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Jerusalem! Jerusalem!

As I finish up the research and writing of my next historical novel, "The Treasure of the House of Levi," another trip to Jerusalem and Galilee deepened my love for those ancient sites, destined to be important when Jesus comes again.

This time, by getting up very early, we got to go up onto the temple mount. Some of the paving stones are original to the second temple. Could Jesus' feet have touched these very surfaces? I took this photo from the Jerusalem temple mount looking east toward the Mount of Olives.

I had never realized that there is a grove of olive trees on the temple mount as well. It took all of my self-control there, as well as the garden of Gethsemane, not to snip off a little cutting for propagation here at home. (When I visited Gethsemane before, I picked up an olive off the path and tried to bring it home. It was apparently removed from my luggage in transit.

The Dome of the Rock is one of two mosques on the Temple mount in Jerusalem. It is thought by the Muslims to be the rock from which Muhammed ascended to heaven, by the Jews as the place where the temple stood and by the Christians as the temple site which Jesus cleansed and a site to which He will return.

This is an olive tree that dates to the time of Jesus. It grows in the place on the Mount of Olives thought to be near the "Garden of Gethsemane." Interesting fact: The word translated as 'Garden' can also be translated as 'orchard', 'grove' or 'vineyard'. Even today, what English speakers would call an orchard or grove is called a 'vineyard' in Hebrew. "Gethsemane" means the place of the press. An ancient olive oil press was found near here.

It's possible that this tree was already growing as Jesus suffered and prayed nearby.

Left to right, son Daniel, his wife Lindsay, me (Beth) and my husband, Jeff.

This is the sealed off 'Huldah' gate on the South Eastern edge of the temple mount. The triple arches would have been the gate that pilgrims (having washed ritually in the adjacent mikvahs,) would have entered the temple compound through. It figures in my book, so I was glad to get a good photo of it.

Here's the Pilgrim's road leading from the Pool of Siloam to the temple mount. It was lined with shops. At the top, near the gate, remains of ritual baths, called Mikvahs, still hold rainwater! It's an active archeological site, so is not yet available to the public. The framework covering it protects the site from weather, but it was open air historically.

The Pool of Siloam is mentioned in the New Testament as a site where Jesus sent a blind man to wash to be healed. For decades, archeologists believed that the small pool at the terminus of Hezekiah's tunnel was the Pool of Siloam. One day, a city plumbing team uncovered an ancient plaque describing the dimensions of the pool. It was huge and adjacent to the small pool. Marble steps, ( shown in the photo already uncovered) led down into the water. They're making fast progress. Much more was visible than we had seen in a podcast from just two months earlier!

This is the entrance to the garden tomb. Nearby is a mountain that is shaped somewhat like a skull, believed by some to be the site of Golgotha. Generally archeologists favor the site covered by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Even if the traditional site is more accurate, the peace and beauty of the garden tomb seems closer to how it must have been that glorious Easter morning when Jesus' disciples came and found the tomb empty and the Lord risen! That the tomb, wherever it is, is empty is all that matters in my mind.

Coming up: More of Galilee and the Holy land.

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