Israel Part 6: Shilo, Bethlehem, Jerusalem
I woke up a little sad, with the realization that this was my penultimate day in Israel. We started the day at Shiloh, located in the West Bank. Shiloh was an ancient city in the hill country of Samaria and was the religious and military capital of Israel during the time of the Judges.
Shiloh is most famously known for being the location where the Tabernacle, or Mishkan, resided for 369 years and became a permanent structure (Joshua 18:1). Prior to this, the Tabernacle had traversed the desert with the Israelites for 40 years as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land.
This video that we viewed while visiting Shiloh explains and illustrates the tabernacle's structure and purpose far better than I can.
Walking around the grounds after the presentation, we came upon some hyssop. Hyssop was used as a paintbrush to mark the doorposts of the Israelites with the passover lamb's blood (Exodus 12:22), in order to protect them from the tenth and final plague.
We also walked past an almond tree with branches full of blossoms. In the Bible, the almond branch is referenced in relation to the rebellion that the Israelites launched again Moses and Aaron, to question and usurp their authority. To quell the rebellion, God instructed each of the 12 leaders to bring their rods to the tent of meeting. The rod that sprouted buds would belong to the leader of God's choosing. “Aaron’s staff, representing the tribe of Levi, had sprouted, budded, blossomed, and produced ripe almonds.” (Numbers 17:8)
During the yearly religious festivals, two million Jews would gather at Shiloh to partake in the events. As a result, abundant amounts of pottery have been discovered at the location, including the amphora pictured above.
Chapel of the Shepherds' Field
From Shiloh, we headed to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus . Our first stop was at the Chapel of the Shepherds' Field -- the location where the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus.
Inside the chapel are three frescos that bring the nativity story to life. The first fresco depicts the moment when the angels first appear to the shepherds to let them know that Christ has been born.
The second fresco depicts the shepherds visit to the newly born Christ.
The final fresco shows the celebration and joy that ensues in the aftermath of the miraculous birth.
The Church of the Nativity
Very close to the Chapel of the Shepherd's Field, is the Church of the Nativity. The extremely small door, pictured above, leads into one of the oldest working churches in the world.
Door of Humility
Despite its name, this four-foot entrance was made to prevent invaders from looting the church's contents, not to make visitors bow.
*I have no idea who this person is. I took the picture to illustrate just how small the door is.
The church is filled with mosaics that are a visual representation of everything from the genealogy of Christ to the unity between the Old and New Testaments.
There are also numerous images of Mary and Jesus throughout the church.
After entering a very small opening and descending some stairs, along with countless other visitors, ....
Grotto of Nativity
... we arrived at the Grotto of Nativity. This star marks the place where Jesus is believed to have been born.
The Garden Tomb
From His birth, we traveled to the place of Christ's death.
The Garden Tomb is located just outside of Jerusalem's Old City's, Damascus Gate.
This entrance leads to the tomb where many believe Jesus was buried and resurrected.
This is the inside of the tomb itself.
And this is the stone that was inexplicably rolled away as Luke 24 recounts.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, less than 3/4 of a mile from The Garden Tomb, is the other location believed to be where Jesus was buried and resurrected.
In addition, this is also the site where Jesus was crucified.
When the tomb discovered here came to be accepted as the burial location of Jesus, Emperor Constantine built the church that now stands, to enclose the site. The Christian Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City grew around it. Constantine's original structure was destroyed and rebuilt and then modified. The structure that now stands, dates back to 1810.
Church of St. Anne
Next we visited the Church of St. Anne, believed to be in the location where Mary grew up.
While we were inside the church, visitors broke out into worship, as was a common occurrence at many of the sites we visited in Israel.
Outside the church, it was no different.
Whether it was contemporary Christian music, traditional hymns, songs in other languages, or the adhan (Muslim call to prayer) broadcast on speakers, I was immersed in worship during my time in Israel.
Pools of Bethsaida
Next we visited the Pools of Bethsaida, or Bethesda.
These pools are the site where Jesus healed the paralytic man as recounted in the Gospel of John. (John 5:1-9)
Excavations also reveal that the site was a mikveh, or Jewish ritual bath, the remains of which are visible today.
From the Bethseda Pools, we headed to Herod's Gate, at the northern wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Herod's Gate connects the Muslim quarter ....
... to Bab az-Zahra, the Palestinian district.
Walking through the marketplace made all my senses come alive because it was full of wonderful sights, sounds and smells.
There were smells of fresh breads baking ...
Ka’ak Al-Quds (Jerusalem Bread)
... vendors calling you over to taste dried fruits and nuts, ...
... and brightly colored, fresh fruits at numerous juice stands.
The taste of the freshly, squeezed pomegranate juice was indescribable. The thought of it makes my mouth water.
We walked until we reached the Western Wall. The Western Wall, or the "Wailing Wall," is the last remnant of the wall that surrounded the Second Temple before it was destroyed.
Jews and Christians gather here to pray. Some recite prayers silently or aloud.
Others write them down and tuck them into the cracks of the wall.
Before its destruction, a menorah like this one, stood inside the Second Temple. This menorah is a replica of the original, identical in dimension, manufacture and materials. It stands just outside of the Western Wall, weighs half a ton and is made of close to 100 pounds of 24 karat gold.
The Upper Room
Next, we took a trip to the Upper Room, where Jesus and the disciples gathered for the Last Supper on the night before His crucifixion.
There is some evidence that this might also have been the place where Pentecost took place or began.
This model of an olive tree is at the site and symbolizes the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus went to pray and was arrested, directly after the Last Supper. The grapes and wheat symbolize the wine that He drank and the bread that He broke and shared with the disciples during the Last Supper.
United States Embassy
We left Bethlehem and traveled back to Jerusalem. Our last tour stop for the day was at the United States Embassy which was recently moved to Jerusalem. The decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was made on November 8, 1995 when the U.S. Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act. The embassy was not relocated until 23 years later however, under Trump's administration. Understanding this, helped me make sense of the plaque dedicated to the Trump administration on the face of the embassy building.
Also on the embassy grounds is this mosaic apple. Our tour guide told us that it was created as an act of gratitude to represent the "Big Apple" or New York, in honor of Trump's hometown.
View of Jerusalem from the U.S. Embassy
I completed my day with dinner at Adom Restaurant and Wine Bar. Adom means "red" in Hebrew and refers to the 150 kinds of wines they serve at the restaurant.
French, Wheat and Blueberry Breads with Dipping Sauce and Oil
Cream, Amba (Spicy Mango Chutney) and Chili Pepper
Adom serves great food in a lively and very trendy environment. It was a great choice for a delicious meal, mingling with locals and drinking in the Jerusalem vibe on my last night in Israel.
Up next is my last day in Israel.