Israel Part 7: City of David, Pools of Siloam, Southern Steps
I woke up on my final day in Israel feeling incredibly grateful for the time spent thus far in this beautiful country and, though sad to be leaving, determined to savor every moment of my remaining time.
City of David
We started our tour at the City of David, named after King David. Long before King David however, the city began its existence with his forefather, Abraham. In fact, archaeologists have found evidence showing that it was in the City of David, that Melchizedek met Abraham.
David's Harp Sculpture
Fourteen generations after Abraham, and about 3000 years before our time, King David conquered this area in Jerusalem. A sculpture of a harp sits in front of the city to honor this harp playing king, who in his 40 years as ruler, united the people of Israel, and led them to victory in battle. Before he was king, David was a shepherd boy, famous for slaying the mighty giant, Goliath, with nothing but a slingshot and a stone (1 Samuel 17).
View of the Mount of Olives from the City of David
The City of David is also where David's son, Solomon, built the Second Temple and where Jesus spent time during his ministry, many generations later.
Today the area is laden with archaeological digs.
Foundation of the Palace of David
Many of those digs have uncovered the structures in David's capital city.
Water was crucial to the survival of the city and much of it was stored in cisterns such as these. The source of the water was the Gihon Spring.
In the latter part of the eighth century, King Hezekiah diverted the water from the spring, through winding, underground tunnels ...
... and into the City of David. It is usually possible to walk through the dark, narrow tunnel, wading through waist-high water, but on the day that we were there, the tunnel was closed to pedestrians.
Instead, we walked through the adjacent, equally narrow, but dry and lit, Canaanite Tunnel. The tunnel was so narrow and short, that I walked through most of it sideways and crouching. It was a great opportunity to confront any claustrophobic inclinations, which I apparently have.
Pools of Siloam
Our next stop was at the Pools of Siloam. These rock-cut pools are the location where Jesus healed the blind man, as recounted in the Book of John.
These pools were undergoing a full excavation when we visited. The excavations revealed many things, including these 25-foot-wide stone, paving slabs shown above. This was the main route that people would take in the First Century, from the Pools of Siloam, where they would wash, to the Second Temple, where they would worship.
Visual displays, such as this one, have been erected to recreate the markets and shops that would have lined the path along the way.
We continued to walk, passing Al Aqsa and the Western Wall, where we were the previous day until we reached ...
... The Southern Steps
The Southern Steps were the main access to the Temple from the City of David. Three times a year, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (which overlaps with the Feast of Passover), the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost and the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles, worshippers would enter the Temple from these steps. These stairs are also called “The Rabbis’ Stairs” or the “Teaching Stairs,” as rabbis taught on them.
When Jesus was just 12 years old and visiting Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover, He stayed behind (unbeknownst to his parents who had already started the journey home) to come to these steps to listen to the instruction of the teachers and ask questions (Luke 2:41-52). "Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers" (Luke 2:47).
We made one last stop at the Holocaust Museum, or Yad Vashem, but photography was not permitted so I do not have any pictures to share. The museum has nine galleries with interactive displays and The Hall of Names. The Hall of Names is a memorial to every Jew that perished in the holocaust. In the center of the room is a 33-foot cone with 600 photos, showing a fraction of the victims that perished. You can see photos of some of the exhibits in the museum here.
That just about concluded our final day in Israel.
I watched the sun set over Jerusalem one last time as we headed to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. My mind flooded with thoughts of gratitude for the amazing experiences and people I encountered in Israel and memories that will last and bless me for a lifetime.
It is still surreal that this gorgeous country I visited only months ago, with such beautiful and diverse people, cultures, faith, history, topography, food and architecture, especially relative to its tiny size, is being ravaged by war. I continue to pray for the peace of Israel and safety for all those in the region.