Wednesday, January 20, 2010
To Israel with Temple Beth Zion and Westminster Presbyterian Church Part 4
I'm sure many of you would not be surprised that for most of my life I have asked my literature teachers: "How do you know...?" I had that feeling much of today as we walked in the walled city of Jerusalem.
We actually started our day outside the walls in East Jerusalem at the Garden Tomb. In the mid-1800's Protestant Christians decided that this was the site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus while most Christian groups decided 1400 years earlier that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was the site. For me the question remains: "How does anyone know?" These decisions were made long before archeology was even in its infancy! The same is true for Biblical sites. Even some of the places that have Biblical names but not much archeological evidence could have been identified 1800+ years ago as a particular location, may in actuality be in a different place altogether.
Jerusalem (in Hebrew Yerushalayim), however contains a tremendous amount of archeological proof confirming the reality the identification and today we spent a good deal of time looking at that evidence.
Leaving the Garden Tomb we toured the excavations outside the southern retaining wall of the Temple Mount. Here we saw evidence of the existence of Herod's Temple, its destruction and the building of new walls to replace older ones. We then returned to the Western Wall to meditate and pray. I was engaged by the intensity with which some of our group prayed. Some of the most jaded among us was moved to tears. I fulfilled the mitzvah of delivering a note for M. S.'s parents and saying Yizkor and Kaddish for him.
We then continued into the underground passage way which allowed us to see almost the entire length of the western wall of the Temple Mount. As we walked through the tunnels I was again overwhelmed by the amount of work it took to build the walls so perfectly and how it has become an object of veneration by so many. As always there was a group of women praying in the tunnel at the spot nearest to where many estimate the Holy of Holies would have stood before it was destroyed in 70 C.E.. Simply put, the Western Wall Tunnel is awesome.
Hezikiah's "Broad Wall" he built to defend Jerusalem from the Assyrian invaders in the late 700's C.E. and the Cardo, the old Roman marketplace, now filled with modern Judaica shops. Leaving the Cardo and gong through the Shuk to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and finally to David's Tower and a tour of its exhibits. It was a long day of walking but more than worth it.
A couple of observations:
It is definitely different being at these Christian sites with members of a Christian congregation taht we know so well. The trust and openness is not only refreshing, it is inspiring!
Second, While today was about the "Old" City I think we all found a closer connection to our present and hopefully a commitment to the future.
Peace and Blessings from Jerusalem,
Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld