Day 8 (March 15th): We started Day 8 much earlier than normal and headed out at 6:15 am to see the Western Wall Tunnels or Rabbinical Tunnels. These tunnels are just outside the Western Wall of the Old City.
When going through the tunnels you can view part of the wall that Herod built before Jesus was born (much of the above ground portion of the wall was destroyed when the Romans destroyed the temple). The wall was built without cement/mortar and the stones are huge! The foundation of the wall was 100 feet down to the bedrock (so that an earthquake would not destroy the temple). This is the bedrock on the right side of the picture:
We exited the tunnel onto the Via Dolorosa and did the first few stations (with the rest done on Day 9).
We then stopped at the Church of St. Anne which is a 12 th century Crusader church erected over the “traditional” site of the birthplace of Mary’s mother. The church was designed for Gregorian chants and sounds vibrate for 8 seconds – our group and another group sang several songs while there.
We walked a short distance to see the Pools of Bethesda (John 5:1-9) where Jesus healed the crippled man (these are the actual Pools, not “traditional”).
We then left the old city out the Lion’s Gate or Stephens Gate which where it is believed Stephen was stoned ( Acts 7:54-60) – it was under construction, but we could still see the lion.
We then boarded our bus towards Bethlehem (David’s birthplace and home; and Mary and Joseph had returned here to register for the tax census at the time of Jesus’ birth).
Our first stop was at Herodian, which like Masada, Herod the Great built this as an escape in case he needed to get out of town quickly.
and we saw a shepherd with his sheep:
After lunch, we went to the Church of Sheppard’s Field which is the “traditional” spot where the shepherds heard of Jesus’ birth.
After that we took a short bus ride to the Church of Nativity, which is the traditional spot where Jesus was born and where he laid in a manager (Luke 2:6-7). The custody of the church belongs to Roman Catholics, Armenians, and Greek Orthodox churches and the decor is very “unique”.
This is the “traditional” birthplace…. and the lady who was behind Mr. G fell down on her knees and kissed the floor (she was not with our group) and Mr. G wanted to offer her some hand sanitizer for her lips:
And the manager (with the rock walls of the cave in the background):
We then ended the day at Church of St. Catherine which is where the tomb of St. Jerome is located. St. Jerome did some of the first known translations of the Bible into Latin.