Friday, 3 August 2012

Jerusalem with a Jew

New Jewish synagoge

Our first day in Jerusalem was amazing, we spent the first hour after we arrived exploring the streets on our own and then we joined the free Sandeman’s walking tour.  Our guide Naomi was excellent, she is a Jewish Israeli currently studying in Jerusalem, and over the next 3 hours she walked us through the distinct four quarters that Jerusalem is divided into (Armenian, Jewish, Muslim and Christian).  We began in the small Armenian quarter which led onto the Jewish section where we viewed and touched the Wailing Wall (which is actually not part of the old temple wall as is often believed, but is rather the Western part of the retaining wall that built up the mountain so that the 2nd temple could be built on top of it).  

Men's section of the Wailing Wall

We lunched in the souks that make up the Muslim quarter - interestingly enough we had an Armenian pizza there… and then we continued onto the Christian quarter and the famous Church of the Holy Sepulcher which covers the hill where Jesus was crucified.  Inside the church was massive, with many different sections for the different religions represented (each section is strictly divided and the ownership each part of the church is known down to the last flagstone).  We saw a piece of revealed rock that is meant to be part of Mount Calvary where Jesus was crucified.  Some religions believe that the skull of Adam is buried under the cracked rock and that when Jesus was crucified on top of the hill a drop of his blood ran through the crack and touched the skull of Adam, thus absolving Adam of all his sin and breaking the cycle – interesting.

The Dome of the Rock
After the tour we walked along the Via Dolarosa (in reverse) which led us to the Mount of Olives where we entered the cave where the disciples of Jesus fell asleep while He prayed in the nearby Garden of Gethsemane, which we also walked through.  There was something surreal about visiting the sites that for so many years had just been Bible stories (well maybe it was more surreal for Sarah than Dave; as he was hearing most of the Biblical stories for the first time…)  

View over the Jewish graveyards on Mount of Olives

We continued up the Mount of Olives, passing the 100’s of Jewish graves that line the hillside as the Jews believe the 2nd coming will begin on the opposite mountain where the Dome of the Rock stands - so the closer you are buried to the Dome the earlier you will be resurrected.  The view over Jerusalem was worth the climb and we sat to absorb it until a massive tour group arrived and disturbed the peace, so we headed back down into the old town for some local falafels before returning to our oasis campus.

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