Well, we arrived in Jerusalem at about 11.30 pm last night after a long days travel. Israeli security, passport control and El-al airlines were absolutely first class. Best check-in experience ever and complimentary drink and meal on the plane, whilst watching “The Butler” on video !
And then we arrived at a very nice hotel, The Golden Wall hotel, literally facing the city wall, near to both Pilgrims gate and Damascus gate.
Today was our first full day and we’re both worn out from walking all day. We walked the entrance into Jerusalem on the route Jesus would have taken on what we call Palm Sunday. Very steep downhill descent but with a splendid view into the Kidron Valley, overlooking the Mount of Olives and facing the traditional view of Jerusalem.
Part way down we stopped off at Dominus Flevit Church, the place where Jesus is said to have wept over Jerusalem. Here we had Eucharist and I found myself using British Sign Language to the hymn during the worship. Recieving the bread and wine with the view (below) as a backdrop was very moving.
After the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Getsemane we walked up the hill and into the city through the Lions Gate (or St.Stephens gate, as it is also known; or St Ann’s gate……….). Here we first went to the pook of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the man waiting to go into the healing waters.
And then to the Ecce Homo convent to see the ‘judgement pavement’ where Pilate is said to have tried Jesus. Almost bizarrely, after this, we went up to the roof top restaurant for lunch ! Gloriously sunny and very warm.
Then we set off to walk the Via Dolorossa, the final walk of Jesus, with its 14 stations. Our guide, Rami, very honestly told us that over the centuries there have been various interpretations of this route so no guarantee we walked the same path as Jesus, BUT we were in the same area and the crowded, narrow streets brought home to me the humiliation and degradation of our Lord as he carried his cross through the crowds. Moving.
We eventually came to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of the crucifixion and one of the alleged sites of the tomb of Jesus. For me this was the only disappointment of the day as the building with its splendour and majesty did not reflect my simple churchmanship and it seemed to me to be a mixture of superstition and hype. That’s probably unfair and I’m glad I was there; I just sat uncomfortably with it, in contrast to the simplicity of the Eucharist earlier in the day.
I did like the roof picture of Jesus which I was able to take by reversing the camera of my iPad (oooooh aren’t I good?)
Finally, via the busyness of the streets again we walked our way to the site of the Garden tomb, another possible site of Jesus’ tomb. This was much simpler and certainly more peaceful. Which one is the genuine tomb, if either, I don’t know but the peace and quiet of the latter was special.
After the garden tomb we walked back to the hotel for a coffee and the chance to rest our tired feet. In all we’ve been walking, climbing, standing from 8.00 this morning to 4.30 this afternoon. At about 8.00 pm Alison and I found the quiet peace of the roof garden (of the hotel) overlooking the walls. Lovely.
My hearing ? I didn’t catch everything but thanks to a microphone and an earpiece (everyone was given an earpiece) it was possible to catch most things without having to almost sit on Eami’s shoulder. And I must give special praise to Rami, our guide. His enthusiasm, zeal and passion, not for the city, but for Jesus was a joy to experience. His simple explanations and honesty (when casting doubt on the site of the tomb), combined with his knowledge of Scripture was tremendous. It’s been like listening to an 8 hour evangelistic sermon with the most dramatic visual aids of them all.
Tomorrow we travel to Bethlehem to the Shepherds Fields, to Manger square, and to visit the co-operative McCabe travel work in partnership with Palestinian Christians. Can’t wait but am going to enjoy a good nights sleep in the meantime !
What am I to make of it all? At one point we had received so much information it wasn’t possible to remember everything; it really was “information overload”, but as Alison said “it’s not about remembering all the detail” for its as if we’re being ‘marinated’ in the experience. I like that way of putting it for in cooking to marinate something is to completely soak it in a new flavour. Maybe that’s what the Lords going to do with us this week, give us a new flavour in our understanding.