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