Our final day in Israel started early in the morning with breakfast and packing our bags for the trip home. We then met and walked the short distance from our hotel to The Garden Tomb. Originally it was believed that the place of the tomb was in the spot that is now enshrined in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which we visited a few days ago. But after more research into the history and geography of that time period it seemed more probable that this place was more likely where Jesus was buried after his crucifixion. We entered the garden and were met by a missionary from England who had felt called to serve in this place. There were a number of groups in different alcoves of the garden, singing and worshiping in many different languages. We saw the tomb cut into the rock and were able to step inside the small space where the religious insignia was marked on the stone. The garden offered a peaceful and introspective place in the middle of the bustle of the city surrounding it.
We then made our way for a final walk around the beautiful old city of Jerusalem. Because it was still the Jewish sabbath, most of the stores and restaurants were closed. We went to the Christian Quarter where we ate lunch at a favorite place and admired the beautiful architecture around us.
Our next stop was at the Israel Museum which is considered to be one of the greatest museums in the world. Outside the museum they have a complete, historically accurate, model of the city of Jerusalem from the days of the bible. As they learn more, they update the model. The model is massive and really gives a perfect eye view of the ancient city and how it was laid out. We then walked inside where we got to see the Dead Sea scrolls and some of the other artifacts that were found with them. The scrolls are housed in a building that is shaped like the canisters that the scrolls were found in the caves that is now part of Qumran National Park. Over 900 of the scrolls have been discovered and the information and history that they provide is fascinating. The scrolls are dated to the last 3 centuries BCE and the first century CE. They are the second oldest known surviving manuscripts that became part of the Hebrew bible canon. Then we made our way to the main building of the museum and went to the archeology section. It was incredible to walk through the archeology section and see some of the pieces from the places we had visited the last few days. The archeology section is expansive, filled with so much of the artifacts that have been found here dating back to the beginning of civilization. Also in this section are the recreated synagogues from around the world including an earthy synagogue from Suriname and an elaborate synagogue from Italy. They also have a beautiful display of menorahs from all over the world. The museum is also home to one of the best collections of fine art and modern art as well.
Our last stop was to visit the 9/11 Memorial. Israel is the only other country to have an official memorial dedicated to those who were lost on that terrible day in 2001. They requested a small piece of the fallen twin towers that is now encapsulated within the memorial. The names of all those were lost are written in English and Hebrew. It was a beautiful memorial overlooking a tucked away valley of trees and sky.
We stopped at an overlook for one last glimpse of Jerusalem, were treated to one more wonderful meal, and then were back at the Tel Aviv airport heading home. I have said it again and again on this trip-but I have been changed by my visit to Israel. Perceptions have changed and understanding has grown from my time here. The media really has given a incorrect perception of this country and of it’s people. They are a country that is constantly on the brink of conflict and yet their focus on peace and protecting its people is incredible. They continue to offer land in return for peace for their country, but when the offer is declined they still provide for the people the things they need. They have created a place where people of diffing beliefs can practice their faith and where those that are not religious still feel part of the community. Their history runs deep and is at the core of everything they do in working to continue to build the country. Israel is such a beautiful place that is so rich with history and faith, but mostly a pride and love of the people. Thank you Israel for all you taught me, I will be forever grateful for my time here.
(If you are interested in learning more about Israel, I suggest checking out the videos of expert historian, researcher, and lecturer Rony Simon at https://www.israel-seminars.com/ )