Monday, February 8, 2016

I Saw King Herod's Palace

So guess what I did last night?

Yes, I watched the Superb Owl. Or some of it, anyway; I fell asleep sometime in the second quarter. The hotel did have a big watch party, which (as far as I can tell) was due to the demands of the big group from one of the Carolina's.

In other news, Happy Lunar New Year! One of the members of our group gave us red envelopes with a piece of chocolate in it, which makes it the most I've celebrated the event in at least six years. Maybe more.

In other news, today I went on a big walking tour of Jerusalem. We started off at what is now called the Lion's Gate, but is about where the Sheep's Gate was back during the Second Temple Period. Since Jerusalem has been destroyed about eighteen times since Jesus was around, most of these walls and buildings are just approximations or "traditional" sites that exist to satisfy pilgrims. Thus, the Sheep's Gate became the Lion's Gate. This gate is where Jesus would have entered on Palm Sunday.

From entering into the old city there, we went immediately to the Pools of Bethesda. Back then, this was where sheep were washed and purified ahead of being sacrificed in the temple, and it would have been a busy area. You can see the pools on the left of the big temple mound in the map.

The pools now are mostly piles of stones, but there was some water from the rain yesterday.

One area of the pools has now turned into a cavern, and there was quite a bit of water down there if you were willing to go spelunking.

I considered dipping my arthritic foot into the water, but then decided that it was too dirty. (It's reasons like that why I probably wasn't able to walk on the Sea of Galilee.)
As you may have been able to predict, there was a church right nearby to celebrate Jesus healing the lame man. This church was named after Mary's parents, who I guess are saints because they were Mary's parents? Nobody was able to give me a clear answer about that one.

The church had amazing acoustics, so we stopped to sing a little bit and listen to other tour groups. It was one of the nicer singing areas in my singing career.

The Priest and I
From here we went to Antonia Fortress, which is where the soldiers would have stayed back in Jesus' time. This is one of the possible starts to the Via Dolorosa (where Jesus would have dragged the cross along ahead of the crucifixion; it is debated where he would have actually started).

A game board, possibly like the one used to divide Jesus' clothing
 After looking around, we started walking along the Via Dolorosa. This goes through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, and is marked by Roman numerals as stops Jesus made during the day (see the engraving in the left corner).

Most of these stops are based in legend and not in anything in the New Testament, so I mostly ignored them. The streets were very narrow, as they probably would have been back then. I always had a vision (possibly supported by ideas such as The Passion of the Christ and not anything Biblical) that the roads were much wider to accompany a large crowd ridiculing Jesus, but in actuality the roads are quite small--a car can squeeze through, but that is about it. 

There's not much room for throngs of people to be watching, or at least a deep one. People were lined up along the road, but not huge crowds like the paparazzi.

Traditional site of where Caiaphas offered to release Jesus, but Barabbas was released instead
 The Via Dolorosa went through a bazaar, which was rather chaotic in the morning.

Stop number four is where Jesus allegedly had to pause, and he put his hand down on the rock to rest. Nowadays people are often praying at the rock, but there wasn't a huge crowd when we walked by, so I went ahead and touched it.

I was never good at not touching things in museums, either

After walking, we reached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was crucified and buried.

It's a pretty crowded church, and the remaining five stops of the Via Dolorosa are all inside.

There was a long queue inside
I went up some stairs once I got inside to the 11th Station, where Jesus was nailed to the cross. The room had a lovely ceiling.

The ceiling was being cleaned while I was there


Rocks where Jesus was nailed

Station 12 is where Jesus was actually crucified. Unfortunately, that area was roped off, but I got a shot of the chapel.

The stone was nearby, and people were crying over it and praying by it, so I think it is significant but I have no clue of it's significance
Station 13 is a giant rock in the ground, where Jesus was taken off of the cross.

Yup, touched it again.
The final station, station 14, is a tomb. Some sect's believe that this is the tomb where Jesus was buried, but that doesn't adhere to the custom of the day of being buried outside the city walls. So, it's just an empty tomb, and since it was a thirty minute wait to go inside I didn't bother. But it was pretty.

After completing the Via Dolorosa, we walked to Herod's Palace, which is an alternate path Jesus may have walked to the crucifixion. It is a teensy bit shorter than the other path.

I've seen a lot of castles in my time, and this is definitely one of the better ruins I've seen
For a final stop before lunch, we went to Christ Church, which is one of the original churches for Messianic Jews in Jerusalem.

The inside (unfortunately I didn't get any good photos) had both Christian and Jewish symbols.

Next stop: lunch! We had a lovely lunch overlooking the Mount of Olives--you can see the buildings from where we were yesterday.

Once satisfied, it was off to more exploring. We went to see the Jerusalem Wall from the First Temple Period.

See that pile of rubble? That's the wall they found. It's also proof that the city does lie higher than it did back in the day.

From here we went walking to the Wailing Wall. There was quite a bit of interesting art along the way.

Mural of what the city looked like back in the day

Painted lions

Golden menorah from the Temple Institute. The Temple Institute has already created pieces for when they can rebuild the temple, and have trained rabbis as well. As soon as they get the site, this menorah is moving to the new temple.
I was always told that the Wailing Wall was unimpressive, but I found it to be cool. This is the closes wall to where the Holy of Holies would have been, so it's the most important site in Judaism because it is the closest one can be to God. For Christians, it isn't quite so significant, but people still leave notes there--as our Guide said, it's making a local prayer call instead of long-distance.

My prayer all ready to go

The women's side. Yes, it was smaller than the men's side. Yes, it was quieter than the men's side.
I had folded my prayer wrong--everyone else had theirs coiled, so I quickly changed that.

My prayed is the v-shaped one at the bottom of the thick crack
On the way out, we passed the largest Mezuzah in the world. Mezuzah's are little (well, usually little) Deuteronomy scrolls that are posted outside the door to each living quarter--everyone house or hotel room has one. You're supposed to kiss it on the way in and out.

Our last stop for the day was the old Temple stairway, where people would have walked up to the Temple. This is the site for Mark 9. What's interesting is that the stairs aren't even--they are all different sizes on the way up. This is so a person has to walk up them slowly--they can't just rush and run up. You need to think about what you are doing, climbing the stairs to approach the Temple.

It was beginning to rain quite heavily at this point, so we turned back. The last thing we glimpsed of was a corner of the wall. This is where the shofar would have been blown on high holidays, or as a call to war, or for other important events.

Back to the hotel! Tonight was American-Style dinner night at the hotel, to which I say bleh. It was sort of disgusting.

Anyway. I leave tomorrow! I'm looking forward to going home, and I really do feel that I've seen almost everything that I wanted to on this trip. We're doing a few last minute things tomorrow morning before coming back in the afternoon, so I'll probably have an early post tomorrow.

Until then!

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