Middle East Travel Seminar: The Western Wall, Temple Mount, and Dome of the Rock


Thunder rumbles as we gather for an early breakfast. After grabbing our rain gear, we walk through bands of sunshine from our hotel in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem toward the Western Wall. As part of the Second Temple Compound, the Western Wall is believed to be where the Divine Presence can always be experienced and is a sacred destination for prayer.

After going through a security station, we walked up the ramp toward the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock, a 7th century AD mosque. The hill is important to Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Muslims believe Muhammed was transported there in a dream and saw a vision of paradise. Jews and Christians believe the hill is Mt. Moriah where God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The east side of the Temple Mount faces the Mount of Olives and also contains the Golden Gate which is sealed. Some believe Christ will return through the Golden Gate. Church bells were ringing as we walked around the dome and viewed the bedrock of Mt. Moriah.

Dome of the Rock

It was a very brief bus ride to Mount Zion to the traditional site of the Upper Room, and it is believed that the first Pentecost was celebrated there as well. The traditional site of King David’s Tomb is also on Mount Zion.

Dr. Mitri Raheb

We traveled to Bethlehem to meet with Dr. Mitri Raheb, president of Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture. Dr. Raheb Is a Palestinian Christian who is an outspoken advocate for his people in the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict and founded a center for justice and peacemaking. He shared an overview of the history of the last 70 years, student success stories and relayed the current concerns. We had the opportunity for questions, answers and book signing, then had lunch at the center.

We walked to the Church of the Nativity, one of the most visited sites in the Holy Land and the number of people trying to enter confirmed that fact. After viewing the star in the grotto and manger we gathered on the grounds for a presentation on the Church of the Nativity by Union student George Williams.

Our planned activities for the day ended under a blue sky with dry umbrellas and a farewell ringing of church bells.

(Top photo courtesy of Joshua Lewis)

Pat and Cynthia Barrow are friends of Union Presbyterian Seminary from Wallace, North Carolina.