Jerusalem, Israel – On Sunday morning we got up early and made our way to the bus station to find a sherut or shares taxi to Jerusalem. Sunday is a work day in Israel as the weekend is Friday and Saturday so we wanted to make sure we had enough time to get through rush hour so we would not miss our tour.
We met our group at the Jaffa Gate. Before we began, our guide instructed us to leave all religious artifacts behind because we were visiting the Temple Mount. If anyone had bibles or other large religious items they would have to leave them and pick them up after the tour. Ever since my mother gave me my grandmother’s rosary at my wedding I have always carried it with me when I travel. The guide said as long as I keep it out of site when entering the Temple Mount I should be okay.
Our first stop was a small gothic chapel which n the 15th century was converted to a mosque. It is said that the Last Supper and Pentecost took place in this room.
We were actually visiting on Pentecost so there were masses held in the church next door and the reverence of the site was palpable. Although all Christian denominations are permitted to visit this room the Eucharist is not celebrated here and will not be until (or if) it is converted into a church again.
The room is located above the Tomb of David. When the room was converted to a mosque Muslims were less concerned about honoring the last supper and more about the tomb. The stained glass windows and features in the room reflect its time as a mosque.
We then walked to the roof of the room which until 1967 after The Six Days War was the closest Jews could get to the Western Wall. The second president of the state of Israel, Yitzchak Ben Zvi built a room on the roof and often slept there. He wanted to see the sunrise over the Mt. of Olives and would meet with scholars to read and study the Torah.
We then headed down to the Tomb of David which as I mentioned, is located below the last supper room. The tomb is now an active synagogue. Something that struck me over and over during our day in Jerusalem was how close in proximity holy sites for Judaism ,Christianity and Islam are. For my whole life I have read, watched and heard stories about the turmoil in this region and I must admit actually being in Jerusalem gave me a greater appreciation of the difficulty of this situation.
As we entered the synagogue, men and women were separated by a wooden partition. On the women’s side it struck me how many different traditions hold this places sacred. As people entered they walked up to the tomb places both hands and forehead on the tomb and prayed.
After lunch we visited the Western Wall, the only remaining portion of the Jewish Temple. Herod the Great rebuilt the Temple and it was the largest shrine in the Roman world. In 70AD the Romans destroyed the Temple leaving only the Western Wall. As we entered the Western Wall plaza we were again separated by gender. It was powerful to see everyone praying and crying near the wall. It was impossible not to be overcome with the holiness of this site.
We then walked over to the entrance of the Temple Mount. To enter we had to wait in line as they only open during certain times of the day. As we waited, our guide told us that there is no guarantee that we would even open the doors today. The Temple Mount is obviously a very contentious places between Jews and Muslims and the status quo of tolerance that exists right now is incredible fragile. Remember when we were told not to bring in religious artifacts one reason is to not upset this status quo. Before walking to the Mount wenwent through airport like security. Once through this, we to walk up the wooden walkway past the Western Wall. Once we reach the top we were inspected by Muslim guards to make sure we were appropriately dressed. Even though imwas wearing a long skirt I was asked to pull my skirt down to further cover my ankles.
Located on the Temple Mount are several important landmarks. One is theAl Aqsa Mosque , the third holiest mosque in Islam. The first two located in Mecca and Medina. Another landmark is the Dome of the Rock which is one of Jerusalem’s most recognizable landmarks. Originally built in 691 AD it is now one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture.
The Temple Mount was only open for an hour and we were eventually asked to leave. We then headed to the Via Dolorosa (latin: The Way of Sorrows) which is the street that Jesus walked along on his way to his crucifixion. The route begins near the Lion’s Gate which is in the Muslim Quarter and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and is also known as the Stations of the Cross.
Below I have listed the stations of the cross with links to another site with additional information and pictures of that station. I have included the photos we took but we did not take one of every location.
The Second Station is located on the present site of a Franciscan monestary. There are two churches here one for the flagellation and one for the
The 4th station is located right around the corner from the 3rd station. Now there is an Armenian church, Church of our Lady of the Spasm located on this site.
Unfortunately, we did not get any pictures of this station.but please click on the link above to learn more.
The 10th station took places at the entrance of Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In the picture below you see two large arch entrances, this is the location of the 10th station.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the hill of called Golgotha where Jesus was nailed to the cross. Now there is a Franciscan alter marking this spot.
The 12th Station is marked by the ornate Greek Orthodox Chapel of the Crucifixion. People wait in line to touch the limestone rock beneath the alter that is believed to be the spot where the cross stood. If you look under the glass you can see a crack in the rock. It has been said that this crack was caused by the earthquake that occurred after Jesus’ death.
Some other sites from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Here are a few final sites we saw along our tour
The following pictures are a few of different Armenian structures located in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is home of one of the oldest Armenian communities outside of Armenia. Many of the holiest sights are controlled by the Armenian population. The link above provides more information about this if you would like to read further.