After spending the past week in Northern Israel, a change of scenery from rural to urban was welcoming. We began the day by eating the exquisite breakfast which Jerusalem's Ramat Rachel hotel offered us, and soon departed for the City of David, the most ancient part of the old city of Jerusalem.
The old city of Jerusalem is an amazing amalgamation of both the modern and ancient worlds. It was fascinating to be walking upon the narrow cobblestone sidewalks of old Jerusalem and looking up at a stone fortress, whilst on my left, cars were honking at each other, cement was being mixed, and I could hear the sounds of modern Jerusalem. Our tour guide informed us of the history of Jerusalem, and how it has been conquered many times for both its religious and geographical significance. Because of this, Jerusalem is home to holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Soon we were taken to a rather old looking street full of Jerusalem stone. It seemed as though it had been excavated several times, and there was an entrance to the old city's tunnel system from the street, in front of a huge wall. We then learned that this street had stood since the times of the temple, and this huge wall that we were looking at was the Kotel, which actually runs a lot further along the city than the section that we had visited.
After this, we descended into a tunnel that took us to another part of the old city. The tunnel was tiny and very narrow, and those taller in our group received sore backs from constantly crouching down. Despite their size, the tunnels were a marvel to behold, and I have never seen anything like them before- historical excavations in the midst of a bustling city. After a 10 minute journey in the tunnels we emerged at the other side to find out we were near the top of a hill with a lookout. This lookout had one of the tallest and most beautiful views of Jerusalem I had ever seen. We could see rolling hills, a neighbourhood that consisted entirely of buildings made out of Jerusalem stone, and many places of worship. I could see Orthodox churches, Protestant churches, and many different mosques. But what made this lookout even more meaningful was the fact that whilst my tour guide gestured to and spoke about the ruins of the old Jerusalem, I could hear both the Muslim call to prayer and Christian church bells simultaneously. The amalgamation of the three Abrahamic religions in one spot is something that I will never forget.
We then left the lookout, our tour guide explained the history and geography of ancient Jerusalem, and taught us specifically about the historic plumbing system in the city. In ancient times, private bathrooms were unheard of, and a house was desirable if it was placed near a public bathroom. After hearing so much about the historic plumbing of the city, it was time to experience it up close and personal. We began our descent into the old drainage system of ancient Jerusalem. It was very similar to the tunnels we had experienced earlier, however instead of dry land, the floor was covered in rushing water. Initially, the water was freezing and ankle high, and this made traversing the pitch black tunnel quite scary, however soon the water got warmer, and decreased in height and the drain was actually quite nice. It took us fifteen minutes to travel through the tunnel, and we therefore assumed that we had walked very far, however upon exiting the tunnel, we were shocked to find out that we had actually only walked 150 meters.
After eating a quick lunch, we then made our way to a building with a computer simulation of what the temple would have looked like throughout the ages. It was amazing to see archeological findings mixed in with writings from the ancient times to create a high quality model of what the temple actually may have looked like. Next, we took a quick journey to the Kotel where Mincha was davened, and people put notes inside the holy wall. It was here that something truly spectacular happened. Five boys from IST began to sing and dance to Jewish songs, and soon more and more people began to join in. Within a few minutes a crowd of many people all singing and dancing together had gathered outside the Kotel. What was particularly amazing about it was the fact that there were IST students, small children, IDF soldiers and Chareidi Jews all dancing and singing side by side. All walks of life were unified together as one.
After this amazing experience we headed back to the hotel and received amazing news: washing was going to be done tonight. We all gave in our washing and headed to Malcha Mall for the night. It was nice and relaxing to be eating dinner in such a familiar environment. Some people met up with family and friends, whilst others browsed and bought clothes and items that took their fancy. It was a great ending to a day that brought us from the past to the present, and blended both ancient and modern Jerusalem.