So the morning of Day 6 I woke up praying that my white pants were dry (I had washed them in the sink the night before – my second time washing them in the sink with shower gel during the first week of the trip). They were, so I put them on, along with a peasant blouse, thinking that I’d be appropriately dressed to go to the Temple Mount.
Lon had told us that we would go to Temple Mount, but that there was no guarantee the leaders in charge would open it up to visitors – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Fortunately, we were told they WERE opening it up to tourists, so we quickly began making our way through security. At some point Ezer came up to me and gestured at my blouse.
“Do you have a jacket?” he asked.
“It’s 100 degrees this morning. Do you think I have a jacket?”
“You need to cover up,” he said, gesturing towards my decolletage (which was NOT on display at all since I dress pretty modestly as a daily rule).
“With what?” I asked incredulously.
“Get a sweater or scarf.”
“From WHERE?” I was dumbfounded that this was coming up when I was about 20th in line to get through security.
He pointed to Kevin, a gentleman in our tour group that had a safari type hat on (it had a string that allowed him to dangle it off his neck when not being worn on his head. “Use his hat,” Ezer said, “He doesn’t need it.”
Now, Kevin is a man that does not have a lot of hair. The hat is to avoid sunburn on the top of his head. I started to say “No way, I’m not taking Kevin’s hat,” when Kevin took off his hat and handed it to me. “No big deal,” he said.
So I stupidly hung his had around my neck, and had it laying on my chest. It looks ridiculous. I got through the metal detectors, but once through a young soldier-type man came up to me and demanded I take off the hat. I did so, returning it to Kevin, and the young man began angrily telling me to move away from the group. He also began pointing out other woman who supposedly offended his sensibilities and moving us away from the group, telling us we had to buy scarves to cover ourselves appropriately. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the exposed cleavage of the women he pulled out of the crowd. Some simply had one button undone and were showing the hollows of their necks, others were like me where it was a bit more open but still with nothing terribly exposed. And yet he ignored other women who had more than one button undone on their shirts, or had their shoulders exposed. Under my breath I muttered to someone that I had no money to buy a scarf, and one of the guys in our group overheard me and quickly gave me his jacket. I quickly tied it around my neck and covered up the entire front of my shirt. When the young man came over to me, I gestured at the jacket and asked if it was okay, and he reluctantly told me I could go back with the group. Other women in my group were not as lucky, forced to spent several dollars on what was essentially a piece of raggedly cut fabric worth no more than 25 cents.
Lon began speaking to our group about the history of Temple Mount, which made the young soldiers nervous, so after a few minutes he was told to stop and move along. At that point we began walking across the huge expanse of the Temple Mount, to the corner facing the Mount of Olives.
Once in that corner, Lon began to speak for 15-20 while we stood in the open morning sun. Then we began walking all around the various areas of the Temple Mount. It did not take long for AJ to begin to feel some fatigue – the walking seemed to go on forever. I forced her to pose for pictures mainly to get her to stand in the shade or sit down for a while.
At some point we thankfully moved underground to a small museum that had air conditioning. There the tour leaders wisely let us take a break for a few minutes before heading down to the original Via Dolorosa road where Jesus walked with His cross on the way to crucifixion. A lot of folks in our tour got teary-eyed when Lon pointed out sections of the pathway that were original to the time of Christ’s journey, and quickly began taking pictures of their feet as they stood on the road themselves. I snapped a picture of AJ standing on the road as well.
From here we headed over to St. Anne’s church and the Bethesda pools, which apparently was built with acoustic that specifically made singing sound beautiful. We began singing praise songs, and sure enough, it was LOVELY to listen to. We sang for a good 15-20 minutes before finally ending and letting another group come in. I have no pictures, but the Bethesda pool is where a lame man was healed by Jesus and told to get up, take up his bed, and go tell what happened. It is just a ruins now, but Lon talked briefly in a lovely near garden nearby about that very story and the impact the healing had on the man.
Then it was lunchtime. Our group was taken to the Old City in Jerusalem, where we were given 90 minutes to eat lunch, shop, or sit and relax. AJ and I grabbed some pizza and a table in an outdoor cafe and spent the entire 90 minutes just chilling out and talking with various people in our tour group as they came and went.
Once lunch was done, we went back to Temple Mount, this time heading to the Wailing Wall.
Wailing Wall was special for a couple reasons – one, being able to write down a prayer and stick it into the wall was exciting, given the history of the wall itself. Secondly, an old Israeli woman came up to AJ and began speaking to her. At first her accent was illegible, and I assumed she was asking for money. But rather than immediately turn away, I decided to try to better hear what she was saying. And just then, her accent was clearer and I heard her say to AJ, “You may think you are being blessed by coming here, but in fact, you are blessing us by coming.” I thought that was pretty amazing, and quickly thanked her and told AJ what the woman had said. AJ smiled at her and said thank you as well, and with that the woman moved on to talk with someone else.
We went to see the OTHER side of the Wailing Wall, and sat to listen to Lon speak for a few minutes before heading back to the hotel. On the trip back, I heard a statement that was music to my ears, “You can wear shorts tomorrow!” EVERYONE on the bus turned and looked at me, and I stuck my fists in the air and cried, “YEAH!” which made everyone laugh. They were as sick of my white pants as I was.
That night for dinner we sat with two young couples and I really, really enjoyed talking with them. They were fun and energetic and completely had my sense of humor. At some point I realized that I had never eaten the dinner roll I took to eat with my meal. I said, ‘I’ll just take it to the room,” and continued on with my meal. As we all got up to leave, I grabbed my roll to take with me. One of the tablemates turned and said, “Do you have your roll?” I said “I do,” and lifted up my roll to show her, and somehow lost my grip on it. I tried to catch it, and it bounced a few times from hand to hand before finally landing on the floor and rolling away from me. The woman and I began hysterically laughing, causing our dinner partners to ask what was so funny, and I finally pointed at the roll and said, “I’m clearly NOT meant to have that roll.”
Once back in the room for the night, I’ve never been SO HAPPY to put a pair of pants in the dirty laundry bag with plans to never wear them again.