What happens when your mission through Israel is guided by an internationally-respected expert on religion, history, and archeology?
You get an extraordinary experience.
Let me share a few fun facts gleaned from the wisdom of Dr. Ian Stern (pictured at left), the Director at Archaeological Seminars Institute.
First, Ian is sitting on a rock that was separated from the Second Temple when it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.
The remaining part of the wall, known as the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, is in the background.
The stones in the foreground weigh somewhere between 6 and 8 tons. It took an incredible engineering feat to accomplish something so destructive.
How ’bout those Romans?
Heard of the Jewish holiday, Tisha b’Av, which commemorates the Temple’s destruction? Ian is sitting on it.
This is a closeup view from the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, one of Christianity’s most significant holy sites — if not the single most significant — as it marks where Jesus was crucified, buried, and reborn.
So back to the ladder…That modest, unassuming ladder has rested in that exact spot for more than a century.
Why you ask?
Well, it has become a symbol for the millennia-old battle between various Christian churches for the right to manage the church ground. One church owns the balcony; another the window. If the ladder were moved, it would disrupt centuries of careful negotiation. Ian tells us that the church is opened and closed every day by a Muslim family to avoid inter-Christian squabbles.
Third fun fact: Check out the stone structure to the left. While the evidence is not dispositive, archaeologists have now concluded that King David’s palace rested at the top of the stone structure (where the modern build at the top of the picture now lies).
Up until a few decades ago, there was no tangible evidence, other than Biblical mentions, that there was a King David. But due to recent digs, including at this very site in Jerusalem’s City of David, archeologists now can definitely prove, from examining inscriptions on pottery that there was a very well known King named David at the same time the Bible discusses his rule.
They are still looking for a slingshot and six smooth stones…
Fun Fact 4: Heard of Kabbalah?
Believe it or not, it was NOT invented by Madonna.
Instead, Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an eternal and mysterious Creator and the mortal and finite universe.
The picture at the right is of the very bimah (altar) from which the 16th Century chief rabbi of Safed, Joseph Caro preached the good words which have help develop the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah.
And legend has it that an angel appeared to Rabbi Caro in the vault that is under the floor at the bottom.