Holy Land Diaries: Day 4

Our start was super early this morning. Breakfast was at 6am already, and for someone like me who’s not a fan of the most important meal of the day, my body wrestled with me in a shocking way.

We took a 7:00AM walk to the Temple Mount through the Arminian Quarter. It was actually refreshing to see and experience the Jewish Quarter in the early morning quiet, before every tourist group descend on its steps. We had to make sure we had absolutely NO religious elements- bibles, crosses, booklets- in with us.

We in South Africa have no idea what religious freedom is, until we see what it’s not.

Inside the Temple Mount, we were not allowed to talk about Jesus; couples weren’t allowed to hold hands or touch; you can’t even raise your hands! Not only did it feel restrictive and backwards, it also felt this-cannot-be-in-the-21st-century.

But it’s the reality of millions of people, eyes covered by the veil of religion.

I was in awe of the Dome of the Rock- the third most holy site for Muslims. It’s a magnificent building. Carefully laid with tiny pieces of Byzantine mosaic tiles, you cannot help but marvel at its beauty- no matter your religion. (I’m talking to those of you who can only see the beauty in something if it’s Christian).

For the Jews and (some) Christians, it’s where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac, his son. For the Muslim, it’s where the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. For the Samaritan, however, Abraham took Isaac to Mount Gerizim. Which is why the woman at the well in John 4 asked Jesus where the proper place for worship is (mind-blown, right?!)

I’m finding SO MUCH material for sermons in these “lectures and commentaries” from our tour guides. I’m also realizing how my context for reading the Scriptures are being challenged and changed. It’s liberating.

Oh my goodness!

We went to the Pool of Bethesda, where the story of John 5 plays off- Jesus healing a man by asking him, “do you WANT to be healed?” Because the man had been living with his condition for 38 years. Could it be that he didn’t want to get well? That he wanted to stay a beggar, because it was easier than being well, working, and taking responsibility?

I don’t know.

All I know was that I was singing in true pinkster style, the chorus, “spring innie bad van Bethesda, die bad word geroer”, realizing now only the power of those simple choruses usually being sung in the Coloured churches. (Go google it, it’ll lift your spirit).

Nadine and I had a nap for lunch, literally. We were so exhausted after all that walking. We wanted to buy a fresh bread, but ended up having SA sweets and a fresh nap.

The highlight of my day definitely was when we walked almost knee-deep in the water through Hezekiah’s tunnel- an 800m underground passage that brought fresh water from the Gihon Spring. It was dug through solid rock from opposite sides, meeting each other right in the middle….with no modern technology. I touched the original Hebrew inscription they’d put up commemorating the event (where they met in the middle).

By the time we visited David’s city- which they are still busy excavating- I was finished. Finished as in brain fried from information overload; as in can’t anything, as the kids would say.

Let it be known at this point, that I walked a whopping 13,6 kilometers in total yesterday. Walked, people! I know my ancestors- the Khoi-San were people of the kaalvoet 4x4, but I’m seriously too white for walking, and too brown for hiking- that long-distance thing white folks associate with fun.

Our day ended at the Western Wall, where we witnessed how the Jewish people pray, and stick wimritten prayers in. A few of our team commented on the “blindness” of these people, and were saddened that their eyes are not open. But I was inspired by their dedication, their commitment to what they believe. I’m motivated to step my prayer game up, not in a religious way, but to be as dedicated and committed to connect to God, like the people I saw at the wall.

As you can see, this was a long post, and I’m still recovering from all those activities. But it was a day I’ll never forget.

God is good, friends. He really, truly is good.

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