unbelievably cool to see the outside of this building.

The middle section of the wall has larger stones and a few indents in the rock, and is a section of the wall from Herod’s palace from Jesus’ time. It is very likely that Jesus looked at those very stones.

I’m sure I’ll experience this as the trip goes on, but I got a weird feeling looking at that wall. It brought color to the image of Jesus I’ve had all my life, gave it some strength on an apologetic level for some reason. I’ll hopefully draw that out more in future posts.

The rest of the Citadel was built by those who ruled and lived in Jerusalem in later years. During the Crusades in the 11th and 12th Centuries, the Crusaders built deep moats around the Citadel, and other kings and conquerors and armies added to it over the years. One of the neatest things about that building was that it represented over 2500 years of human history and conquest in Jerusalem. I saw a piece of cuneiform that dated back to the 14th Century B.C. and ballistics and stones used by the Greeks and Romans. That made me pretty excited. And made me want to be an archeologist.

We climbed to the top of the Citadel and looked east over the rest of the Old City, from where we could see the Temple Mount (meaning the Dome of the Rock), the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Mount of Olives on the other side of the city, across the Kidron Valley.

There was a modern statue of Saladin outside the Citadel, which made me want to play Age of Empires.

Christ Church was next, founded in the early 1800’s and the first Protestant church in the Middle East. Its leaders over the years have tried to make the Jewish people feel welcome in Christianity—starting by interpreting Romans 11 not as a condemnation of all Jews but an invitation to all Jews. The church made me glad to be a Protestant first, but also glad to be a Christian. I think that’s one of the things we don’t grasp in America—an appreciation for the uniqueness of Christianity, and especially an appreciation for the awesomeness of Jesus. One of the reasons for that is because we aren’t really exposed to other religions. In the States, there are just evangelicals and atheists. There are Jews and Muslims and Catholics and Greek Orthodox and all kinds of other religions in Israel. Biblical Christianity is extremely rare, but all the more special. Muhammad is dead. Buddha is dead. Their bodies have returned to dust and their souls will one day bow before Jesus in the end, and he will rule in eternal glory. That’s our savior. Our hero. More on that later, though I guess I already wrote a lot already.

We went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional location of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. It was humbling to think that this could—and very likely is—the place where our atonement was purchased on Christ’s account and the power of sin and death was broken, but it was also one of the most disappointing and depressing places I’ve been. To our Western, American mindsets, it is extremely uncomfortable—even offensive. There is a wooden slab on the floor near the front of the church, the place where Joseph of Arimathea allegedly laid the body of the slain Jesus. Elderly women, young women, native men and others bend down to the wood and kiss it, or wipe it with a napkin, or sprinkle it with spices. A slab of wood. But to them, probably Greek Orthodox, that is the most reverent thing they can do for Jesus, both there and the extravagant, highly-decorated place of the crucifixion—replete with hanging bells and incense and paintings of Jesus in Anguish or Mary in Despair, etc.

I plan to write about Jesus a lot this semester, both new things I’m learning about him and new ways I’m learning to be in awe of him. So there’s that coming. And that post on Mudhouse Sabbath that I promised is coming soon. When I get the time.

Anyway, that’s enough for now. I’m typing outside and it’s cold tonight. We’re going to Hezekiah’s Tunnel tomorrow, so I’ll definitely post soon. Later…

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