Jerusalem Syndrome

Our tour guide/comedienne wryly dismissed the feverish singing, prostrating, and otherwise excessive displays of religious fervor that we witnessed throughout the day as ‘Jerusalem Syndrome.’ I can see where one might become afflicted with such a syndrome given Jerusalem’s historical, biblical and cultural significance. In fact, I felt a twinge of it this day while traipsing the Via Dolorosa, walking the ‘Path of the Cross,’ contextualizing the Stations of the Cross as a physical route rather than merely text read during the Lenten season. Regardless of your religious views or beliefs, visiting these sites is powerful and awe-inspiring.

We toured a lot in a short amount of time, making it difficult to digest each landmark, marker, and site, yet a trip like this is something that will stay with me through the years, increasing my appreciation of the privilege of having visited such an important place.

I’ll cut to the chase and give you a photographic chronology of what we saw along with each site’s significance, in case you’re interested.

Mt. Scopus: First stop on the tour was Mt. Scopus, offering great views of the area.

View from Mt. Scopus

The Mount of Olives (about three minutes by van from Mt. Scopus): Here there’s a great view of the whole of Jerusalem, especially the Temple Mount. Below the crest of the hill is the Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery (the biggest and oldest in the world). To the right of hill where we stood to take pictures, is the Grotto of Gethsemane, the spot where the disciples rested while Jesus prayed, and where Judas kissed him.

Mt. of Olives overlooking Jerusalem
Dome of the Rock
Gethsemane to the right (the grassy area)
The Tomb of the Virgin

The Wailing Wall: The main attraction in the Jewish Quarter is the ancient retaining wall of the Temple Mount. The men’s side is HUGE, about three times that of the women’s side. People write prayers, thoughts, hopes, etc. on small slips of paper and place them in crevices in the wall. Raj wrote something down (he wouldn’t tell me what; it’s secret) and placed it into the wall on the men’s side.

Walking toward the Temple Mount to the Wailing Wall
The Wailing Wall (men's side)

Via Dolorosa: The “Way of the Cross” is the path taken by Jesus to his crucifixion. Along this route are nine stations of the cross (the 10th-14th being inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre); Our guide pointed out three, each with a small chapel attached. As you can see from the pictures, there are lots of great shopping opportunities for a philistine, like myself to become easily distracted. It was difficult racing after the guide when I wanted to stop and have Raj bargain for me. We were assured that there would be shopping…just not yet.

Walking along the Via Dolorosa (a modern-day shopping bazaar)
Walking upstream as people are on their way to mosque

This bazaar sells EVERYTHING!
The 5th Station of the Cross
7th Station of the Cross
Chapel inside the 7th Station

Church of the Holy Sepulchre: This is the church generally ascribed as the site of Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Within this church are the last five Stations of the Cross. (10th: Jesus was stripped of his clothes; 11th: He was nailed to the cross; 12th: Where he died on the cross; 13th: Where his body was removed from the cross; 14th: His tomb; The 10th-13th stations are all on the Hill of Calvary (a quick right as you enter the church and up about 20 narrow steps), the final one (down the step and into the center of the church), the tomb, is the centerpiece of the church.)

The "Immovable Ladder" above the entrance. (It's been here since before 1852 and is related to an Armenian and Greek dispute over the ownerships of the ledge and windows. It cannot be removed until the dispute is resolved, despite the fact that the ladder has since rotted and must be replaced.)
Entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
On the Hill of Calvary, the Altar of Crucifixion??? I'm not sure. Too many people were here to linger.
Still on the Hill of Calvary
The Stone of Anointing, where Jesus is said to have been anointed before burial
Oculus above the tomb
In front of the tomb with a HUGE line

FINALLY, a shopping break: As promised, we were escorted to our first shopping break, a shop that was certified in something–not quite sure what (everything bought came with a certificate of authenticity). Raj was in good form this day, prepared to bargain. Here are the fruits of his labor.

The master haggler

…and all of this was before lunch. After lunch we were headed for part two, Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.

25 thoughts on “Jerusalem Syndrome

  1. Jen, those icons are breathtaking! I hope Raj got some great deals on those. They look amazing. I think I would be so overwhelmed with all of the rich history surrounding me on a trip like that. To think of all the generations of people who have walked those same streets, purchased at those same stalls, for years and years and years before we were ever a glimmer in anyone’s eye. 🙂

    The photos helped me feel like I was there. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to take the same trip! Great post. I hope you’re doing well.


    1. Hey Dave,
      Nice to hear from you. How are you feeling after your neck injury? I see you’re back at Cross Fit so it can’t be that bad.
      What’s the countdown to the big day? Are the plans coming together? That’s EXCITING stuff!
      I like to post about Raj’s GREAT haggling skills because it makes him feel really good and inspires him to buy buy buy more for me.

  2. I hav to say I am a bit jelly of your travels, as a Christian “stuck” in Tennessee and reading all about this area of the world and wanting to go there, it is fun to live vicariously through you! Thanks for the visuals!

  3. Looks like I will try again to say how beautiful the pictures are and what a special time to be there with Easter around the corner.. Keep up with the blog, we are seeing the world with your camera’s eye… Dad

  4. Jen and Raj,
    Thanks for sharing such a detailed description with perfect timing for Holy Week!!! The pics are simplyawe inspiring to say the least. Raj did a really good job! with your selections!!! Peace be with you both!
    Dick and Mary

  5. Thanks again for a beautiful travel logue of Jerusalem. How wonderful that you could be in this area at such a special time of the year. I looked at you with the big smile on your face as you are touching the stone that Christ was anointed on for burial, I would have been weepy. The photos are amazing and enjoy seeing them. The icons are beautiful. Are any coming to Ca?
    Love, Mom

  6. Dr. Maan! I truly miss you! Its Bria from Trinity. I have been looking for you all over the place for the past 2 years! I wanted to let you know that I have a son and he turns 1 year old today! I’m so happy to see that you are happy. I put your name into google and found you! Yay! So I see that all is well and just wanted to tell you that you will always be my favorite teacher of all time! I wanted to continue in education but found out that you weren’t there anymore…bummer…now I’m in Human Relations but I graduate in the Spring! I will love to send you pics! My email address is Please contact me when you get a chance.

  7. What a wonderful post with such great pictures! Made me feel like I was there on the tour with you! I have always wanted to visit Jerusalem.

  8. What a great post and such great photos! I have always wanted to visit Jerusalem and it made me feel like I was there on the tour with you! Beautiful!

  9. So yeah, yeah the holy sites…and its holy week!….but where’s the photos of your last event? Happy Easter, one of your friends from the States

  10. Great pictures! It looked so crowded. I’m sure it’s like that all the time. What a wonderful opportunity :o)

    1. Thanks. It was actually really uncrowded, believe it or not. Apparently the Easter season (which we missed by two weeks) is crazy. As much as I’d like to go during Christmas or Easter, the crowds would drive me insane.

  11. Thanks for sharing your pictures! It was almost like taking a mini tour with you now! If I could choose any place in the world to travel to, I will most certainly choose Israel!

  12. Wow! This was beautiful to see your pictures! I’ve never been, and I appreciate your sharing! Thank you for liking attentiontoeating! I love your idea of taking the time to just share your adventures with us! Thanks. 🙂

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