The skyline of Jerusalem is one of the most unique in the world. It is Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Brandenburg Gate, Colosseum, the Parthenon all rolled into one. The site of the sun bouncing off the Dome of the Rock is known everywhere in the world.
The view we all think of is across the Kidron Valley from the apex of the Mount of Olives. Jerusalem is the Bible come alive, whether you are reading the Old Testament or the New Testament, Jerusalem is the theme that everything revolves around.
For the Christian it seems that Jesus entire ministry is a drive towards Jerusalem. Because we know the beginning and the end of the story we know that Jesus travels there with His family at the age of 12. We also know that His story on the earth ends there with his ascension into heaven from the Mount of Olives.
If you go to Israel on a tour this is likely the first view of Jerusalem you will have as you drive into Jerusalem from the East, heading West. It is one of those moments that stops everything, and it seems like time stands still. You have been in country for a couple of days and the entire tour, as fun as it has been, has been about going up to Jerusalem.
The walls of the old city surround the most historic portion of Jerusalem. The eight gates of modern Jerusalem give access to the city from the East, West, South, and North. Every entrance is different and amazing in its own way.
The hike up from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Lion’s Gate is exhilarating. It is a strain, but the entire way you are headed up to Jerusalem, finally. You are about to enter in through East Wall of Jerusalem in the Muslim Quarter. The Dome of the Rock is to your left. Just inside the Gate is the Pool of Bethsaida. Immediately you are in the presence of the miracles of Jesus.
You can sense Jesus, here on a Sabbath day, healing a sick man and facing the judgment of the religious leaders of His day. Sure in His understanding of what His mission was. Sure in His ability to heal the sick and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.
These are the places where Jerusalem comes alive. You can feel the presence of God and you can see Jesus walking, talking, and ministering to the hurting crowds. Take a moment and imagine the water filling the ruins in front of you. Imagine the crowds who are sick, lame, waiting on the angel to stir the water and bring healing to the one lucky person who happens to get there first.
Jesus stepping up to you and feeling the expectation of a miracle starting to bloom in your heart. Then feel the power of God to transform a life right then and there without the benefit of the water. Just by reaching out and commanding it to be so.
That is every step in Jerusalem. That is every breath you take while you are here.
Coming in through the Dung Gate, yes, you heard that right, the Gate where the refuse was taken out in ancient times, you will walk past the Southern Steps and to the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall.
This is a very active entrance into historic Jerusalem because it is big enough to allow more than small cars into the city. Watch your step because you are walking on an active street when you are entering the Gate.
From here the path takes you by the Southern Steps to the Temple of Jesus’ time. If you go down on the righthand side you can walk among the fallen stones that were left by the Romans when they tore the Temple down in 70 A.D. The Romans literally pushed the stones from the Temple off the hill and onto the ground until the stones were level and the Temple was gone.
Then you come back on the main pathway and walk through the metal detectors to the Western Wall. Here you can pray 24 hours a day. The wall is divided into a men’s section and a women’s section. This is the point that is closest to the Holy of Holies on the Temple Mount which is right above and to the left of the Wall. You can touch the Wall, pray at the Wall, leave prayers stuffed into the Wall. All you need is a head covering if you are a man. A ball cap will do, yarmulkes are available for those with uncovered heads.
This is a solemn moment in any tour. This is where you take a few minutes and talk directly to God on behalf of friends and family around the world. This is literally where the world comes to pray.
It is also a great place to stand and watch the locals pray and enjoy the ambiance of being in a space where large numbers of people are unapologetic about praying out loud.
Lay your hands on the wall that has stood since before Jesus was here.
From here you can either amble through the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem or take a tour through the tunnels that go under the Temple Mount and take across the city.
Ancient Jerusalem oozes history at every turn. Next to an ice cream shop is Hezekiah’s Wall. Under the City of David is Hezekiah’s Tunnels. The Bible comes alive in Jerusalem. There is no avoiding it. And try as they might, archeologists have failed to prove the Bible false. Every new dig reaffirms the timeline and the history of Israel as recounted in the Holy Scriptures.
This is all part of the joy that is Jerusalem. If you do not love Jerusalem, you have missed a huge part of who we are spiritually. The Psalms say that the Lord blesses those who love Jerusalem.
For once do not try to avoid the crowds and join the pilgrims on the Via Dolorosa. Struggle up the hills that Jesus may well have struggled up and relive His crucifixion with thousands of your new best friends.
Wind through the shops of the Arab Quarter where Muslims sell Christian icons. Stop and get a glass of pomegranate juice made fresh while you wait. Place your hand in the handprint along the way where legend says that Jesus leaned against the wall. Of course, that is not in reality what happened, but this is a place to ponder the significance of everything you have believed for your entire life.
This trip will bring you to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where it is believed Jesus was crucified and buried for three days. Every trip to Jerusalem includes this stop and the Garden Tomb, both have a credible claim to the crucifixion and burial of Jesus.
The Church is an amazing conglomeration of Churches that are all under the same roof, hosting the same claim to Calvary and the Tomb. There are many legends that surround this place. From its humble entrance, to its elaborate interior it does not disappoint, except for the crowds that are almost always there.
Even with the crowds you will want to make some time to wonder around the interior and explore the nooks and crannies. There are hidden gems waiting to be found throughout the Church. At this point you might want to leave your group and spend some time by yourself. This is a great place for contemplation and prayer.
There are plenty more things to do in Jerusalem. After I get back from my next trip, which is coming up in three weeks, I will write a more intimate story of Jerusalem. We are going to spend a lot of time there, in less of tour format and more of explore and pray through the city format.