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Published: June 27th 2015
Our first full day in Jerusalem started with another amazing breakfast spread, this time with 4 kinds of smoked or pickled fish - I always like to ensure great breath for the rest of the day! By 9 we were all on the bus and on our way to the ancient walled city. Surrounded by walls built in 1538 by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the city did not expand beyond the walls until the 1800s. We made our way in through one of several famous gates, Jaffa Gate, and into the labyrinth-like city. We first walked through the Arab marketplace - stall after stall of trinkets, clothing, religious paraphernalia, food, etc. - similar to the suqs in Morocco. It was fairly early I guess so a number of the stalls we still being opened as we walked through. The "SuperJew" t-shirts were tempting but I managed to resist. Despite it being a Middle-Eastern market it was nice to not be assaulted by vendors shoving things in my face and chasing me down offering the same crap as every other vendor - Turkey would make up for it, though!
Our first destination was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
which is considered to be Golgotha where Jesus allegedly was crucified, buried, and resurrected. The church is actually a simultaneum and is shared by the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syrian Orthodox Churches. The church's first iteration was constructed around 328 A.D. after the mother of Emperor Constantine made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and located what she believed to be the tomb from which Jesus rose. The current structure dates to the 12th century after fire, earthquake, and invasions the years destroyed much of it.
Upon entering through the courtyard you first come upon the Stone of Unction or Anointing, which is supposedly the stone upon which Joseph of Arimathea prepared Jesus' body for burial. As expected various people were on their knees kissing it, etc. Moving on through you come upon a large rotunda with the Aedicule in the center. The Aedicule is basically a marble tomb structure that was built to envelop the Holy Sepulchre itself, the cave from which Jesus rose. There are two tiny rooms within - the first holds the Angel's Stone, a piece of the stone that sealed the tomb, then the second being
the tomb itself. It was honestly a little confusing since it's a tiny, candle-lit altar/tomb and not a cave like you might imagine, but whatever, people were lining up to get inside. Somehow I was a moron and missed the second level that contained the rock of Calvary where Jesus' cross was raised. Next time I guess...
From the Church we headed over toward the Western Wall, the only remaining wall of the Herodian temple complex. It is also known as the "Wailing Wall" due to the thousands of Jews that would come to mourn the loss of their temple and is the holiest site in Judaism. Approaching the wall we had to don kippahs to show respect. Apart from those that were praying leaning against the wall and sticking their prayer notes in the crevices were dozens of bar mitzvahs, with the young boys approaching the wall with their Torahs. Their mothers and all other women are restricted to a separate, smaller section to the right. Behind the wall is the Al-asqa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, the iconic golden dome built in 691 A.D. Within the building is apparently the rock from which the Prophet
Mohammed ascended to view paradise described in the 17th Sura of the Quran, but unfortunately we did not enter, and Al-asqa and the other mosque have been closed to the public since 2000.
After the main sites we had some time to poke around the old Jewish Quarter and get some food - had a great hummus and falafel plate, though I'm not sure how I was still stomaching hummus after having it at almost every meal since arriving in Israel. I'll cease to comment on the related side effects everyone was experiencing as a result! While we sat outside we witnessed several mini-parades of boys in the middle of their Bar Mitzvah marching with musicians, family, and friends toward the Western Wall. Finally we headed back to the hotel to rest for an hour before our evening's performance at the YMCA/Performing Arts Center. It was a shockingly elegant structure for a YMCA, and after an hour or so of rehearsing we all had a nice outdoor dinner of various Israeli salads, grilled chicken, and beef. The concert itself afterwards went really well, and it was nice to have decent size attendance after how small Ein Gedi's was. Everyone
was so grateful to have us, especially given his conservative Jerusalem can be as a city.
We were exhausted after such a long day, but word had spread through the small gay community that we were in town and those that came to our concert all wanted to meet us back at VideoPub. I actually managed to get an Israeli Über there and it was only around $13 for all of us. The bar was completely packed, and we all stayed out until maybe 3 at which point we decided it was a good idea to buy a bottle of wine. We then spent literally an hour with hotel employees trying to help us open it after one of them snapped the opener in the cork. We were horrified, but whatever at least the night shift had something to do! Finally around 4am we made it back up to our rooms, enjoyed some wine, and passed the F out. Another low key night!
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