A Travellerspoint blog

Israel Day 7

overcast 40 °F

Today we visited some of the most prominent Christian sites in the Old City. After a short drive, we started our journey on top of the Mount of Olives. From where we were standing we could see a picturesque image of Jerusalem featuring the dome of the rock in the center. Part of the religious conflict we learned is centered around this place. The Jews believe the temple must stand during the end of days, and the muslims believe the dome of the rock is crucial to bring about the end of days. It's an unfortunate coincidence that these two sites exist on the same spot of land. I can't imagine the real estate value of that area.

From the top we walked down the Palm Sunday road from Bethpage to the Garden of Gethsemane. The garden is really lovely. The Catholic Church is in charge of the site, and they maintain it really well and create a beautiful aura of reflection. We had a few minutes to walk around the grounds and imagine Jesus' final days there.

We continued on foot to the Lion's Gate (or St. Stephens Gate), and to the Monastery of St. Anne seated by the Pools of Bethesda. Ruins of the ancient pools where Jesus told the paralyzed man to pick up his mat and walk. Now, the area is coated in patches of moss, and cats wander across the stones, but it’s still possible to imagine where the I’ll and lame laid waiting to be healed. Right by the ancient baths is a beautiful church that reportedly has some of the best accoustics in the world. The people who maintain this area encourage groups to come sing, so we all lined up in front of the alter and sang a few iconic Wheaton songs. It was beautiful.

After this we finally got to hunt for lunch in the Muslim quarter. I think this has been my favorite meal of the whole trip. Shai advised up that the best hummus in Israel, if not the world, is located here. A small group of friends and I fought through narrow, crowded streets asking about the name of the shop along the way. When we finally found it, we discovered that it is literally a hole-in-the-wall establishment. The entire restaurant only had a total of 5 tables crowded into a tiny room that also included the kitchen. However, the food was SO GOOD. Coincidently, someone who opened a hummus restaurant in the UK was at the location as well, and helped us communicate with the owners and find a table. I really didn’t know that hummus could be so good.

We then travelled to the church of the holy seplacre, what many consider to be the location of the death and burial of Jesus. It’s owned and operated by six different Christian denominations, which is impressive considering the dramatic differences between them. Each denominations controls different parts of the church at different times, and religious processions are timed down to the minute. The building itself is stunning. It’s filled with mosaic depictions of Jesus and his life, and the two main attractions are the empty tomb and the rock that split down the middle when Jesus died. Men and women from all different Christian groups stood in 3 hour lines to glimpse these sights and touch places where Jesus may have been.

Something that especially shocked me was the slab of rock in the middle of the main entrance, covered by a slap of marble, that is where Jesus is thought to have been laid after being taken off of the cross. A group of old Franciscan women were gathered around it pouring oils and rubbing them into the rock. Some of them pulled out long white linens and soaked up the oil and tucked the cloths back into their bags. According to Shai, some of these women are preparing linens for their own burials.

Our last stop was at a Protestant site centered around another burial tomb that could have also housed Jesus after his death. We spent time there learning, praying, and later took communion as a group.

Although we were exhausted from a full day of information and exploration, we had two speakers in the evening that offered a unique Palestinian perspective. The journalist Khaled Abu Toameh and Mr. Rami Nazzal described indoctrination in Palestine, discrimination, terrorism, and the danger of cultural isolationism.

This was an especially busy day. Things have been coming together so quickly and the days have been so packed with events it has been difficult to wrap my head around everything. Tomorrow will be another busy day!

Until tomorrow,

-Emily

Posted by emschroen 07:02 Archived in Israel

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