Highlights of Israel – the Western Wall
Many of you have asked me to share more about my recent trip to Israel. I am delighted to do so! It’s an overwhelming feat to begin writing about it because I learned so much in such a short period of time. And then there’s the fact that I took over 1400 pictures! Don’t worry, I won’t make you look at them all. . .at once. LOL
My opportunity to go to Israel came through my husband’s little brother, Jack. His children attend a Christian Academy. Their school plans a trip to Israel every year for their senior class, and their families. When they called to invite me to go along, my excitement couldn’t be contained. It was like a dream come true! Going with the Jones family was like having the heart of my husband along with me. It was priceless.
I’m going to write several blogs about my trip. I hope you will come along on the journey. Please feel free to ask questions – and please add your own knowledge to the discussion. Some of you have also journeyed to the Holy Land, and I would love to hear from you and see your pictures! (In case you missed my first blog about Israel, I wrote about my experience in Bethlehem in a recent blog called Swaddling Clothes.)
For this week’s blog, I want to begin with the Temple Mount. You may know that the temple itself no longer exists. Let me share a little of the history of the Temple of God.
Jewish Temple History
King Solomon built an amazing, elaborate temple for God Almighty in the tenth century BC. The process took thousands of people and 7 years to build. He quarried the stone with the help of 80,000 stonecutters. Then he imported cedar and pine to line the interior walls. Fine artisans carved cherubim, palm trees and flowers on the olive wood doors, and overlaid them with gold. You can find the detailed descriptions in the Bible in I Kings 5-8.
For many years, the Israelites worshiped the Lord at their temple in Jerusalem. They didn’t always obey His teachings, however. God sent messages to the people through prophets, warning them to return to their God, but the people didn’t listen. So, after many years of warnings, the unthinkable happened. The Babylonians conquered Israel, destroyed the temple and deported the people in 586 BC.
God always makes a way for His people when they return to Him in repentance. Just as God promised, the people returned from captivity and rebuilt both Jerusalem and its walls. (See Ezra and Nehemiah to read the stories.) Finally, 70 years after the temple was destroyed, a new temple stood in its place in 515 BC.
Again, the years went by. Wars plagued the people of Israel, and the people continued to fight to defend their land and their temple. Sometimes other nations desecrated the temple and forced the people to worship other gods. Finally, during the time of Judas Maccabees, the temple was rededicated to serve God in 165 BC.
In the days of Jesus, King Herod renovated the temple and massively expanded the courtyard around it. But the glory of those days didn’t last long. The Romans destroyed the temple in 70 AD. The courtyard still exists.
The hill where the Temple once stood is known as the Temple Mount. The Western Wall of the Temple Mount is perhaps the most recognized place in Jerusalem for the Jew. In this special place, the Jews come to pray.
Several things greatly affected me in this place.
- It touched me to watch them pray with tears streaming down their faces. I felt as if I was invading their privacy with the Lord to be in this place. (For this reason, I did not photograph them.) And yet, they came, unashamed of their tears, or of the fact that there would be an audience.
Unashamed of their devotion to God.
- Another thing got my attention. They hold God in such high esteem that they backed away from the wall, determined to not turn their backs on His presence.
Fully aware of God’s majesty and power.
- The wall itself intrigued me. It’s magnitude alone is impressive, standing at 105 feet high. This picture shows only 62 feet, with the remaining 43 feet of wall being underground! I wondered how the laborers stacked stones so huge without modern day equipment. But even more than that, I stood amazed at the evidence of repeated rebuilding. Different types of stones made the different phases obvious. No matter how many times the walls were torn down, they were rebuilt again.
Determined to try again.
This place is holy. This wall is the place where Jews can come to worship for now, but they long to rebuild their temple and have a special place for God’s presence. In their temple, that place was called the Holy of Holies. There the High Priest met with God once a year in order to receive forgiveness for the nation’s sins.
I’m so grateful for God’s continued offer of forgiveness for everyone, including me. As I watched all of the people around me, of every nation, race and creed, my heart ached for everyone to know the power of God’s love and the joy of His forgiveness through His Son, Jesus Christ.
May I be as courageous as my Jewish friends – unashamed of my devotion to God, fully aware of His majesty and power, and determined to try again to share the good news of forgiveness. I believe Jesus is the hope for all nations. I’d love to tell you about Him.