Israel Day 12: Western Wall (aka Wailing Wall), Pools of Bethesda, St. Anne's Church, Via Dolorosa, Garden Tomb, American Colony Hotel

Today marks the 12th and final day of being in Israel. It's amazing to think of all that we've seen, done, and experienced. I look back through some of our pictures and can't believe how many of the days start running together. This is actually one of the main reasons I'm posting a blog per day. So when I look back and want to remember the details and random things that happened, I can not only look at pictures, but have an account for what actually happened day by day.

As you probably have noticed, each day has quite a few written details to go along with the pictures. This final day I didn't take down as many notes because I just wanted to soak it all in and have a time of reflect.

Any notes that are provided are due to my memory (now over 1 month old) and also courtesy of JT's journal. So here goes...

We started the morning at the Wailing Wall. A quick glance once more.

When then took a tour underground through various tunnels to see part of the wall that are not exposed to the outside. Here is a picture of 1 of the stones that weighs more than 7 tons! On the far right of the picture you can see where the stone starts and the end of it is just past JT's hand on the wall. I can't even fathom how they got this rock into place.

As we walk through the tunnels, there are Jews praying alongside the wall, in belief that they are closer to where the old temple stood, rather than standing outside.

Our next visit is at The Fortress of Antonia. Here, Jesus was condemned by Pilate and give the cross beam. The pavement from Christ's time is still here and there is engraving of a Roman game that the soldiers would've played to cast lots for Christ.

Dr. Hannah reads from the gospel of John, chapter 8. Accusation. Interrogation. Defense. Verdict. It is finished. We sing How Great Thou Art and our voices echo through the chambers below the fortress.

We spend a moment touching the pavement and reflecting on what we've just read, heard, and sang.

Our next stop is the Pools of Bethesda. Bethesda, which means house of Grace, was built on pagan worship altars that were thought to be places of healing. Jesus is showing here that He is the Great Physician, not the pagan gods.

Right next to the pools is St. Anne's Church, which was built by the Crusaders. The acoustics in this church are amazing and after we sing a line in the song Hallelujah, we can hear our voices echoing through the whole church. I didn't get a recording of it, but you can find some examples on YouTube.

As we walked outside the city walls towards the bus, we see some guards standing casually... so it was the perfect time for a photo op.

For lunch we stopped by a local falafel shop and it was AMAZING!!! I absolutely LOVE falafel. We also wanted to grab a picture with our tour guide, Yuval, because he was so instrumental in all that we saw and learned this whole trip. If you ever get a chance to go to Israel, try to get him as your guide. It's worth the money.

Our next stop was an overlook outside Jerusalem where you can literally see all the way from Jerusalem, down the valley, and onto Jericho. Absolutely the most breathtaking view I've ever seen. Words and pictures cannot do it justice. I'm surprised that this is a view someone hasn't place a building on to capitalize on real estate.

There are a few locals there who have their camel and donkey and try to barter with you to ride their animals and pay them. A few people took rides. Definitely worth it as a spectator.

Some of you might be wondering what we traveled in on a daily basis... the coldest most wonderful bus ever. Seriously.

On our way back into Jerusalem, our final destination was the Garden Tomb. It is located right next to a bus station, which is very fitting because even in Jesus' time, all executions were done by a very public spot so that everyone could see.

This was a place of stoning. Stephen may have been stoned here. This is in your face... everyone would see what was done to you.

We start at the viewing of what is believed to be Golgotha. Right next to the modern day bus station. We then go to a beautiful part of the garden to reflect on the story of the crucifixion and take communion together and share our favorite parts of our trip. Then we end out time outside the garden tomb. This may in fact be the tomb where Jesus was buried, but more importantly... the tomb is empty. He is not here, for He is risen!

We're given 45 minutes or so to read, pray, and spend time by ourselves. I wish I could've had 4 hours to be here.

We finish our trip with a celebration dinner at the American Colony Hotel. Very beautiful. Quaint. Delicious.

With full stomachs and packed bags, we head to the airport, reflect on all the things we've seen, and head back to the US at midnight. By far this is the most impactful trip I've ever been on in my life. Now I read the Bible with a "High Definition" lens when I used to see it in black and white.

Thank you Lord for you provision in allowing us the opportunity to go. We'll never be the same.