From the elevated position on the Mount of Olives we have a panoramic view of the holy City of Jerusalem. We look out beyond the Jewish cemetery on the mount’s slopes towards the Temple Mount where the two Jewish Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed in 70AD.
Our drive along the Kidron Valley takes us past the ancient cemetery and at the foot of the mountain we see the burial tombs of Absalom, King David’s 3rd son, Zechariah, a First Temple priest, and the tomb of the sons of Hezir. We also have a view of the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane.
We reach Mount Zion where we visit the Tomb of King David. Within the tomb is David’s cenotaph covered with a velvet cloth with embroidered symbols of a lyre and crown. Men and women sit in separate areas in this holy Jewish site where they can recite prayers facing the cenotaph. We continue our tour into the Old City through the Zion Gate and into the Jewish Quarter where we see a complex of four Sephardic synagogues which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The Yochanan ben Zakai Synagogue, Istanbuli Synagogue, Emtsai Synagogue and the Eliahu Ha’Navi Synagogue were found desecrated, burnt and in disrepair when the Israelis reclaimed Jerusalem following the Six Day War. The historic buildings have since been fully renovated and restored. Our next stop is at the Byzantine Cardo, once the main thoroughfare of the city, today we can see the findings of ongoing archaeological excavations and in part of the restored Cardo, ancient Crusader stores are used for modern shops.
Through the Jewish Quarter we pass the excavated foundations of an ancient wall which stood 2,700 years ago during the reign of King Hezekiah (Is 22:10). We go beneath the present day streets to discover the 2,000 year old Herodian mansions. The original mosaics and the ritual bath can be seen clearly. The complex of mansions gives great insight into the lifestyle at that time. We arrive at the Kotel, the 2,000 year old Western Wall, part of what was once the retaining walls of the Temple Mount during the time of the Second Temple which was destroyed in 70AD. Here you’ll have a chance to place a prayer note between the cracks of this ancient wall.
We exit the Old City through the Dung Gate where we can explore the excavation site of the City of David which dates back 3,000 years. We can marvel at the ingenuity of the Canaanites and Hezekiah who constructed tunnels to bring a water supply to the people within the city walls. These tunnels are described in Chronicles II 32:2-4 and in Kings II 20:20 – “…the acts of Hezekiah and all his might, and how he made the pool and conduit, and brought water into the city…” We rest at the Spring of Gihon and contemplate that it was here that Zadok the priest anointed Solomon king of Israel. (Kings I 1:38-39).