8:31 pm
Jerusalem


It was our last day of touring in Jerusalem itself.  Tomorrow we head north into Samaria (with a new guide).  It was a bit of a lighter day, but you cannot convince my feet of that.  Or my knees.  Or my legs.  I did 16,701 steps (7.03 miles) according to my watch.  So I guess the day wasn’t that light.


We began on the bus with a short drive over to the Mount of Olives.  We got to drive down into the Kidron Valley and then up the other side and across the top of the hill.  It’s in Arab East Jerusalem, which means hectic and crowded.  And perhaps a bit more trash.  Fouad dropped us off at the promenade point, overlooking the entire Old City of Jerusalem.  It’s a stunning view.  It was a little hazy this morning, but the haze was beyond what we wanted and needed to see.


Benny oriented us to the vista below us – Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, City of David, Temple Steps, Mt. Zion…and the rest of the Old City.  To stand above the sea of tombs we had watched from afar all week was fascinating.


After a bit we headed down to catch up to the Palm Sunday route.  I actually think it is the only road going up and down the Mt. of Olives – so I guess Jesus had to have used that to walk down the hill on that one Sunday.  It’s a steep walk, but nice to walk down the Mt. of Olives.  It’s a real street so there are people driving on it from time to time.  And, I think every tourist in the country was on the Mt. of Olives today.  At least the fame of Jesus has spread all over the world.
We stopped at Dominus Flavit (tear drop church) to visit the cave of ossuaries and learn of first century burial customs.  To hear of the common practice in the days of Jesus helps us understand him – especially when he says that we should let the dead bury the dead.  Good stuff.


We had already learned of modern Jewish burial customs.  Same day as fast as possible they buried their loved one.  No caskets.  The government pays the basic (socialized death), but you can add on some extras.  On the Mt. of Olives it is very expensive to have a plot there – very expensive.  They are all buried under the ground and then they build these monuments on top in the deceased’s memory.


Anyway – we also stopped and enjoyed the view and story of Dominus Flavit.  It commemorates where Jesus stops on Palm Sunday and weeps for the city of Jerusalem.


Back on the road downhill.  It ends just behind The Church of All Nations, in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I was quite disappointed that we did not have a reservation for the smaller and more private Garden space across the small street.  But, without that voucher, all grace is gone.  Vanished.  Poof.  I tried.  Even found the Father, who basically said touch luck.


So we toured Gethsemane.  While the folks were in the church (along about half a million other people), I went looking for a place to find some peace and quiet to share a devotional about Gethsemane.  I found a small courtyard just beyond the entrance to the church – with shade.  Shade is huge over here, especially this time of year.  I gathered up the troops and we read the account from Luke and I shared some thoughts.  It was a nice moment – tho the traffic behind us was noisy and there were people all around.  We had some nice time together. As alone as possible.


Back onto the bus, we headed to the Jewish Quarter. We drove around to the Jaffa Gate – which made the trip to the Jewish Quarter all downhill.  Smart move.  We meandered thru the Armenian Quarter and then made it to the Jewish Quarter.  We walked in the Roman Cardo (first century or so).  Saw the replica of the Madaba map – we’ll see the original on Sunday I think.  It’s un Madaba, Jordan.  It was a pilgrim map to all the holy sites in the Middle East back when it was made (mosaic).  It confirms the locations of many of the sites of today.


We got some time to shop in the Jewish mall in the Cardo.  Then we were set free for lunch in any place we’d like In the area.  I opted for a bagel sandwich.  Egg salad, to be precise.  And a Coke Light (the trip is almost over).  Benny cornered me after lunch, so I almost missed my Magnum Bar.  But my persistence won out – that and about a quarter mile walk – and I found the white chocolate (manna from heaven) Magnum bar.


When we all gathered back, we headed to the Zion Gate parking lot to catch the bus to the Garden Tomb.  Our appointment was a bit later in the day and we were running ahead of schedule.  So we stopped in on the sites on Mt. Zion.  I waited with Susie because of the stairs up to the Upper Room.  They saw it and they saw the “tomb of David” (fake news).


Then it was back onto the bus for the trek over to the Garden Tomb.  It’s really just outside the Damascus Gate – and we were still early for the appointment, so we walked down to see the Gate.  What a bustle of activity goes I and out of that gate.  It’s amazing.  It is the busiest gate in the Old City (I think).  It’s the most chaotic (from our standpoint) for sure.

 

We walked back in the crowds (It’s the Muslim’s holy day so there were lots of folks out and about).  The Garden Tomb is in stark contrast to the city outside it’s walls.  You enter into a peaceful modern garden, where the present the Gospel and point out what the Bible says about the crucifixion and resurrection.  It’s a powerful place.  And, it wasn’t actually all that crowded.  Wow.


There was not a huge line at the tomb, so we even got to take some pictures of folks in front of the tomb.  That was really nice.  Our guide was from New Zealand, Sherry, who loves giving tours and sharing her faith in Jesus.  After our brief tour and visit to the tomb, we were assigned an area for communion.  We sang and worshipped and shared the Lord’s Table together.  It was not rushed – and mostly quiet. It was a very special time together.


We had some time to shop in the wonderful gift store at the exit to the Garden.  They have great books and stuff.  We shopped (shock).


Back onto the bus for the short trek home to the Gloria.


If you can believe it – some went shopping after we returned.  It was about 4:30 when the bus dropped us off at the Jaffa Gate for the walk to our hotel.  I came to the room.  Uploaded pix to the website.  Wrote a Back Page.  Took a shower.  And just laid on the bed.  The feet were beat up.


At 6:15 I gathered all my strength and headed with some folks down to the Western Wall.  It’s Shabbat and we wanted to experience Shabbat at the Wall.  It was fascinating.  The plaza was full (I thought it might be fuller, actually).  I took a couple of pictures of the interesting folks walking around. And one of the whole place.  I uploaded it to Instagram and decided to walk down closer the area of prayer.  I got my camera ready.  The “shabbat police” approached me and said (kindly) that shabbat had begun, so no phones or cameras on Shabbat.  No problem.


So I just put my phone and camera away and tried to soak in the moment.  Bart and I walked down into the men’s prayer area and just observed.  So many people, so very different from each other.  We don’t understand what’s going on, but we enjoyed just watching.


We went back out of that area and met the rest of the folks. It seems the girls had been using their cameras for quite a while before being confronted (kindly) by the Shabbat Police.  At dinner we swapped pictures, so I was able to upload them to the website.  Contraband on Easysite.  Wow.  How did that happen?


After a bit we made our back out of the plaza….and up and up and up we climb to get back to the hotel.  We didn’t stop in our rooms (for fear we’d never get out).  Staight to dinner.  Let me just say that it is not getting much better.  The fresh falafel was great.  The pasta tasty.  But after tonight, it’s all uphill in the food department.  Tomorrow night we are at the Ambassador for our Farewell Dinner. And when we get to Jordan, yum. 


Right after dinner we headed to gelato (the Hoestereys bailed – too tired.  So that says something about the day).  I had my mint chocolate chip again.  Delicious.


It is cooling off a bit tonight in Jerusalem.  The breezes were picking up (tho at dinner some customers next to the windows asked they be closed and no AC…they were chilly).  We could barely stand it in the dining room – so stuffy. 
But it was a wonderful day to be in Jerusalem.  Aren’t they all?  We saw some great things, spent a good deal of time in the Word and in worship.  So – thank you, Lord.


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