Holy Land Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Jesus

 

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"GUIDED BY THE SPIRIT, SIMEON CAME INTO THE TEMPLE
AND WHEN THE PARENTS BROUGHT IN THE CHILD JESUS,
TO DO FOR HIM WHAT WAS CUSTOMARY UNDER THE LAW,
SIMEON TOOK HIM IN HIS ARMS AND PRAISED GOD
” 
                   LUKE 2:27                                 
                                                   

Holy Sites -- Gila's Highlights

Let's read Luke 2 by Robinson's Arch

Just a short while ago, the world was celebrating the birth of Jesus over two thousand years ago in the Judean town of Bethlehem.  In Luke’s birth narrative, we read to our surprise that shepherds were the first to know that the messiah was born in David’s hometown.  In those days, shepherds were considered the lowest of the low in Judean society.  They were thought to be so untrustworthy that their testimony was not accepted in any Judean court.

Shepherds' Fields by Bethlehem

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Shepherds' fields by Bethlehem

On the eighth day, Jesus was circumcised and named, as is the Jewish custom to this very day.  In modern Israel, until the ceremony of the brit (literally, covenant), the baby is called baby/name of mother, for example babyMary or babyGila.  When it comes time in the ceremony to name the baby publicly, there is a hush so that you could hear even a little pin drop, as everyone listens for the announcement of the infant’s name.  This is reflected in the story of the naming of John the Baptist at his brit ceremony, recorded in Luke chapter 1.

According to Leviticus 12, a woman who gave birth to a male child was unclean for seven days.  On the eighth day, the child was circumcised. Then the mother was confined for another 33 days until the days of her purification were completed.  These forty days were to allow bonding between the mother and the child.  Only after her purification could she touch anything sacred or enter the Temple precincts.

Model of the Temple where Mary and Joseph would have sacrificed a pair of turtledoves

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Model of the Second Temple where Mary and Joseph would have brought Jesus

After her confinement she was to bring a sacrifice to the Temple of a one-year-old lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or turtle-dove for a sin offering.  If she could not afford a lamb she brought two turtle-doves or two young pigeons. Presumably these birds were offered because Mary and Joseph could not afford a lamb.  This passage pigeonholes Joseph and Mary in a specific socio-economic category – a low one -- in their society.

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During the presentation of Jesus in the temple, the parents meet Simeon and Anna, who introduce the theme of prophecy.  Anna is Greek, derived from Hannah. (It’s pronounced Hana in Hebrew with a guttural h.)  Hannah was the mother of the Prophet Samuel.  In the Mishnah (the commentary of the rabbis), Hannah is considered one of Israel’s seven prophetesses.

2,000-year-old sidewalk adjacent to the Western Wall

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

2,000-year-old street with the original curbstones outside the Temple courtyard

While walking through the Ophel excavations by the southwest corner of the Temple Mount, as I was preparing my popular guide for individual travelers, “Explore Jerusalem’s Soul,” I discovered the best place to teach this story.  It’s in a little sitting area, right opposite Robinson’s Arch.

Robinson's Arch

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Edward Robinson noticed an arch jutting out of the western wall in 1838

Edward Robinson was a Connecticut Yankee who came to the Holy Land in 1838, aiming for a greater understanding of the Bible.  In turn, he provided us with a deeper biblical understanding, for he identified nearly 200 sites mentioned in the Bible, previously unknown.

Robinson's Arch as it looked in 1869

Illustration in the Land and the Book by W. M. Thomson, published 1869

"Robinson's Arch" was a very visible landmark in the 1860s

 
From where we sit, we’ll look across to Robinson’s Arch in the outer western wall of the Temple and stretching our necks backwards, try to imagine the splendor of the courtyard Joseph and Mary experienced as they presented Jesus in its precincts.  An eye-witness, first century Jerusalem resident Josephus Flavius, describes the Royal Stoa, on the other side of Robinson’s Arch like this:

“The Royal Stoa…was a structure more noteworthy than any under the sun.  For while the depth of the ravine was great, and no one who bent over to look into it from above could bear to look down to the bottom, the height of the portico standing over it was so very great that if anyone looked down from its rooftop, combining the two elevations, he would become giddy and his vision would be unable to fathom the end of so measureless a depth.” (Antiquities V, 11, v)

Josephus adds that the Royal Stoa had 162 columns.  Each was so thick that it took three men, holding hands, to wrap their arms around it.  The height of each polished column was 27 feet and it was crowned with a Corinthian capital.  The beauty of the place was astonishing, Josephus tells us.
 

The Al Aqsa Mosque is located where Herod's Royal Stoa once stood

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Herod's Royal Stoa once stood where the Al Aqsa Mosque stands today

 
We will contrast Herod’s opulence to the simplicity of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth and childhood.  We’ll continue with the story of the frantic parents’ 3-day search for Jesus, only to discover him amazing the rabbis with the depth of his questions in the Temple courtyard.

Then we’ll walk to inspect the excavations under Robinson’s Arch which revealed the first century A.D. sidewalk including its curbstones and a stone specifically chiseled to allow for drainage.  (Winter rain in Jerusalem can come down in pellets and apparently this was true 2,000 years ago as well.)  On the western side of the sidewalk, archeologists discovered doorways of shops situated on prime real estate property.  I always wonder what they sold.  Could it have been olive wood camels or picture postcards of the Temple?

On your next trip to Jerusalem, come with me to Robinson’s Arch, a great place to study the events of Jesus’ “hidden years” between his birth and public ministry, as recorded by Luke.

Copyright 2007, 2009 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

Gila Yudkin, who calls herself a Connecticut-born Yankee living now in King David's court, has been shepherding pilgrims in the Holy Land for over a quarter of a century.  She hasn’t yet lost one stray – at least not permanently!  She has been guiding under Robinson's Arch, even while excavations were ongoing.  Gila delights in sharing the latest discoveries with both first-time and veteran pilgrims to Jerusalem.

If you are coming to Jerusalem by yourself and plan to visit the Temple Mount, Gila's MP3 Temple Mount audio tour will expose you its many facets:  Jewish, Christian, Muslim plus archeological, historical and legendary.  Tour the Temple Mount in the company of Abraham and Isaac, David and Solomon, Jesus and the disciples, Mohammed and the archangel Gabriel.

Tour the Temple Mount with itsGila MP3 audio tour

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Walk with kings, prophets & patriarchs with itsGila Temple Mount audio tour

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The 2,000-year-old sidewalk, pinnacle stone and doorways of shops were excavated during the 28 years dynamo builder Teddy Kollek was mayor of Jerusalem.  Teddy died on January 2, 2007 at the age of 95 and a half.  Read about this awesome Holy Land Headliner.
 
More Biblical Archeology:
 

Let's find Herod's tomb at Herodion

Let's see where the Priestly Benediction was found

Let's visit Gezer, Solomon's wedding gift

Herodion / Herod's Tomb   

Priestly Blessing

Gezer / Solomon's dowry

     

Let's look for the clay tablet treasure at Hazor

Let's talk about Armageddon at Megiddo

Let's ramble through Hippos, a Decapolis city

Hazor / Joshua's conquest   

Megiddo / Armageddon

Hippos / Decapolis city

 
If you are planning to come solo (or duo) to Jerusalem soon, then you may want to check out Gila’s “Explore Jerusalem’s Soul” for the Top Ten places to meditate on the Bible, the Top Ten little-known churches worth visiting, the Top Ten most rewarding Roof-Top views and the Top Ten places for sampling Middle Eastern soul food.  Pick and choose among 40 sites according to your temperament, time frame, impulse and imagination, to make every minute matter during your Jerusalem visit.
 
"Let's read Luke 2 by Robinson's Arch" (as text without the photos) is one in the series of free bimonthly e-letters sent on request to tour leaders, pastors, clergy, teachers, Bible students, colleagues and friends.  If you'd like to receive "Holy Sites: Gila's Highlights" every other month, please contact Gila.  The last highlight was "Let's claim our heritage at the Temple Mount."  This month's highlight is "Let's overlook the site of Jacob's wrestling match."  The next highlight will be "Let's find the temple tax in St Peter's Fish."


GILA YUDKIN TCHERNIKOVSKI 64A JERUSALEM ISRAEL
gila@itsgila.com

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Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin