Our next-to-last day in Israel has been a memorable one. We began with a drive down to Hebron and the Muslim mosque which sits atop the Cave of Machpelah, the biblical burial place of Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, and Leah. This is always the part of the trip where we feel the tensions between the Israelis and Arabs, between Israel and the Palestinians. It’s thick. The site, mere feet from the dividing wall, is controlled by Muslims. There are three different checkpoints we must clear before we can gain access. At the last checkpoint, we’re asked our religion. And it feels good to say “Christian” when you know your questioner is trained to despise those who make that confession. The ladies all have to dress in robes provided by the mosque to cover up their womanly shapes. And, yeah, Steve and I made some new friends when we came upon an Israeli Defense Force training session at the bottom of the steps leading to the actual opening of Machpelah’s cave.
We spent a meaningful half hour today looking over the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and walking down to the Garden of Gethsemane where we read together from Mark’s gospel account of that agonizing night of prayer and betrayal for our Lord.
The last thing we did was hike the nearly 200-yards-long, more than 2,700-years-old Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The tunnel is an ancient waterway / aqueduct that runs underneath the City of David corner of Jerusalem. I’ve never hiked it before; this part of the city was shut down by the protestors and hostilities two years ago. To hike the tunnel, we enter down a long series of steps from David’s palace and then wade through the dark, wet, tight corridor for nearly two football fields, until exiting at the historical Pool of Siloam. We’re underground. It’s a cave. The water is mostly just above our ankles, although in three or four spots it came up past my knees. And when we stopped to turn our lights off a couple of times, we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces. Very much an adventure we were blessed to share together. Lots of nervous laughs. Lots of helping each other navigate the darkness and the tight spaces. And a really great shared experience.
Today is our last day in Israel. We’re going to start our morning at the Temple Mount: the western wall, the western wall tunnel, Robinson’s Arch, the southern steps, the Huldah Gates, etc., After that, we’re going to walk around the Jewish and Christian quarters, visit the Burnt House Museum, and see the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is going to be a special day.
After our farewell dinner, it’s off to Tel Aviv for our eleven hour flight back to the states and, eventually, a trip to Abuelo’s for chips and hot sauce and cheese enchiladas Thursday evening. Pray for our trip. Pray that our God will continue to reveal himself to us in significant ways over these next few hours.