Jerusalem, Israel (Bnei Brit Street 5)
After I got ready this morning I left the flat and walked toward the Old City again. My first stop was to visit the Gethsemane Gardens. On my way there I passed two new gates, Herod’s Gate and Lions Gate, as I made my way around the outside of the city walls.
Gethsemane Garden is just across from the Lions Gate. When I got there I was approached by a “guide” to show me around. I gave him a few shekels, but then was approached by another “guide” and I said okay. He said he would do it for free, but he know I would pay him something. I put “guide” in quotes because these are just people who need to make some money and they know a little about the gardens. Actually, the gardens are a grove of maybe 40 very old olive trees (with a few newer ones) within a fence. I had already read all about the history of the garden. My guide said some of the trees were 2,000 years old, but I knew otherwise. He talked so much I forgot to take pictures. I was there maybe 15 minutes.
I walked through the Lions Gate into the Old City. My first stop was Temple Mount to see the Dome of the Rock. After walking most of the way through the Old City, stopping briefly at the place considered to be the birthplace of the Virgin Mary though she was supposed to have been born in Nazareth, I approached the entrance. Here I was stopped by two guards who said Temple Mount was only open to Muslims. Oh well, I’ll walk over to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was my next stop.
I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre yesterday but I didn’t have anything to show me what was what within the church. Today I’m better prepared. While reading more about the church I kept asking myself how could all of the final days of Jesus happen is this one building. The room where he was locked up, his journey to the cross, the place where he was crucified, as well as his tomb.
When you first enter the church you see the flat rock where Jesus’ body was placed after he was crucified, named “The Stone of Anointing”. Many people pray at this location and place their hands on the stone as they pray.
Further in the church is a small chapel devoted to The Three Marys. And just beyond is the shrine that contains the tomb of Jesus, probably the most visited place in the church judging on the line of people waiting to go in. This location is beneath the rotunda of the church.
Continuing to walk around a bit further within the church are stairs that go up to the place that represents where Jesus was crucified. Since the hill where he was crucified was replaced by this church (actually the other churches that proceeded this one) the physical location is represented by moving it higher in the church. There is a rock from the site of the crucifixion up there that pilgrims can touch.
I’m still processing what I saw today. How much of what I saw was really authentic? My first guess is that it really doesn’t matter. The faith of his followers probably matters most. If this church provides a connection with Jesus, then accuracy isn’t important.
It was any easy walk to the Tomb of David. I saw new parts of the Old City along the way and also a place that was built in medieval times on the location where the last supper was held. Almost next door was the Tomb of David, a sacred Jewish location. The building is fairly large and space is devoted to those who want to pray within the Tomb. The actual room where the tomb is located was just off the prayer room.
I left through the Zion Gate and walked again to the nearby McDonald’s, then a taxi back to the flat. The taxi ride was a little uncomfortable since the driver was trying to get me to hire him to visit Bethlehem. He then told me that he hasn’t worked for two weeks because his 39 year old wife has breast cancer and is in the hospital. He needed to stay home to care for his five children. But I told that it was too late in the day for me and I was looking forward to taking a nap. Which was the truth.
Not sure what I’m doing tomorrow, my last day in Jerusalem. Perhaps I’ll try again to visit Temple Mount. There still are plenty of things to see in Jerusalem. We shall see.