We started our day by visiting Ein Karem, the birthplace of John the Baptist and the place where Mary spent time with her cousin Elizabeth while she was awaiting the birth of her son, Jesus. As with most churches in this area, there are remnants of an original church, but after conquests and earthquakes they are mostly new-ish churches built upon ancient ones.
Next we drove to Yad Vashem to visit the Holocaust Museum of Jerusalem, but we had to wait nearly 45 minutes until the Japanese Prime Minister left the premises. Who knew he was on the same travel plan as us?
Yad Vashem was overwhelming to say the least, and certainly quite powerful. There are many different parts to the museum, in different buildings that remember the Shoah, The Rupture (name for Holocaust according to Jews) in many different ways. It documents the rise of Nazism and Anti-Semitism, most poignantly in Europe, and also goes to great lengths to remember all those who perished. One of the most powerful portions is the Hall of Names that goes to great lengths to document the names of every single person who died in the Holocaust. When we say we will never forget, we will remember, they mean it. There are notebooks upon notebooks of names that are still being added to so as to remember each and every one. They use family records, historical records, interviews and anything they can to document these names. In another part of the museum they continually read the names of the children who died in The Shoah, as to recognize the particular tragedy in losing so many innocent children.
Deep breaths were needed after taking in so much.
Next we made our way to Jericho, that is under full Palestinian control, but where Jews/Israelis are allowed to go. It has been something I'm not sure many of us anticipated to be traveling back and forth between Israeli and Palestinian controlled areas so frequently. At any rate, we made our way to Jericho to see A sycamore tree, but not THE sycamore tree in which Zacchaeus climbed. Although this tree we stopped at is only 300-ish years old, the tree root system is nearly 2500 years old! So it is entirely possible that this tree root system is the same one as the tree which supported Zacchaeus!
We were able to see some of the remains of Jericho, but there is still a lot of excavation to be finished in Jericho. They have discovered a wall which is nearly 10,000 years old. You have to climb a big hill to get up high and then look down into a deep whole where the excavations began. There is still much to be discovered under that large hill but it will take time. We had lunch in Jericho and then onto the Dead Sea!
The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth, 1,400 feet below Sea Level and certainly the lowest place on earth. You can float in the Dead Sea, but it is not recommended to float front side down in the water, as you should not even let the water get in your mouth/eyes. It is 8 times saltier than any ocean on earth and is also filled with many different minerals. You cannot drink the water at all, although the water and mud are extremely good for your skin. Our tour guide said that it will make you look 19 years younger. You will have to let me know if I look 13 years old again. (I kind of hope not. :) )
Our final stop of the day was at the Garden Tomb close to Jerusalem again. There is another place in which some believe that Jesus was crucified because this rock indeed looks like a skull. The church of the Holy Sepulchre is built entirely around a mount/rock so it is hard to determine if it did look like a skull before being built over.
The Garden Tomb on the other hand is a modern garden that is cared for by the Church of England. It is right next to a place that indeed does look like a skull, and there were remnants of an ancient garden/vineyard discovered in this place. It also has a tomb that was discovered and appears to be the tomb of a rich man, etc. There are signs that this tomb was at one time used as a church, which again points to the fact that pilgrims have long believed this to be a very special place.
We were able to celebrate communion in the Garden Tomb and had a special worship time filled with prayer, singing, and scripture.
Whew! That's a lot to think about as we re-type this! So we are headed to bed now! :). Don't forget to check out our OPCC Facebook page for all the photos!