This post marks day 3 of our biblical journey with the Church. It was part of the Hope and Grace TBN Israel tour 2018 with Pastor Joseph Prince and Pastor Joel Osteen.
Praise the Lord! We didn’t have to queue up to enter the Temple Mount because it opens at 8 am and we were there at 7.45am. Once we entered the temple grounds through the Mughrabi Gate, we get to take beautiful pictures of the place without people getting in the way. Admission into the temple complex is free.
It was quiet in the morning, and it seems like there’s only us. Before entering Temple Mount, we were told not to carry any religious items with us. We need to cover up our arms and legs as well so be sure to be dressed modestly. The security checked our bags for such items, and if you have a bible with you, they would have to confiscate it.
Why is the Temple Mount holy to the Jews?
Today, it remains as one of the most hotly contested sites by the Jews, Muslims and Christians. For the Jews, this is where Abraham demonstrated his faith as he sacrificed the life of his son, Isaac to the Lord. Two ancient Jewish temples were built upon this site as well. King Solomon built the first temple and the second temple was by King Herod. Both of which have already been destroyed. The only remnant of the second temple that stood is the Western Wall.
During Jesus’s time, He would also frequent the temple grounds to preach about the Heavenly Kingdom. It is also where he drove out the moneychangers and healed the sick.
1. The Golden Dome of the Rock (to the North)
One of the most stunning structures at Temple Mount is the golden Dome of Rock. You can immediately spot this mosque from a distance. The blue mosaic tiles were beautiful, and it looks gorgeous against the clear blue sky.
2. Al-Aqsa Mosque (to the South)
It is the third holiest site in Islam, and only Muslims are allowed to enter the mosque.
3. The Western Wall
This is the only site at the Temple Mount where the Jewish are allowed to pray. During the day, you will see fervent Jewish heading over to the walls to pray. The Western Wall has also been a place to celebrate special events like a Bar Mitzvah, the initiation ceremony into adulthood of a Jewish Boy reaching the age of 13. That day we get to witness such a ceremonial event taking place on the streets. It was some parade, and everyone was singing and dancing. Towards the end of the ceremony, they released blue and white helium balloons into the air.
Segregation between Males and Females
The plaza is separated into two sections – one for males and the other for females. According to the Orthodox Jewish laws, men and women must not pray together in fear that a man would get distracted by a woman. Likewise, an orthodox man should not touch a woman as well. While we were walk through the temple mount, we were asked to move aside by a stranger for an orthodox Jew to cross to avoid contact.
To pray at the wall, women should dress modestly and have their legs and shoulders covered. Men must also cover their head.
Christians read the Bible, and the Jews read the Torah.
It is a Jewish practice to write your prayers on slips of paper and then tuck into the little crevices found in the stones of the Western Wall.
Males and females are segregated. Occasionally, you will catch women overlooking the barrier to see what’s happening on the other side.
The Jewish men wore a kippah (Yamulke) over their heads as a sign of respect. To them, it is also an act of honouring God.
The Jerusalem Archaeological Park
Next to the Temple Mount is The Jerusalem Archaeological Park – Davidson Centre. It houses a museum where you will get to learn more about the archaeological finds during the First and Second Temple period.
The Southern Steps are also found within the Archeological Park. The Southern steps are also known as the ‘Teaching Steps’ or the ‘Rabbi’s steps’. These recently excavated steps lead up to the Hulda Gates which are entrances to the Temple Mount.
This is also where the first TBN 2018 live service was held.
Old Jewish Quarters
While we were walking up the steps to enter the Jewish Quarters, we witnessed the moving of the life-sized Golden Menorah. According to online sources on Facebook, it was moved to Hurva Plaza.
1. Cardo Maximus – Ancient Roman Street
Within the old Jewish Quarters, there are several archaeological sites and finds. This Mural Painting in the photograph above is part of the Cardo. There were also remnants of the tall stone columns. Parts of the Cardo were discovered during excavation work inside the Jewish Quarter. Imagine, the slab of stones under my feet was the part of the pedestrian street of ancient Jerusalem!
Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum
After lunch, we head over to Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Israel’s official memorial dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. We could not take photographs of the exhibit so I did not bring my camera along with me. Since the Holocaust is part of the Jewish’s history, it is a place worth going to understand the sufferings of the Jews. Admission is free.
In the past, to enter the old city of Jerusalem, you will have to walk through the Damascus gate. Today, the entrance is guarded by Israeli border police. It is also the main gate to enter the Muslim quarters. That explains why you will see some muslim vendors walking in and out of the gate carrying food items. Beside the gate is the watchtower checkpoint which was just newly constructed a few months back. You can sense the tension at the gate as the Israeli forces do frequent checks on the people walking past. It was a site of several violent attacks in the recent years, so security has been very tight.
The Garden Tomb
The Garden Tomb is another interesting site. It is situated outside the city gate (Damascus Gate) on the north side of the city of Jerusalem, and right outside it is the Muslim quarters. The vibe right outside the tomb differs a lot from the vibe within the Garden. There are much peace and serenity in the garden.
Today, The Garden Tomb is owned and administered by The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association, a Charitable Trust based in the United Kingdom since 1894.
It is believed to be the site of burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Adjacent to the garden is a rocky slope which is believed to be Golgatha or the Skull hill where the crucifixion of Jesus was held.
According to our guide from the Garden Tomb, she mentioned that the crucifixion might be performed at the bottom of the hill where the multitudes of people can witness the whole event. Today, that ‘bottom of the hill’ is where the bus terminal is.
Yesterday was Good Friday, and during our GenRev church service, we have reminded the death of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins and transgressions. Could you believe it? Two thousand years ago, God sent his precious son, Jesus to died for us. And Jesus didn’t just die but he went through a lot of humiliation and pain before He cried ‘it is finished!’ It is one true act of love that no human performs except Jesus.
We also visited the tomb where Jesus was buried and risen again on the third day after his death.
The supposedly big stone was being rolled away and was probably not there anymore. Today the tomb is reduced to a small chamber.
After visiting the tomb, we reserved a little spot in the garden to worship the Lord and break communion. It is indeed an extraordinary moment for us as we sat right outside the tomb in the beautiful garden where Jesus had once suffered and resurrected. We sang a couple of songs along and broke bread together as we prayed for each other.
That’s a typical day for us in Israel during our biblical tour with Sar-El. Do check out for the next blog post as we unravel the other interesting sites in Jerusalem! Or you can visit my main blog post on Israel to have a look at our tour itinerary.