Day 16: The Jerusalem Experience.
by Alexandra Rutkowski
Today, I got ripped off by an Arab man who threatened to beat up Caleb.
The day’s excursions started in old city Jerusalem. The city of David to be exact. As we walked in to the remains of his palace, a CD with a harp soundtrack really added to the whole Jerusalem atmosphere. That made it. Our first stop was Hezekiah’s tunnels, an insane tunnel that was dug underneath the City of David before 701 during Hezekiah’s reign, hence the name. It’s actually mentioned in 2 Kings 20:20: “Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made the pool, and the conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” It was used as an aqueduct to provide water for the city. We went deep underground and the tunnel itself was very narrow and only about five feet high. And pitch black. Completely. And of course… there was water. We made our way through the water the entire time, most of the time slightly past my knees but sometimes past my waist. I guess that’s the only disadvantage of being short- getting very wet in Hezekiah’s tunnel. But it was worth every second. There was a small flashlight for every 5 people… and we’d come to points where we all just turned them off. It was amazing.
After we sat on the top of the Mount of Olives for a time, we had a long tour of the Old City. Walking down the Via Dolorosa was absolutely surreal. And commercialized. Falafel and souvenir shops everywhere. It was suffocating. Going through the Church of the Holy Sepulchre made me wish so much that it had not been built. I wish Golgotha had been preserved. I feel like it would have been so much more impactful. This was just going through a really ornate church. But the city itself was incredible. Every step. This is where Christ Himself walked. I spent a while just looking at the Eastern Gate. This is where Christ will come through! I still can’t get past it. I think it’s hilarious that the Muslims placed their cemetery in front of the entrance in an attempt to prevent the coming of the Messiah. I think they’re forgetting the part where He’s the Son of the living God.
Today was my first experience at haggling. And it went… well, not so well. We’re in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem and man is asking me to pay 85 shekels for a scarf. Now, I’ll admit… it’s a beautiful scarf. He claimed it was handmade by the Druze, but I wasn’t that ready to believe him. I offered 40 shekels for it, and when he refused, we walked away. Every step we look he just kept on lowering it- that’s the way it always works. Finally, he called out and in a thick accent said, “Fine, fine. I give 40.” That’s more like it. I give him a 100 shekel note and he gives me 40 back. When I protested, he said… I told you I give you 40 shekel…. back. Of course he refused to give me my money back or take back the scarf, and while he called me a sweet flower, he got upset at Caleb for “insulting” him and threatened to beat him up, saying he didn’t want to go back to prison. We walked away when he got really angry. I’m ready to admit haggling is not one of my fortes.
After more touring of the city, we headed back to the hotel for dinner, and went to the Western Wall tunnels. These tunnels go under the Muslim quarter and the Wailing Wall. It was an unbelievable feeling, walking through them. Wow. And Caleb touched about every crack in the entire tunnel, desperately trying to find a rock to take back. Sorry, it didn’t work out that well. On our way back, Shoko had an accident and slipped, hitting the ground hard. She’s okay, but we’re praying the pain in her back will be completely gone. We also said our farewells to Ilan… he was definitely the most amazing tour guide ever. It’s not going to be the same without him.
The Wailing Wall. One of the milestones of this journey. Praying at the wall was indescribable. I’m not even going to try.
We’re back at the hotel now. Finally. It’s been a long day and tomorrow will be even longer. Michael tricked us into believing that breakfast was at 6:15 tomorrow because of security checks, but thankfully, it’s at 9. Praise the Lord! Tomorrow, we have a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office and the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament. Oh yes, and we’ll be on TV, one of these days- possibly tomorrow. Check out CBS. Alright, time for bed. We’re all completely drained, but also overwhelmed with all the things that happened today. Today was priceless.
God’s been so incredible to us all these past few weeks. It’s hard to describe this overwhelming feeling. You see, this isn’t just an educational trip. This was and is so much more. It’s a missions trip. It’s a time of spiritual growth. My life has been changed in the personal things God has been teaching me. My heart aches for the people of Jerusalem. I’m not ready to leave. I feel like there’s so much more to learn and to experience. God has been so good and I know that He won’t stop when we go home.
P.S. Everyone in Israel carries guns. Even tour guides. It’s funny when you think a guy is wearing a man purse and turns around only to show it’s a rifle. Oh, Israel. I just this is the Jerusalem Experience- faith, guns, and getting ripped off. Great stuff in my opinion.