We hoped to get an early start on the day but it was not meant to be. Richard forgot his knee brace the first time out and then we had to go back the second time for his wallet and phone. I knew he was rattled when he opened the closet door rather than the apartment door to head outside. It definitely gave us a good laugh and we were still giggling when we got to the bus stop. Even during the day, one of us would think of it and set off on another bout of laughter. Writing it now does not seem nearly as funny but you know what they say – you had to be there.
Anyways, we finally got to the Old City. Now the Old City of Jerusalem consists of four quarters – Christian Quarter, Jewish Quarter, Muslim Quarter and the much smaller Armenian Quarter. Just for perspective, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is in the Christian Quarter, the Western (or Wailing) Wall is in the Jewish Quarter, The Dome of the Rock is in the Muslim Quarter and the Armenian Quarter has good Shawarmas!! (Arabic sandwiches) After wandering through a few narrow corridors that really led nowhere, Richard finally convinced me to consult Google Maps and try and find the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was very crowded as not only is it Christmas time for Christians but it is also school holiday time for everyone else in the world. We muscled our way through the crowds in order to see a couple of the holy sights but finally gave up and decided to move on. We stopped for a bite to eat (you guessed it, a shawarma) and then made our way towards the Western Wall. On our way there we passed through the Cardo which is an ancient Roman street that runs North to South through the Old City. This Cardo was discovered in the 1960’s when they were excavating within the Jewish Quarter. This street which is several meters down from current street level was operational during Roman and Byzantine times and sported a good number of markets. There are mosaics on the wall depicting the area as it would have looked at this time. As we learned in Egypt, as each new conqueror came to town, they just started to build on top of the existing city creating layers of history to be uncovered.
The Western Wall, or “Wailing Wall”, is the most religious site in the world for the Jewish people and is the western support wall of the Temple Mount. Millions of people journey to the wall every year to visit and recite prayers. The men’s section is separated from the women’s much smaller section by a shoulder height divider wall. This we found out later is actually a Jewish tradition within their synagogues as well. Once at the wall, we went our separate ways and stuffed our handwritten prayers into the cracks within the walls. We spent a few minutes absorbing the spiritual significance of the wall before it was time to move along.
Our next plan was to see the Mosque that currently sits on the Dome of the Rock. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the current occupant of The Rock but previously it has been home to the ancient Jewish temple. It is considered the most holy site in Jerusalem for Muslims and is the third holiest site in the Muslim world after Mecca and Medina. We made our way to the entrance for Muslims only (at the time we did not realize it was for Muslims only) and not the tourist entrance so we were not allowed in. The lineup at the tourist entrance was much too long so decided that we did not need to see the mosque on this day. Instead, we followed the city wall up the hill towards the Zion Gate. The views along this pathway are breathtaking. You can see the entire city around you which of course includes the Mount of Olives and the Church of Ascension. The wall outside of Zion gate is full of bullet holes due to the years of this area being No Man’s Land between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Just past the wall is Mount Zion which is home to the Tomb of David, the Room of the Last Supper, and the Church of the Dormition. The first two are fairly self explanatory and we explored them with awe. How amazing is this? However, neither compared to walking into the Church of Dormition which is where Jesus’ mother died and was ascended into Heaven. The church was so quiet and reverent compared to the noise and confusion just outside the doors. We sat there for a few minutes praying and restoring our souls in the silence.
As we felt that our day was complete, we walked back to our BNB (about 45 minutes) and had a glass of wine and a chat with Janice our hostess and her son Boaz. They are Jewish and have been living in Jerusalem for the past few years. Both are very knowledgeable about the history and the current political situation in Israel and it has been very interesting talking with them and learning about the culture here. We shared more wine and conversation over a homemade pasta meal compliments of Boaz and with much reluctance I tore myself away to get to work on the daily blog. I can never say it enough times – it is the people of this world that make it great. Thank you Janice and Boaz for confirming that yet again.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher courtyard and entrance.
Just inside the entrance to the church is the Stone of Anointing (also Stone of the Anointing or Stone of Unction), which tradition believes to be the spot where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea.
More from Inside the Church.
The tomb of Jesus is covered by a shrine (sometimes called the Edicule) located within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. According to legend, Helena, the mother of Roman emperor Constantine the Great (reign ca. 306-337), discovered the tomb around the year 327. Constantine legalized Christianity throughout the Roman Empire and supposedly converted to Christianity before he died. The legend says the Romans protected the tomb of Jesus by building a shrine over it as well as a church. This church has been destroyed, renovated and rebuilt several times over the past 1,700 years. As you can see by the line of people encircling the tomb it is the most visited site in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
A Shawarma plate and a Shawarma sandwich.
Some Archeology from the Old City.
Some cool pictures from the Jewish Quarter.
The Western Wall.
Other than the picture below we do not have any pictures from the inside King David’s Tomb. It is a place of prayer and whether or not pictures were allowed I did not take any out of respect for the people who praying.
We thought there might be a table or something else set up in the upper room of the Last Supper, but the room is completely empty so we had to use our imagination.
Our favourite stop of the day. It is obviously not a big ticket item on many tourist’s agenda, but we loved it. It was so peaceful that we just sat there as Col said and refreshed our souls.