Yesterday, we began our day with a visit to the Bible Lands Museum, including the Shrine of the Book. This place boasts a 1:50 scale model of the old city in the time of the second temple, and is very impressive (though, alas, a bit too big to add to my HO [1:87] scale railway empire).
The Shrine of the Book holds several of the fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls on permanent display, as well as the scroll of Isaiah, which was preserved in its entirety. Many of the scrolls which were fragmented were cut up by the Romans when they overtook the Essene communities at Qumran; the Isaiah scroll was not found by them, so it survived intact.
Later, we went to the Old City and explored some ancient aqueducts, watercourses prepared in Canaanite and Davidic times as well as in the time of Hezekiah. Their versions of sewer and water mains built the foundation for what allows us fresh water intake and adequate drainage of waste today. At the Bible Lands Museum, we saw two sections of a water “pipe”, cut out of stone. These were shaped square stone sections that fit together, with a groove on one end and a flange on the other. Remarkable engineering for thousands of years ago!
We stood by the site of the pool of Siloam, where the blind man washed the mud Jesus put over his eyes, so he could see. We came up from there to the base of the Western Wall of the temple. The size of the stones cut to build that place were as remarkable as Josephus said they were! To stand on the remnants of the temple steps, where Jesus himself stood to teach, was a moving moment. Those steps were cut in such a way that you could never run up them; each step had to be purposeful. I think this was done by design, to make the ascent to the temple a prayerful act.
From there, we said good-bye to our tour guide for the rest of the day, and carried on into Palestinian territory, into Bethlehem. We stopped at the Nissan family shop, a souvenir shop specializing in hand-carved olive wood objects, while we waited for our Palestinian tour guide to take us to the Church of the Nativity. This visit was quite interesting, as we were able to see some ancient art in the building, and visit the grotto where many believe Jesus was born (directly on the spot). It was under this building, in a cave, where Jerome translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin.
Another long, but immensely interesting day!