Ever have one of those days on vacation when everything goes just right? Today was one of those days. We had several experiences in the Jewish part of Jerusalem but two of those were very impressive to me. The first experience had to do with Hezekiah’s Tunnel. If you haven’t heard the story yet, let me give you the cliff notes: When King Hezekiah was threatened with an invasion of Jerusalem (8th Century B. C.) he realized that he was vulnerable because their main source of water was the Gihon Spring, just outside the walls of the lower City of David (so called because this was the first part of the city of Jerusalem David built up). When an enemy invades they seek first to cut off the water supply to the city. So Hezekiah set to work to bring the water inside the city. To do this he first had to seal off any sign of an external water supply and then he put to work many diggers with iron picks to hack their way through solid bedrock until they had made a tunnel sloping slightly downward that ended in some kind of a receptacle inside the city. The receptacle was to be the Pool of Siloam (read the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John for more information about this pool in Jesus day). But what makes this project really interesting is that the workers started from both ends (some began digging from the Spring and some began digging from the Pool) and they met in the middle! Try doing this now with all the engineers and modern tools we possess today! They eventually made it work but they were slightly off and had to make corrections (we can tell by viewing the results). Well, the state of Israel lets you walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel today after paying an entrance fee—but it’s really worth it. I did this twice before and couldn’t wait to do it again with Kathy and Eric. It’s a totally painless experience. You only have to walk 1700 ft. or so through water that sometimes is thigh high but mostly is just about 12 inches high. The water still flows and it still empties into the Pool of Siloam. They do recommend that no one with claustrophobia should attempt this. If you will look at Kathy’s pictures you will understand why.
The weather was very nice today—only about 85 or so with a cool breeze--so we didn’t have to quit early. Thus, we went inside the city through the Dung Gate and into the Jewish Quarter. Kathy had found some information about visiting the “Burnt House.” That was the ruins of a house that had been torched by the Romans when they invaded and destroyed the city of Jerusalem in A. D. 70. We bought one of those “compound tickets” where you pay a certain price and you get to see 4 of 5 different things. One of those several things we got to see were underground ruins in what they call the Herodian Quarter located in the Wohl Museum of Archaeology. It seems that during the 1967 (six day) War the Jordanians had destroyed so many Jewish houses in this one area that when the Jews won that war and took over that sector of Jerusalem, the archeologists took advantage of all that rubble and began to dig there. What they found were remains of the homes of the wealthy leaders and priests who lived in palatial surroundings during the time of King Herod (and also during the time of Jesus). I have never before seen a museum like this—the museum was one small room above ground and the gigantic areas of display were all underground, and the displays were amazing. This rediscovered Herodian Quarter now lies from 10 to 22 feet below present street level. The “burnt house” was among these remains. You could see colored wall frescoes with burn marks all over them and the remains of charred ceiling beams that collapsed onto the beautiful mosaic floors. You didn’t have to use your imagination to picture how the houses originally looked. You could see quite well the rooms, the doorways, the passageway, the streets, curbs, and so on. These palatial residences were for the rich and important only, but, alas, everything they had went up in (Roman) flames as well as the poorer homes down in the valleys. I’m sorry I can’t show you pictures of the best of the best because I found out partway through the tour that there was a sign saying “no cameras allowed.”
So these were the two experiences I had that made my day. And by the way, both Kathy and Eric enjoyed these two experiences as well as several others. We have one more day left in Jerusalem before we fly home on Wednesday, so hopefully, I will have one more blog to share with you.
Bud & Kathy
Bud and Kathy Downs are making another trip to the Lands of the Bible-- first Turkey and Greece (from May 11 to 22) and then to Israel (from May 22 to June 8). We invite you to join us through our travel blog. We intend to post regular updates and pictures of Bible sites.