Israel Travel Journal, Day 1

Mount of Olives

When I began this trip to Israel, I hadn’t planned on blogging, but after I got here I changed my mind. I’m not promising to blog every day.  We’ll just see what happens.

This day’s sights included the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Upper Room.  If you’ve never been here, the thing that strikes one, especially looking toward Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, is how hilly this area is.

I feel stupid for not having known that, but the others in our group were surprised as well.  The topography reminded me of the San Fransisco Bay Area.

Jerusalem sits on a hill, with a valley to the north and east (the Kidron Valley) and mountains surrounding the valley.  Things make sense to me now, like Jesus saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem…” (Matt. 20:18).

Or take Jesus at the Mount of Olives telling His disciples about when the temple and Jerusalem are going to be destroyed within a generation. I now understanding they were looking right down on the city and the temple, both clearly visible from the Mount of Olives. (Matt. 24).When I read about Jesus warning His disciples to flee Jerusalem when they see the city surrounded by armies (Luke 21:21-23), I now understand how, in 67 A.D., when the Roman army surrounded Jesuralem, the disciples could have clearly seen it from inside the city walls.

Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane was interesting as well, though I went through a major quenchifying experience in the church next door that supposedly contains the rock on which Jesus prayed in the garden the night of His arrest.

The rock allegedly contains stains from the blood Jesus sweat in the garden the night of His betrayal.  (Luke 22:44).  People were leaning over the railing and kissing the rock, like it was the Blarney Stone.  My Protestantism and Germaphobia conspired to form a zealous disgust for the whole spectacle.

In the afternoon, we visited the Upper Room…well sort of.  After asking a few questions, I learned this really wasn’t the Upper Room, but a building from the 12th century in the same location they believed the Upper Room had been.  None of the tourists were kissing the floor there, so maybe they had asked the same questions.

Our tour guide is incredible.  He is a Jewish Christian who makes each place come alive with his knowledge of the Jewish first century culture and the Bible.  He gave a teaching at the fake Upper Room I will never forget when I read the story of the Last Supper.  I can’t imagine having a better tour guide, and I can’t wait until tomorrow.  Stay tuned. GS