Israel and Jordan, 2011—Day 7

First happy Mother’s Day to Kay, and other mothers the world over.
St. Stephen's Gate, aka the Lion's Gate, Old JerusalemAs Christians our day was both a sad one and a glad one—sad because we walked the Via Dolorosa, the way of the cross, and thought about the suffering Jesus did for us, and glad for the same reason. We began by entering old Jerusalem through the St. Stephen’s gate, also known as the Lions gate.
Pool of Bethesda, Old JerusalemPool of Bethesda.  After entering into old Jerusalem, we walked to the site of the pool of Bethesda; it’s not what we had imagined it to be. The Pool of Bethesda is believed to be the site where Jesus healed a paralytic (John 5:1-15).  We enjoyed a wonderful Sunday morning service in a small garden adjacent to the Pool of Bethesda. Our service included Scripture readings, a brief devotion, and were anointing with oil for healing—both ourselves and loved ones for whom we had asked for prayers.  It was a moving service.
Church of Saint Anne.  Our Sunday morning service was followed by another service at the church of St. Anne, a beautiful 12th-century Crusader church, erected over the traditional site of the birthplace of Anne (Hannah), the mother of Mary. It is an excellent example of Romanesque architecture.  St. Anne’s Church is located in the Muslim Quarter, near the Lion’s Gate.  St. Anne’s Church was built between 1131 and 1138 to replace a previous Byzantine church. Kay sang Amazing Grace in the Church of St. Ann, Old JerusalemShortly after its construction, it was enlarged by moving the facade forward by several meters.  In 1192, Saladin turned the church into a Muslim theological school, which is commemorated in an inscription above the church’s entrance. Eventually abandoned, the church fell into ruin until the Ottomans donated it to France in 1856. It was subsequently restored, but most of what remains today is original.  Saint Anne’s acoustics, designed for Gregorian chant, are so perfect that the church is virtually a musical instrument to be played by the human voice, supposedly with a 12 second reverberation. The church’s acoustics are most amazing when used by a soprano or a tenor solo voice.  Kay sang an awesome rendition of Amazing Grace, and everyone was moved, including Father Michael, overseer of the church, who gave Kay a “5 Stars” rating.
As we left the Church of Saint Anne, we walked the streets of Old Jerusalem.  The Palestinian streets were quite interesting.  Families who had been on pilgrimage identified their houses with colored doors and announcements. Though the streets are narrow, kids, as well as adults, use them for transporting goods, transportation, and even carrying their trash away.
Kay on the Via Dolorosa, location where Jesus falls for the 3rd time, Old JerusalemVia Dolorosa.  The Via Dolorosa, ” way of the cross” is the most sacred route known to Christians. The route of the Via Dolorosa begins near the Lions’ Gate in the Muslim Quarter and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter, covering 500 meters and incorporating 14 Stations of the Cross.  Each of the 14 Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa is marked with a plaque, but these small signs can be difficult to spot.  It begins where Jesus was tried and follows his path carrying the cross to Golgotha, the place of His crucifixion. According to Roman Catholic tradition, there are 14 stations of the cross along the Via Dolorosa.  While we did not see every one of these we did see most. Walking the Via Dolorosa today was physically difficult and arduous; we can’t begin to imagine how Jesus suffered carrying the cross, while being constantly beaten.
NOTE:  Over the centuries the route has changed many times, based on world politics, church splits, etc.  For most pilgrims, however, the exact location of each event along the Via Dolorosa is of little importance; the pilgrimage has great meaning due to its proximity to the original events and the reflection upon them along the way.
Franciscan Chapel of the Flagellation and Chapel of Condemnation.  As we began walking the Via Dolorosa, our first stop was the Chapel of Flagellation and Chapel of Condemnation; these commemorate the sites where Jesus took up the cross.  Vendors are located in many places along the Via Dolorosa.
Ancient African church, Old JerusalemAlong the Via Dolorosa.  Along the way we saw sites commemorating where Jesus fell for the first time, where He met his mother, Mary, and where the Cyrenean helped Him carry the cross. The streets were crowded, with many locals and a myriad of tourists. We also saw sites commemorating the veil of Veronica, and where Jesus falls the second time. We also got our first up close look at one of the domes of the Church of the Sepulchre.  As we continued walking we saw the site commemorating where Jesus fell the third time, then an ancient African church, and the site commemorating where Jesus was stripped of his clothes. 

Church of the Sepulchre.  Many “faiths” have chapels and alters in the Church of the Sepulcher, including the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Ethiopian, among others.  However, keys to the Church of the Sepulchre remain with the Palestinians.  We entered the door of the church near the site commemorating where Jesus was stripped of his garments. We walked past Calvary, where Jesus was nailed to the cross, and where He died on the cross. We were able to touch the stone thought to be where His body was prepared for burial. Nothing remains of this traditional burial site, as people, over the centuries, vandalized the site and removed pieces for their religious uses. This ended our journey along the Via Dolorosa. Having just celebrated the Advent season, Lent, and Holy week certainly heightened our awareness of Christ’s journey that day, but nothing compared to actually walking the road.
This was a road Jesus walked; money changers would have been here, Old JerusalemThe Jewish Portion of Old Jerusalem.  We stopped for lunch and some shopping before we left the Palestinian part of old Jerusalem. We walked through numerous meat markets, and the stench of butcher shops, on our way to the Jewish part of old Jerusalem. Whether it has to do with age, or culture, the Jewish portion was much cleaner; it is only some 60+ years old though it lies within the ancient city of Old Jerusalem and still uses much of the structure of the old city. Israel has done much in the way of archaeological excavation, preservation, and restoration.  Old Jerusalem dates back some 5000 years beginning with the Canaanites, with many civilizations, largely built one on top of the other, up to the modern day State of Israel. We saw of the city of David which was located on a hill below the Temple back. We spent considerable time around the site of the Temple Mount, also known as Mount Mariah and Mount Zion.  The Temple Mount was the site of temples of Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod.  The Muslims consider it a holy place as they believe Mohammed went to heaven from this spot and constructed the Dome of the Rock to memorialize this.  We “toured” remnants of an ancient street, an ancient wall that surrounded the city, and the walls, steps, and remains of other structures that led to the temple. Jesus traveled some of these same roads and walked up some of the same steps. From within the Old Jerusalem were several views of the Mount of Olives.
Men's portion of Wailing Wall, Old JerusalemThe Wailing Wall.  The Western Wall (Ha-Kotel Ha-Ma’aravi) in Jerusalem is the holiest of Jewish sites, sacred because it is a remnant of the Herodian retaining wall that once enclosed and supported the Second Temple. It has also been called the “Wailing Wall” by European observers because for centuries Jews have gathered here to lament the loss of their temple.  The Western Wall was built by King Herod in 20 BC during his expansion of the Temple enclosure, and is part of a retaining wall that enclosed the western part of Temple Mount. According to the Roman-Jewish historian Josephus, construction of the walls took 11 years, during which time it rained in Jerusalem only at night so as not to interfere with the workers’ progress.  In 70 AD, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. During the Ottoman Period (beginning in the 16th century), the wall became the Jews’ chief place of pilgrimage, where they came to lament the destruction of the Temple.  For centuries, the Western Wall was located in a narrow alley just 12 feet wide that could accommodate only a few hundred densely packed worshipers. But in1967, immediately after the Six Day War, Israelis leveled the neighboring Arab district to create the Western Wall Plaza, which can accommodate tens of thousands of pilgrims.  At the same time, the Israelis made the wall about 6 1/2 feet higher by digging down and exposing two more tiers of ashlars (squared stones) from the Temple Plaza’s retaining wall that had been buried by accumulated debris for centuries.  The Western Wall Plaza, the large open area that faces the Western Wall, functions as an open-air synagogue that can accommodate tens of thousands of worshipers. Prayers take place here day and night, and special services are held here as well.  While here we saw Israeli service men and women rehearsing for their annual memorial day celebration.  Today, Israel remembers its fallen soldiers, and the streets were filled with uniformed service men and women readying themselves for a national evening of celebration. Tomorrow is Israel’s Independence Day and Jerusalem will be the center of celebration. This is an interesting time to visit Israel.
After a full day, we returned to the hotel for some much-needed rest and relaxation.

Photos of this trip may be seen at:

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