35,735 Steps In, On, and Under Jerusalem

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Jerusalem, Jerusalem District, Israel
At one point during this trip Steven and I began competing to see who walked the most steps on any particular day. It's easy to record because we both have smartphones. A normal day for me is around 10,000 steps if I can help it. There was one day on the trip where both Steven and I did about 33,000 even though we were sometimes in different places. The day we visited as many places as we could in Old Jerusalem, Steven had at least 1,000 steps more than me. My total was 35,735 steps that day. It was our longest and most strenuous day of walking, followed closely by our first day of touring when we visited Jaffa and Tel Aviv. We visited at least 14 or 15 locations worth mentioning. Some of which I may include in a separate blog. I took plenty of pictures on this day with the exception of Hezekiah's Tunnel in the City of David because I left my phone in a locker instead of keeping it with me. Lena was wiser than I and had hers with her the whole time, which was helpful because Steven and I could figure out how many steps we took on that escapade and add it to our daily total for a more accurate accounting. Plus I could use Lena's photos from Hezekiah's Tunnel and, the Pool of Siloam.

To avoid long lines and prayer schedules, we left early that morning to walk from our hostel in West Jerusalem to the completely opposite side of Old Jerusalem to walk on the Temple Mount . This is a great point of contention between Jews and Muslims. This is Mount Moriah, the same mount on which God tested the faith of the father of the faithful, and where God restrained the hand of His angel so His people would be spared from all His wrath. This was the very place where Solomon gathered the materials and constructed a house for his God. Unless a person is Muslim, then even so much as praying on this mount will get them arrested. Women must have their legs and shoulders covered when entering into the garden that is there. But sometimes that rule changes. I wore shorts and, if I wanted to stay I had to buy a cloth to cover my legs as if I was wearing a sarong in Sri Lanka. A beautifully maintained garden surrounds the two mosques that are there. Tourist groups walk alongside each other, snapping photos of the Dome of the Rock, the Golden Gate (also called the Gate of Mercy and Gate of Eternal Life which has been walled shut, reopened, and shut again more than once), and the Mount of Olives from across the valley below. You can feel the tension in the air, and yet somehow the spot is peaceful for a moment.

Alejandro acted as an impromptu tour guide since he and Sue live in Jerusalem and they have learned a thing or two about this city. He explained that the gate of the city that faces east toward the Mount of Olives has a connection to prophecies of the return of Jesus Christ . “Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory” (Ezekiel‬ ‭43:1-2‬).‬ “Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. And the LORD said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut. As for the prince, because he is the prince, he may sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gateway, and go out the same way”” (‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭44:1-3‬). When Christ returns, it will be to the top of the mount that faces the city. “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south” (‭‭Zechariah‬ ‭14:4‬) .

Every place in Old Jerusalem has a story to tell. Some are worth hearing and others don't match with the account in scripture. The story behind the closing of the Golden Gate and that of the building and naming of the Lions's Gate by sultans of the Ottoman Empire are interesting. The Lions's Gate stands at or near the place of the Sheep Gate written of in the book of Nehemiah. There's also a story in the gospel account of John which records a miracle Jesus performed near here on the Sabbath during the Feast. “Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches” (John‬ ‭5:2‬). We visited this pool which is far different than I ever imagined it to be. Of course as each empire came in, they brought with them changes, destruction, and construction. The area, which appears to be run by a French church, was a very interesting artifact to explore. I'm still not sure exactly where the pool was, but there was a cistern there with several layers of brick and stone built up from several different empires .

Through another gate and into another street. It's so easy to get lost inside the walls of the Old City. It was nice to have some guides along with us for most of our trek. We headed out to the City of David, once again into the Jewish Quarter and out the Dung Gate. We headed down the hill and across the street to a place called the stronghold of Zion where David built his palace (2 Samuel 5:6-7). Here lies many wonders yet to be discovered beneath the floors of modern houses and deep in the earth and stone that lies there still. This is the place where Hezekiah brought the water from the Gihon Spring through a tunnel underneath the city so the people of Judah could have fresh water during the siege under the Assyrian, Sennacherib. The tunnel is deep and dark. Those maintaining it have done well to make it available for people to see and to walk. We waded through the cool, rushing water in the darkness, recalling the stories we had read about the events of the righteous king of Judah who had prepared his people to worship God . An amazing feat of hard work and patience for those who chiseled and dug through the hard stone of the city's foundation.

The Pool of Siloam sits still in the afternoon sun, the first sign of daylight and civilization that we saw after emerging from the tunnel. We regathered our group as we heard cheers from small children around us, ecstatic and no longer afraid because they had survived the trek through bedrock. Lena made a quick friend of one little girl who learned to speak excellent English mostly from movies. With her family behind us, we tolerated her delightful chatter as we walked through another tunnel to get back to where we had begun. This well lit stairwell was the remnants of the Herodian Road, which once was lined with shops and vendors, and served as a pathway for holy day travelers to reach the Temple Mount.

For the sake of the amount of pictures and words in this entry, the day of thousands of steps will be continued in several more posts, including a fascinating bonus blog.
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Comments

dave_v
2016-05-03

What an amazing place to spend time in! The photo of early morning market streets is such a contrast to the crowded and noisy atmosphere about to come. Great photos. As for the 33,735 steps - as soon as I decide whether I am exhausted or inspired by your example, I may or may not go out for my (somewhat shorter) walk.

2017-09-23