This has been a great trip. One of the things I’ve liked about it is that it has been focused on Israel in a number of historical periods as well as in the present; it has not been entirely about Christian and Jewish Holy Sites. And so, for example, today we did the City of David (that I’ll talk about below), had a grand overview of the Temple Mount (with the Dome of the Rock), walked through good chunks of the Jewish Quarter, had a very nice lunch outside the old city walls, went to the Jerusalem Market (outdoors, lots of food and spice merchants, etc.), and so on. It wasn’t just one holy site after the other, but there was plenty of holy site time as well.
The City of David is in some sense the “original” Jerusalem, the place that King David allegedly conquered from the Jebusites and where he then set up his kingdom. It is outside the “old” city walls, which in fact are (only!) from the 16th century, built when the Turkish Ottoman empire ruled this part of the world. So “ancient Jerusalem” if you want to call it that, from David’s time, is about 2500 years older than “old Jerusalem,” as it is called today.
We had a local tour guide for the City of David, and it became crystal clear just now different different tour guides can be. Our guide is the most amazing one I’ve ever had on any trip of any kind; he is only 26 and he knows *everything*. I don’t mean everything about Jerusalem (he was born and raised here) and about Israel (he knows every tree, just about), but, well, seemingly everything. He’s really quite astonishing. He clearly has his views on things – who doesn’t here? – and my *sense* is that he is probably a bit to the right politically; but he never tells us his views or slants his presentations, in any discernible way, but is incredibly even-handed.
But the woman we had today for the City of David – an 18-year old with an American mother who was herself raised in an orthodox home here, and who is doing tour guiding instead of military service – was clearly right wing and explained the archaeology she was introducing very much from an extremely pro-Israeli slant and from the perspective that archaeology *proves* the Bible. It’s good to have someone like that for a (short!) time to see the difference from what we’re getting otherwise.
In the past, my Israeli tour guides have all been more exactly like that. And the way they described not only what is happening politically but also the relationship of Israel to the land and the relationship of archaeology to the Bible really shows the slant. Today, for example, this young woman was showing us the excavations that have been claimed actually to have been David’s own palace, recently uncovered. There are a lot of scholars who question whether David had anything like what we might think of as a “kingdom,” or whether he was more of a local chieftain of some kind; and some have suggested that he was more like a king Arthur figure, around whom later legends circulated. But this woman both treated David as an unquestionable fact and this archaeological find as his palace.
She may be right! But it’s always good to know where a person is coming from.
Tomorrow is for me the highlight of the tour. I’m not sure how we’ll be able to do justice to everything, but it includes trips to Qumran and Masada, and then a chance to float along in the Dead Sea. Matters of real interest, and a matter of real pleasure….