Day 28: Armenean Church, Church of Gethsemane, St. Peter’s Church, David’s Tomb, Last Supper Room, Mt. of Olives, Burnt House, Wohl Museum, Ben Jahuda Street
If you can’t tell from my splurge of places we visited today, we were pretty packed. Our day was awesome, but I was exhausted at the end of it. I am writing this blog the next day because I was so tired. After all of the events, our professor still wanted to take us to Ben Jahuda St (I think that is how you spell it) for some night life. Needless to say, I went home early from there.
The thing that struck me most yesterday was the Burnt House and the Wohl Museum. I will talk about the Wohl first because it was just awesomely cool and then the Burnt House. While the Burnt House was very cheesy (which I will explain in a bit), it did give me some interesting insights and stuff I want to comment on.
But first, let me talk about the Wohl Museum. Underneath the Wohl Museum are three priestly houses that existed during the time of Jesus. May I clarify and say that there were two houses and one mansion. The place was HUGE! It had over a dozen rooms and several baths in the place. It was amazing! I just stood down there in awe, first marveling at the fact they just built a museum over the top of this thing to preserve it and didn’t manage to destroy anything beneath, and the just sheer awesomeness of seeing this fancy place! Sadly, I had no pictures because it was a museum, but man, you should ask me about it sometime, and I will paint you a picture. It is too much for a post, plus I think you will be bored if you can’t hear my excitement.
So onto the Burnt House. The Burnt House is exactly what it sounds like: a burnt house. But the title is a bit misleading because the house that was burnt was one that was burnt when the Romans invaded in 70 AD. In fact, they found an inscription on a clay piece that indicated who the house belonged to. Apparently, it belonged to a family that was cursed in the Babylonian Talmud.
The Burnt House was just like the Wohl Museum, a building built on top of ruins in order to protect it. We descended the stairs that had passages from Josephus and the Babylonian Talmud describing the destruction of Jerusalem. Again, I couldn’t take any pictures. We emerged into a very small area with some of the artifacts they found in the house. Then we see the house itself a very small priestly house with a few rooms, a kitchen, and living room.
I wasn’t ready for what was next. We sat down on some bleacher seats to one side of the room and watched the lights go out as a video popped on a screen overhead and started describing to us the house. A scrim folded down from the back as well as two projector screens behind it. Images then were projected onto the screen as they played out a story of what may have happened in the weeks before the house was burned.
The drama was filmed in the style of a really cheesy soap-opera, so it was hard to take seriously, especially since the actors were speaking Hebrew and the voice-over was English (and the English voice actors were really bad). I was sitting there the mostly entertained, thinking about how they did this entire thing with my arms crossed and eyes darting over everything, trying to catch it all.
All of the sudden, the dramatic part happens. The father of the house runs into the room screaming and crying, yelling, “They’ve done it! They have finally done it! I can’t believe it! Noooo……” He yells for his family and they run into the room. He rips open the curtains to see the Second Temple burning in the background. While most of the play was really bad, they really captured the drama and emotion behind the temple being burned down.
The feeling hit me right in the chest as I watch the older man slouch down the window sill, tearing his robes and crying hysterically. I saw the wife bring her hands to her mouth and gasp, crying as the temple burned. The servant girl fell to her knees, unable to stand. The entire time dramatic music played in the background with huge sound effects of a city being invaded.
At that moment, I caught a brief glimpse of the agony of seeing the Jew’s beloved Temple burn. My heart grieved for them and, for a moment, I felt what they felt. I felt their mourning, their agony, their grief. I cried with them (not literally, but in my heart). I mourned for them. I wanted to help in any way I could to relieve their grief. To me, it was like a child seeing their mother die horrifically right in front of their eyes. I wanted to reach through the scrim and comfort them.
But then the narrator came back on and started addressing us. He was telling us that this could have been prevented; this could have been stopped if the Jews would have just worked together and not been so divided. They were divided between Sadducees, priests, Pharisees, Essenes, and Zealots. Nobody could get along and nobody agreed with each other, and because of their arguing, God gave them over to their enemies.
This is not me who is saying this. The quotes on the wall from the Babylonian Talmud word it better than I could. It said something to the effect of, “The first time the temple was destroyed, and it was because of Israel’s disobedience. The second time the temple was destroyed; it was because of the people’s own hatred.” Again, I am paraphrasing, not quoting. The narrator was making it very clear that it was the fault of the Jews for the second temple being burned down.
The priestly family in the drama was one of the cursed families described in the Babylonian Talmud. The Talmud blames families like this one for their stubbornness and apathy to deal with the problems. The pride of these people prevented them from working together to solve a very dire problem.
There are a few things we can learn from this. First off, we need to realize that what happened to the Jews was tragic. Losing some that was so close to them must have caused so much agony and grief within their culture. Yet at the same time you must also understand that they lost it. It wasn’t stolen from them; it wasn’t wrongfully taken. They gave it up from their inactions. Yes, what the Romans did was horrible, and God will judge them for it. At the same time, (I’m saying this with as much grace as I can) we need to understand that the Jews are not entitled to something that they lost due to their own pride.
Also, we can learn about our own pride within Christianity. How many times do churches not work together because of pride? “Oh, we cannot work with (insert arbitrary church name) because they don’t believe what we do.” I’m sorry, but how would sharing an event with another church (even if you don’t agree with everything doctrinally) be detrimental to the kingdom of God? Can’t we get more done by working together than apart?
Before I am crucified, I have to clarify and say that there are some churches out there that we can’t work with. Churches that do not believe in the Trinity, don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God, or believe everyone will eventually be saved are just some examples of churches we can’t work with because the doctrine is so far different. Problems come with the basic core message and alter our message. Some of those things are irreconcilable and change the basic doctrine and foundation of Christianity.
What I am saying is: what does it matter if a church sings songs differently than ours? What does it matter how the church baptizes their people? Those things should not be reasons to divide. Our own pride is what is causing us to lose the war, and Satan is storming into our cities and tearing down our temple because we refuse to work together for one common purpose: to advance the Kingdom.
Remember that next time divisions start to arise and doubts come. I will be praying for you all.
Following His Call,