Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Docked in Ashdod, Israel. It's the most important Mediterranean port after
Haifa. We drove 60 km through the Judean Mountains to Jerusalem (on the
side of the road was old war equipment left as a reminder of the 1967 war).
We passed through the New City, dominated by the Knesset to the Mount of
Olives it has unforgettable views of the old city. Jews have sought to be
buried on the Mount of Olives since antiquity. The cemetery grew to cover
the entire western and much of the southern slopes. The earliest tombs are
located at the foot of the mountain in the Kidron Valley. One is
attributed to David's son Absalom, another to the First Temple priest
Zechariah and a third bears an inscription mentioning the sons of Hezir, a
family that lived 2,000 years ago.
We visited the Church of all Nations at the foot of the Mount of Olives,
this church was built in the early 20th century over the site of a Byzantine
Chapel. Adjoining the church is the Garden of Gethsemane, of particular
significance as it witnessed the agony of Christ when he prayed there after
learning of his betrayal. The Basilica of the Agony (Church of all Nations)
commemorates these events. Legend has it that the eight ancient olive trees
found in the garden are so old that they beheld Christ at prayer.
We continued to the Old city for a 2 hours walking tour. We entered through
the Jaffa Gate and were surrounded by a 12 m high and 4 km long wall, we
reached Via Dolorosa, the route Jesus took to his Crucifixion. The route
has 14 marked stations and the last 4 are in the Church of the Holy
Sepulcher, a complex of various chapels built on the site of the
Crucifixion. We walked through the colorful Arab bazaar.
We continued to the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall (Wailing Wall), the
location of King Solomon's Temple. The wall is separated, one side for men
the other for women. This sacred place affected me in a way I could never
imagined (may be I'm Jewish!).
After lunch we went to Bethlehem crossing the border into the Palestinian
Authority (our Jewish guide had to get of the bus and a Palestinian guide
got on). We visited the Church of the Nativity, the only original Byzantine
Church in Israel. It was built in 328 AD by emperor Constantine and his
mother St Helene, over the presumed spot where the Messiah of the Christians
was born. The Basilica was destroyed two centuries later and rebuilt by
Justinian. The church miraculously escaped destruction during many
upheavals that occurred in the area. This church is administered by various
orders: Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Armenia. The Grotto of the Nativity
is situated on the lower level of the church.
The trip back to Ashdod was long since we were caught in Jerusalem's rush
hour traffic. (it happens everywhere!)
Next stop Egypt
Thanks Barry & Louise D.