Camels and Kings - Final Steps in Jerusalem

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Jerusalem, Jerusalem District, Israel
At the top of the Mount of Olives there is an amazing view of all of Jerusalem, in particular the eastern wall in its entirety. The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount is a prominent figure that stands just below the skyline. West Jerusalem, the much newer part of the city, appears above it, built on a higher hill. It's like looking out in a miniature of a city. Anything metal shines in the afternoon sun. Wind blew the entire time we were on the top. There is a tradition that says the wind that blows in Jerusalem is God's spirit, demonstrating His presence there. King David wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:7‬)? God's presence is everywhere but there is something special about this city that God established.

On the mount there's an Arab man who owns camels . He was there before when we came, selling rides and providing photo ops for tourists. Several of us took the bait and rode the camel in a circle above the horizon. I felt bad for the camel and the man who walked with two crutches leading the camel around. The animal followed his every command faithfully. There's something special about animals, even the smelly ones.

We left our restful perch atop the hills and headed back down the valley as the temperature around us dropped significantly. Back through the sea of graves covering the side of the mount to the center of the Kidron Valley below. We entered the garden, an attempt to recreate the garden of the Kings of Judah where many kings grew olive trees.

We entered into the Kings Valley Promenade, a dusty path through the bottom of the valley, lined with tombs and monuments from the past. Absalom, the son of David, built a monument to himself in this valley. Tradition has it that his memorial to himself is one of these standing next to the tombs of other kings, but the history and design of what stands there today doesn't match with his era. If you can, read the plaques in the picture from this blog titled "Info plaques". Wikipedia lists the tombs in order "from north to south, the so-called "Tomb of Absalom", which rises in front of the "Cave of Jehoshaphat", the (correctly named) Tomb of Benei Hezir (Benei Hezir is the Hebrew for "sons of Hezir", meaning the Hezir priestly family ), and the so-called "Tomb of Zechariah", which could quite likely be the nefesh of the Tomb of Benei Hezir" (https://en A nefesh being a monument for the dead.

We slowly trekked through the promenade, exhaustedly stomped up the steps on the other side of the valley, and cautiously walked along the narrow walkway lining a portion of the walls overlooking the valley below towards the south of Jerusalem, dodging small children and teenagers who were excited to scurry past us along the slick stones with minimal railing. The sun was getting closer to the horizon and the day became cooler as we approached the Armenian Quarter which led us to the Jaffa Gate on the southwest side of the Old City. We weren't in the mood to stop and look around any longer. A few glances were all we need. That and food in our bellies and a place to sit for a while.

We said goodbye to the old walled city and headed west toward our hostel, and hopefully toward a nice place to eat. We were all either too indecisive or tired to think straight after all the walking we did, so we wandered the streets some more, enjoying a fantastic market called Mahane Yehuda. There were also musicians and artists' wares to stop and see. So many things all at once and yet all I wanted was to sit and rest a while.

In small groups, we made it back to our cozy rooms, gathered for a while to study the story of En Gedi and the time David hid from Saul in the wilderness, and then ended the longest day yet far too late. It was worth it to see as much as we could in Jerusalem because none of us know when or if we will be back.
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