By BRYAN ANDREWS
The Via Dolorosa was my first barefoot experience in Jerusalem but it certainly wasn’t my last. One of the more notable ones – because it forced me to tackle one of my fears head on – was my walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
Hezekiah was King of Judah (one of the few good ones) at the time when the Assyrians posed a major threat to Jerusalem. He knew that if the Assyrians laid siege to the city and cut off the water supply, there was no way that Jerusalem could survive. The only way to negate the threat was to block the source of the waters of the Gihon Spring and to lead them straight down into a reservoir inside the city. So he ordered two teams of workers to start on opposite sides of the hill and to cut their way through 533 metres of solid rock.
To this day, engineers, scientists and historians are unable to fully explain how the two teams were able to work so accurately that they were only centimetres out of line when they met underground.
Technology, or the lack of it, was the furthest thing from my mind when I faced the tunnel. My claustrophobia kicked in and what I saw was a dark, narrow space that a broad-shouldered man might have difficulty getting through. It was darker than anything I had ever experienced so, knowing that I had very little time before my fears got the better of me, I switched on my tiny headlamp and, following my instinct that said I would be more secure if my feet were in direct contact with the rock, took off my sandals and stuffed them into my backpack. The cold water came more than half way up my calves but, as I moved forward, my fear dissipated and I found myself enjoying the experience. The rock was firm and smooth beneath my feet and I wasn’t hindered by any resistance that my flip-flops might have presented as I moved through the water. My headlamp was surprisingly bright in the pitch darkness and showed me where to duck to avoid banging my head.
My group was far enough ahead of me that I couldn’t see their lights. The group following us was far enough behind that I couldn’t see their lights either, but I could hear they were singing praise songs as they walked. At one point, I was brave enough to stop and switch off my headlamp. The darkness was black – blacker than black ink on white paper – but my fears didn’t rise to the surface. They were gone!
I switched on my headlamp and moved forward again, allowing my feet to tell me what they were experiencing. Suddenly, I could see light and I came out of the tunnel into the Pool of Siloam, exuberant at the fear conquered and the victory won.
For many people, the walk through the tunnel would be no big deal, but it is something well worth doing if for no other reason than to marvel at the work of the ancient engineers and labourers and to stand amazed at the foresight and inventiveness of a king who obeyed the Lord.