As a young boy, one of the first books I ever remember noticing was one a friend of my mother’s had given her. The book was titled, The Bible as History. I don’t know why I took particular notice of this book except for a comment my Mother made about it. She said that scientists were beginning to discover that some of the places the Bible talked about actually existed and weren’t just a bunch of stories. To this day, I don’t understand why that made an impression on me because I had never seen a Bible and don’t remember ever hearing anything religious spoken of in my home.
At the time she showed me the book, the nation of Israel was only a few years old. Evidently, a relatively new science, called “archeology”, was beginning to develop ways to look into man’s past by digging into the ground. Many of these scientists were Israeli settlers who thought it important to justify their belief that the land had belonged to their ancestors, and, therefore, should belong to them as well.
Today, people might laugh at the notion that the Bible is only a bunch of fairy tales; but for most of the last two thousand years, one of the main reasons serious-minded people didn’t believe the Bible was because so many of the locations mentioned in the Bible simply couldn’t be verified.
Took the bus to the Little Italy restaurant to meet Ben for lunch. As soon as we met, it was like we had never been apart. I have a special love for Ben. In spite of his stature in Judaism (he is a direct descendant of Aaron, the High Priest), he is a very humble man with a wonderful sense of humor. Ben was the first Orthodox Jew I ever met. His gentle acceptance of others and willingness to dialog without being too insecure to talk to those of different beliefs gave me an appreciation for Jewish people. His friendship also gave me an interest in Middle Eastern history which I have never lost.
Ben’s loneliness was immediately evident. His wife of 54 years was his soulmate and he misses her tremendously. He even brought a scrapbook of her life for me to see. However, he also told me that he has wonderful friends who have not let him eat a single Sabbath meal alone in the year and a half since Sonya died.
No sooner had we ordered, than a couple came into the restaurant. They were Ben’s best friends and joined us for lunch. They used to live in Ma’ale Levona (where Danny and Yossi live), but their home was destroyed by a flood and they had to move to Jerusalem.
We talked and laughed and ate a wonderful meal. Ben had to get ready for Sabbath, so he asked if he could drive me home. I said that I was intending to visit the Pool of Siloam in the City of David before Sabbath closed down the entire city, so he agreed to drop me off. The Pool is in the Arab part of Jerusalem and Ben, being a Jew, didn’t feel safe driving into that part of the City. So he drove me through the Old City and out the Dung Gate and to the entrance to the new visitor’s center of the ancient “City of David”. Before we parted, Ben asked if we could spend some time together, perhaps swimming in the Dead Sea. I said I would call him as soon as I returned from Ma’ale Levona.
It has taken me several trips here before I understood the difference between the City of David, The Temple Mount, and the city of Jerusalem.
I passed the entrance to the visitor’s center and walked the half mile down one of the steepest roads in Jerusalem into the Arab area. When I got to the bottom of the hill I saw the archaeological dig off to my left.
Here is where the title of this entry, Can the Bible be believed? comes in: As I said, one of the reasons people didn’t believe the Bible was that it mentions so many places whose existence no one could ever find. For instance, there was only one general area in Jerusalem where the Pool of Siloam could have existed. The Pool was supposed to have been able to hold more than 10,000 pilgrims coming to a Festival. But where was it? And if it wasn’t anywhere to be found, perhaps a lot of other things the Bible had to say were not real, either. This was no small problem, because an entire chapter of the New Testament (John 9) has to do with this pool. If the pool, itself, didn’t exist, probably the things that were supposed to have happened there didn’t happen; and, the really important things that were supposed to have been said there, probably were never said.
However, two years ago, a tractor was cleaning up an area near the exit to the tunnel of King Hezekiah (built @ 700BC). All of a sudden, the tractor’s weight caused the road on which it was working to crack and the back wheel of the tractor fell into a pool that had been hidden for 2,000 years. It was the Pool of Siloam.
For 2 years archeologists have been excavating the pool area. In this picture, the current water level is seen on the right. In your mind, take out the wall on the left and then picture the whole area (where you see all the trees) filled with water. Big pool!
Here are some of the ancient stones smoothed down from millions of feet over two thousand years ago and more. And, an added bonus found at the Pool: this picture shows how they fed the animals they brought to sacrifice at the feast. Altough the sides are broken, you can see that this was a feeding trough for animals. In the Bible, it is called a “manger”, just like the one in which Jesus was laid in the stall in Bethlehem.
I left the excavations at the Pool of Siloam and walked up the hill, thinking how much time Jesus spent walking up and down the same hill, from the Temple to the pool and all around the area. I walked back up to the oldest part of the area: the “City of David”. I climbed on a lookout and took this picture of the original stones which David used in the city’s wall. Also took a picture of the Mount of Olives and its thousands of above-ground graves, and a picture of the many “illegal” Arab homes across the Kidron Valley from David’s city.
Then I walked back up the hill and entered inside the Old City walls. Walked through the courtyard of the Kotel (Western, or “Wailing Wall”). I wanted to take a picture from a higher vantage point than the courtyard itself since a new fence between the courtyard and the wall obscures a clear view of the people worshipping at the wall. I saw a two story building and climbed up the stairs to take a picture out the upper window. I entered an upstairs office and saw a bunch of police sitting around. “What are you doing here?” an officer asked me grufly. I pointed to my camera. He said, “This is a police station!” I pointed to my camera again and to the open window facing the courtyard. He must have thought I couldn’t speak because he grumbled, “Take your picture and leave!” I walked to the window and took the picture, turned around and said, “Toda” (thank you) and beat a hasty retreat back downstairs and out into the courtyard.
Left the courtyard and climbed the stairs toward the center of the Old City and decided to walk through the Arab Market. Came out at the center of the Ancient Roman “Cardo”, the name the Romans gave to the “heart” of the city. There the Romans had built their shops between columns that held up the Cardo’s roof. The Roman columns still stand.
In the center of the Cardo, encased in Plexiglas is the centerpiece of the Third Temple: the huge Golden Menorah. It sits here for everyone to understand that a lot of people are serious about building a Third Temple. In fact, almost every article used in Temple service has already been made and is being held in storage. Every stone has been hewn and waits for the proper time to be assembled into the Building. What does the New Testament say about the next Temple?
While I was taking a picture of the Menorah, an Orthodox Jew came up to me. He asked, “Are you a Christian?” Then he began telling me what a terrible life he had and could I give him some money. I gave him a 50 shekel note. He wasn’t satisfied and asked for twice that amount. 50 shekels is about $10.00, so that’s not a lot of money, but I didn’t like him asking for more, so I said, “No” and walked away.
By now it was 3:30 and I was a little concerned that I might miss the last bus home since buses quit running early on Friday. I made it to the bus stop and caught the bus home. A hot day.
Yossi called and we had a long discussion about The Book. He is very busy right now, for which I am glad. I told him I thought our options are 1) To leave the book as is; or, 2) For me to totally rewrite the book by myself. I told him I didn’t like either option. I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to take over the project without Yossi. I can make the book readable and contain proper English. But, the “sound” Yossi adds to the sentences is too important and is something I can’t replicate.
Danny is picking me up Sunday to spend the week in Ma’ale Levona and work with him on his business. On Monday, Yossi and I will talk about the book and make a final decision about the future of my involvement on the project.
Yesterday was Saturday. Spent most of the day reading and relaxing. There is something nice about resting part of the week, I think, especially if you work the other 6 days. Not legalistically, but it’s kind of nice, anyway. Went with Scott and Theresa to their church service. Only three people in attendance in the beginning. When Theresa began to play a worship CD in Arabic, a group of kids came in through the open door, drawn by the music. They ran around creating havoc until Theresa gave them all some paper and pens. One of them sat on my lap while we worshipped and later presented me with a portrait. Looks kinda like me, don’t you think? I used to have a chest, I really did!
This is too long, and I’ve got to pack for Ma’ale Levona. Thanks for the emails. I am enjoying news from the other side of the world. Stay in touch if you can…