Oct 26, 2012
Neither of us slept real well. We woke up at 5:30 am and got ready to go. We had breakfast at the hotel. Our first stop in the morning was the Mount of Olives. The streets were crowded because it was a Muslim holiday. It took quite a while to drive there. And it took even longer to get out of the area because there were so many buses coming into the area. While on the Mount we could see the location of several sites that were prominent in the last days of Christ’s life. Everything in the city is much closer than what I expected, however, everything is either uphill or downhill. We could see the Dome of the Rock, which is the location where Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac. It is also the location of the first and second temples.
From the Mount we could see the walls of old Jerusalem. The current walls were built in 1530. Jerusalem was inside the walls until 1830. There are 8 gates to the city but 1 gate is sealed. It was sealed by the Muslims to keep out the Savior. It is called the Golden Gate and is the gate overlooking Gethsemane.
After the Mount of Olives we drove to the Church of Gethsemane. This is a Catholic Church that is built in the area. The church is built over a rock that they think was the rock Christ kneeled at. There was a church service going on while we were there, but everyone was going and taking pictures. It seemed a little strange to be in there during a service, but I think they are used to it.
Many times throughout our trip, the guide would say this was a traditional site, or there are some that think… For example, there are many Churches of the Ascension. Each church’s owners believe that their church is a the place where Christ ascended to heaven. No one can agree on the actual location. However, there are a few places where everyone agrees on the exact location where Christ was. One is at the synagogue in Capernaum. The other is at the Pool of Mercy in the walls of Old Jerusalem.
Our next stop was the old city of Jerusalem. We entered the the old city through the Lions Gate, where the martyr of Stephen took place.
Most of Jerusalem from the time of Christ is 30 to 40 feet below the current ground level. They would just build on top of the previous buildings. There are archeology digs all around the original city. Gethsemane is at the original ground level, as they have identified 8 olive trees that are 2000 years old. The roads and ground we were walking on was many feet above the level of the ground at the time of Christ. The Pool of Mercy has been excavated down to the level of the time of Christ so this is one spot they know it is exactly where Jesus was.
Later as we walked through the old city, we walked on the street that is the traditional site of where Christ carried the cross. Because of time we had to hurry through, but we saw a group that was recreating the event of Christ carrying the cross.
We exited the city through the Damascus Gate and walked to the Garden Tomb area. As a whole, the old city of Jerusalem was very crowded and dirty. There was trash everywhere. There were also vendors everywhere selling everything. Asher told us to watchout for pickpockets, and the nights are very dangerous in the city. In the city we saw a high military presence.
We walked a couple of blocks to the Garden Tomb. This is an area where many think the crucifixion and internment took place. It is owned and ran by a British organization, and staffed with volunteers. They took over in 1860 and excavated the tomb in the 1800s. This place has what some think is Golgotha and Joseph of Ameritha’s tomb. There are three hints that this might be the site. first was the skull shaped hill, second, it was on the major road between Jericho and Damascus and third, it was outside a major gate to the city (the Damascus Gate). These were all hints that are in the bible.
We were able to visit the tomb and look in it. There was a lower area where they say Jesus would have been lain. We could only spend a few minutes in the tomb, as there were so many trying to get in.
There were a lot of people there, but it seem everyone was a little more reverent than at the other sites. The tour guide had a spot reserved where we sat for a while. As a group we sang “He is Risen”. This was the place and time where I felt the spirit the strongest.
It’s a little different then what I expected. Golgotha and the tomb are less than 50 yards apart. Now there is a Arab bus terminal at the foot of Skull Hill. This is likely where the crosses would be. The crosses would not have been put on the hill, because the Romans wanted them close to the road. This way the people on the road could easily see them. The tomb did not have the stone in front of it, but there was a groove that a stone would fit into.
The next stop was the West Wall of the city, also known as the Wailing Wall. This place had a lot of security. There were a metal detectors, and Police and Military all around. The West Wall has been a location of much violence over the years.
As you entered the wall area you had to cover your head and the men and women were separated and had separate parts of the wall to pray at. You could write a prayer on a piece of paper, and then push the paper into the cracks on the wall. They have someone pick up the prayer notes that fall out of the cracks and bury them at Gethsemane.
The Wailing Wall area was very crowded. The Jewish men would pray quite hard at the wall. There is a section of the wall that is inside the building and it was full of people praying. Only the first 6 courses of the wall above the ground are original. In more recent years, the wall had been built to 60 ft high.