The weather has turned cool and is expected to turn even cooler in the next few days. And, for the first time in my experience living in Jerusalem, the sky over the city is filled with beautiful, white, puffy clouds.
Yesterday I took Daniel on a walking tour of the Old City. He has recently become interested in the history of Israel and the Bible and so I agreed to be his guide. He knows little about the Bible and even less about the history of Israel. So, everything was new and exciting for him.
Daniel is my 21 year old roommate. For being so young, he has done more things than just about any young person I’ve ever met, with the exception of my own children.
Daniel ran away from his wealthy Lithuanian family when he was 17 and joined the army. After two years in the Lithuanian Army, his father paid for him to go to college. But ever since he was a little boy, Daniel had a nagging sense that life had meaning beyond making money and owning property and doing what everyone else was doing. If there was a meaning to life, he had to find it on his own.
He bought a bus ticket to Paris where he lived on the streets. Because of his previous army experience, he was accepted as a volunteer in the French Foreign Legion where they trained him as a sniper. After he left the Legion, he made it to Israel where his family had lived several years ago and where he learned to speak Hebrew as a child.
This young man is a deep thinker and we have had many conversations. He speaks 5 languages fluently and that has helped him get around as he’s traveled throughout Europe and Russia. A month ago he received a letter inviting him to join the Israeli Special Forces and tomorrow he will take the entrance test to see if he qualifies.
Daniel has more stories than most old men. If the rest of his life is anything like his first 21 years, his autobiography will fill several volumes.
We took the bus to Jaffa St. and walked from there to the Jaffa Gate. Then we walked around the walls outside the city and, while we walked, he began telling me about his hero, Oskar Schindler. At one point we passed the little Christian cemetery that is on the Old City side of the Kidron Valley and I remembered that Schindler’s grave site was in that cemetery. Daniel was overwhelmed when I led him directly to the grave where Daniel placed a stone, just like at the end of the movie, Schindler’s List.
From the grave site we walked down to the City of David and watched the wonderful 3-D movie of the history of David’s City. Afterwords we walked further down to the entrance of Hezekiah’s Tunnel and sloshed through the 1,750 feet of cold water until we came to the end at the Pool of Siloam. Of course, the tunnel is way underground, and I forgot a flashlight, so I had to purchase a tiny light for 3 shekels that didn’t help much as we walked.
Daniel wanted to see any of the Christian sites I knew of and so we discussed Jesus putting mud on the eyes of the blind man and sending him to the Siloam Pool to wash and be healed. This story is made even more special since the Pool was discovered “by accident” only a couple of years ago and we stood in it while reading John 9.
We then walked along the edge of the Kidron Valley and talked about the tombs in the Valley and how the Messiah will come and place His feet on the Mount of Olives. Then we crossed the valley for a visit of the Garden of Gethsemane.
From the Garden we entered the Old City and spent some time walking around the Pool of Bethsaida (or Bethesda) and read John 4 about Jesus healing the crippled man. Then we walked the Via Dolorosa and back out of the city to Ben Yehuda where we ate a shwarma, got on the bus and returned home.
Since then, Daniel and I have had long talks and I’ve really gotten to know him. He has never believed in God. But that is changing…
More next time.