Published: August 13th 2012August 7th 2012
The mornings sunlight was my alarm clock today and when I looked up above me I could see the new days light filtering in between the branches of an olive tree next to the house. I'm in Palestine! The holy city of Jerusalem is a symbolic crossroads of the three monotheistic faiths, which the first three photos in this blog are meant to represent. The holiest point on Earth where Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all come together. Different cultures and religions have battled each other over this land for thousands of years, and today is no different.
I got a Palestinian phone on my way out of Bethlehem so I wouldn't have to use my American one to call all of the people I had met so far. Palestinians are so hospitable and friendly. Every single one I meet is so happy to hear I'm American and have invited me to their homes and given me their phone numbers, telling me - "If you need ANYTHING while you're in Palestine, call me and I'll come help you." They don't have much, but these people are some of the kindest, most sincere people I have met.
My friend Maryam couldn't meet me in Jerusalem today so today I traveled solo for the first time in over a year. First I went back into the Old City to find something to eat. I got a falafel sandwich at an unnamed place tucked into a wall in the Old City and chatted with the Palestinians who worked there. They pointed me in the right direction for my next site and I headed through the alleyways of the city. I walked through the Christian Quarter which was a stunning, colorful bazaar. Shops on the sides of the alley were large and went deep into the walls. Filled with christian trinkets, colorful blankets, tapestries, and clothes, and antique pots, pans, lamps, and daggers! I also walked a bit along the Via Dolorosa again. This is the path they believe Jesus walked from being convicted to Golgotha, where he was crucified. They have different stations marked with descriptions so you can know what happened and where (approximately).
From there I dipped into the Armenian Quarter for a minute before walking to the Church of the Reedemer, a beautiful, originally german cathedral. After that I wanted to find the
Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the paralytic. I knew it was somewhere in the Muslim Quarter, but my map was a bit off so it took a while to find. I happend upon it by accident near the Lion's Gate to the Old City. The Muslim Quarter was a bit more rundown than the rest of the Old City. It was a strange feeling walking into such silence after being in the loud, bustling Christian and Armenian Quarters. Most of the Muslim Quarter was apartments and not really a bazaar like the rest of the city was. It was extremely quiet and there was almost no one out on the streets. I'm guessing that part of this was due to Ramadan. No one fasting wants to be out in the hot sun or around food stands and others who are eating. The emptiness was bit eery though.
I arrived at the Pools of Bethesda after walking along the Via Dolorosa for a bit. I was walking towards the Lion's Gate to leave the Old City and go to the Mount of Olives, but happened along the entrance that I had been searching for. You have to
closest I got to the Temple of the Mount
pay 8 shekels to get into the site, which probably wouldn't be worth it if you're not religious ( just to let you know). The pools are next to the Church of St. Anne, which was originally a French church. The pools are actually very deep at some spots and at a few points you can walk down into them. I prayed for the healing of my spine along the dried up pools where Jesus once healed a paralytic man.
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie - the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thiry-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. John 5: 1-9
After leaving the pools I walked a bit more down the Via Dolorosa and found the Ecce Homo Church, where Pontius Pilate presented Jesus to the crowd. Near the church I went inside the Church of Flagellation where Jesus was said to have been flogged. Near that church I found another small christian site, but I'm still not sure what it was. It might've been part of the Ecce Homo Church. I went inside and there were two stairways down and one stairway up. Both stairways down had christian paintings on the doors, but they were locked, so I went up. On the second story stood a large cross and two separate staircases going up in two
directions. The first one I took led to two doors, which were unlocked, but upon opening them to peek inside I saw that there were meetings going on in both. I went downstairs and headed up the other staircase, expecting to find a christian shrine or something to see. But no, I was next to someone's apartment on a roof surrounded by other buildings. I freaked out for a second realizing I was trespassing, but then I noticed some stairs up to a rooftop... I couldn't help myself and went for it. Knowing I wouldn't be able to see the Dome of the Rock up close, because it's Ramadan, I thought I could at least get a good view from the rooftop of the Temple of the Mount and the rest of the city. Sure enough the view was pretty good and I stood up there for a while looking over the Old City. I snuck back down and then down the staircase back to the streets.
Further down the Via Dolorosa I reached the Lion's Gate and from there, walked past the muslim cemetary, and headed for the Mount of Olives. A very important place in
Mount of Olives
You can see the golden onion domes of the Russian cathedral
Christianity. The Mount of Olives was a place Jesus frequented to pray and this is where he prayed the night of his betrayal by Judas. The Mount has 3 famous churches - The Dome of Ascension, where they believed Jesus ascended into heaven - The Church of Mary Magdalene, honoring Mary Magdalene (not his mother) - and the Church of All Nations, also known as the Church of Agony, marking the spot where Jesus last prayed before he was crucified. Next to the Church of Agony is the Garden of Gethsemane, a small olive tree grove much like it would have been long ago when Jesus frequented the Mount. I sat next to the olive grove and read Luke chapter 22, which describes the betrayal of Jesus and his final prayer on the Mount.
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blodd falling to the ground. Luke 22: 39-44
My last site to see before sunset was the Wailing Wall, as I had not spent much time in the Jewish Quarter. The Wailing Wall is the first place in the Old City that scanned bags and had guards checking ID's and monitoring. A site so important to Jews would be a big target for terrorists. Past security I
Garden of Gethsemane
Olive tree garden on the Mount of Olives where Jesus prayed before his betrayal
didn't see a single arab. Everyone was either jewish or a tourist. Many ultra-orthodox Jews dressed all in black were congregated at the wall or standing back with their families. The Jews walked up to the wall to pray. Its called the Wailing Wall or the Western Wall. It's the last remaining wall that surrounded the Temple of the Mount, the holiest place in Judaism, which is now home to the Dome of the Rock Mosque. It's called the Wailing Wall, because this is not only where Jews pray, but also express their grief at the destruction of the Temple.
I walked for a few minutes through the Jewish Quarter before returning to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre one last time before leaving the Holy City. Until next time...
There are more photos below