On our final day in Israel we woke up before 8 AM to catch some breakfast and head to the bus. The bus crawled through the packed streets of Jerusalem on our way to the City of David. Jerusalem is made of 3 layers. There is the modern city, the Old City, and the City of David.
The City of David is the oldest section of Jerusalem. It was constructed in the Middle Bronze Age, and was the capital of the Kingdom of Judah. It is hypothesized that it was built by the biblical King David. As we walked through the archeological site I was hit by a sense of awe. This fortress was built thousands of years ago, by the legendary King David, is still standing. It had seen Jerusalem blossom and fade and blossom again. It had seen empires rise and fall, and rise again. The City of David was a stronghold built on top of a hill that overlooks the Mount of Olives, which is the largest chosen burial site for Jews in the world. There are the remnants of homes, built into the foundations of the City. These are hypothesized to have been used to garrison soldiers. We walked down underground to the lower levels of the city, and eventually to the tunnel system. A few centuries after the founding of the City of David, the Assyrian Empire invaded the Kingdom of Judah. The Assyrians had the first professional army in the world and overran most of Judah. King Hezekiah retreated back into the City of David and ordered a tunnel system to be built to bring in drinking water into the city. With this accomplished, the Judeans outlasted the Assyrian army. We descended down into Hezekiah’s tunnels, which were at times waist deep in running water. We exited the tight tunnels and headed to the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Old City is home to the 4 quarters; the Jewish Quarter, Muslim quarter, and Armenian Quarter. The Old City is also home to the religious sites to the Abrahamic religions. Including the Western wall, which is the only remaining wall of the destroyed First and Second Jewish Temples. It is one of the most important sites in Judaism. Right before our group separated to go to the Wall, Tsipy told us how in 1967 the Old City was liberated from Jordanian control, and the emotion of when Israeli Defense Force (IDF) paratroopers came upon the Western Wall. Our group split, as the Western Wall was gender segregated. We went up to the wall and left our prayers. I will never forget standing in the shade of the Western Wall.
We left the Wall and entered the main section of the Jewish quarter. Our guide Adam explained to us how the Jordanian “waqf” run and protect the Islamic holy sites, including the Dome of the Rock, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Israeli government runs the Jewish holy sites, and the Catholic Church runs the Christian churches and sites in Jerusalem. We split up for lunch in a central plaza. After lunch we saw the ruins of the old Roman market, and learnt that preachers would head to the market to read the Torah to the masses. We then spent some time shopping in the modern day markets.
After spending a while in the markets, we headed back to the hotel to clean up for dinner. We had a farewell dinner, and looked back on our trip. The drive to the airport was bittersweet. Our trip had been an incredible experience. With home on the horizon, the plane took off the tarmac.