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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Western Wall Tunnels, Yad Vashem, and Tower of David

There is so much to see in Israel, it's impossible to do it all in a week, so I had to whittle down the list of sites as best I could.  One thing that I had hoped to do was to take an underground tour of Jerusalem through the tunnels running along the buried portion of the Western Wall, but when I arrived I discovered that this requires booking tickets 2-3 months in advance.  I didn't even know I was going to Jerusalem 2-3 months earlier, so this had to be crossed off my list. One day, when passing the tunnel entrance, I thought I'd just ask if there was any chance they had  tickets available.  The man at the window laughed and rolled his eyes and said he would check.  When he came back, he was astonished to say there happened to be one ticket for a tour starting in 20 minutes.  I took it.  I zipped out to the 60 meter exposed portion of the wall for a quick prayer of thanksgiving, then returned for my tour of the 485 meters of the wall that has become buried over the years.  My tour guide, an Israeli settler from America, was very enthusiastic about the history of underground Jerusalem and gave a wonderful, informative tour through the tunnels, dating back to the time of the first temple.  
At the Exposed Western Wall

Prayers Stuck into the Cracks in the  Stones

This is part of the underground portion of the wall.
These broken columns are from the time of the Second Temple.
This niche is the place closest to the Holy of  Holies.

An ancient reservoir, the Struthion Pool,that collects rainwater
from the rooftops to be used in the dry summer months. 

Pleased to have been able to go under the Old City, I decided next to climb to one of the highest points inside the  city walls and get a view from there.  I headed to the Tower of David, located right inside Jaffa Gate.
Archeological Garden at the Tower of  David

Statue of Young David with the Head of Goliath

This is the view from the Tower of David.  The tower you see in the distance
 at the top left is at Augusta Victoria on the Mount of Olives where I
 stayed  at the Lutheran World Federation Guesthouse.

One place I knew I wanted to spend time at in Jerusalem was  Yad Vashem, the museum of the Holocaust.  Inside the museum, you follow a jagged path that takes you through a chronological display of artifacts and stories of this tragic time in the not-too-distant past. There are many videotaped interviews with survivors playing along the way, which were particularly interesting.  I think photography was allowed, but it just didn't seem appropriate to me, so I didn't take photos inside the museum.  I did take a few outside, however.  

This child was killed at  Auschwitz at age 2 1/2.
His parents established the children's memorial at Yad Vashem,
which honors the 1.5 million children killed during the Holocaust. 

After 5 hours immersed in unthinkable history at Yad Vashem, I headed back up to the guesthouse on the Mount of Olives, and snapped this view of Jerusalem on the way:

I had started the day with the pleasant surprise of being able to tour underground Jerusalem, and had one more nice surprise in the evening.  I had really wanted to go into Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Ascension, located right next to the guesthouse, but it wasn't open before the time I had to leave
in the mornings and was closed long before I got back in the evenings. This evening, however, I noticed the door to the church gift shop was open, so I went in.  I asked what was going on, and was told there was a concert in the sanctuary, so I asked if it was too late to get a ticket.  They replied that I didn't need a ticket, but could go in if I was quiet.  So of course, I did.  Oh my goodness, I had just hoped to see the splendid interior of the church (which was really amazing, but I couldn't really get a good photo with the dim concert lighting), but I was treated to so much more!  The stone church has fabulous acoustics, so hearing a choir of about 100 members was amazing!  And more amazing yet, is that this particular choir had traveled to the Holy Land from Berlin, where they know a lot about walls that separate people.  They came to encourage the people of Jerusalem with the message that walls can, and do, come down, and not to give up hope of peace for all who call Israel/Palestine their home.   The choir members stayed on after singing to talk about their experiences of conflict transformation and reunification.   What a wonderful way to end the day!

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