Why We Didn’t See Bethlehem

why we didn't visit Bethlehem

Beautiful view of Jerusalem from the bus window, on our way to the Bethlehem gates, or from Bethlehem…I forget, but isn’t it nice?

Bethlehem has a few important distinctions.

1.) It’s the birthplace of Jesus.

2.) Rachel is buried there. Rachel was the wife of Jacob. Jacob is the ONE who God re-named Israel.

“Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.”[   Genesis 32:28

Now if you want to understand that story better, ya just gotta go read Genesis because an awful lot of strange things happened back in those days of barbarians, much more than we are going to get to today on this blog.

Another beautiful scene near Bethlehem

So of course, many people wish to visit Bethlehem, myself included.

Where’s the problem?

Ah, yes. The problem. You can’t visit Israel without this eventually coming up. You see, Bethlehem belongs under Palestinian Authority in what’s called the West Bank.

Wait. Does that mean Americans can’t visit Bethlehem??


It does not mean that. It means that American government employees and Israelis cannot visit the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, or Golan Heights, with the exception of Bethlehem and Jericho.

I got online today to read the exact stipulations. You can find that information here. We actually didn’t know that on this trip and were under the impression that we were not allowed to go to Bethlehem.

The Gaza Strip is far more unstable than the West Bank, and Americans are strongly advised to not go there, but Bethlehem is not in the Gaza Strip.

So technically, we COULD visit Bethlehem, and most Holy Land tourist groups do so. We weren’t actually with a tourist group from the U.S. We were only taking day excursions with a tour guide from our hotel in Tel Aviv.

I don’t remember where I saw this, but interesting, eh? President Trump was there the week before. Perhaps that’s why they made this sign?

Our tour guide was an Israeli. She can’t visit Palestine, but she was full of fascinating information. Bethlehem wasn’t even a scheduled stop on our tour, but she knew we wanted to see it, so she took us to see the border wall.

Border wall of the West Bank

border wall

Everywhere you go in Israel, security is high, so as I have mentioned in my previous posts, I always felt completely safe.

But the Palestinian/Israeli tensions are still there.

Arabs walking through security, into Bethlehem.

If you look closely, you can read the words on the brown sign, “Rachel’s Tomb”.

Some of what we saw out the window looked exactly like California.

We passed this UN truck at the Bethlehem gate.

Our guide said, “There’s the UN. He is not supposed to be here. He is supposed to be at Golan Heights.”……interesting….

Border wall of Bethlehem. Bethlehem is only around 5 miles from Jerusalem.

Our guide said, “You are here. You have seen the gate to Bethlehem, so really you can say you’ve been to Bethlehem. Okay. We are good. Now we will turn around and see the place where John the Baptist is from.”

That’s right. The next stop in this series will be the birthplace of John the Baptist.

By that time in the day it was around 3 or 4 pm, we’d been touring Jerusalem all day, and my brain lost its ability to take in new information. So the next post will mostly be pictures.


Did you miss the other Israel articles? You can catch up with these links:

Going to Israel

Jerusalem Part 1: Mount of Olives and the Upper Room

Jerusalem Part 2: Where Jesus was Crucified

Via Dolorosa

The Western Wall



Why is the Western Wall so important?

Why is the Western Wall so important?

Tourists are not allowed to take pictures of the prayer sections of the Western Wall, once you are past security. See the gold dome? The wall that you can see here in front of the dome is where people pray.

Alan and I were so excited to pray at the famous “Wailing Wall.”

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure exactly about the history of this wall. I went into our Jerusalem tour thinking the wall was the only remaining wall from the ancient Jewish temple.

That’s almost true. That entire temple was completely destroyed.

The Western Wall is what’s left from the retaining wall that went around the temple.

The Western Wall is holy because it was the outer part of the temple, renovated by Herod around 19 B.C. It is the closest standing wall to where the Holy of Holies was located.

Why is the Western Wall so important?

Beside the Western Wall

“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.

29May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place.

30Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

~King Solomon, in 1 Kings 8:27-30

Why is the Western Wall so important?

Me, with the wall back behind me


Why is the Western Wall so important?

Immediately next to the Western Wall is this area.

Why is the Western Wall so important?

Here’s another distant picture of the Western Wall. The Wall is to the right, in front of the gold dome. In the front of the photo is the check-point gate. The guards look in your bag and make sure you are properly covered. Men wear hats, and everyone should have on modest clothing.

Did you know?

–The Temple Mount is also called Mount Moriah and Mount Zion.

–This is also the location where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac, and the Lord instead provided a ram for the sacrifice.

–They say it is here, on Mount Moriah, that Jacob saw a ladder ascending to Heaven in a dream.

–Jerusalem was destroyed and re-built 9 times, but the Western Wall has remained through it all.

–The Orthodox Jews do not like for us to call it the “wailing wall.” That’s offensive. Instead, it should be called the Western Wall.

–Men pray on the left side, and women pray on the right. There’s a partition to divide the 2 groups.

–The Jews refer to the wall as the Kotel.

–From 1948 to 1967, Jerusalem was under Jordanian rule, and Jews were prevented from visiting the wall in spite of the peace agreement.

–In the 6 Days War, the Jews re-took the Wall, in 1967, after 2,000 years.



1. My tour guide

2. History & Overview of the Western Wall  on jewishvirtuallibrary.com

3. Six Reasons Why the Wall is Holy  on Aish.com

Why is the Western Wall so important?

The Dung Gate is very near to the Western Wall. That’s the Dung Gate behind us.


I felt privileged to have the opportunity to pray at the Western Wall. Placing my right hand upon it, I just sort of breathed in the atmosphere of worship. I didn’t even know what to pray, and I regretted not having been more careful to formulate an important plan for what to pray about at this holy place.

While I have no memory of what I prayed for, I do remember feeling thankful and in wonder of it all.

Why is the Western Wall so important?

This is part of the Western Wall, but not the part where people go to pray.

Thankfulness was the theme of this trip for me. I felt thankful and undeserving, but I took full advantage of it, and we enjoyed it ever so thoroughly.

It was Shabbat, the day that we were there. That’s what they call Saturday, the Sabbath day. The Israelis all greeted each other and us, their guests, with “Shabbat Shalom.”

Our tour guide said that at dusk on Shabbat, the ultra-orthodox Jewish men come out and dance at the Wall. I would have given all the shekels in my purse to watch that, but alas, we were with a group, and it was time for the group to move on.

Shalom, y’all!



Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa in Pictures

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

After we left Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, located now within the Church of Holy Sepulchre, we headed down the Via Dolorosa. All day I had the song in the video above in my head. Okay, sometimes I couldn’t help but sing a little of it out loud.

I’m one of those people. I usually have a song in my head that occasionally accidentally comes out for others to hear.

The Via Dolorosa means “the way of suffering.”

Jesus did not get to head down it as we did. He walked UP it, to Calvary, after being brutally beaten by Roman soldiers, and carrying a cross on his back.

So what is the Via Dolorosa?

It is simply the path Jesus took as he carried his cross up the hill to Golgotha, where he was crucified.


Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”   (Matthew 27:22-23)


Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.    (Matt. 27: 24-26)


Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Funny story: Alan met this German man on his flight from Sweden to Tel Aviv, and then we ran into him on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem! You never know who you will see again.


Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

It’s a beautiful city. I loved these trees, which were everywhere.


Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

I don’t know what this pathway looked like back in the days of Jesus. Our tour guide said there were no buildings here then.

These days, in order to trace the Via Dolorosa, you actually have to walk through a Muslim market area.


The video above is our Israeli tour guide talking to us about it. She was outstanding. The video may be hard for you to hear, though, unless you have a device that’s capable of loud volumes.

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Station 9 on the Via Dolorosa: I think she said this is one of the places where Jesus fell.

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.   (Matt. 27: 27-31)


Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Station 7 is in an extremely busy area. Actually, pedestrian traffic was high the whole way.


Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Yes, they sell American sports team gear in Jerusalem too. LSU, anyone?


Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Where Simon took the cross.

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.

33They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”).   (Matthew 27: 32-33)


Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

The lights hung above us remind us that we are standing in a Muslim area, where they were celebrating Ramadan at the time that we were there.

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

crossing through the Muslim market

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

We couldn’t get close enough to get a picture of the giant gold-domed mosque. These guards only let Muslims past the stairs.


Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Alan, placing his hand where the legend was that Jesus had stopped and held on to the wall.


Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa


Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

And this is us at the security checkpoint to the famous Western Wailing Wall. Yes, we went there too. We’ll talk about that next time!

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

crowded street through the Muslim market, overlapping the Via Dolorosa

“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.

46About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,c lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).d   (Matthew 27:45-46)


Back in those days, the Bible wasn’t divided into chapters and verses the way we do today. They named a passage by the first words of that passage. “Eli, Eli, lemsabachtani” is Jesus not only crying out to God, but also referencing Psalm 22.

This part will give you chills, if you stop and realize what Psalm 22 is. It is a promise fulfilled by Jesus:

Psalm 22 is long, but it begins like this:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from my cries of anguish?

and it ends like this:

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;

all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—

those who cannot keep themselves alive.

30Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord.

31They will proclaim his righteousness,

declaring to a people yet unborn:

He has done it!

True. He has done it. Praise the Lord!



Jerusalem Pictures Part 2: Golgotha, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Welcome back to the Jerusalem tour. I can’t wait to take you to Calvary, also known as Golgotha!

Where did we leave off? Ah yes, walking through Old Jerusalem.

strolling through the Jewish Quarter of Old Jerusalem

outside view of Old Jerusalem. Everywhere you go there’s a mosque (that tall tower where they shout out prayers). This particular one was not in use, but many of them are.

This view is looking out, over the ruins of the old wall from Solomon’s times.

Imagine our surprise, going through the narrow Zion gate, to see a couple of cars driving through it!

It’s all very close together.

In Part 1, we saw the Mount of Olives and entered Old Jerusalem. The first thing we saw there was the Upper Room and David’s Tomb.  Let’s stroll on over to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now. This church sits on top of the site where Jesus was crucified.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

This one church houses the site of the crucifixion, Golgotha (the rock shaped like a skull), the tomb of Jesus, the stone where they washed the body of Jesus, among other relics and stories and art work centered around the crucifixion.

There are also several active church denominations that have their services at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

You may wonder how they know this is the place or how accurate this could actually be. Alan and I certainly did.

…And the answer it is that it appears to be surprisingly well backed by archaeological evidence.

How? For one, they began constructing this place in 326 AD.That’s less than 300 years after the fact.

Various other sites have been considered over the years. However, according to my Crossway study Bible info-graphic on page 2066 and 2067, excavations were conducted below the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the 1960s.

Do you know what they found when they dug?

They found “an isolated mass of rock in the middle of an extensive quarry,” as well as rock-cut tombs from the first century, AD. That’s good news.

Where was Jesus crucified? On a rock called Golgotha, meaning place of the skull.

To make it even more interesting, did you know that old Jewish tradition and early historians say that the skull of Adam (as in THE Adam, the first man) is preserved in this hill, indicating that it wasn’t simply a rock that looked like a skull, but also the place where the skull of an important ancestor of mankind is buried. (Crossway Bible, 2001)

Okay, so that last part may be more of a legend, who knows, but I loved that the archaeological evidence DOES indicate that Golgotha is indeed where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre sits.

There is another site outside Jerusalem that claims to be the tomb of Jesus, but archaeological research proved that particular tomb to be too ancient to have been a new tomb at the time of Jesus’s crucifixion.


Repairs are needed, but there are so many different groups that use this building that they cannot agree on how to make the repairs, so nothing changes. See the ladder to the window above the right (sealed off) archway? That’s where the Armenians had to get into the church many years ago. No one needs the ladder now, but these groups cannot even agree on whether or not to move the ladder.

This building, which is centric to all of Christianity, as it marks the site where Jesus died for mankind, is the perfect example of the problem with the Church today.

We should all be one church, not arguing over menial, unimportant details, but instead we are divided. And what happens to a house divided against itself? Well, it cannot stand.

That wasn’t just Abraham Lincoln that said that. He was quoting Jesus. (Mark 3:25)

bells of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

This is the place!!! This is the site where Jesus died for ALL mankind.

As divided as we are, God can still use us, but how much greater our ministry would be if we were united!! United by Christ!


Jerusalem Pictures Part 2: Golgotha, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

This display marks THE spot where the crucifixion took place. Because the scene (in the photo above) looks drastically different than what it did way back in the first century, A.D., it’s hard to really feel like you are there, even when you are there.

There were people who were falling all over themselves, trying to touch the rock in this spot. But with the crowds, being indoors, and the noise, and so much competing for my eyes’ attention, it was hard to focus.

It is worth visiting. Only know that it’s very tourist-y.

But then, how could it not be? People all over the world have experienced major heart and life changes from the gospel message. God loves you where you are. Jesus died to pay the price for all of our sins. Faith. Hope. Love. We need only believe. Naturally, thousands of people a day are going to visit this place where it happened.

I’m actually surprised there aren’t MORE people there.

I think that’s largely because we have this misconception that it’s not safe in Jerusalem, but I can assure you, I felt perfectly safe.

stairway up to Calvary

steep stairs

See the glass bottom to the left? That is protecting THE spot of the crucifixion.

Alan took the photo above. I actually didn’t even see that there was rock under the glass like that until I saw these pictures.

Look at the bottom, at the people kneeling. They are kneeling over the washing stone, where they washed the body of Jesus.

I did take a moment to rub the stone. The actual stone is under a stone that they put on top of it to preserve it, but still!


I always feel like art work tells the story better than anything else.


Me, near the washing stone. I don’t know how it happened that everyone else is blurry but me, but it had a neat effect.

inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

That big cube-like structure with the turret at the top marks the spot of the tomb of Jesus. He is not in the tomb. He is risen.


the dome ceiling

One of the most exciting parts—Golgotha!!! This is the actual rock of the skull!!! Many people in early years took chunks home as souvenirs, so now it sits behind glass. I got chills looking at this.

Golgotha, from a distance

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

19Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS             John 19:16-19

In the square, you see splits in the rocks.

The Bible says that when Jesus gave up his spirit, there was a great earthquake. Here you can see damage from that earthquake.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.


54When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”                           Matthew 27:50-54



the washing stone

memorial of the tomb

In a chapel off to the side, we found these sculptures. I thought they were a powerful telling of the story.

Today the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is run by Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, and Ethiopians, perhaps even more denominations than that, but do you know who holds the keys? This man and his family.

The key to Christianity’s most holy site actually belongs to a Muslim family.

They open the doors each morning to let the Christians in. Isn’t this fascinating?

Each year giant candles are lit in honor of the resurrection at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on Easter Sunday. One year, while the people were gathered to light the candles and celebrate the resurrection, this column, made completely of marble, spontaneously burst into flames, at the bottom here.

So many mixed emotions in the Holy Land.

1.) I am in awe to be standing where Jesus and his disciples, and Mary, and David stood.

2.) I am baffled at our lack of unity.

In the book of John, chapter 17, Jesus prayed:

20“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”


Previous Israel Posts in this series:

No, I couldn’t possibly go to Israel next week.

Mount of Olives

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Jerusalem in Pictures: Mount of Olives & the Upper Room

Trip to israel

Jerusalem Part 1

This was a tour we took from our hotel in Tel Aviv. I have so much to show you that I’m breaking Jerusalem up into 2 separate articles. This one will take us to the Mount of Olives and inside the gates to the Upper Room, where Jesus had the Last Supper with his disciples.

Jerusalem in Pictures: the Mount of Olives &This the Upper Room

View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. You can see the giant gold-topped Mosque, right? That’s where the temple once stood.

Psalm 122:3-5 

Jerusalem—built as a city
    that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
    the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for[a] Israel,
    to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
There thrones for judgment were set,
    the thrones of the house of David.

THIS is the Mount of Olives, also referred to as Mount Olivet.

There was so much I didn’t get to see, because Jerusalem is huge, and you cannot see it all in one day.

Thankfully, our tour’s very first stop was on the Mount of Olives.

I stepped out of our little bus and breathed in the holy air. Wow! The Mount of Olives! Wow! This is where Jesus hung out! This is where he came to pray. I think this was his quiet, sanity place.

Jerusalem in Pictures: Mount of Olives & the Upper Room

Jerusalem in Pictures: Mount of Olives & the Upper Room

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.[a]                                                       

Luke 22:39-44

Would you like to see the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed that blood-sweating prayer?

They built this Church of all Nations in the midst of it, which makes it much easier to locate.

Jerusalem in Pictures: Mount of Olives & the Upper Room

Church of the Nations, in the Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

If you look in the very front of this picture, and also to the right of the church, you can see the olive trees and stones. This is the Garden of Gethsemane, located on the Mount of Olives. When I took this photo, I was just snapping. I had no idea what I was photographing, except I knew I wanted these beautiful churches. I went online and did my research to find the garden.

The oldest trees in the garden are much larger than the ones in the photo above. That’s only a sliver of it.

By the way, they built the church on THE ROCK they believe Jesus knelt on to pray.

According to this article, among many others, this site is proven to be the actual Garden of Gethsemane. These olive trees planted here are the oldest in the world. While most of them are not quite old enough to have been there when Jesus was, they were all carefully grown from the same tree, according to DNA research, to preserve a lineage of trees that was there when Jesus was.

Some sources report that there are 3,000 year-old trees in that grove that are not much more than stumps now, but still, pretty amazing.

I would have loved to have walked through that garden, but alas, it was not on the standard tour.


Mount of Olives

4In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east;and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.

Zechariah 14:4

The Bible tells us that in the end times the Messiah, Jesus, will return on the Mount of Olives.

view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

Church of St. Mary Magdalene

Church of Dominos Flevit, built in memorial of Jesus weeping.

Jesus wept and lamented the future, “set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side . . . crush you to the ground . . . and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognise the time of your visitation from God.” (Luke 19:37-44)

Not 40 years later, the prophecy was fulfilled when the Romans burned the temple and destroyed Jerusalem.

Jesus wasn’t the only one to weep on the Mount of Olives.

David also went up the mountain weeping with his followers in 2 Samuel 15:30.

so much history here

Because the Bible says the Messiah will return via the Mount of Olives, many people want to be buried nearby for that day. This is a picture of the thousands of graves on the mountain, over 70,000 to be exact.

Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives

Some of my pictures are mysteries to me…It’s pretty though.

DaddyO did some research for me. It turns out this church is Church of Dormition.


outside wall of Jerusalem

I went into this whole thing expecting a moving, spiritual experience.

The thing was that there was an excellent tour guide to listen to, pictures to be taken, you are pouring sweat, and you have to stay with the group. Therefore, pausing for reflection or prayer? That didn’t happen much, I am sorry to tell you. We all piled back into our bus, made a stop by a souvenir shop, and then headed on over to Old Jerusalem.


a view of our touring group from the back of the huddle

Our group was a hodgepodge of folks from Sweden, Holland, Switzerland, and the States. Who knows where all we were from? Thankfully, everyone seemed to understand English.

This sign is for a school that trains students in the Torah.

Beautiful flowers abounded everywhere. That’s no small thing considering that when the great move back into Israel began, the land was desolate.

Normally, the standard tour includes a visit to the Holocaust museum. Unfortunately, we were there on Saturday, which is the holy day for Jews, so all Jewish establishments were closed, to include the museum.

We have been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., which I am told is similar to this one, but I bet in Israel it’s even more powerful.

It was actually awesome to be in the Holy Land on the Sabbath day.

In Hebrew, it’s not “sabbath”, it’s “shabbat.”

It’s not just a nod to the law of Moses, either. They take this thing seriously. Everywhere you went, everyone would joyfully greet each other with, “Shabbat shalom!”

Shabbat is their day of rest, which is important, because they work hard the other 6 days of the week. On Shabbat, they are supposed to do no work at all, according to their tradition, not even to push a button.

Therefore, there was always one elevator in “shabbat mode”, which means that it automatically stops at all the floors.

Jerusalem wall with view of the bell tower on the Russian Monastery of Ascension in the background

We entered Jerusalem through the Zion gate. Our first stop was King David’s Tomb and the Upper Room, where Jesus and his disciples had the last supper.

And here’s the part that surprised us: the upper room is above David’s tomb.

My jaw dropped open when she told us that.

David’s tomb has rules. Men visit it on one side, women on the other, not together.

The Muslims liked the building, so they didn’t tear it down. They used it for a mosque instead.

Remember, Jerusalem has been sacked many times over the years, so these are not the same buildings as the ones standing during Bible times. You see these beautiful buildings? They were built by the Crusaders around 1099.

the windows to the upper room


People were leaning everywhere, praying, in groups and out loud. It was so noisy, I couldn’t carry a thought. Our tour guide couldn’t either, and she chased them all out.  Yep. It reminded me of Jesus chasing the money changers out of the temple, only she didn’t turn over any tables, and these people were only praying, though they were terribly noisy.

Our tour guide had a name that sounded like Molly. She was a former officer in the Israeli Army, and she was seriously awesome. Molly was sharp and quick, with an answer for any question about the Holy Land, past or present.

The excited crowd in the Upper Room

Alan in the Upper Room.

Me in the Upper Room

Notice my wardrobe.

If you are touring holy sites, be sure you have your knees and shoulders covered. It’s a matter of respect, but also rules. They will give you a shaw if your shoulders are uncovered, or a long skirt thing if you are showing too much leg.

In Jerusalem, the only place we went that was strict about it was the Wailing Wall. In Capernaum, only the monastery said anything to women with bare shoulders.


Our group in the upper room. Certain features in this room were added hundreds of years ago when the building was used as a mosque.

Upper Room


King David statue

These beautiful flowers seemed to be everywhere in Israel. I wanted to pack a few of these trees in my bag. Don’t worry. I settled for photos instead.

Building with the Upper Room. No, the original Bible-era building didn’t look like this. This is the Crusader created version.

The Zion Gate, with damage from war in 1948. This gate/wall was built in the 1500s.

War-worn Wall of Jerusalem

These are bullet holes in the gate from the war of 1948, between Israel and several Arab nations.

Our tour guide said that this is the truly ancient wall, from Solomon’s times. I got all giddy when she said that.

More ancient B.C. ruins

This was inside the Armenian quarter.

It was Shabbat, so the Jewish Quarter was silent, but you could tell that there are normally many shops open.

Also, this white tile is so prevalent because it is found in Israel. Therefore, they are able to build large cities with all matching buildings. It has a lovely effect.

See those columns? These are the ruins from an ancient Roman road through Jerusalem.

So exciting! We don’t have buildings in America that are that old! You can even arrange a tour, though don’t ask me how, to go through these tunnels that run under Jerusalem to see way more of the ancient ruins.


I wish I could remember what this is…

arches by David’s Tomb

The Upper Room

Zion Gate

Alan, in the Jewish Quarter, by the Roman road ruins


Hope you enjoyed the tour!! On the next post, we’ll see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Golgotha, and maybe even the Via Delorosa!










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