Viewing entries tagged
Mount of Olives

Walls of the Temple Mount

DSCN1275 King Herod was a terrible man. He did not even trust members of his own family and had them executed. But, he was a visionary and had very large construction projects. Even two thousand years later, his thumbprint is all over the country. This view of the southern wall of the Temple Mount still contains many Herodian stones. The Mount of Olives sits in the background.

Podcast #2 - The Mountains Around Jerusalem

[soundcloud url="" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /] In Psalm 125, the psalmist draws a beautiful comparison between the mountains of Jerusalem and the love and protection that God provides to His people. But, in order to fully appreciate what the psalmist means, you have to have an complete understanding of the geography of Jerusalem. That is what we will be discussing on this program.

Podcast Links Jerusalem Post Article concerning 2013 Jerusalem Marathon 2015 Israel Tour

I Finally Saw "Jerusalem"

I Finally Saw "Jerusalem"


I have made two different trips to Israel. During that time, I have spent a number of days in Jerusalem. In addition, I have read dozens of blog posts and Internet articles about the city. I have also purchased books about Jerusalem and read through them. Often, I have people ask me, "What can you tell me about Jerusalem?" My sarcastic answer is usually the same, "It is confusing."

Seriously, Jerusalem is an amazing city. It has a unique beauty. It is has been almost continually inhabited for over 4,000 years. Over time, the city has been built up and destroyed a number of times. Millions of people throughout history have called Jerusalem their home.

About a year ago, when I first saw the seven minute promotional video for Jerusalem, I instantly fell in love with it and could not wait to see it. Then, in August, they released a trailer for the movie. However, the movie was not being shown in my area. My wife and I discussed making trips to St. Louis or Atlanta to see it, but we were having a hard time fitting it into our schedule.

My wife, Tabatha, and I outside the theatre where Jerusalem was being shown.Every year, we travel to Jacksonville, Florida to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, we decided to take a slight detour through Tallahassee and see the Florida State/Idaho football game. (My wife and I met each other at Florida State.) Two days before we left home to head to Tallahassee, I saw a Facebook post advertising that Jerusalem was being shown in Tallahassee the same weekend. I quickly bought tickets online and we headed out of town.

So, how was the movie? Fantastic. I really enjoyed it. The movie revolves around the lives of three young ladies who live in Jerusalem. One is a Christian, on is Jewish and one is Muslim. They all live within the confines of the Old City of Jerusalem, but due to their different religious beliefs, their paths rarely (if ever) cross. In the movie, the three women are interviewed about the city and what it means to them. It is a compelling story which highlights some of its history and, at a very high level, attempts to explain the religious, cultural, social and economic differences that currently exist within the city.

While this was interesting, I was more interested in the cinematography. I went to the movie because I wanted to see pictures of the city in IMAX format. In the theatre where we went, the movie was being show in 3D. While I am not a huge fan of 3D movies, there were a number of scenes in which it has a huge impact. Some of them are:

Mount of Olives - Many scenes from the Mount of Olives were fantastic in 3D. When you travel to Israel, this is the "traditional view" of the city that all tourists enjoy. Seeing it in 3D helped you visualize the true beauty of that overlook.

Temple Mount - There was a sweeping view that started at the bottom of the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. As the camera panned up and away from the corner, the view changed from actual video to a computer generated image of the Temple Mount during the First Century. It was fantastic.

Garden of Gethsemane - The traditional location of the Garden of Gethsemane is below the Church of All Nations that sits just east of the East Gate across the Kidron Valley. Outside that building, they are several (very) old olive trees. There is a view that begins beneath one of these trees and then rises to show the city of Jerusalem. It was a great sequence showing the close proximity of the Garden of Gethsemane to the city. I wrote about this in an earlier post, and it was interesting to see this same view in a different perspective.

Should you go and see this film? In a word, YES. It is really good. While there were a few statements that I did not totally agree with, it is a good introduction to the city itself. And, it gives any student of the Bible an opportunity to see some fantastic pictures of the land of Israel.

The Mount of Olives

The Mount of Olives


For anyone who visits the land of Israel, a "must do" is a stop at the top of the Mount of Olives. The view of Jerusalem from this famous peak is one that you will never forget. Not only is it a beautiful view, but you can also visualize a number of Biblical stories from that spot. How many Biblical stories can you name that happened on or around the Mount of Olives? I've updated the Jerusalem page on the website with a link to information about the Mount of Olives. Give it a minute and see how many you can think of. Then, compare your list with mine.

The Latter Rains

The steps on the southern end of the Temple Mount, with the Mount of Olives in the distance.I read a story yesterday of a tour group that was sitting on the southern steps of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. While they were there, a huge rainstorm came up causing them to retreat to the closest building for cover. As much as the tourists probably did not like it, I am sure that the people living in Israel and the West Bank were very thankful for it. They are in the midst of the period of year of the "latter rains". We read about this a number of times in the Scripture. Here is one example:

Then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. - Deuteronomy 11:14

The early rains fall in October to November and the latter rains fall in February to March. Between the months of April and October, the country of Israel gets very little, if any, rain. So, the rain that fell in Jerusalem over the weekend might be the last rain that the city sees for a number of months.

Isn't it interesting how the truths found in the Bible are still true?

Jesus Stayed in Bethany

Jersalem, from the Mount of Olives.  Visible are the Dome of the Rock with the blue domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the distance.Robert D. Kaplan wrote an article on September 7, 2012 in the Wall Street Journal Online entitled "Geography Strikes Back". He started the article by saying: "If you want to know what Russia, China or Iran will do next, don't read their newspapers or ask what our spies have dug up - consult a map. Geography can reveal as much about a government's aims as its secret councils. More than ideology or domestic politics, what fundamentally defines a state is its place on the globe. Maps capture the key facts of history, culture and natural resources. With upheaval in the Middle East and a tumultuous political transition in China, look to geography to make sense of it all."

I completely agree. The same applies to many of the Bible stories that we read. We frequently read stories about people in the Bible traveling from one place to another, but going by a non-direct route. Why did they take that route? Well, check a map. You'll probably find the answer.

As you read through the Gospels, you'll notice that when Jesus visits Jerusalem, he frequently spends the night in Bethany as opposed to staying in the city. Why did He do that? Well, I can think of two reasons. The first reason is fairly obvious…He had good friends that lived in Bethany and He wanted to spend time with them. Mary, Martha and Lazarus frequently opened their home to Jesus when He was in the area.

The second reason isn't as obvious, but I think it is significant. Numerous times in Jesus' ministry, He would take advantage of opportunities to get away from the crowds (Matthew 14:23, 26:39, Mark 6:46, etc). In John 11, we read the story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus. In the midst of that story, in verse 18, we are told that Bethany is approximately 2 miles from Jerusalem. While two miles isn't that far, it was far enough for Jesus to get away from the crowds of Jerusalem.

But, we can learn more about His choice to stay in Bethany by looking at a map. In this case, a topographical map. If you look at a map, you'll notice that Jerusalem is located due west of the Mount of Olives. And, Bethany is located on the south-eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. So, for Jesus to travel from Jerusalem to Bethany, He would have had to leave the city, cross the Kidron Valley, climb the top of the Mount of Olives, cross the top of the mount and then descend down to the town. It was the perfect place for Jesus to stay. He would have been close to Jerusalem, but since Bethany faces the east, probably could not even see Jerusalem from Bethany.

2012 Israel Trip - Day Seven

2012 Israel Trip - Day Seven


This morning started out on top of the Mount of Olives. For anyone that has been to Jerusalem, the view from the Mount of Olives is something that you will never forget. This morning was no exception. When I woke up this morning, there was some clouds in the air and I thought that our view would be obscured. However, within 30 minutes of the sun coming up, the clouds burned off and it was crystal clear from up on top. We took our typical group picture which you will probably see on Ferrell Jenkins' blog. We traveled down off the top of the hill and down to the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane. It is interesting to look up at the East Gate and envision Judas and the men with him traveling down the hill with torches and spears to arrest Jesus. Standing there, you realize how close all of these places are. No doubt, Jesus could hear the men leaving the city and coming down to arrest Him. He could have had plenty of time to run, but He didn't.  And for that, I am thankful.

Going into the modern city of Jerusalem, we visited the ancient city of David. It is very interesting to walk around the ruins, see the ancient walls of the city and to see the Gihon Spring. From there, we walked through the Caananite Tunnel, which carried water from the Gihon Spring to other parts of the city during that time. Our tour ended by looking at the excavations of the Pool of Siloam. This is one of my favorite places. Mostly because I love the story in John 9 of Jesus' compassion in healing the blind man at that pool.

The afternoon was spent down in the Bethlehem area. Even though Bethlehem is only 6 miles from Jerusalem, it is within West Bank territory and difficult to get to. We made a stop by the Church of the Nativity, which is the traditional location of the birthplace of Jesus.

We had one final surprise stop at the Herodium just south of Bethlehem. We were not able to tour the Herodium (which is on my bucket list), but we were able to drive up to it and take pictures.

All in all, another great day in Israel. It's quickly coming to an end, but we still have a lot to cover. Tomorrow we head south and go to Masada, En Gedi, Qumran and Jericho.