Sunday, July 12, 2009

Jerusalem: Part Two

Andrea and I made the decision to each post about a different portion of our trip to Jerusalem. Andrea got the first half, so I will be handling part two. As I am writing this before she has even begun, I hope to pick up almost at the exact point where she will have left off...

Having indulged our craving for shwarma we made our way into the Jewish Quarter of the City and headed for the area surrounding the Western (Wailing) Wall. When we arrived at the wailing wall we entered a large archaeological park where one can see the ruins of the many structures that once surrounded the temple area in Jerusalem. The most foreboding structure is, of course, the temple platform itself which has gone through many facelifts over the years. As you can see, the stones from the period when Herod extended the platform are quite daunting...

Tall Stones!
Considering that Andrea is 5'2" you can see that the stones are nearly a meter tall.

That's a Long Stone!
And, according to the person at the end of this line, she wasn't even touching the end of the stone! Rest assured, if we found any of these on Hippos they would stay where they were...

As you walk to the Eastern part of the park you enter an area where one can be assured Jesus walked. The stairs leading up to the Temple. Unfortunately, we were not able to visit this area because it borders Al Aqsa Mosque, and it was closed so that the Muslim Holy Day was not disturbed.

Steps to the Temple

We left the archaeological park, and the Old City for a time and walked up the Mount of Olives. This walk is incredible, for many reasons. First and foremost, the Mount of Olives is a remarkably, and surprisingly, steep hill (video will soon be posted on You Tube). There is, however, a reward for the labor of walking up the hill - the view.


Once on top of the Mount of Olives we stopped at the Church of the Ascension where Jesus' Ascension into Heaven is commemorated. The church is now a mosque, however, the Muslims who control it allow Christians to come in and see the place. After leaving from there we made our way back down the Mount of Olives and walked the traditional path of the Via Delarosa, the path which commemorates Jesus on His way to the Cross and, ultimately, to His death. Along the way there are many markers denoting the traditional stations of the Cross - the ending point is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

After this we had the rest of the evening free to shop or go back to the guest house. The next day would bring even more sights.

We got up early on Saturday, met our bus, and headed for Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity.

Church of the Nativity
This Church is one of three built by Saint Helena (Constantine's Mother) and commemorates the Birthplace of Christ. Over the years it has changed hands many times. As you can see from this picture the door has gotten smaller and smaller over the years. This change came because the church was being stripped of all its marble for use in other areas.

Church of the Nativity
The inside is spotted with incredibly ornate decorations. In the front of the church there is an area called the grotto where one can go down and, supposedly, touch the spot where Jesus was born and where he was laid in the manger.

After finishing up at the Church of the Nativity we had time for shopping at the various Olive Wood stores and for lunch...we had more shwarma...


Having thoroughly stuffed ourselves (literally - I had two shwarma), we met the bus and headed for the Herodion (or Herodium...or Herodyon...depending on which sign you read). This was honestly one of my favorite sites...the sheer magnitude of the fortress is remarkable and the magnitude of what Herod accomplished can be seen on a grand scale. The site is one of Herod's many wilderness fortresses which he built to help protect his kingdom. It is also in the Judean Wilderness...where the shepherds would have been "keeping watch over their flocks," as Dr. Schuler pointed out...

Judean Wilderness
The wilderness surrounding Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

The Herodion
The main tower of the Herodion.

Herodion Top Plan
Top plan of the Herodion.

Herod's Tomb?
Herod's Tomb?

Herod's Palace
The Palace at the Herodion, complete with swimming pool.

As Andrea always points out we were "running where Jesus walked," and what a great run it was. Now we are back at the Kibbutz. As I write this we have already finished a full day of work and are getting ready for another...

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