My cup overflows.
Have you ever had a summer Bible camp experience that built you up spiritually, wore you out physically and wrung you out emotionally? I have, plenty of times. But this experience has topped that on so many levels. We’ve been on the go early, I mean EARLY, every morning and run like crazy people all day long, every single day. I’ve seen so many things and packed so many facts into my brain that it’s going to take months to sort it all out. We’ve laughed and cried and debated (especially Jon and Gary) and learned from one another and been patient with one another and been not so patient with one another. We’ve doctored and encouraged and teased. We’ve prayed with and for one another, sang together, and worshipped together.
We’ve missed our families back at home, and wished so much that they could’ve been here so that we could share these experiences with them. It’s truly been an unforgettable trip with an unforgettable purpose in an unforgettable country.
I feel like my cup has been filled and filled and filled again. And looking back over the 23rd Psalm that is so familiar to us, and listening to Jon speak tonight about the shepherds we’ve seen, and our great Shepherd, I considered how applicable it is to our experiences these past two weeks.
He is my Shepherd, and I do not want for anything! He has led us beside green pastures and still waters while we’ve been here. My soul has been restored, and I’ve seen my husband’s soul, recently running on empty, restored. We may not have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but we’ve been in unfamiliar territory in a place not known for great stability. We’ve not been fearful because we know He is with us. We have eaten among people who probably don’t care much for where we came from. But our cups have overflown with so many blessings that we know came from Him. I feel like He is saying: “Tell my story!” Goodness and mercy will follow, and I can be confident that I will dwell with Him.
I know this isn’t the best exegesis of a passage. And I think I’m on emotional overload. But I am just so thankful that we have been part of this project that I believe will bolster the faith of many and help us share the good news that we’ve been given.
I’ve admit that I’ve been dreading today: Hezekiah’s Tunnel. (Cue the soundtrack from Psycho here.) Read about it here. A few days ago, we visited the tunnels under the western wall. They were lit, reinforced overhead, fairly wide, and there wasn’t even a disclaimer about “if you’re claustrophobic, or pregnant, or in bad health…don’t do this!” But walking through them, I felt a little tingly and tight-chested, and when the people in front of me stopped to ask a question, I felt a not-very-nice urge to pull an Earl Campbell: knocking them over and not looking back.
As Gary walked by me after we got out, he leaned over and said “Hezekiah’s? Much worse.” Then Tsvi said “You claustrophobic? No, no, no. Don’t go.”
So today, getting out of the bus, all of the discussion was about who needed to go in first before John (who was filming A-roll inside) and who would follow, and then the rest of the group who were doing the “wet tunnel” (because there is also a dry tunnel) needed to wait before they went in after them, and did they have enough flashlights and appropriate clothes and water shoes (because the water is thigh-high)….it was all making me a bit sick.
“Hezekiah’s Tunnel” is an engineering marvel from more than 2500 years ago, as King Hezekiah sought to protect Jerusalem’s water source – the Gihon Spring – from their enemies. The tunnel ends at the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus sent a blind man to wash, and he was healed. The community known as Siloam, or “Sil-wam” as it sounds like the locals say it, has been known to be hostile to Jews. Entering the park, and starting from the lookout point, looking to my left I saw that we were perhaps a mile from the southern steps of the temple (the scene of the fence-jumping crime from a couple of days ago.) Ahead of me were homes with cluttered balconies built very close together, sort of southwest of the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives (but I’m directionally challenged, so I’ll say that Siloam seems to be sort of at the bottom of the”V” made by the two valleys running below Jerusalem and the City of David. I’m sure John will correct me. And yes, he just did…it’s at the tip of the Spur of Ophel. Which is basically where I’ve just described.)
Our guide from the National Park service was “Guy” and he was an orthodox Jew. John introduced himself and shook his hand, then he introduced one of the other crew, and Guy shook their hands. But when it came to me, he “air-shook” my hand (I’ve never had that happened before) and was very apologetic, but would not actually shake my hand. As he turned to the next man and shook his hand, Tsvi followed behind and nodded at me kindly and shook my hand. Though Guy’s refusal did not offend me at all, I wondered why he wouldn’t – and found out later that orthodox Jews will not touch a person of the opposite gender unless they are husband and wife. Which isn’t a bad practice, if you ask me!
Guy took us on a tour of the area, and was very knowledgeable. He did say some things that I thought were funny. We pronounce “ceramics” with a beginning “S” sound, but he said it like “keramics”. Then he was talking about a lab analyzing the “organic remainments” of someone’s stomach contents. He spoke great English, but it had a very Hebrew twist and he talked loud – louder when he was passionate about something (and he and John had some “spirited” discussions about Warren’s Shaft and whether or not it was a natural occurence.)
He took us further into the park and we stopped at a revolving gate – the “no turning back” area. We went down a shallow metal staircase, turned a corner and went down a very steep set of stairs and emerged into a cave about 20 feet wide and 9 feet tall, in the shape of an egg. About this time I started having the tingly, tight, nauseous feeling of claustrophobia. I had to really talk to myself sternly and force myself from going back up the stairs into the light.
While I was talking with myself, Guy was talking to the group, and John, Mat, and Micah were working on an A-roll segment. When they finished, we went down more stairs and into strangely neon-blue lit room. Here we learned more about the fortifications around the springs, and saw a film that illustrated on several different screens how the settlers managed to keep the water safe.
Then down another set of stairs and the moment of truth: I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to throw up in the water and contaminate the Gihon Spring – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The opening to the actual wet tunnel was maybe 4 feet high and 2 feet wide, so you have to duck under the stone entrance. Making it worse for me was the fact that I knew Doug was claustrophobic, but he was having to go in to film John’s A-roll, plus Micah was going first. I was stressed out for both of them. Gary, Rick, Dewayne and Philip followed them in.
So Mat (also claustrophobic) and I ended up taking the Canaanite tunnel (AKA the Chicken Tunnel) with Tsvi and Jon (who had done the wet tunnel before). And it wasn’t as bad as the Western Wall tunnels to me. This was narrow, I had to turn sideways through part of it, but it was lit and the ceilings were high.
After we came out into blessed sunlight, we had to walk down the street to the Pool of Siloam through the neighborhood that was a little dicey. Tsvi said “Some days there is stoning, some days there is not. Today, no stoning.” I thought to myself…”yet!”
Jon engaged Guy in conversation and said “I suppose they (Arabs) aren’t happy about you guys doing excavations here?” To which Guy responded “They aren’t happy about us breeding!” Later, as we were waiting for those in the wet tunnel to finish, Jon asked Guy who he thought Jesus was. Guy didn’t want to answer – he said he didn’t want to offend, but we insisted that we wouldn’t be offended. He said “Jesus was a Jew, born a Jew, died a Jew. That’s where it begins and that’s where it ends.” When Jon asked him why he thought Jesus left such an impact on so many, Guy only replied that “Jesus came at a very strong spiritual time for the nation of Israel.” I didn’t understand his explanation at all, but he and Jon continued to converse about it. It was an interesting, eye opening conversation for me to hear.
The wet tunnelers survived the trip and were pretty proud of themselves, and Doug managed to hold it all together, keeping two cameras and a big pack out of the water – he said it wasn’t bad at all. (I don’t believe him though.)
We had to literally run from there to the Tower of David, a fantastic museum built in what was Herod’s palace and fortification for the city. Herod didn’t live simply – he liked luxury, and it was easy to see how much money and labor went into this place. This is probably where Pilate stayed when he was in Jerusalem (it made sense logically that someone accustomed to living luxuriously would not want to stay in the Antonia Fortress, but here in Herod’s palace,) so it was likely where Jesus was taken after He was arrested. If only stones could speak! We had a tour guide take us around very quickly and showed us the highlights, and Jon and Gary had A-roll to film, and then Dewayne and John had some B-roll they needed. The views from the top were the best in the city – looking out over the entire city with a very clear view of the Temple Mount.
We left there at about 3:00 p.m. and then Jon, Gary, Mat and Doug went to film at the site thought to possibly be Lazarus’ tomb. The rest of us went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. I will wait and write something separately about that. It was extremely moving, and being there made me feel so silly for my claustrophobia issues. What they endured was horrific.
Most of us had dinner together while Rick and Philip took the bus into the middle of town to do some shopping. Afterwards, we met to worship together. Tomorrow, we head to Bethlehem, the Elah Valley, and Khirbet Qeiyafa, and Hebron.
Pretty much everyone stinks. Two weeks + sweat + no washer/dryer + mildew + Hezekiah’s tunnel + sun + smoke everywhere around us = sorry guys, we are all a little musty.
I locked myself in the bathroom at the Tower of David. It took me five minutes to get the lock to turn and let me out (and that’s a long time when you’re trying not to panic, and it’s at the bottom of an actual fortress, and no one is around, and no one in your group is a woman who might happen to come in, and you’re in a foreign country.)
Jon, on filming at Lazarus’ tomb: “I’ve heard good things happen at Lazarus’ tomb!”
Doug, after Hezekiah’s tunnel: “Now I only have to wash the top half of my pants!”
Good night again from Jerusalem!