Our journey this day took us through the Stations of the Cross – the Via Dolorosa. We started in the Roman Quarters where the Roman soldiers lived in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. It was only discovered 100 years ago when a church was built on the site. The original floor level of the courtyard is now underground, and a roof-structure was built so that the church could be built over the site while preserving the Quarters. This is where Jesus was beaten and whipped. In one area of the stones, game boards were scratched in by the soldiers. Grace and I took off our sandals, to put our feet on the very stones where Jesus feet had been.
The rest of the Stations of the Cross take you through noisy and crowded streets with shop keepers calling out trying to get our attention to visit their shops. The path of the Via Dolorosa eventually ends at the Church of the Holy Scepter – this church was built over the traditional site of where Jesus was hung on the cross, was buried, and rose from the grave. In one of the sections of the church, near an altar, there was a visible fissure in the bedrock (which is viewed through glass). The fissure occurred from an earthquake, but is not on a fault line. When Christ died, there was an earthquake that shook Jerusalem from the cross to the Temple where the veil was torn. This fissure runs under the city toward the Temple Mount.
We left the crowded church and headed towards a shopping area. After getting to flex my bartering muscle and scoring a few great deals, our little group of 6 split off from the bigger tour group. The reason for this is because we were scheduled to stay two days longer than everyone else, and because of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, we had to rearrange a few things to ensure that we got to see everything we wanted to see. We met our guide for the afternoon, a short Jewish man named Jacob. His stature did not give any indication to his speed though – he was fast! The 6 of us had to practically run to keep up with him at times! But we have a special fondness for Jacob since he was gracious enough to take us to a pizza place for lunch! Falafels are great, but after eating them everyday, we were ready for something else! Pizza never tasted so good….
Jacob first showed us some of the ruins of pillars and walls within the Old City. Eventually we wound around the city and headed towards David’s City – just south of the Old City. He showed us ruins of what they believe to be David’s palace and some of the fortifications David built. This was convenient too, because you walk right through this area to get to Hezekiah’s Tunnel. King Hezekiah built an underground water system to keep Jerusalem’s water supply safe in case of attack. It is fed by a natural spring, so the water was COLD! It was so cold that my feet were fairly numb after just a few minutes of being in there. It is a narrow passage, and the ceiling varies from 4.5 feet high to upwards of 20 feet and takes about 30-45 minutes to walk through. The water was above my knees in a few places (as you can see in my picture), but mostly it was shallow and around our ankles. Eventually comes out at a pool. This pool was thought to be the Pool of Siloam, however, because of construction work due to a sewage leak just a month previous, experts believe that they have uncovered the real Pool of Siloam just yards from the other pool. Because there were only 6 of us, Jacob was able to get us in to see the newly discovered Pool of Siloam. It did stink a little from the leak, but it was awesome to see.
After drying off a little, Jacob took us to Zedekiah’s Cave which is directly under the Old City. Tradition tells us that King Zedekiah hid in the cave to avoid capture by Nebuchadnezzar – but eventually he was captured and imprisoned until his death (Jeremiah 52). It is also strongly believed that Solomon quarried the rocks for the Temple from this cave. But in order to keep Jerusalem from collapsing into the cave, strategic stone pillars were left in the cave to support the city.
Our final adventure with Jacob took us to the Damascas Gate where we climbed to the ramparts of the walls. We walked the ramparts along the northern walls all the way to the Joffa Gate. This was quite a workout since there are many stairs, twists and turns in the wall. It gave me such a unique perspective on the Old City. We got back to the hotel exhausted, but so spiritually filled. It was definitely worth the aching feet that day!
More of my adventures in Jerusalem to come soon….