From the Galilee we took the route to Jerusalem that Jesus would have taken: not the western route along the Mediterranean, via the Roman road, nor the central route, through Samaria, but the eastern route, along the Jordan River. When we arrived at The Dead Sea, we made the steep climb from Jericho through the Judean Desert, took the modern tunnel that cuts through one of the many hills that encircle Jerusalem, and when we came out, there it was.
People will tell you that the Grand Canyon is majestic, and probably every American has seen photos and videos of it. But the Grand Canyon itself, when you see it in person, is more astounding than the hype. I remember the first time I saw it it literally took my breath away.
Yosemite Valley is the same way. Many of us have seen pictures of it and heard how beautiful it is, but when you enter the tunnel through the heart of the mountain and emerge and see the valley before you–El Capitan and Half Dome and the surging waterfalls–it’s better than you anticipated.
That’s how it was for me when we came out of the tunnel through Mount Scopus, took the curve and saw Jerusalem across the Kidron valley. A place I’d heard about my entire life, a place I’d wanted to visit, only to get there and find that the actual experience of being there was better than I’d hoped.
“If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem”
The psalmist wrote those famous words from Psalm 137 while in bitter exile in Babylon. My life in Dallas is not bitter, and I’m glad to be back home, but I understand the ancient poet’s words. I have much more to say about my first visit to the Holy Land, but let this suffice for now: I loved every minute of being in the land of the Bible, and I never want to forget what it was like to see Jerusalem for the first time.
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