Friday, 11 June 2010

Wed 10th & Thurs 11th June - Jerusalem

Not sure how good my typing will be as I'm sitting in a very dark corner of the hotel roof garden as it's the only place I seem to be able to get a signal!

On Wed I flew from Heathrow to Tel Aviv. I'd just sat down when I saw a friend from Westcott days walking down, he was even sitting in the same row - how random is that? On arrival we travelled by coach to Jerusalem which with a 2 hour time difference meant we arrived just after midnight. We had a light supper and after unpacking I was glad to get to bed.


We were up early for a 7.00 breakfast & left at 8.00. We began our day at the Mount of Olives. While we were there we visited Pater Noster church – there were ceramics on walls in the church and courtyards of the Lord's Prayer in many languages; it made you realise just how many different languages are spoken in the world.

We then went to Dominus Flevit church (famous for its window & view over Jerusalem). We shared communion in a service held outdoors. From there we went to the Garden of Gethsemane & Church of All Nations where the windows are made of alabaster.

We continued our walk to Jerusalem and entered the walled city by St Stephen's gate (Lions gate) & went to pool of Bethesda & church of St Anne. The acoustics here were fantastic; Sami our guide sang for us then we all sang – the singing resounded round.

We had lunch at the Ecce Homo convent before following the Via Dolorosa through the city lanes to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Via Dolorosa was busy with locals out shopping as well as the tourists. The church was very crowded and to me felt quite tacky but we found a quiet space in the crypt where we stopped for our readings & hymn.

We then walked up through the Souk and Damascus Gate to the Garden tomb. There are lots of dispute as to whether the crucifixion & burial in the tomb took place here or at the Holy Sepulchre. The garden tomb was peaceful and tranquil by contrast and made it easier to visualise the sort of setting that would have existed. Whatever the truth both have many good claims and I guess it's up to individuals to settle on the arguments they feel strongest or the place which "just feels right." Despite its busyness it was just awesome to think of the many millions of pilgrims & tourists who have visited the Holy Sepulchre over the centuries.

I returned briefly to the hotel before braving the Souk on my own. I bought a couple of bits – I even bartered & got a good price so felt very pleased. I returned to the hotel for a well earned soak in the bath before dinner.

After dinner we had the opportunity to visit Solomon's quarries. A few of us then walked round outside the city wall to the Jaffa Gate. We returned via a recently opened modern shopping mall. It was interesting to see some of Jerusalem today & how many of the locals live as opposed to the pilgrimage sites & touristy shops.

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