I set a goal to visit Nehemiah’s wall in Jerusalem.
I read the leadership book, “Hand Me Another Brick” by Charles Swindoll, and was impressed by the leadership and work of Nehemiah (an old testament character in the Bible – read up, if you get the opportunity). I wanted to see what he led his people to build, so when the opportunity to tour Israel was offered, I took it.
We arrived in Israel on the day of Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral (you may remember that he was assassinated in November 1995 – interestingly enough, Rabin’s father’s name was Nehemiah… random, but true). Read up on Rabin, if you haven’t already. The streets were very crowded because so many people were in town for the funeral, and I was surprised to see all the twenty-somethings carrying weapons (military service), but dressed in civilian clothes.
We toured through many parts of Israel and Jordan. Bethlehem was going to be turned over to the Palestinians the next month, so there was a bit of tension while we were there. I also remember twisting through road blocks around Jericho as we passed through the area where Yasser Arafat lived (I was able to look into his compound without getting shot). I was able to ride a Camel while in Jericho (another goal). Most of the rest of Israel was pretty stress free. We rode out a storm (that came out of nowhere – very biblical) on the Sea of Galilee, waded in the Jordan River, and went swimming (well, floating) in the Dead Sea.
We were able to visit the Holocaust Museum, the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, and many other sights while in Jerusalem. An interesting note; while in Israel, we hooked up with a tour group. Since the tour group did not have any religious affiliation, the tour guide took us to all of the famous sites – there are unique Catholic, Orthodox, and Christian sites for most events in the life of Christ. Apparently, over 2,000 years, each group has decided which sites work for them.
The Western Wall (I think I used to hear it referred to as the Wailing Wall), was part of the outer wall of the Temple, is the only part of the Temple that wasn’t destroyed in 70C.E., and is the closest you can get to “the dwelling place of God.” You will see, in the photo below, an archway – within is a very nice library.
While in Jerusalem, I let the tour guide know that I wanted to see Nehemiah’s wall and he said he would let me know when we were close. During our tour of the old city, he told me that during our shopping time he would give me directions… he did. I followed them down a couple of streets and down some steps until I was well under street level. I saw a pane of glass near the floor and through the glass I could see part of a wall – just about all that was left of Nehemiah’s magnificent wall (you should really read the story). Jerusalem has been torn down and rebuilt so many times that the people didn’t try to clear rubble, they just built the new walls and buildings on top of the rubble – hence, all the archaeological digs that constantly take place in and around Jerusalem. So, Nehemiah’s wall is way below ground and even the Western Wall is below street level (look at the top of the Western Wall photo and you will see a white building – that is, more or less, street level).
It was a fun and fascinating trip. I was able to complete a couple of items on my list and gain a better understanding of current (well… at the time) and biblical events in Israel. All in all – well worth it.