A Hectic, Surprising Day

October 25, 2009

We were reminded on Sunday morning of the tensions that lie just beneath the surface in the Middle East. We started the day by leaving for the Western Wall in time for our appointment to enter the tunnel that runs underneath the surface of Jerusalem and goes north along the Western Wall and finally exits into the Muslim Quarter where the Antonio Fortress stood in Jesus’ day.

A devout Jewish man prays at the Western Wall.
Jewish women pray in the Western Wall Tunnel near the site of the Ark of the Covenant in Solomon’s Temple.

When we arrived at 7:40 AM, we noticed police and soldiers everywhere along the vast plaza. You always see security at the Western Wall, but this was much more than normal. At one point we saw Israeli police racing up the walkway toward the Temple Mount. A few minutes later we saw them come back down. Meanwhile life continued as normal, with religious Jews gathering at the Western Wall to pray. 

An Israeli SWAT team on the move.

When we entered the tunnel, we encountered pious Jewish women praying at various spots along the tunnel. At one point we saw a group of 10-15 women praying opposite the spot where the Ark of the Covenant would have been during the days of Solomon’s Temple. We also saw the elaborate waterworks built by King Herod and then added to, demolished and rebuilt over the centuries. Many people believe that the Jews hid the Ark of the Covenant in the storerooms under the Temple Mount. Unfortunately there is no way to check that out since the Muslims won’t allow the Jews to do excavations under the Dome of the Rock. We had to double back through the tunnel since the door into the Muslim Quarter had been locked because of the tensions.

The gold menorah prepared for the Third Temple.

As you soon learn, history, politics, and theology all intersect in the Middle East.

Inside the Upper Room.

We eventually toured the steps on the front of the Temple Mount, steps that Jesus would have walked on 2000 years ago. We also saw the first-century street that shows evidence of the massive boulders the Roman soldiers hurled over the top when they destroyed the Temple in AD 70. 

Kosher lamb burgers in the Jewish Quarter.

And then it was on to the Temple Institute where we met the folks who hope to build the Third Temple sometime in the future. Although a decided minority in Israeli society, they have already constructed the gold menorah for the Third Temple along with the vestments for the high priest and the implements needed to reinstitute animal sacrifices. Malcolm says this particular group isn’t into politics or demonstrations. They just want to be ready when the time comes to rebuild the temple. As one who believe the temple must one day be rebuilt (2 Thessalonians 2:4), I found the discussion fascinating. 

Marlene and Ann Olsson overlooking the Western Wall Plaza.

During lunch in the Jewish Quarter things seemed normal. Katie mentioned later that she saw two soldiers leading a man in handcuffs, presumably one of the demonstrators. Later we traveled to the City of David to visit the recently-uncovered true location of the Pool of Siloam where Jesus healed the man born blind (John 9). We ended the day with a visit to the Tomb of David and the nearby Upper Room, which was clogged with tour groups from many different nations. 

This sign says it all.

By the time we got back to our hotel, we were all tired but buzzing about our hectic, surprising day. Then we saw on TV a report on the incident in the Old City. We were never in any danger, and in fact life continued on all around us. Still it was a reminder of the realities of living in this in part of the world. No wonder the Lord instructed us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). 

Why we must pray for the peace of Jerusalem.


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