Israel Day Six: On the Steps of the Temple Mount
Throughout my childhood and teenage years, whenever I thought about visiting Israel, I imagined walking up the steps of the Temple Mount, a landmark I had seen often in pictures of the Holy Land. Today we visited the City of David Archaeological Park, located just below the south side of the Temple Mount. I didn’t initially realize that I was at the same spot that I had envisioned for so many years. For the past few days, we’ve been traveling all around Jerusalem and I’ve seen so many sites and landmarks that they’re all beginning to blend together. In fact, it wasn’t until I actually began to walk up the steps that I realized that these were the same steps to the Temple Mount that I’d seen so often in pictures from friends and family who had returned from trips to Israel.
This realization prompted some further reflection on the unique nature of this trip. I remember that as we discovered the possible political agendas in relation to archaeological finds of Masada, Dr. Eric Meyers said something along the lines of: “Probably only about one in one hundred groups, maybe even one in one thousand, have the same kinds of conversations that we’re having at this site”. It’s hard not to be occasionally struck speechless at some of the sites we’re visiting. For many of the students on this trip, these places are of special significance to their faith and they’ve long desired to come to Israel. However, over the course of the past few days, we have been encouraged not just to marvel over the beauty and importance of some of these sites but additionally to think critically about how information about the sites is presented and what the agendas of the presenters may be. Such discernment, I think, is critical to becoming a well-educated and even wise scholar and human being. Many of the sites we have visited have distinct points of view: the Garden Tomb was very vocally evangelical, while Masada and the Burnt House in the Jewish Quarter expressed some Zionist sentiments. I initially imagined visiting the Temple Mount with a church group or at least with other Christian travelers. The conversation that I would have with such companions at the site would be undeniably different. The importance of the steps would lie in the fact that Jesus may have walked them—and even taught on them—rather than on how archaeologists have dated them and explained their architectural features (like the short step, long step progression). I’m coming to really love this aspect of Israel: I see other touring groups around the various sites in Jerusalem and outside the city and know that they are experiencing the country very differently from me. I don’t write this in favor of propaganda or one-sided representations of historical people and places, but only to explain how humbled I am by what this small region of only a a few thousand square miles has to offer such a wide range of people.
No pictures today. I accidentally left my camera battery in the hostel! More soon though…