We started our day by visiting the tunnels under The Kotel, no matter how many times I come here I am always amazed by the fact that I am standing on the same streets as Rabbi Akiva once did. No matter how many groups I come with or how many times I come by myself it is always awesome to understand this is the closest to The Holy of Holies (The Kodesh HaKodashim) that we have stood in two thousand years. I am not one of those people who believes we should build the Temple once again, for me the fact that we have a modern State of Israel pretty much fulfills the need of for a third Temple. Yet, it is incredible to be able to touch history which is what happens every time I am in Israel. The Pastors of course LOVED this...
The Taliban destroying one of the marvels of the world.
After The Kotel Tunnels we spent some time walking around The Christian Quarter of The Old City of Jerusalem. We stopped at many of The Stations of The Cross and also visited a Church that is exactly on one of the stations on The Via Dolorosa.
We also visited another Church where Christians believe Mary's mother used to live... Our guide pointed out the only reason that The Church was not destroyed by The Muslims was because for centuries it was used as a school for Muslim Boys. At this Church Pastor David Shearin asked me to offer a prayer for The Peace of Jerusalem, which I did. It was one of those moments where first you feel super weird and it then evolves to a great feeling of understanding and camaraderie between people of different faiths. Throughout this whole entire day I really understood the differences between Evangelical Christians and Catholics. Remember, being born in Mexico it was not until I came to Las Vegas that I really came in contact with other Christians besides Catholics. Nothing really illustrates these differences as spending some time inside The Church of The Holy Sepulcher does! I really found the entire site to be overwhelming from many points of view... Dark, smelly, crowded, filled with images of death and gore! My head was really spinning in there, I found myself grasping for air. I was relieved to know that all of The Pastors that came on this mission felt very much the way I felt! Later I found out that they also do not believe that was the actual sight of the sepulcher.
One of the moments of incredible comic relief happened precisely inside The Church of The Holy Sepulcher. Inside The Greek Orthodox side of The Church there is a marker on the floor that points downward towards the center of the world. My friend and colleague Bradley Tecktiel went over to the marker because he found it interesting... After touching it a couple of times he moved the marker by mistake a couple of feet, hence the center of the world is now off! What did Rabbi Tecktiel say? "Why if you want to mark the center of the earth would you not affix it to the ground." Luckily for us and the Las Vegas Jewish Community no one noticed what happened.
Today we also visited The City of David. It goes without saying how amazing this archeological site is! Every time I come back something new has been found. It was the first time I did not go into the water tunnels build by Hezekaiah...
We toured the site via the dry tunnels which are a little more civilized and equally as amazing.
After the visit to The Old City we went back to The Hotel and eventually made our way to Downtown Jerusalem. I was very happy to meet up with Jonathon Berman who recently made Aliyah and is now a soldier in The Nahal Brigade. Jonathon grew up at Temple Beth Sholom and is now 26 years old. I still remember the day when he came to my study to tell me he wanted to make Aliyah. Elliot Karp, our Federation Director was also very happy to see him, Elliot was also instrumental in helping Jonathan with making Aliyah. We came back to the hotel and prepared for what would be the last day of the mission. Layla Tov!