Stories from Israel and Palestine
Me: “We’re walking through a narrow, 3000-year-old underground drain in the pitch black, in knee-deep rushing water?”
Our guide, Steve: “At least it’s only knee deep!”
Steve proceeds to tell an encouraging story about how he once walked halfway through the stone tunnel with a group of his students only to come upon a stretch where the water was only a few inches from the roof.
“We had to tilt our heads to breath and pass through. But luckily it was only like that for a few hundred feet.”
Five of us brave souls took off our shoes and waded down into the stream.
(Let the record show, Andrew was not one of them.)
The tunnel was shoulder-width, so we had to walk single file. No passing, no turning back. As the only girl, I led the charge. And I was happy to do it because it meant that I could set the pace. About 50 meters into the 533-meter tunnel, I began to panic internally. Running one hand along the cool, humid wall and gripping my flashlight with the other, I kicked my knees through the rushing water, singing out loud and joking with the boys to calm my nerves.
Did I mention I’m claustrophobic? We got out of that tunnel in a record 13 minutes.
I am the first to admit that bravery is not my strongest attribute.
Of the many caves, cisterns and waterways I walked through in Israel and Palestine, the Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem, built in the 8th century B.C., was the most terrifying and impressive.
Jerusalem has only one natural spring. It’s located on the eastern side of the City of David (the original city of Jerusalem) halfway down the slope of the Gihon valley. Seeing that the Assyrian army was about to invade, King Hezekiah realized that he had a serious problem: the spring – the lifeblood of the city – was outside of the city walls. In an incredible feat of engineering, he diverted the water by building a deep tunnel system that draws from the spring and empties into the pool of Siloam.
“It was Hezekiah who stopped up the spring of water of Upper Gihon, leading it downward west of the City of David; Hezekiah prospered in all that he did.” (2 Chronicles 32:30)
It’s been almost two months since I dared to step into that dark tunnel and I’ve had time to think about the things I saw and heard on my trip.
If you’ve read my previous blog posts, or if I’ve talked with you in person since I returned from the Holy land, then maybe you will know that I didn’t come back the same person. I went seeking God and I came back following Christ.
You may be thinking, quite fairly, that that doesn’t make much sense because I’ve been writing about my faith on this blog for months. And I’ve been going to church with Andrew for years. And I grew up as a Christian. And etc.
Still, I never felt this way before.
Before going, my faith was like a small stone niche. A little recess in the back wall of my heart with a ledge where I could store an icon of God. Safe, sacred, not that deep.
My time in Jerusalem was the spiritual equivalent of taking a sledge hammer to that stone niche, only to discover that behind it is a deep tunnel, the end of which I can’t even see. Though it is pitch black, I hear the rushing of living water. And though I am not brave, I’m still going to wade in.
Jesus heals the Blind Man at Siloam
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When [Jesus] had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” (John 9: 5 –11)