We began our final day bright and early at the Western Wall. We divided the group in two and headed under the city through the dark tunnel that ran the length of the Western Wall of the ancient Temple Mount. The tour came complete with high tech city models, highly informative Israeli guides, Herodian stones, close proximity to the ancient Holy of Holies, and an exit greeting by armed Israeli soldiers.
After emerging from the underground, we snagged some long anticipated pictures of devout Jewish worshipers at the Wall and walked up to the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock. The Islamic Holy Shrine marks the spot from which Muhammad ascended for a night-long journey to heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel. We were then left on our own to snap most photos, ward off postcard salesman, and envision what the place was like when Christ would journey there to honor His Father.
…Pause for an essential Magnum break…
Our next stop was the Pool of Bethesda where Christ healed the lame man who had waited 38 years to be healed. Near the pool was St. Anne’s Church where we paused to remember our Savior. A group sang “Oh Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown” whose Bach written melody resonated in the cathedral acoustics. Following that, Elizabeth played a beautiful arrangement of “Nearer My God to Thee” on her oboe. It was a wonderful moment to stop and reflect on why we had come and on our immense gratitude for the Savior who for us had given His life.
We then began the path of the Via Dolorosa. Traditionally, it is considered to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to His crucifixion. It is marked by nine of the fourteen Stations of the Cross. The last five stations are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Church is shared by six religions and is held by many to be the location of Golgotha and the sepulchre that briefly held Christ’s body after His death.
…Long Pause for another lunch of falafels and shopping, which today included the BYU man…
After lunch we crossed the city (all the while having to resist the gripping urge to shop) to the Upper Room, the traditional place of the Last Supper. And, as is tradition, we spent more time in line for the toilets then in the room itself. So many girls! We then exited the city at Zion’s Gate, a gate marked with bullet holes left by centuries of war-- a tangible reminder of the struggles of the Holy City.
We quickly boarded the bus to Bethany, the town where Christ stayed the last week of His life. We were able to enter the tomb where Christ performed the great miracle of raising His dear friend Lazarus from the dead. Afterward, we were able to satisfy our need to shop and were treated to a demonstration of David’s Sling, nearly ending in Tyler’s decapitation.
And finally, on this whirlwind day, we arrived at Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The tunnel, leading from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam, was designed to act as an aqueduct to provide Jerusalem with water during a siege by the Assyrians. According to an inscription found in it, the tunnel was excavated by two teams...one starting at each end of the tunnel and then meeting in the middle--an incredible engineering feat! We splashed our way through in the dark, singing “Row, Row, Row your Boat” as we went, and emerged unscathed, though a few were claustrophobically weary.
Then here it was…the end. We gathered together on our celestial bus and Allan said his goodbye and release. Dorian delighted us all with awards that included such things as “Contortionist” “Dead Sea Diva” and “Stink Pink Queen”. And then the dreaded parting, each heading out in his own direction--some continuing the endless shopping quest with Roley, others beginning the puzzle of fitting all the purchases into the suitcase, many heading to the Jerusalem Center for a choir concert, and others nomadically wandering the city. It was a wonderful end to a magnificent, life-changing trip. Shalom! שָׁלוֹם Peace Be With You!