Holy Land Pilgrimage with Gila





Holy Sites -- Gila's Highlights

Let's orient ourselves to the Jerusalem of Jesus' day

When you visit Jerusalem, would you like to have a sense of what it looked like on the day when Jesus came over the ridge of the Mount of Olives and wept over the city?

Now you can study a model of the holy city as it looked in Jesus’ day.  According to Father Jerry Murphy O’Connor, whose guide to Jerusalem is a runaway best seller in countless printings, Jerusalem would have had a population of about 50,000 in Jesus’ time.  Later, before the destruction of the city in the year 70 AD, the city may have held nearly 100,000 residents.

Model of the Second Temple as if one were standing on the Mount of Olives

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Model of the Second Temple Sanctuary and its courtyard

The newly refurbished model of Second Temple Jerusalem can now be seen at the Israel Museum, adjacent to the Shrine of the Book.  The model, concept of second temple period historian Michael Avi-Yonah, was begun in 1964, at a time when Israelis could not visit the Temple Mount or the Old City.  Built on a scale of 1 to 50, the model “resided” until January 2006 at the Holy Land Hotel on the outskirts of western Jerusalem and it was a popular attraction for my groups.

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Over the years the model was changed according to significant archeological discoveries, such as the southern steps of the Huldah Gates leading up to the temple courtyard and a monumental stairway at the south-west corner of the retaining wall named after Connecticut Yankee Edward Robinson.  During his 1837 pilgrimage, Robinson identified the spring of an arch, thinking it was a bridge connecting the Upper City and Lower City of Jesus’ day.  Excavations after the 6-Day-War proved that the arch helped support a staircase from the Temple Mount leading down towards the Lower City.

In the winter of 2006, after consultation with preservation, stone and transportation experts, the model was moved on a flat-bed truck in 1,000 pieces, many of which were one square meter. Every day for 66 days, the truck carried about 20 pieces of the model in five or six 3-mile trips between the Holy Land Hotel (which was subsequently torn down) and the Israel Museum.

Close-up of the Second Temple as it appeared at its old premises, the Holy Land Hotel

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Close-up of the Temple as it appeared at its old premises, the Holy Land Hotel

Now we can stand at the overlook which simulates looking at the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives.  You can compare the location of the traditional Golgotha enclosed within the Holy Sepulcher Church with the location of Gordon’s Calvary, near the Garden Tomb.  You’ll see that both possibilities for the site of crucifixion were outside Jerusalem’s northern wall built in the first century BC by Herod the Great.

Gordon's Calvary by the Garden Tomb is shown on the model of Second Temple period Jerusalem

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Black arrow on left points to Gordon's Calvary outside the present Old City

The model shows the poor quarters of Jerusalem sloping down towards the east, as well as the wealthy western neighborhoods on today’s Mount Zion and the Jewish Quarter.  We see the Pool of Siloam where Jesus told the man born blind (John chapter 9) to go to wash the spittle off his eyes.  If our group has already visited the Pool of Siloam, then we readily observe that the model has not yet been adjusted to the latest archeological discoveries.

Pool of Siloam needs to be changed according to latest archeological finds

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Black arrow on lower right points to the Pool of Siloam


We remember Jesus’ prophecy and lament in Luke 19, that there would come a day when the people’s enemies would raise fortifications encircling the city and one stone would not stand upon another.  And realize how incredible that statement may have seemed to his listeners.

We find the Pool of Bethesda where the lame man waited to be healed for 38 years.  Then we identify the site where Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers, saying “It is written in the prophets, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have made it a den of robbers!”  (Mark 11).

On your next pilgrimage I invite you to come with me to the Second Temple Model where we will orient ourselves to Jesus’ Jerusalem. And you will bring home a concrete vision of where these events you have known about since childhood, actually took place.

Copyright 2008, 2011 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.


Gila Yudkin, a Connecticut Yankee guiding in King David’s court, has been sharing biblical insights on site in the Holy Land for over 35 years.  She loves to share her passion for adventure in the Holy Land with like-minded pastors, teachers and students of the Bible.  Be sure to contact her in the beginning stages of planning your tour to check her availability.  

If you are contemplating leading a tour to the Holy Land or know someone who is, don’t miss Gila’s tips about do's and don'ts guaranteed to make your Holy Land pilgrimage a rave success.  Read Tips from A to Z for Holy Land Tour Leaders.

More on Jerusalem:


Ask Gila about excavations on the Temple Mount

The Holy Land's most popular spice:  hyssop!

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Mary meets Elizabeth


Teddy Kollek and the Biblical Zoo

Let's read Luke 2 by Robinson's Arch

Let's inspect the ancient scroll of Isaiah

Fun at the biblical zoo   

Great place to read Luke 2

Dead Sea Scrolls

Another way of experiencing Jerusalem is to walk its ramparts like Nehemiah did. You’re invited to check out, “Let’s walk the Old City Ramparts.”

If you are an adventurer at heart and would like to explore Jerusalem on your own, order Gila’s up-to-date unorthodox guide, “Explore Jerusalem’s Soul” with suggestions of the top ten roof-top views, the top ten inspiring places to study Scripture, the ten least-known churches worth visiting and the ten top places to sample Middle Eastern “soul-food.”


In the year 70 AD the Romans besieged Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.  During a visit to Rome in July 2017, Gila shared the Judean narrative vis a vis the Roman Empire while standing next to the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum.  If topic of the Judean nation versus the might of Rome interests you, then you may enjoy reading a Woman of Judea stands by the Arch of Titus.




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Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin