There is no place on Earth like Jerusalem, except for Disney World
stick with me here because both give you unexplainable butterflies in your stomach and a nostalgia of history that could only ever be the cumulation of all of your personal expectations and beliefs colliding with the enthusiasm of being in that one place . Jerusalem was nothing I expected and yet everything more. Most of Israel oozes cultural richness and heritage but Jerusalem IS cultural richness. People live within the walls of the old city, Jews pray at the Western Wall while listening to the Islamic call to worship, and Christians can attend mass in any number of churches in the area.
Our first stop in Jerusalem was an over look of much of what was in store for the day (and the weekend following as CIEE took a separate trip there). If you really really look the gold dome to the left of the picture is the Dome of the Rock, beneath that (and unseeable
the word correct on my computer is telling me that unseeable isn’t a word. It is now, so go with it.) is the Western Wall, and further beyond that (also unseeable from this picture) is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
While there are certainly not only two sections of Jerusalem, I have only experienced two so far: the old city and eastern Jerusalem. The paradox that presents itself when you walk down the road toward Jaffa Gate (above) is too cool! As I was walking, following the people above, to my left were walls that were built in 1538 by the Muslim Ottoman Empire, and to my right was an expanse of modernity including a new suspension bridge and movie theater that are a point of tension in the city. There is so much old in Jerusalem surviving, no- thriving, amidst what is new. Before stepping through the gate of the old city I was overcome.
(Jennifer, Ashley, Brandon, Maggie)
(Jennifer, Ashley, Maggie, Misem)
I’m not sure what magical strings (haha that’s funny because of the harp coming up) God pulled to make my entrance into the city as amazing as it was- but it happened and it was good. Jaffa Gate is one of 11 entrances to the Old City (only 7 of which are 0pen). It references a port in Israel, Jaffa (Yaffo), that is perhaps better known as the port Jonah fled from to escape God’s plan for him as a messenger. Side note: The entrances are at a 90 deg angle into the city and are more like a square room because when the city was being attacked, for a horse and carriage and artillery to turn 90 degs is a pretty difficult task, not that I have tried it. All that being said, it is already so cool walking even next to these ancient walls but entering a towering square gate to find a harpist playing is just so… Biblical, or to me it was.
The following few pictures mostly document the walk we made through the city. We walked through all four quarters (the Old City is divided unevenly amongst the Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Armenians) and we stared up at walls, windows, people’s laundry, terraces filled with flowers, children yelling out of windows: we stared up at these things, the manifestation of people’s lives within the walls of the Old City and couldn’t help but be in awe. Ignorantly, or however you would like to classify it, the part of me that knew about places like these never was able to attribute continual life to them, rather awkwardly I thought the Old City might be a memory, a place that has a past and whose future was just as a tourist attraction/holy site. Obviously I was wrong, the Old City is continually growing, changing, creating history and looking forward to the future.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is best know to those in the Catholic faith as the place where Jesus was crucified, washed, and laid to rest in the tomb. Perhaps I was not awed immediately by the fact that this could have been the very ground, rock, and tomb my Savior touched, but rather by how incredibly ornate and colorfully busy the church was. It was like standing in a kaleidoscope, looking every direction and unable to take everything in. Combine that feeling with the overwhelming emotional response I was having and you get a Jamie who is unable to take a step in any direction for fear of missing something in the other. I hardly felt odd about the intense response because, as I became less paralyzed with the mess that is my emotional response system, I realized that others were also responding in the same way.
The mosaic here (and in a few pictures below), Christ’s Anointing, depicts stations 11-14 in the traditional sense of the Stations of the Cross, all stations which occurred here.
11- His Crucifixion
13-He is taken down, Lamentation
14- He is laid in the Tomb
Both the above and below picture is the rock where Jesus was laid after having died and being taken down from the cross. It is where they washed and prepared his body to be placed in the tomb. Most people knelt down at the rock and prayed, some rubbed scarves or pieces of clothing against it, pictures of loved ones: I laid my Rosary down on it while I prayed. In the hopes of not getting too ushy gushy (as my Dad refers to it) I felt more of a connection to this place because of my Nanny (Grandmother) more so than anything else. She would have been overcome to have been here, at this rock: Rosary beads and all!
Below is a picture of the outside of the tomb, it was beautiful, even trying to take a peak inside was difficult though and the line to get in was about 2 hours long. Our tour did not have that kind of time and so we were unable to go in, but I will go back and I will go in and perhaps I will dedicate another post solely to pictures of this church, because it really deserves it.
Upon entering the church you can either go straight into the large space and veer to the left to see the tomb and the rock or you can take a quick right and walk up some VERY narrow stairs and make it to the place where Jesus was crucified, the actual place not just the vicinity. I made it up the stairs in a mad dash before having to leave and took a few pictures. It was darker, more ornate, and quieter up the stairs: luckily though
not I walked up right in the middle of a huge tour group of Easterners so the noise level instantly changed to loud.
I wish I had the slightest clue as to what this belonged to! But it was right outside the entrance to the church and the picture was too beautiful to pass up!
Not so shockingly the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is an origin of dispute. Because it is shared by 6 different sects of Christianity there is a lot of discussion (some of which has resulted in physical aggression against one another) about whether or not certain parts of the building belong to certain sects, when the building should be open or closed during certain holidays etc. Well, a ladder remains on the front of the church nearly above the door because one day in the 19th century a man placed the ladder against the building. No one knew who the man was or which sect he belonged to, so no one took the ladder down for fear of inciting aggression by a member of another sect. The first evidence of the ladders existence is 1852, but no one can tell how long it has been there. Ironic amidst the many Christian pilgrims that travel to this Church to worship and pray alongside one another and the reminder that we are all still human and prone to earthly aggression sits right above the door.
Just walking through the Old City and the tunnels.
The Dome of the Rock while still walking around. The Dome of the Rock is actually resting on the place where Abraham is believed to have attempted to sacrifice his son Isaac (though Ishmael to Muslims). If you can remember back to the beginning of the post where I took a picture that overlooked Jerusalem, that place where we were standing was where Abraham told his servants to wait with the donkey after days of travel so he and Isaac could go up to the mountain to worship. The Dome of the Rock also sits on the place where the Holies of Holies would have been had the Temple still been standing. A lesser known fact is that the Western Wall is actually significant because it is the closest wall to where the Holies of Holies was in the Temple. The wall itself is mirrored by three others: a southern wall, an eastern wall, and a northern wall. The walls were built by King Herod as a place to set a plateau to build on, a leveling ground of sorts. The Wall has come to be a holy site innately when, in fact, the reason it is holy is because its proximity to the real holy site: a site which is inaccessible by anyone other than a Muslim at most hours of the day.
Brandon and Stephen
So, apparently it is a “thing” to climb the lion and sit on it with a friend so I reluctantly took a picture with it because it is a lion statue and that’s cool in itself aside from the social construction. I did not, however, climb up it because it was my height and it was difficult and a mess and people were watching and standing next to it was just much safer and saved quite a bit of my pride.
We went and looked around at the archeological site around the Southern wall (The Davidson center is a good museum for this, we didn’t go in it). It was very cool because you could stand right beneath the wall and feel its enormity, even the stones were giant, the smallest being 4-5 tons, 60 meters tall, and 180 feet wide. The tour guide is standing next to one in one of the pictures below and if you can zoom in you can see the stone compared to him, and he was an average size guy, if not a bit taller.
This is Philip by the way!
The Western Wall: I have not yet put a note in the wall, I felt like I needed to do more research and understand the tradition a little bit better, plus I have plenty of time.
The women and the men are segregated at the wall, much like they are during a Jewish service. The women’s portion is considerably smaller than the men’s with a tall solid fence separating the two. I will certainly get back to Jerusalem at least a few more times before I leave, and I will probably post on it again. I love it here but two months and then some in and my heart is aching a bit for home, guess I will just have to find more places to explore! :)