Israel Day Seven

Today was an amazing day. It was as if I needed to pinch myself to make sure I was not in some crazy dream as I visited some of the most holy sites in Christianity. After breakfast, we boarded the bus for a brief ride over to the top of the Mount of Olives, a mountain ridge situated across the Kidron Valley from the Old City of Jerusalem. After enjoying a wonderful panoramic view of the Old City, we began a walk down the Mount of Olives along the path that Jesus likely took when he entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey on Palm Sunday. Part way down the mountain, we paused briefly at the point where Christ stood when we wept over Jerusalem. A church, the Dominus Flevit Church, stands at the site. We continued down the mountain until we reached the Garden of Gethsemane which rests at the base of the Mount of Olives. Among other New Testament events which took place on the Mount of Olives are the Olivet discourse and Christ’s ascension into heaven.

The All Saints' gang on top of the Mt. of Olives

The All Saints’ gang on top of the Mt. of Olives

A view of the Holy City from the Mt. of Olives.

A view of the Holy City from the Mt. of Olives.

The Carey's before the Holy City

The Carey’s before the Holy City

On the slopes of the Mount of Olives beneath us lies a Jewish Cemetery over 3000 years old.

On the slopes of the Mount of Olives beneath us lies a Jewish Cemetery over 3000 years old.

The City of David at the south end of the Holy City (what was then Jerusalem when David took the city).

The City of David at the south end of the Holy City (what was then Jerusalem when David took the city).

The Dominus Flavit Church on the slope of the Mt. of Olives (The place where Jesus is said to stopped and wept over Jerusalem).

The Dominus Flavit Church on the slope of the Mt. of Olives (The place where Jesus is said to stopped and wept over Jerusalem).

The Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Mt. of Olives

The Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Mt. of Olives

The Jewish cemetery.  No flowers in remembrance of your loved one.  When one visits a deceased love one, she places a rock on the grave (perhaps remembering their nomadic days of burying the dead by placing a pile of rocks over the body).

The Jewish cemetery. No flowers in remembrance of your loved one. When one visits a deceased love one, she places a rock on the grave (perhaps remembering their nomadic days of burying the dead by placing a pile of rocks over the body).

Cindy walking down the path that Jesus took on Palm Sunday (of course, it wasn't paved at that time).

Cindy walking down the path that Jesus took on Palm Sunday (of course, it wasn’t paved at that time).

A typical rock-cut 1st century tomb with Ossuaries nearby (seen as we walk down the Mt. of Olives)

A typical rock-cut 1st century tomb with Ossuaries nearby (seen as we walk down the Mt. of Olives)

A few of the Golden Gates, thru which Jesus rode on his donkey on Palm Sunday.  It is the oldest current gate in the Old City walls.  It was once called the Beautiful Gate.  It was sealed up by Ottoman Sultan Suleiman in  1541 to prevent the entrance of the Messiah (based on a prophecy of Ezekiel).  They also placed a cemetery in front of the gate, as seen in the photo) to keep the Messiah out.

A few of the Golden Gates, thru which Jesus rode on his donkey on Palm Sunday. It is the oldest current gate in the Old City walls. It was once called the Beautiful Gate. It was sealed up by Ottoman Sultan Suleiman in 1541 to prevent the entrance of the Messiah (based on a prophecy of Ezekiel). They also placed a cemetery in front of the gate, as seen in the photo) to keep the Messiah out.

Gethsemane is, of course, the place where Jesus prayed and the disciples slept the night before his crucifixion. Once at the foot of the mountain, we first entered into the Church of the Agony, a Roman Catholic Church which enshrines the rock upon which Jesus is claimed to have prayed with extreme anguish, shedding tears like great drops of blood as he pondered the Father’s plan. One of the most moving moments of our trip thus far was when we knelt with our hands upon this stone and feebly attempted to pray the same words Christ prayed that fateful night, “Not my will, but thine be done.” After shedding a few tears of our own, we continued across the street to another section of the garden where we stopped for a brief devotion and a few moments of silent reflection. What a blessed experience!

The Garden of Gethsemane with Olive Trees.

The Garden of Gethsemane with Olive Trees.

This olive tree is over 2000 years old and may have been present for Christ's prayer and betrayal in the Garden.

This olive tree is over 2000 years old and may have been present for Christ’s prayer and betrayal in the Garden.

The facade of the the Church of the Agony

The facade of the the Church of the Agony

The Church of All Nations (Church of the Agony)

The Church of All Nations (Church of the Agony)

Cindy, in tears, praying at the rock at which Jesus was said to have prayed in the Garden.

Cindy, in tears, praying at the rock at which Jesus was said to have prayed in the Garden.

Praying at the Gethsemane rock.

Praying at the Gethsemane rock.

Then, we reboarded our bus and made a quick trip over to the site of The Garden Tomb. There are two competing claims as to the location of the crucifixion and burial of Christ. We will visit the other in a couple of days, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Garden Tomb is a rock-cut tomb discovered in 1867. It is located near a rocky escarpment which some have identified with Golgotha, the place of the skull, which was the location of the crucifixion. The Garden was lovely, and entering the rock-cut tomb was amazing. I wasn’t all that impressed with the site purported to be Golgotha. Apparently the rocky face used to resemble a skull, but the slope is crumbling and no longer bears much resemblance to a skull. It was very exciting to visit the site where he may have been buried (and subsequently resurrected)! I’ll probably speak more about this after a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Golgotha (according to the Garden Tomb story).  The nose has fallen off, but you may still be able to see the two eyes and mouth.

Golgotha (according to the Garden Tomb story). The nose has fallen off, but you may still be able to see the two eyes and mouth.

The Garden Tomb of Jesus Christ.

The Garden Tomb of Jesus Christ.

If this is the actual tomb, Christ likely was laid in the area to the left of the picture.

If this is the actual tomb, Christ likely was laid in the area to the left of the picture.

Partaking of the Holy Eucharist in the Garden, followed by singing, Amazing Grace.

Partaking of the Holy Eucharist in the Garden, followed by singing, Amazing Grace.

The Nablus Road is the old Damascus Road which leads from Jerusalem to Damascus. Further up this road, Paul would have been intercepted by Jesus and the blinding light.

The Nablus Road is the old Damascus Road which leads from Jerusalem to Damascus. Further up this road, Paul would have been intercepted by Jesus and the blinding light.

After visiting, the site of Christ’s empty tomb, we made our way by bus to the city of Bethlehem. Similar to my experience when entering Nazareth, entering into the town of Bethlehem was a little disappointing. Neither is a quiet, sleepy village, but a bustling town filled with bumper to bumper traffic, blaring horns, and hectic activity. We also had to lose our guide, once again, before entering into Bethlehem. The city is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and Israeli citizens are not allowed within the city. It is unfortunate that travel is restricted for both Jews and Palestinians within the Holy Land. Again… It’s complicated. Upon entering into Bethlehem, however, we met up with a Palestinian Christian who would serve as our guide while within the city. We first enjoyed a delicious dinner of Shawarma before going next door for a little shopping. After dinner and shopping, we took the bus a little further to the site of Jesus’ birth, The Church of the Nativity. Wow, we were so excited to enter into the church! Unfortunately, our excitement was tempered a bit by the throng. At the moment we stooped to enter into the church (okay, maybe not Cindy) through the Door of Humility (the main entrance), we realized that an Orthodox Divine Liturgy was taking place. In order not to interfere with the procession of the priests, all lines were stopped. That is completely understandable, but as the service continued, our wait got longer and the crowds grew larger. Once the lines started moving again, we were herded along like cows into a pen as we made our way up one of the aisles into the side chapel and down the steps into the cave in which Jesus was born. Despite the crowd spoiling a bit of the sacredness of the site, it was still an unbelievable experience to kneel in the cave of the nativity as did the shepherds from the surrounding hillsides two thousand years ago! We also knelt and touched the silver star of Bethlehem which was mounted into the floor signifying his place of birth. The church itself, built in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian I, was quite beautiful. The iconostasis, a wall of icons which separates the nave from the sanctuary, was magnificent. Sadly, much of the church’s beauty was obscured by scaffolding which covered most of the church, placed there to repair the decaying ceiling.

Lunch in Nazareth.

Lunch in Nazareth.

This is about as close to Starbucks as you can get in Bethlehem.

This is about as close to Starbucks as you can get in Bethlehem.

Cindy entering in to the Church of the Nativity through the main door, the Door of Humility

Cindy entering in to the Church of the Nativity through the main door, the Door of Humility

A look toward the altar of the Church of the Nativity from the back of the nave.

A look toward the altar of the Church of the Nativity from the back of the nave.

The Priest processing through the nave during the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.

The Priest processing through the nave during the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.

A look at the priests returning to the  Iconostasis during divine liturgy.

A look at the priests returning to the Iconostasis during divine liturgy.

A look down the aisle to the right of the nave, crowded with people waiting to see the birthplace of Christ.

A look down the aisle to the right of the nave, crowded with people waiting to see the birthplace of Christ.

This is the 4th century mosaic floor of the church founded by Constantine's mother St. Helena, lying beneath the floor of the present church.

This is the 4th century mosaic floor of the church founded by Constantine’s mother St. Helena, lying beneath the floor of the present church.

Greek Orthodox Divine Liturgy

Greek Orthodox Divine Liturgy

A Beautiful Iconostasis

A Beautiful Iconostasis

A closer look.

A closer look.

This stands above the stairs leading down into the nativity cave.

This stands above the stairs leading down into the nativity cave.

This way to Christ's birthplace.

This way to Christ’s birthplace.

The silver star which represents the birthplace of Christ.

The silver star which represents the birthplace of Christ.

The manger site.

The manger site.

Outside in the courtyard of St. Jerome in front of the newer Roman Catholic church on the site at Bethlehem.

Outside in the courtyard of St. Jerome in front of the newer Roman Catholic church on the site at Bethlehem.

We could not enter the Catholic church due to a wedding underway.

We could not enter the Catholic church due to a wedding underway.

Standing beside the "Pope-mobile" which transported Pope Francis through the streets of Bethlehem.

Standing beside the “Pope-mobile” which transported Pope Francis through the streets of Bethlehem.

Later than usual, we returned to our hotel to rest. There would not be much rest for Cindy and me, however. We were excited to meet up with a couple of friends in Israel, Yaniv and Avital. They were so kind to pick us up at our hotel and take us to dinner at a lovely kosher Italian restaurant nor very far from the Jaffa Gate called Gabriela Cucina. We enjoyed discussing, among other things, religion and politics, those two taboo subjects for friendly conversation. Friendly conversation it was, however. In addition to the warm dialogue, we enjoyed delicious Italian food and a bottle of Barkan shiraz wine (Israeli wine). We then walked through a section of town called Mamila, in which is located a beautiful new mall containing stores from around the world. After reaching the Jaffa Gate in the old city walls and the tower of David, which was beautifully illuminated in the night, we made our way back to the car and returned to our hotel.

Cindy, Avital, and Yaniv as we walked to our restaurant.

Cindy, Avital, and Yaniv as we walked to our restaurant.

Our delicious dinner and wine is done.

Our delicious dinner and wine is done.

Walking down the street after dinner.

Walking down the street after dinner.

The new outdoor Mamila mall.

The new outdoor Mamila mall.

A rabbi was street-performing in the mall

A rabbi was street-performing in the mall

The Tower of David just inside the walls of the Old City

The Tower of David just inside the walls of the Old City

The wide-open Jaffa gate in the walls of the Old City

The wide-open Jaffa gate in the walls of the Old City

It was another unforgettable day in Israel. Tomorrow… Church and rest (we hope).

12 thoughts on “Israel Day Seven

  1. Barry, you are an amazing tour guide and the photos are magnificent! Thank you for sharing and for explaining everything along the way. Just wonderful!
    Miss you and Cindy so much.
    Blessings -C

  2. i have been enjoying your pictures. They are great! Although, I don’t know many of the stories from the bible it is truly fascinating to see through your pictures what an awesome trip this is for ya’ll.

  3. I feel like I’ve been there with you. Your photos are out standing and your explanations are so appreciated by me. Im exhausted just reading your blog. Thank you so much. !!!!

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