I recently attended the Nations’ 9th of Av in Jerusalem for the week of August 10 through 16. It was a truly a life-changing experience for me!
Our core planning team, (including Steve Wearp, Bob O’Dell and myself) had been preparing for this week-long event for over 8 months. After all the months of planning, we saw a tremendous response to this event.
The event had a three-pronged approached:
* Jerusalem attendees: Christians who came from the nations to Jerusalem to attend the Nations’ 9th of Av event (August 10-16).
* Live prayer events in the nations: Prayer leaders who signed up to host a 9av prayer event in their local congregation.
* 26-hour phone conference call beginning on Saturday, August 10 at 5 pm (EST) through Sunday, August 11 at 8 pm (EST)
On the phone conference call, we had a total of 228 attendees call in over that period, with a combined total number of minutes spent on the phone of 18,316 minutes. This translates to an average time spent on the phone line of 80 minutes per person!
For our LIVE events in the nations, we had a total of 33 events in the Nations with prayer leaders who participated with us from the USA, the UK, Bulgaria, India, Argentina, Canada, South Africa, Austria, and Sweden.
These statistics say a lot, but now let me get personal and tell my own story. It begins with me having coffee a couple of days in advance of the event with AnaRina Heymann. AnaRina is an Orthodox Jew and is the founder of the project, AlignwithZion.com
She asked my friend, Janna Anthony and I, “Have you been to see the City of David?” I answered, “No, I have not.” She replied, “If you have not been to the City of David you have not yet seen the real Jerusalem.”
That comment sparked Janna and me to go on a tour of the City of David in advance of the Nations’ 9th of av conference. I will come back to that.
On Sunday morning, August 11, on the 9th of Av, about 100 of us gathered at the Davidson Archeological Center.
We began with a short instruction time from AnaRina. While she was speaking, the quietness of the Davidson Archeological Center was shattered as we heard the sound of loud tear gas bombs going off. Thousands of Muslims had gathered up on Temple to keep the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha and were blocking the entrance up to Temple Mount for Jews who wished to ascend Temple Mount in observance of Tisha B’av (9th of Av) which fell on the same day.
You could feel the spiritual clash and tension in the air as this conflict rolled out in real-time before us. Many people silently prayed in their hearts that the conflict would be resolved and that the Jews would be allowed to ascend the Temple Mount.
Soon, the conflict was over, Jews were allowed to ascend, and a stilled quietness fell upon the Davidson Center. After AnaRina finished her talk with us, we broke up into many small groups to pray prayers of repentance for the many atrocities and persecutions perpetrated against the Jews by our church forefathers….committed in the name of Christianity.
Our small group prayed into events of the Holocaust era and there were heart-wrenching tears and prayers lifted up over that very dark period. Next, we prayed into current events and our prayers turned to 13 yr old Hallal Ariel of the Shomron town of Kiryat Arba, who was brutally stabbed to death in her bed on June 30, 2016. Her mother, Rina Ariel, made an impassioned plea with Netanyahu asking for permission to hold a Memorial Service up on the Temple Mount. She was granted permission, and many joined her in ascending to the Temple Mount. The gate up to the Temple Mount has been unofficially renamed “Hallel Ariel Gate” in her honor.
Rina Ariel stated at the time that “it is only from there that all deficits can be filled, it is only from there that we will receive any sense of solace.” Urging her community to join her for the visit to the holy site, she said, “The terrorist butchered our daughter in her heart, and our heart is in the Temple Mount.”
The rabbis teach that the temple was destroyed by “baseless hatred”. When I asked a museum curator at the Shrine of the Book what his thoughts were on the rebuilding of the Temple he wisely said: “It will be rebuilt with hands and hearts of LOVE.”
What is so important about the Temple that once stood on the Temple Mount? Why do the Jews mourn the destruction of the first and the second Temple on the 9th of av? Allow me to share some wise one-liners that I heard throughout this week-long trip:
The Temple is not just a building: it represents a relationship. Jeremy Gimpel
What is so important about the Temple? It was a gathering place. Samuel Wearp
…Our heart is in the Temple. Rina Ariel
The Temple is the touch-point of G-d’s full manifested Presence in the world. It is the nucleus of the meeting point when Am Yisrael, the chosen people, come together at chosen times, to the chosen place. AnaRina Heymann
As I began to connect each one of these dots, I began to see that:
The Temple represents the heart of the nation of Israel.
The Temple represents the heart of Jerusalem.
The Temple represents the people of Israel.
The Temple represents the heart of the God of Israel.
There are 5 chapters in the book of Lamentations. In chapters 1 through 4, there is an alphabetic structure, where each verse begins with the Hebrew alphabet letter in order: alef, bet, gimel, and so on. However, in the fifth chapter of Lamentations, there is NO alphabetic structure.
What does this mean at the deeper spiritual (or sod) level? There were God-ordained order and structure built into the first four chapters of Lamentations. This hints at the presence and order of the Temple. When the alphabetic structure is removed from the fifth chapter of Lamentations, this hints of the absence and the destruction of the Temple. It also hints to the shattering of God’s heart. He too laments and weeps over its loss, as He has “hidden his face” from us, and His glory and presence no longer dwell there.
Now let me return to our walking tour through the City of David. We listened to AnaRina Heymann give an insightful and eye-opening message about the City of David on Monday morning. She shared that the City of David as it remains today is literally “outside” the Old City walls and it can speak to us to “think outside the box”. There has been a 2800 year disconnect from this place for the Ten Tribes/Northern Kingdom/House of Israel and a 2,000-year disconnect for the Jews/Southern Kingdom/House of Judah. Now is the time to “Align with Zion”!
The city of David was built on a Tel close to a water source, the Gihon spring.
In ancient times, there was a secret tunnel leading to this fortified pool/cistern, which was the City of David’s main water source. This water source (Gihon spring) was OUTSIDE of the walls of the city of David, so the underground tunnel allowed residents access to the water even if they were under enemy attack.
Janna and I took the “dry route” of Hezekiah’s tunnel that led to this “outside the city walls” secret cistern of life giving water.
When we finally came all the way through the downward descent of this tunnel, we came out into a neighborhood, and we completed our walk by ending up at the pool of Siloam:
We sat on the stone steps of the pool for some time, cooling down from the long walk in the heat of the day.
We then walked down to the end of the pool and a man approached us. Little did I know that this was truly a divine appointment orchestrated by the God of Israel!
He spoke to us. It turned out that he has been a tour guide of Jerusalem for more than 20 years and he was on a “break”. He showed us some murals that had been painted showing what the pool might have looked like when fully functioning and restored:
He explained to us that this was the pool where the people would come to “mikvah” (or immerse) before ascending to the Temple for Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot!
Pictured above: Model of fully restored city of David on the Tel which rises/ascends to the Temple. Photo: CityofDavid.org, modified.
Then the real hidden treasure and mystery was revealed to us. The tour guide pointed out some stone steps to our left. He said, “You see those stone steps? They lead right up to the Temple Mount. After the people would mikvah here at the pool of Siloam, they would then ascend these stone steps up to the Temple.”
He went on to explain that the Jews had been excavating these steps for many years and that the steps would soon be open to the public in a few months.
I pondered all of these things in my heart. On the evening leading into the 9th of Av, I had listened to the mournful chanting of Lamentations on the Promenade by Rabbi Chaim Eisen and I had, for the first time, experienced coming alongside the Jewish people in their grief over the destruction of the Temple…
After touring through the City of David, and discovering by “happenstance” these stone steps leading up to the Temple, a thought came to my mind.
I was like that blind man that had been healed. I had been blind in the understanding of the importance and the central role of the Temple in the life and culture of Israel. I had thought, “Well, the Temple doesn’t matter, because the Temple is within you.” Though I had been to Jerusalem five other times, I had never really seen the “real Jerusalem” or “aligned with Zion”…until now, on this tour of the City of David. All of a sudden, the spiritual scales began to come off of my eyes.
AnaRina shared in her message to us on Monday morning from a Jewish perspective: Whenever God allows archeologists to uncover (and reveal to the world) something physical in the city of Jerusalem, God will simultaneously uncover and reveal to the world a “spiritual parallel” of that same discovery.
So the fact that this old road was discovered showing the “pathway to the Temple” is a sign that God is in the process of revealing to the people of the world a deeper spiritual understanding of God’s heart for His Holy Temple.
Those words became a reality for me as we walked from the base of the Pool of Siloam, and we were led to this hidden corridor. We saw with our own eyes the stone steps now being excavated that lead up right to the Temple Mount.
In the excavating of these stone steps leading up to the Temple, there seems to me to be a revealing of a deeper spiritual truth. Perhaps God’s hand is making a way to birth a greater vision for a restored Temple…even in the hearts of Christians throughout the Nations.
This trip was, for me, truly a spiritual ascent to the land of Israel, the people of Israel, the God of Israel, and to His very heart, a vision for the Restored TEMPLE of Israel! May it be so in our lifetime!