Leave-Taking & Home-Coming

I said goodbye to Jerusalem this morning, and I have turned my face toward home. The rain that was predicted held off until noon, so I was able to have one more nice run around the city walls, and one more nice long walk through the city. I managed to sneak in one new site this morning, too: I went down into the Kidron Valley, which is the valley between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives, where there are three monuments that are right close together. [Two of them date from around the first century CE, making their authenticity unlikely!] First is what is called “Absalom’s Pillar” from 2 Sam 18:18 (“And Absalom erected a pillar for himself that is in the King’s Valley…”). It is the largest, most striking of the three monuments, and is roughly 65 feet tall. It is said that because of Absalom’s rebellion, early pilgrims began the custom of throwing stones at the monument in order to express their anger at Absalom’s betrayal of his father, David. It is also said that Jewish parents would bring disobedient children here and warn them of the fate of those who rebelled against their parents! [No crying children were there this morning!] Then, a little further away is what is called the Sons of Hezir Tomb. This is the only tomb that can be positively identified, thanks to an ancient Hebrew inscription, which reads “The tomb and monument of the priests of the family of Hezir.” [This is actually from the second century BCE]. The last monument is called The Pyramid of Zechariah is named after the prophet who, according to Jewish tradition, was murdered on Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 24). According to one thing I read, Jews became accustomed to praying before Zechariah’s tomb for salvation, especially during periods of persecution, droughts, and other tragedies which befell them for many centuries. Then, I ended my morning with worship at the St. George’s Cathedral, an Anglican Cathedral that is a stone’s throw from my hotel–I have walked by it dozens of times, and finally got the chance to worship there today: they had an English service at 11:00 am. And, I must say, on my last day here, thinking about the travels ahead of me, it was nice to worship in English, singing familiar hymns, and having communion. That is not to take away from the great worship experiences I have had in Arabic & in Hebrew, but this was a nice transition to home, especially closing with “Guide Me, Ever Great Redeemer.” [Speaking of singing, I confess that I did op out of singing “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus”: I mean, really? Here?] It was especially nice because today begins the Week of Christian Unity, and so I felt particularly connected to my friends and family worshipping in different places all over the world today. So now? My last hummus sandwich for lunch [my last hummus for quite a while, I’m sure!]; a short ride to the airport, a long wait in Tel Aviv, and an even longer flight to Newark; a shorter wait in Newark and an even shorter flight to Harrisburg; and a short drive home. Have I mentioned I’m ready? Thanks to everyone who has read the blog and accompanied me on this journey. I have appreciated your thoughts and prayers. I will keep writing from home; and then take up the travel diary again when I head to India at the very end of February. [Ooh–I can hardly bear to think about that now, but I know by the time it comes, I’ll be ready and excited to take off again!] Traveling mercies to all who are on the road, and who wait for travelers’ return.

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