Saturday, October 20, 2007

Israel Day 5 – Jerusalem O Jerusalem

Today began with a trip to the top of the Mount of Olives for a beautiful panoramic view of Jerusalem. As I mentioned yesterday, you just cannot believe how beautiful this city is despite the fact that it is also an old dirty city!

From there we descended the mountain to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of all Nations. We had the privilege of being there in time to see a Korean group celebrate mass and another group stood before the stone where tradition says Jesus prayed and sing “Hallelujah” and “The Lord’s Prayer.”

After leaving the Garden and heading back toward the Old City, we stopped to view Hezekiah’s tomb as well as what is said to be Absalon’s Tomb (although like many sites the architecture is too new to be the original tomb).

Our next stop was the Western Wall---and since it is still the Sabbath I was unable to take pictures. It was a busy place but nothing like the celebration and joyous celebration yesterday. My favorite moment there was watching a little girl eagerly await her father’s return from the men’s side of the wall. As soon as he walked out of the exit, she ran and hugged his arm and they walked hand and hand together—this orthodox man and his beautiful little girl.

After leaving the Western Wall, we walked the Via Del La Rosa. And while it is a very commercial route (you can buy everything from Oriental rugs to Olive wood beads to pots and pans and underwear) and it is very crowded, I was still moved by the experience. My biggest regret is that we were unable to spend much time in prayer at each site. And even though I know that the roads Jesus walked are long buried beneath centuries of rebuilding, it was still a wonderful experience. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was just as crowded as Tut’s Room but somehow I still managed to endure the crowd so I could light a candle in front of the Altar with the stone that is supposed to be Golgotha.

After completing all fourteen stations, we went to the top of Mount Zion to see the Tomb of King David and the Upper Room. Okay-let’s face it—we don’t know if these are the real spots or not. The Upper Room itself is way too new and too fancy (It was built by the Crusaders) but it was still moving to be in a place where so many people have worshipped for so long.

Our final stop for the day was the Garden Tomb. This is operated by a British Christian organization who believes it may well be the true spot of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. It was much less crowded and “touristy” than the Via De La Rosa. They have planted a real garden and after touring the tomb, we were able to take communion together in the garden. We celebrated communion with each of us doing part of the service in our own way and then after communion we sang Amazing Grace, Blest Be the Tie That Binds, and Tis a Gift to Be Simple which accidentally morphed into Lord of the Dance.

I can’t begin to express how wonderful it is to be in this city where so much worshipping occurs. The church bells ringing makes my heart sing. I was touched by the call to prayer from the minarettes. And I wanted to dance with the men in front of the Western Wall. Every where we have gone there have been Korean pilgrims and they are always singing. And we’ve been lucky enough to be present as others sang praises to God at the various sites. We are truly created for worship!

Now we are resting a bit before dinner. Tomorrow is a study day. We will be exploring Jerusalem with an ear to the experience of people of three different faiths.


Laura said...

I'm not even going to get into how jealous I am of you.

Miss you!

Judy said...

I feel as if I'm reliving my trip with Charles from many moons ago. I"ve gotten jason to read them as he is going on a similar trip in january. So glad you're having a memorable trip.