Out and About Jerusalem

Today we started out on foot with our first stop at the Western Wall.  We did a virtual tour first, where the VR takes you to the 1st century temple and you can see what it would have looked like in all its glory.  We then stepped outside into the already warm sun and spent a bit of time at the Western Wall (also called the Kotel or Wailing Wall).  It was relatively quiet since it was still pretty early in the morning, but there were a number of people worshipping and praying.

The better part of our morning was spent worshipping with other Christians at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, right in the Old City.  Our tour guide our second year introduced it to us, as it is his home church.  We find it a welcoming space and the preacher, Rev. Carrie’s messages always seem to hit home.  Her message today, about all of us as imago dei was especially poignant as we have been meeting so many people from all over, and hearing their stories.  Just before we left the Old City, we stopped in Moshe Kiminski’s shop in the Jewish Quarter.  Moshe and his brother moved from Toronto to open up a book shop in Jerusalem.  Quite often, he has a group that drops by, closes his shop, puts out a bunch of stools, and invites the group to sit down for a conversation.  Today he shared with us why he and his brother opened this shop, which was to remind people why they are here.  He told us that he feels that people don’t decide to go to Israel – that if they are in Israel, they have been called to Israel.  He has a number of Christian groups that stop by his shop and it is very apparent that he loves the dialogue and is open to it.  Unfortunately, it was a shorter visit than we would have liked, but hopefully one that opens up more dialogue.

I think the highlight of the day for most was Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which we did in the City of David.  This tunnel is 533 km long, all under ground.  It’s a very fantastic work of civil engineering, thinking about how they started the tunnel from opposite ends and worked their way towards each other!

We finished our day with 2 museums.  The first museum was Shrine of the Book.  In front, there is a 2000 square meter 50:1 scale model of 1st century Jerusalem.  Honestly, I’ve seen it 4 times, but it made even more sense after the VR tour this morning!  We then went and looked through the Shrine of the Book which is dedicated to the Dead Sea Scrolls and to a lesser degree, the Aleppo Codex.  The highlight of this is the facsimile of an almost entirely intact Isaiah scroll.  There’s something so significant about any person who can read Hebrew (which is mostly everyone in Israel), being able to read this scroll, even though it was written a couple thousand years ago.  One thing I did spend time asking myself about both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aleppo Codex, is why these remained secret for so long.  Both of these items were shrouded in great mystery…I just think if I had something so precious, representing the Truth, that I would want to make sure I’m sharing this Truth with others.  Again, one of those periphery questions!

Our final stop of the day was Yad Vashem – the Jewish Holocaust Museum.  To say it is a difficult journey, is an understatement.  Every year, I try to talk about it, but words always seem to fail.  It’s such a significant part of our trip, but unexplainably hard.  I had a lot of thoughts going through but I will write about one difficult thought and one hopeful today.  First the difficult.  There’s a poem that I have noticed a couple of times before in the museum, found in a notebook of poetry, written by Abramek Koplowicz, murdered in Auschwitz at age 14.  I wrote it down so I could write it here and it goes like this: “I’ll travel and see this world of plenty.  In a bird with an engine I will sit myself down, Take off and fly into space, far above the ground I’ll fly.  I’ll cruise and soar up high Above a world so lovely into the sky.”  It was so easy for us to get into this bird with an engine and fly the 12 hours to Israel, hardly even giving any thought to what was happening.  Abramek had this dream that was never realized.  We’ve encountered many Palestinian children that have this same dream that will never be realized.  I hope our students will be able to know how much they have and be thankful.  The second thought I had was this: I walked into the Children’s Memorial which is a very haunting experience.  Half a million children were murdered during the Holocaust.  All the numbers are staggering.  When you walk into this dark building, there is a haunting hum that you hear, and then you see a number of translucent black and white photos suspended in the air.  As you walk further in, it’s dark and you can see a few candle flames that are thrown onto mirrors to represent all the children that died.  An ominous voice reads out the names, ages, and countries, of each of the children.  Anyway it’s very sobering but as I stared into the darkness and the many lights, I thought about how much they reminded me of stars and then I thought about God’s promise to Abraham – that he would make his children as many as the grains of sand on the earth and as vast as the stars in the sky.  I thought about how important it is for Yad Vashem to name each name whenever it is possible and I thought about the Room of names that holds volumes upon volumes of names and personal stories from each Jewish person that experienced the Holocaust.  In a way their light has not been extinguished, but is carried on in this legacy.  And I thought about how extraordinary it is that there is always a remnant.  No matter how hard man has tried to extinguish the Jewish people, God has kept his promise to Abraham.  I hope this fills you with hope as much as it has filled me.

Tomorrow is our last day in Israel.  We fly out the next morning!  Please come back and check on these posts in a few days as I will have added photos and in some cases sound, to them.



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