Goodbyes

By , December 8, 2007 08:29

Our last full day together in Israel was a little more relaxed, while the final few hours were a little nerve-wracking.

Yesterday we began the day by meeting at the Kotel (Western Wall) for a tour of the Temple Tunnel excavations.  This was a tour that Heidi and I very much wanted to do on the first trip, but we weren’t able to make because it had to be pre-arranged.  A Believer at work had told me that this was the highlight of their trip to Israel and we didn’t want to miss it.  The tunnels run the full length of the Western Retaining wall from the Jewish Quarter through to the Muslim Quarter.  The most "holy" place of Jewish worship is in this tunnel at the closest place to the "Holy of Holies" in the Temple.  It was well worth the time and 25 shekals for the tour.

From here we wound our way back to Mt Zion where we visited King David’s supposed tomb, the Upper Room and Oskar Schindler’s grave.  (Don’t ask me on that last one? I didn’t even know it was there.)  Then came the best part of the day for me – visiting Hezekiah’s tunnels. 

This tunnel, built during the reign of Hezekiah in 700 BC (2 Kings 20:20), was designed as an aqueduct to feed water from Gihon Spring into the Pool of Siloam.  We were warned that you needed both water shoes and a flashlight as the water levels inside the tunnel ranged from 20cm to 70cm.  I had no idea that this would be the reality – from start to finish.  Wading into the pitch blackness, you immediately begin walking in water that is waist deep.  Not being prepared, I was wearing jeans and running shoes, and only had a 2 shekel LED light.  Taking off the shoes and rolling up the jeans helped a little, but needless to say, I was wet coming out the other end.  The tunnel winds through the mountain for more than 0.5km and takes more than half an hour to walk from end to end.  The height inside ranged from 3 to 20 ft in height, but never really more than shoulder width.  You certainly can’t pass people inside.  All the while, clear clean  cool water is rushing by your feet.  It was a highlight of Jerusalem not to be missed.

After walking through the tunnel, the rest of our day was really spent wandering through the Old City souks.  Not having planned the itinerary perfectly, we realized when we went to visit the Dome of the Rock that this was a Muslim holy day and we were not allowed to visit.  Oh well, lots of wandering, negotiating and buying things made the end of the day more relaxing.  This was good.  We needed to be well rested for this morning.

Merri’s flight left at 5:30am from Tel Aviv.  We were staying in the Muslim Quarter and we had parked in the Jewish Quarter two days previously (the only parking lot inside the Old City walls).  I figured it would take 15 minutes to walk to the car, and then 45 minutes to race off to the airport.  Assuming we needed to be there at 4:30, an hour in advance, we needed to be leaving the hotel this morning at 3:15am – no later.  Getting out of bed this early was less than fun, but we dragged our luggage through the empty streets of the Old City – only being foiled once by a closed gate.  Arriving at the car … it wouldn’t start.  The battery was dead.  Pray! Merri had a flight leaving in less than 2.5 hours and it was a 45 minute ride to the airport.  Taxis?  Ha.  Nothing.  And do you really think that Israelis keep jumper cables in their cars?  The closest gate was the Dung Gate and I ran down there.  There were three soldiers with automatic machine  guns ready to greet this guy running down the hill.  Thankfully, they were very friendly.  They happily informed me that there were no taxis at this time of night, although I might be able to get one if we went to the Jaffa Gate as they came by every half hour or so.  On the other hand, they might be able to track down a military vehicle somewhere that might have jumper cables.  3:25am  Praying, I chose the latter.  Who knows?  It might be 15 minutes.  It might be an hour.  3:40  Would I like a cup of tea?  Sure.  Standing with three soldiers next to the Western Wall, listening to the crowing of roosters, I sipped on my cup of tea.  3:50  I didn’t know whether I should run back up to Coralie and Merri, but the soldiers told me I should wait.  At about 3:55, a police van arrives up at our car, and one of the guards offers to drive me back up.  It takes about five more minutes, but the car starts.  4:00

As we pull out of the Dung Gate, ready for the race, the gas light comes on.  Yeah – the gas light.  And the first three gas stations we pass leaving the city are all closed.  Thankfully, it’s all downhill from Jerusalem down to the Ayalon Valley.  However, after driving for 40 kilometers and seeing black between the "E" and the needle, I stop at the only open gas station between Jerusalem and the airport.  Pulling in and quickly putting in 40 shekals, the last lap is ahead.

All things considering, we made the airport by 4:40am.  I didn’t get to say "good-bye" as I dropped Merri at the door, but after a bit of hassle, Security let her clear and she made her plane.  A fitting finish for a hectic week.  An answer to prayer for many prayers.

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