Today is the last time we can get around Jerusalem together as the big build-up to Passover really gets going. Consequently we have retreated to the high ground to the north of the city, and are looking back towards the ‘Second Quarter’, found on the north side
This area of the city is called the Second Quarter because it grew up behind the Second Wall, first built in the time of the kings in order to expand the city. This part of the wall is the weakest place in the defences of Jerusalem, and tends to be where any attacking army has launched its attack. It won’t be as easy now, though, with both the Antonia Fortress and the temple mount to deal with!
There are two things to notice here. The first is the pool of Bethesda, which is the red-roofed building at top left, near the fortress. It was here that Rabbi Jesus recently healed the man who had been an invalid for 38 years, although he couldn’t have been too grateful – he went straight to the religious authorities to inform on Jesus’ activities.
The other place is the little area near the road outside the city walls. This is the Roman place of crucifixion, which the locals call Golgotha, or ‘Place of the Skull’. They put it there so that everyone coming into the city from that direction can see the fate of people who break the law or defy Rome. There’s an open grave nearby, really just a pit, where the bodies of all the crucifixion victims are thrown. It always strikes me as strange that from here you can look over the city wall and see the temple in the distance.
For further reading: John 5:1-15 (The healing at the pool of Bethesda).