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Tags - jerusalem
‘Lets walk the Mikvah in the city of the King' - City of David and Hezekiah's tunnel
Walking in tunnels are exhilarating story reads and with a flashlight in hand, it feels like a Discovery or National Geographic. City of David and the Hezekiah's tunnel became a physical as well as a non-physical reality, for reasons, I learnt eventually.
Then again, the reason had a season. And this was during my fourth visit to Israel. Past three visits, I have walked past the City of David admiring its entrance and even taking photographs with the golden harp, but never ventured within. This time with the group I was with had Ir David in the itinerary. Being the last day of the Sukkoth holiday and there was also a planned prophetic Wedding Feast to attend on return to the hotel.
King David has been one of my heroes and his war strategies have never ceased to amaze me, beginning with knocking down Goliath. And now, here we were in the King's city considered to have been the original Jerusalem. According to our guide the story is as old as 3,000 years ago, when King David left the city of Hebron for a small hilltop city known as Jerusalem, establishing it as the unified capital of the tribes of Israel.
Our visit began at the observation point overlooking Jerusalem. As I stood there overlooking the excavated site, I felt transported in the timeline, way back to the days of Abraham when the foundations of the city were first laid to present days excavations that made me relive King David's conquest of the Jebusite city. The tour-walk moved down the hillside stone stairs heading underground to some of the newer archeological excavations.
As we walked down the steps to an area marked ‘G' - The Royal Acropolis Water System (Warren's Shaft), we were reminded of Charles Warren's discovery of the ancient underground water tunnel outside the walls of the old city from the Western Wall. Apparently, this was recognized to be similar to the underground water tunnel or ‘gutter' as described in 2nd book of Samuel 5. The stepped wall on this hill in the area is believed to be the retaining wall that many archeologists believe to be the ‘Citadel of Zion' mentioned as King David's conquest of the city (2 Samuel 5:9)
The walking down tour ended at the Gihon Spring. This was the major water source of Jerusalem for over 1,000 years and where, according to the Bible, King David's son, Solomon was anointed king.
Somewhere in between the walk down Pat tugged me impatiently, ‘I have to go to the mikvah. Please come?' I looked at her and shook my head. How did she know that I too was curious about the ‘bath'? I had seen the baths in nearly every excavation site I visited, but a real one? How would one experience that? Still baffled, she tugged me along to the ticket counter for the Hezekiah's tunnel walk. That was the mikvah she wanted to walk and I complied, immediately. As with every ‘planned' visit, we were the last ones, after which the ticket counter shut!
There is an interesting fact about this tunnel, mentioned in the 2nd Book of Chronicles 32:30 of how the city was defended from the Assyrian army. King Hezekiah protected the water system by diverting its flow deeper into the city with a tunnel system. This tunnel was built by digging a 1,750 foot tunnel into the mountain. An ancient stone describes this incredible operation.
This stone reminded me of David Van Koevering's key to Quantum Leap ‘All matter has memory - your words are recorded', in which he narrates Joshua 24:27, ‘And Joshua said unto all the people, ‘Behold this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words often LORD which He spake unto us. It shall therefore be a witness unto you, lest you deny your God.'' And then there was Habakuk (2:11) and Yeshua (Luke 19:40) who said the same thing of stones witnessing. So, were the stones listening at the time? Every word, action and deed done in flesh has been recorded, according to the quantum theory.
Trekking this tunnel has today become a highlight for visitors and for Pat, Shalin, Gabriele and me a sense of duty - the Mikvah. How timely was this? After this we had the Wedding Feast of the Lamb to attend.... I enjoy half-planned last minute head-on programs! ADONAI perfectly plans HIS surprises...
The entrance was more like a cave that was well lit and gave the place a golden glow. We bought our little key-chain torches. I was a little disappointed, thought they would be flashlights, like the days of yore. But the excitement didn't wane. We arrived at to our destination - the 2,700 year old water tunnel one of the wonders of early engineering.
The water was cool and rose knee-high as we walked in, barefoot. The air within was cool; it was very dark; the space between shoulders narrowed as we walked forward, bending in some places. How so natural!.. And so well preserved! There was something about these walls -white lime portion of the wall - that seemed to reflect a golden color and it seemed to say something. It was instant - I allowed Quantum physics to let me hear and the Holy Spirit to pave the way of my thoughts. I allowed my left hand to run through the wall and impulsively pressed my ears, as if to hear something.
The walk was a silent one, with only sound of our feet splashing the water, everyone ‘soaked' in their own thoughts. I wonder if anyone thought as loud as I did... In time, we reached the end that opened into the Pool of Shiloach. Fragments of pillars are seen in the pool, which are remains of the Shiloach Church that was built here. We waited for a while watching children play in this pool and decided to do the same, wondering when would this happen again.
As we were leaving, we were self-introduced to a man who took us around to an ongoing excavation from here that showed us a huge wall painting - an artist's impression of the temple steps; shared Baron Edmond de Rothschild leading philanthropic role in acquiring property in the Land of Israel for rebuilding the Jewish Yishuv (Community); and took us to a nearby area where excavation of steps is yet underway, which he said, may probably have been the way that the Holy Priest would have taken during Sukkoth from the Pool to the Holy Temple for the water libation.
We were curious. Who was this man? He says that he was part of the excavation team.. and he too, wasn't sure why he was there. Looks like he owned a shop there, but there was no forceful sales made.
This was more than I had ever imagined or expected from being obedient to my call from my Abba for this Sukkot trip! History, experience and learning for real are a package deal that only Israel could give me till date in my life! Today when I go through challenges and feel blocked in a dark tunnel, I know now that there is a healing Pool of Shiloach at the other end.
‘Let's walk the Old City Ramparts..
Walk about Zion, go round about her,
number her towers, consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels;that you may tell the next generation that this is God,
our God for ever and ever.
He will be our guide for ever.(Psalm 48:12-14)
.. and see where King David's soldiers stood and what they saw from their vantage points', is what we - Pat, Gabriele, Shalin and I - wanted to do following the ‘water-walking' experience at the Hezekiah's tunnel, all immersed, even in our own memories.
We walked up and down the road from the City of David to the Jaffa Gates and got our tickets. It was a tiny Entrance fee. There seemed to be just a handful of visitors at the time with our little group of four. Adventurous and prepared, were we, all with walking shoes and some water - there was this guide tip - Be prepared for a lot of stone-stairs in varying levels.
One part of the Ramparts Walk begins just outside Jaffa Gate. The entrance is a bit hard to find. Before going through the gate into the Old City, head to the enclosure to the right of Jaffa Gate, as you face the Old City. You'll be walking between two stone walls on a stone path. Follow the signs or ask someone - the entrance is a bit of way down, around a corner to the left. This section takes you from Jaffa Gate to Zion Gate and lets you off near Dung Gate, not far from the Western Wall Plaza and the Jewish Quarter. It offers a stunning view of Old City rooftops, Sultan's Pool, Yemin Moshe, Mt. Zion and the Mt. of Olives. You can also access the ramparts from Damascus Gate follow them to Lion's Gate.
Near the Entrance, there is a stone sit-out. While sitting there, waiting for Shalin to finish her sandwich, I looked around and a thought crossed my mind ‘we are about to walk another piece of Bible history!' What a fun way to get the overview of Jerusalem in the 21st Century, by climbing the olden ramparts (the watch-points, I say) of the Old City and circle the city above. There were moments I wondered what must have passed by the minds of the soldiers standing guard in the varying time periods. Walking on top of the Old City is exhilarating and gives you wonderful view over the new city of Jerusalem through the arrow slits on the turret walls and/or over them.
There are places that I had never seen in my earlier visits, like the cloistered Armenian compound, an old hospital... from each vantage point; we could see the day-to-day Old city life and the exuberance of Sukkoth. The hubbub of city life in this holiday season was worth capturing on film and just drinking in the sight from where each of us stood - bustling markets, sheets hanging on washing lines, a vendor frying falafels, festive dancing on temporary platforms....
The walls of Jerusalem that we see today were built by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century when he restored the ancient city walls that served as military fortifications. During 1948-1967, the Jordanian snipers used the ramparts as a vantage point. Multiple bullet holes stand witness to this shooting position on old buildings facing the Old City. Today, the ramparts serve a more peaceful purpose as a choice destination for school field trips, tourists and Jerusalem enthusiasts, I understand.
The walk is about 4 kilometres. You can't circumnavigate the entire Old City in one shot, since access to the ramparts of the Temple Mount is closed off, and the road bisects the walls at Jaffa Gate. We had to descend at the Lion's or Dung Gate and resumed from the Damascus Gate.
It is not advised to walk alone or after dark. Should you wish to experience the Rampart Walk, go for it! And again, the tip to heed: the walk requires a lot of stair climbing and descending. Make sure you're wearing comfortable walking shoes, and that you have enough water with you - once you're on the ramparts, there's no getting off until the end and no refreshment kiosk or bathroom along the way. While this is fun for adults and older kids, avoid taking little children, those fearful of heights and people who have trouble walking.
Standing on fulfilled prophecy part I and now waiting for part 2 - The watchtower - Rachel's tomb
Today is January 02nd, 2012 or 07 Tevet 5772, with 3 more days to the 10 Tevet. Rachel's Tomb (Kever Rachel - רחל קבר) was the last visit on the tour agenda on 04th November 2011. As I look back to write, these dots seem to connect - I like connecting dots - especially when the masterpiece forms bit by bit with the Tanakh as a witness!
This was the 09th of November 2011 - It seemed as uncanny as the bus rode down the road with Security fences on either side. The guide's voice announced, ‘We are on our way to Rachel tomb', seemed on level with another question that toyed in my head, ‘Why the security to a religious and historic site?' The answer was the Guide's next sentence, ‘We are at the border of Bethlehem and there is Security here. The fences that you see on either side are that the site has been surrounded by a barrier to separate it from Bethlehem.'
Geographically, this site is located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem and is a very significant historical site for the Jews, Christians and the Muslims. It is believed to be the burial place of the biblical matriarch Rachel, wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. She died giving birth to Benjamin and "Jacob set a pillar upon her grave" (Gen. 35:19). ‘For the Jews, this is an important place of Jewish pilgrimage, especially, Jewish women unable to give birth,' I learnt. I also heard someone in the bus say, ‘Isn't this interesting, we came to the Promised Land; we prayed for the return of Jews back home and now we return via Rachel's Tomb. According to Jewish tradition, it is said that Rachel weeps for her children and that when the Jews were taken into exile, she wept as they passed by her grave on the way to Babylon (Jeremiah 31:11-16).' That sounded poignant indeed.
We got off the bus and were told to separate. There were two sides - one for men and the other for women. I walked into the women's section. There was simple activity - chatter, siddurim being sold and many women meeting ‘thing', etc.. I walked around the place, feeling like something was here, yet couldn't seem to a finger to it. I can't say I prayed, but just left myself ‘void'- like I usually do when I stand on history and am speechless... I turned round, put in a little tzeddaqah into the box and walked out. I found a space for myself and was soon joined by our guide.
I learnt that the site consists of a rock with 11 stones on it, one for each of the 11 sons of Jacob who were alive when Rachel died (at childbirth). Over the centuries, the rock was covered by a dome supported by four arches. The large tomb is now covered by a velvet drape. Today, as the site is very close to the checkpoint from the Palestinian territories into Israel. The original tomb, a rectangular structure with a white dome, has been enclosed inside a fortress, complete with guard tower, soldiers and barbed wire.
I am back home and as I go through the Tour itinerary and the photographs, I realise that the group entered Israel on 04th November when the synagogues around the world had just read the Torah portion, ‘Lech lecha' (Gen 12:1 - 17:27). How amazing is that! The portion begins, ‘Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee...'I don't believe in coincidences, not this one either!
Weeks later, we read ‘VaYishlach' (Gen 32:3 - 36:43)... with Rachel's tomb and the Bible says ‘it still stands even this day'. Wow! Again that ‘void' feeling, to think we actually stood, touched and felt the watchtower enriched in prophecy! I read and re-read Gen 35:20-21, ‘And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day. And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.'
The weekly Torah study from www.elshaddaiministries.us seemed to patch in the missing portion of the masterpiece that is yet incomplete and will be brought to an end soon. Migdal Eder -the tower of Eder (flocks) and in Gen 35:20-21, remains for us even today to fulfil history, I see now. The watchtower continues as a reminder as mentioned by Prophet Micah (4:8-9), hinting of Rachel, a woman in labour!
I like this one: According to the Targum in Aramaic by Yonatan, taking both these verses (Genesis 35:20-21 and Micha 4:8-9), here is what it says and is paraphrased as so: ‘He spread His tent beyond Migdal Eder, the place where the King Messiah will reveal Himself in the end days.' And how interesting is this, when we realise that Yeshua was born in Bethlehem!
The story is so intertwined, Travelujah with so much to know - the King's birth here, Israel mourning the death of the lamb bringing sorrow to Bethlehem, Rachel's distress at childbirth, the Migdal Eder (http://hethathasanear.com) and much more, as it really was.. and worth all the time and space for any Bible history/story enthusiast. There is so much, but for now, this is it...
Coffee and conversations at the HaBokrim Inn
It was cold, 7deg C. Puppy and I spent 4 days in the Golan Heights staying with a family, as part of our tour plan. Everything that a travel diary can log was done here - visiting, tasting food, trekking and touring nearby places, enjoying Shabbat dinner, even getting the local Police's help to return home in a Police van when we got lost on returning from the Kotel visit in Jerusalem!
Our hosts, the Nigrekar family were hospitality perfecto! Yitzchak, the head of the family was the guide and his car, our convey to all places - north, south and west of Golan. The touring included, Gamla, Meshushim river and waterfall, Zavitan waterfall, Ramat Magshishim, Mizpe Hashalom, the Jordan River, Park HaYarden, a training camp), Kibbutz El Rom, Mt. Bental, Tel a Saki and many little on the way places. And Tel a Saki was the most memorable, bare with signs of the Yom Kippur war - destroyed tanks and stones that stand as memories of the war. This was in contrast to the beautiful and breathtaking natural places of the rest, one to mention the sight overlooking the Lake Kinneret from the Golan!
This log begins with the walk up to the HaBokrim Inn located in the Marom Golan Kibbutz. Once inside, I recognised this place - it is designed like a ranch house - and this was my second visit here. The rain and the cold winds were blowing in lowering the temperatures. Yitzchak ordered for hot coffee. That was really appreciated - Coffee and conversations go well. A casual chat has a way of ambling and ours reached the Yom Kippur war that Yitzchak was also part of. It began with a signpost showing arrow marks to the bordering countries, army barracks and bunks outside the restaurant. This was an exciting coffee-break with the real-life hero sitting at the same table! The war hero is honoured even today for saving many lives during this famed war.
Visit to Tel a Saki was slated for the following day. It is an observation hill overlooking the southern Golan Heights. Yitzchak drove to an overturned bunker that housed him during the Yom Kippur war and is still there, overturned with bullet holes. There is a dedication plaque with his name mentioned there. ‘Every year people come here, pray and even light candles in memory of the day and for us, too...'.
We returned home and our discussions continued. Sitting at the table, I was shown the manuscript, ‘My experiences in the Yom Kippur War' as told to Marsha Zukerman- a real life manuscript! A copy was given to me that I share here. For keeps-sake, I am including the ‘screenplay' here for tomorrow's read. It includes Tel a Saki, the land I stood on and still have memories! This is all in Yitzchak's narration, as recorded-
Yitzchak Nigrekar was born in India and migrated to Israel at the age of 11years of age. He was stationed in the Golan Heights during the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
Before the war in July 1973: There was an Air war with Syria. An Israeli plane was on a border watch when the chase began with many Syrian planes on tail. The Israeli plane led the enemies' aircraft to the coast of Beirut and a battle broke in air. 13 Syrian and 1 Israeli aircrafts were shot down. A ground battle also began and our unit destroyed 14 enemy tanks. In August, we were move to the border. Our Military Intelligence was expecting the Syrians to come back and capture the eastern part of the Golan Heights. Sometime between Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur, we were briefed about the enemy strength growing on the other side of the border - 600 tanks, 2 brigades and all kinds of ammunition. All we had was 11 tanks on our side of the border in the southern zone of Ramat Ha Golan. When we asked him, ‘How can we defend ourselves against such a large force?' He replied, ‘You are good and will manage it'. He was right - during the Six day War, every Israeli tank had destroyed 20-30 Arab tanks!
Erev Yom Kippur and Yom Kippur: The Israeli forces were on high alert with equipment. There were 13 of us in our barrack - 3 crews with four men in each and a Medic.
Yom Kippur 13:55: Explosions could be heard everywhere. Black clouds mushroomed on the East side of the mountain. While the Commander ran to the tank for instructions, I made a dash for the room and yelled, ‘Guys there is a battle'! All of us got into the tanks and moved to the border, broke through the fence and moved into the no-man's land. 3 Syrian tanks were destroyed. Nothing happened after this.
Evening of the first day: To the north there was an ancient Roman Road and we were informed that there were 30 Syrian tanks on it, moving along this road towards the border. We moved back and took positions and waited till they had all passed and destroyed them all. 11 more tanks followed to the same fate. Knowing that they could not enter Ramah through this way, they moved east where our infantry was. The combat continued with more enemy causalities. By this time, we had exhausted our anti-tank ammunition and lost our Commander in a fire exchange.
To solve the ammunition problem, we received an order from the Second Lieutenant to move to Tel a Saki and gather them from the disabled Israeli tank. On our way, the tank broke up on a rock. Being in-charge of communications and ammunition, with a weak radio, I had no choice but to go to the tank and get their radio. There, I saw our dead Commander. With mixed emotions, I called out to my mates to help get his body out and do the needful, while making a promise within myself. ‘If I survive, I will return and get married and my first son shall be named after him. His name was Yoav. And so it was. Baruch haShem!'
..... to be continued.. as part 2...worth it!
My favourite song - Jerusalem of Gold, a land of promise.
When I listen to this song, it brings back memories of my visits to the place and all the people I met, alleys walked, places visited, bus rides.... Can hear this song over and over...
I have visited and traveled the Holy Land, no better description, for pilgrimage, a tour and even for a Bible feast and have yet not had enough. It is so true when people say, 'The Bible comes alive' - every stone talks here!