Yesterday we literally travelled through Jewish history. Many of us have been to Jerusalem before, but this specific tour was unique and eye-opening. We started the day visiting an archeological site on the Mount of Olives. This site is unique in that it serves as the archeological site of the history of the Temple Mount. This seems strange: if we are trying to learn more about the history of and Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, then would it not make sense for the Temple Mount itself to serve as the archeological site? Unfortunately, as we learned, the Islamic Waqf to which Israel has given religious control of the Temple Mount since 1967 has forbidden Israeli archeologists from excavating on the Temple Mount. Amazingly, however, archeologists have discovered incredible finds proving the Jewish connection to Jerusalem for thousands of years. At the end of this visit, we had the privilege to do our own dig and were able to find some incredible pieces of Jewish history in Jerusalem.
Later in the day, we took a tour of the Old City. Danny, our tour guide, took us across the Jewish Quarter and beyond, presenting us with some magnificent views from rooftops of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. Danny gave us a historical perspective of the Old City, helping us understand the expansion of the Temple walls during Herod’s life as well as the more recent expansion of the Old City at large. We gained a great deal of knowledge regarding the Jewish community in the Old City that was completely expelled when Israel failed to win the Old City in 1948, as well as its shivat tzion – return to Zion – when Israel liberated it in 1967.
Our day culminated with a visit to the Western Wall – the Kotel. On the one hand, it is extremely important to remember that the Western Wall is exactly that – a wall. It is only a wall of the Temple Mount compound! Constant attempts by many in the media and international community to call the Western Wall the “holiest place in Judaism” wholly misrepresent the entire idea behind the Western Wall. In fact, if the Waqf allowed non-Muslims (such as Jews) to pray on the Temple Mount, which is the holiest location in Judaism, we would not need the Western Wall to serve the purpose it currently does. On the other hand, Jews at least have the ability to touch this amazing, holy piece of Jewish history by praying at the Western Wall. We were fortunate to experience this spiritual moment yesterday at the Western Wall, and we prayed and connected to our heritage there before breaking for the evening.