Holyland Trip Report – Israel – Jerusalem (Day 4)

 The front region of the 7-Arches hotel is a popular vista point for its sweeping views of the city. It is a choice spot for shots with the Jerusalem skyline in the backdrop and the Dome of the Rock as the centerpiece. We had our group photo taken from this vantage point before proceeding on the Palm Sunday Walk that was next in our agenda. One cannot but notice on the walk down, the three cemeteries on the left belonging to Jews, Muslims, and Christians – this is THE premium location when it comes to cemeteries for it is at the site where Jesus/Savior/Redeemer is believed to come back. The first stop was at Dominus Flevit, a Franciscan church in the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Dominus Flevit (Latin for “The Lord Wept”) was designed and constructed by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi between 1953 and 1955 in the shape of tear drops to symbolize the Lord’s tears. It is believed to be the site where Jesus wept after being overwhelmed by the beauty of the Second Temple, and predicting its future destruction (Luke 19:37-42). Jesus has dual nature – as human being, he cried as he knew what will happen. The western window of the church located on the ruins of a 7th century church has a beautiful view of the Temple Mount.

At the foothills of the Mount of Olives is Gethsemane (translates to symbol of peace and eternity) – it is believed the tears and sweat of Jesus turned into blood the night before his crucifixion here. The church built here has the rock where he sat. This place of worship, designed to portray agony, has a garden in front with trees dating back to the time of Jesus. Closer views of the Russian Orthodox Church (Gold Onion Tops) and the Golden Temple are on offer here. Beyond them are the Calvary and Holy Sepulcher Church Onion Tops, the Wailing Wall, and the Compound Wall built around Old Jerusalem during Turkish times. Adjacent to the Garden of Gethsemane is the Church of All Nations with a strikingly colorful facade – it enshrines the section of rock where Jesus is believed to have prayed before his arrest. We also visited the site of Mary’s tomb and the grotto where Jesus was arrested (betrayed by Judas) in Kidron valley area in the foothills of the Mount of Olives. The site of the tomb of Mary is maintained by Orthodox churches – the belief is that Christ lifted her to the heavens from this site fifteen days after she breathed her last. Catholic tradition has it that this happened in Mount of Zion.

Our next visit was to John the Baptist Church (St John Ba Harim) and Mary’s Well. John’s mother Elizabeth and her husband Zaccharia were a very elderly couple. Zaccharia who went temporarily mute started talking after the birth of John and his first words were a strong prayer that is inscribed along the walls in different languages. Mary was Elizabeth’s cousin and she visited Elizabeth for three months until Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist. Mary’s Well or Mary’s spring is probably where Mary and Elizabeth came to fetch water. The Greek Church of St. John the Baptist in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter is not regularly open to visitors – distinct with its silvery dome, it is one of the oldest churches of Jerusalem. The next church in our agenda for the morning was the Chapel of Ascension (Ascension of Christ to Heaven) on the Mount of Olives. The church is built on the site where Christians and Muslims believe Christ ascended to Heaven. Ascension Rock, believed to have a foot step of Jesus that points toward Jerusalem is inside the Chapel – at one point, it had an open sky – a dome was later added by Muslim rulers and was used as a mosque. Lunch was at the 7-Arches hotel – basic food for a change – rice, chicken, and salad sans dessert.

Jerusalem is believed to be a city chosen by God himself and King David took this city to become King of Jews thousand years before Christ. He built the city to the South. After his death, his son King Solomon moved the city north. The Temple Mount and the Golden Dome were built by Solomon. Temple Mount is the most important religious site in the area – Judaism regards it as where God chose the Divine Presence to rest while Sunni Muslims considers it as their 3rd holiest site. Inside the Temple Mount is the the "Holy of Holies" – the arc of covenant, manna, the tablet containing the 10 commandments, and the stick of the father of Moses. The original temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 6th century BC and was rebuilt by Herod the Great during the time of Jesus. The Byzantine church was rebuilt and is turned toward west and reminds people of two things – destruction of Jerusalem and the empty tomb at the Holy Sepulcher Church. The city has eight gates – Damascas Gate, Herod’s Gate, St. Stephen’s Gate, Golden Gate, Dung Gate, Mount Zion Gate, Jaffa Gate, and New Gate. Golden Gate is closed – it is believed that the gate will open when the Savior returns.

Walking the Path of the Cross (Via Dolorosa - way of suffering) with 14 stations was our itinerary for the afternoon – of these, nine stations are en route and the last five are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We entered Old Jerusalem through Herod Gate. Unlike our imagination, the path of the cross is through a cobbled pathway filled with souvenir shops on either side. The stations are more like popular tradition as opposed to authentic spots where the events actually happened. The variety of souvenirs, curios, and food available at these shops is indeed impressive and no other place in Israel comes close. The stations commemorate:
  1. 1st & 2nd Station – Jesus’ encounter with Pontius Pilate – first is a memorial of Jesus’ trial and its subsequent scourging and the second a memorial of the Ecce Homo speech. A mass was arranged for our group at the Church of the Condemnation and Imposition of the Cross. Two other 19th century Roman Catholic Churches are also at the site – Church of Flagellation and Church of Ecce Homo.
  2. 3rd, 7th, and 9th Stations - Jesus is believed to have stumbled three times during his walk along the route. The first fall (3rd station) is adjacent to the 19th century Polish Catholic chapel. The second slip (7th station) at a junction close to a Franciscan Chapel. The third trip up (9th Station) is off Via Dolorosa at the entrance to the Ethiopian Orthodox Monastery and Coptic Orthodox Monastery.
  3. 4th Station - Jesus meets Mary – the account is not in the New Testament. It is however a part of popular tradition,
  4. 5th Station – Simione helping Jesus carry cross,
  5. 6th Station – Veronica’s encounter with Jesus – legend about getting an image of Jesus supernaturally imprinted on the cloth used by Veronica to wipe away the sweat,
  6. 8th Station – Jesus giving a sermon to pious women as described in the Gospel of Luke where he says ‘do not cry for me, cry for you and your children’.
  7. 10th Station –Jesus being stripped off most of his garments,
  8. 11th Station – The station is inside the Holy Sepulcher church on the south side and is regarded as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion,
  9. 12th Station – The cross being put up. The Rock of Calvary can be seen under glass and there is a hole where it is believed the cross was raised, (one can touch the location by poking your hands inside.)
  10. 13th Station – The place where Jesus’ body was removed from the cross and given to his family. An alternate viewpoint is that the Stone of Anointing at the Entrance where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial as the 13th station,
  11. 14th Station – The place where Jesus was buried.

The Station 10 through 14 is inside the Holy Sepulcher Church. Only 4-5 people are allowed at a time inside the inner room (no cameras) accessible through a very small entrance (exit is also via the same way).

The cross of Jesus is believed to have been identified by Queen Helena – legend has it that the three crosses were tossed into a badly maintained well and in order to urge people to seek it out she threw gold coins into the well. Those who went in found the three crosses - and from it the correct cross was identified by letting them all touch a person on the point of death – the person’s condition improved after making contact with one. The whereabouts of the cross is unknown although it is speculated at-least some part of it is in Vatican. The 13th station is special as people from different parts of the world bring different things to make holy – the faithful believe rubbing the stone with any article makes it holy. Nearby is a Syrian Orthodox Church that claims to be the first church of Christianity and there one can find original pictures of Mary and Jesus drawn by Luke – as a doctor and artist, he went to see Jesus’ mother following His death – that is believed to be the reason why some of Mary’s testimony are only in Luke’s Gospel in the Bible. The site also has the upper room (Last Supper), an alternate location to the one in Mount Zion. Per the caretaker of the church, many miracles are attributed to this church over the years. Dinner was again back at the hotel – full-fledged menu with mushroom soup, salads, rice, lamp, chicken, fish, rolls, coffee, and desserts aplenty.


 Related Posts:

  1. Holyland Trip Report - Jordan - Mount Nebo, Madaba - Day 1.
  2. Holyland Trip Report – Israel - Yardenit, Tiberias, Tabgha, Cappernaum, Ginosar, Sea of Galilee (Day 2).
  3. Holyland Trip Report - Israel - Nazareth, Cana, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and Bethlehem (Day 3).
  4. Holyland Trip Report - Israel - Jerusalem (Day 4).
  5. Holyland Trip Report – Israel – Jerusalem, Jericho, Dead Sea (Day 5).
  6. Holyland Trip Report – Egypt – Red Sea, Sinai (Day 6).
  7. Holyland Trip Report – Suez Canal, Cairo - Day 7.
  8. Holyland Trip Report - Old Cairo - Day 8.
  9. Holyland Trip - Gotchas to avoid.  
  10. Holyland Trip - Jordan - Other Sites
Last Updated: 12/2012.

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