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SBP In Israel Day 3: Jerusalem Up Close — Soldiers at Rest and The Way of the Cross

Jacob+prays%2C+alongside+many+others%2C+at+the+Western+Wall.
Jacob prays, alongside many others, at the Western Wall.

Jacob prays, alongside many others, at the Western Wall.

Jacob prays, alongside many others, at the Western Wall.

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Overwhelming! That’s the only word I can think of to describe today’s experience in Jerusalem.

 

The sheer magnitude of the city was something to behold. The number of people, from all backgrounds, making their way through the city and holy sites was incredible. There were soldiers, hundreds of them, all over the city, not on protective duty but returning from their weekend leave. The law in Israel requires everyone to perform military service at 18 years old. So, our guys were faced with hundreds of soldiers only a year or so older than they are, each carrying a high-powered gun and “hanging out” in the city. Military service is such an expectation here that even after you serve your mandatory 3 or 4 years in the service, you can still be called up once a month until you are 35. If you are a pilot in the Israeli Air Force, you can be called up once or twice a week.

 

We explored the Old City of Jerusalem. We walked along the “Ramparts Walk” or ancient walls which used to protect the city up to the mid-20th Century. We visited the grave of Oskar Schindler (his story was depicted in the Oscar-winning movie “Schindler’s List”) and came to understand more about the Holocaust and the people who worked tirelessly to save people from the Nazi regime. We visited Dormition Abbey – a Benedictine Abbey built on the site of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. Unfortunately, our timing was less than perfect, and we were not able to go inside as tours were not being allowed at that time. We saw King David’s Tomb and then visited the “Upper Room” where tradition holds that Jesus held the Last Supper with his apostles. We then went to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. The Western Wall is a site of prayer and power for many people. The wall has stood the test of time, and remains an impressive structure today. At the Wall we had the opportunity to write any notes to God that we wanted. We left those notes in the crevices of the wall with so many other millions of folded-up note papers, while each of us prayed.

Standing in the “Upper Room” – the traditional site of the Last Supper.

We traversed the market place and stopped by the popular Abu Shukri restaurant – an Arab restaurant with amazing falafel sandwiches and humus. Not being a big falafel fan, I had my doubts, but I found this restaurant’s version to be moist and tasty.

 

Walking out of Abu Shukri put us right onto the Via Dolorosa – the Way of the Cross. It was here that we were able to  walk in the footsteps of Christ as walked towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The stations of the cross are marked along the the Way and we were able to stop and reflect at several of them about what happened there. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a massive structure that contains several very important places. First, there is the site where Jesus died – Calvary or Golgotha. The rock of Calvary is contained there. There is the stone where Jesus’ body was laid when he was taken down from the cross. And there is Jesus’ tomb, which held the body of Jesus until his Resurrection.

Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. The site of the Mosque on the old temple mount is the gold dome visible in the background.

It seemed especially fitting to be here and walk this path during this time of Lent. There is a power about the entire city that can be felt  It is a great opportunity to be able to reflect upon our faith and as such, a great opportunity to reflect upon what the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ means in my life and, I hope, for the students to do the same. When asked about their experience, the students had different reactions. “No words” said one. “It puts the Bible into perspective,”said another.

Walking along the Via Dolorosa.

We are hoping to have a little more time to debrief the students later today, but I think it is safe to say that all have experienced something each will be able to remember and recall throughout his life.

Liam, Juan, Jack, and Daron light candles at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

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SBP In Israel Day 3: Jerusalem Up Close — Soldiers at Rest and The Way of the Cross