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Published: April 2nd 2016
Old city Jerusalem
Today, we booked ourselves another guided tour
. We knew we wanted to go to Jerusalem, but BAM also wanted to see Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity. I felt uneasy going into Palestinian territory alone, so I insisted we join an official tour. Our guides name was Isaac and he was a lovely guy, we stopped first at the Mount of Olives and looked over Jerusalem to the West and the hills towards Jordan to the East. Like almost every location in Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives has great biblical significance.
We entered the Old City of Jerusalem via Zion gate in the Armenian quarter. As we entered, someone tried to drive their car out of the gate; the gate is narrow and the corner tight, so they scraped their bumper on the stone. Looking around, almost every car is damaged and the gate itself had large chunks out of the bottom corners where motorists had been attempting the bend.
In the Armenian quarter, there is a poster of remembrance for the Armenian genocide of 1915
, Isaac said it was an example of many atrocities around the globe that are under-reported, particularly in comparison with the Jewish genocide that dominates Western
history text books; the Armenian community ask only that we remember and learn.
We moved from the Armenian to the Jewish quarter where Isaac took us to a rooftop with views over the city. He pointed out the various domes, spires, steeples and pillars of the city and the significance of each.
Continuing our tour into the Christian quarter, he pointed out the newer stone because this quarter was destroyed in conflicts in the 1880s and rebuilt (I think. Don’t cite me). Isaac then took us into a souvenir shop, disappointing because I’d rather spend my time in the City and I’m pretty sure Isaac got commission from any sales although he didn’t admit this. But whatever I guess that’s the price you pay for being a touristy tourist. BAM bought an olive wood covered bible and we got a Christmas decoration as well, something we make a point of doing every time we travel.
We then went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was the location of Jesus’ crucifix. Outside, Isaac told us the story of the ladder outside – a window cleaner attempted to clean the exterior surface of the windows in the
Holy Sepulchre church
stone where Jesus was alid after death
1800’s but was stopped because of ownership disputes and who had the right to clean what. The first thing you see on the inside is the stone upon which Jesus was laid when he died. The theory is that because Jesus’ bare flesh touched this stone, anything that touches this stone also becomes holy so BAM “blessed” the souvenirs she bought by putting them on the stone. We then went upstairs to see the site of crucifixion, and downstairs again to see the site of resurrection.
Leaving the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we went through some Ethiopian churches and followed backwards the “stations” of Jesus carrying the cross. We stopped at the Western Wall, which is a holy site for Jewish people. Since the Muslims annexed the actual Temple Mount Foundation Stone, the Jews may only pray at the outer wall of the temple built by King Herod which held Temple Mount inside (Temple Mount being the holiest place on Earth because it holds the Foundation Stone
, please do your own research because it’s so complicated that I lose track)
We had a schwarma pitta in Jerusalem (again, fairly sure Isaac got commission) and left via Jaffa gate.
Holy church of Sepulchre
We then drove to the Palestinian border; Isaac did not have a work permit for Palestine so we met a new guide, George. The bus also was not permitted because it had an Israeli licence plate, so we transferred into totally-not-at-all-dodgy black cars and drove into Bethlehem. We stopped at the Church of the Nativity and were guided by George through the Door of Humility and into the Greek Orthodox church. We descended into the cave/grotto where to site of Jesus’ birth and “manger” (it was made of marble). Some of the more passionately Christian attendees began singing “silent night” which was pretty moving, even for a cold sceptic like me.
On the other side of the cave, there’s the Armenian church, then finally through the Roman Catholic church –which is the church used for Christmas mass- to leave the complex. We drove along to another souvenir shop (gotta get them commissions) but stopped at Shepherd Field on the way, George told us about the significant biblical events which took place there; King David was born there and that was the sheperds location when Christ was born. After the German and American tourists sat in the back of the
taxi paid off the hagglers we eventually got back across the border into the tour bus.
On arrival at Chef Hostel, we looked at the pub crawl that was on tonight but just had beers on the terrace instead. We were tired; it had been a long awesome day.
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