Friday, April 08, 2011

Jerusalem, Israel

Thursday April 7, 2011 6:45 PM (11:45 AM EDT)

Yesterday we stopped at one of our "extra" ports added as a result of
the cancellation of two of our Egyptian ports. We arrived very early in
the morning at the port of Asdod in the southern part of Israel, After
breakfast we boarded a bus for Jerusalem to spend the day. The drive
from Ashdod to Jerusalem was about an hour and just prior to stopping in
Jerusalem we swung around and stopped to overlooked the city of
Bethlehem which is just a short distance south. From atop one of the
hills it was difficult to see much other than the border fence as
Bethlehem is controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

From Bethlehem we returned to Jerusalem and left the bus just outside
the Jaffa Gate, one of the eight gates in the wall of the Old City.
Jaffa Gate is an entrance into the Armenian Quarter of the Old City.
There we strolled the market of that quarter stopping at one point on
Muristan St. at the site of the old Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem,
run by the Knights Hospitaller in the 12th and 13th century.

From there we entered the Christian Quarter. (The Old City comprises
of four quarters controlled by four religious groups: Armenian,
Christian, Jewish and Muslim.) In the Christian Quarter we visited the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site according to legend the site of
the burial of Jesus. Many of the sites in the Old City were pointed out
to Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, by locals in the fourth
century. Whether these sites were truly the locations concerning Jesus
we'll never know. The church contains a stone slab purported to be the
stone where Jesus was laid out to be prepared for burial. This is shone
in the photo. In addition there is a shrine in the church that leads
down to what is supposed to be the tomb of Jesus. People wait for over
an hour to view it. We did not have the time in our tour to go down.

From the Christian Quarter we entered the Jewish Quarter which is much
more 'modern' than the other quarters as large portions were destroyed
before Israelis recovering of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. After
strolling through the Jewish Quarter we exited the Old City through the
Zion Gate and headed to lunch at the Olive Tree Hotel. As the name
implies, it is near the Mount of Olives.

Following lunch we went to the Home of the Last Supper which is outside
the Old City walls. This was one of the sites pointed out to Helena and
it very well have been the site of the Last Supper. It is a normal size
room on an upper floor and very bare. From there we motored up the Mount
of Olives where you can see city laid out and the eastern wall of the
Old City and the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount. On the side of the
Mount of Olive are a number of large Jewish cemeteries. Jewish families
pay a premium to be buried on this site as it is the closest spot where
when the Messiah returns to Jerusalem he will enter the Old City through
the Golden Gate (the only gate never opened) which is just at the foot
of the Mount of Olives.

From the top of the Mount of Olives we went down to the Garden of
Gethsemane where Jesus was apprehended by Roman Soldiers. There, next to
a large olive grove is a Church of Gethsemane and next to it another
smaller church believed by members of the Greek Orthodox Church to be
the burial spot of Mary, mother of Jesus. Some Christians believe that
Mary is buried in Ephesus and others believe she was ascended into
heaven. In this church is also a tomb purported to be the tomb of
Joseph, the husband of Mary.

From Gethsemane we reentered the Old City and went to the Western or
Wailing Wall. This is a remaining wall of the Temple Mount and the only
portion left of the Jewish Temple destroyed by the Romans. Jews pray
before the Wailing Wall and insert paper slips containing prayers in
cracks between the blocks of the wall. There are actually two separate
portions delineated by a mesh fence - one fairly large section for men
only and a much smaller section for women only. When done praying at the
wall Jews are to leave the area backward, never showing their back to
the wall although we saw most just turning and walking away.

Jerusalem is a city of antiquities and archaeological sites. Inside one
building next to the Wailing Wall is a large cut out portion of a wall
covered by plexiglass and inside a portion of an ancient arch. Where is
this archaeological site? In the Men's Room right next to the urinals!

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