So, last Wednesday afternoon, we revisited the site of the City of David and Hezekiah's Tunnel. We had previously been there, but not without Denyon which limited us from walking through the tunnel (which we had only done once together in June 2006). The tunnel was built by King Hezekiah and it was built to create an underground water channel from the natural spring of Gihon, through the city, which was then simply called Jerusalem. It is now called the City of David because it is no longer within the old city walls of Jerusalem. It was mainly built to protect the city's water supply during times of siege. And still today it flows with water...very cold water. The tunnel is not much more than shoulder width wide at any given point, and often it's necessary to duck so as not to hit your head. It takes about 45 minutes just to walk through. It's completely dark so flashlights are necessary. At the highest point the water reached just below my hips, but mostly it was about mid-calf deep. We were glad to get our feet wet!
Last Sunday, we not quite so "fun" as we went to Yad Vashem--the Jerusalem Holocaust Museum. It was an intense day and we were so glad we did not miss going to this site while we were here. The museum is extensive and extremely well done. You weave your way through about 12 rooms in the main part of the museum recounting the history of the Nazi rise to power, Hitler, the various concentration camps and extermination facilities, the final death march before the Jews were liberated, immigration patterns and difficulties after the Holocaust, personal stories of survivors, etc. At the end of the museum is a Hall of Names where over 3 million of the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust are remembered each in book with a report about them. The goal of Yad Vashem is to one day have all 6 million names. In addition to the main part of the museum, there was also a Children's Memorial, Military Cemetery, Hall of Remembrance with an eternal flame, Holocaust Museum of Art, and what I call a "Look what I'm doing now" Holocaust survivor exhibition. It honors the accomplishments of numerous Holocaust survivors in Israel such as the inventor and creator of El Al Airlines in Israel (just to name one among many).
We spent nearly five hours there and left feeling very informed, overwhelmed, and also depressed. It is so difficult to think that any human being could do such a thing. I will paraphrase a quote that left a lasting impression on me that I read in the museum (although I don't remember who said it): It's not that 6 million innocent Jews were murdered, it's that there are 6 million murderers out there. I know I butchered it but it is hard to fathom that so many people could commit such extreme crime and not be punished. We recently watched the film, "The Boy in Striped Pajamas" which is excellent (although tragic) if you haven't seen it.
On a lighter note, just yesterday we went on our third date. This time we headed to the northern part of the old city near the Damascus Gate. Here we went underground to visit Zedekiah's Cave and the old Roman Gate. Zedekiah's cave is thought to be a cave that was used during the time of King Solomon for quarrying many of the stones he used to build the temple. There were some places that even looked like you could see where rocks were cut from the cave walls. An interesting thing we saw there was our archaeology professor Gaby Barkay having a private lunch/filming session in one of the small side "rooms" of the cave. We only wished we could've inquired about what he was doing but unfortunately our class is done and we probably won't have the opportunity!
The Roman Gate is directly under the current Damascus Gate and it was the gate erected during the Roman time period (approximately during the time of Paul from the New Testament). The gate is still in good shape and every time I see something like this I'm amazed at how something built nearly 2000 years ago can still be standing! I wonder what will still be here two thousand year from now?
From there we went to the Garden Tomb. This is the location where we celebrated Easter Sunday this year. Although we were there before, we didn't really get to see inside the tomb or look around much because of the busyness and crowd of the morning. This time it was nice to see up close one of two possible locations for the burial and resurrection of Jesus. We even got to see the nearby skull-shaped cliff which could be the reference to the Bible's "the place of the skull". It would be so much easier if someone just left a sign that said, "This is where ______ happened" for all the major historical events that we just don't know for sure where they took place!
After the Garden Tomb, we climbed up atop the old city walls to what is called, "The Rampart's Walk." This path along the city wall allows you to walk entirely around the old city (excluding the Temple Mount) from above. The views as we walked along were amazing and it was such a great perspective looking down into the city from above. We were surprised at how many basketball courts and soccer fields we saw as we walked along. And there were lots of children playing on such a beautiful day! After being here nearly nine months, we are finally starting to feel like we can navigate our way through the old city and this only helped us to get our bearings even better. After our long trek, needless to say we (especially me) had some tired legs!
We are hoping to see a few more places in the city before we go, but seeing all the above was such a blessing! It is just more to add to our fabulous experience that we've had so far!
Thanks for being part of our journey and see you soon!