What a difference a full night’s sleep in a real bed makes. Holly and I donned our best Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Armenian looking clothes to blend into all quarters of the Old City and prepared for a day of sight seeing. Tom
Holly - Well we must have toured enough today because there isn’t one part of my body that doesn’t hurt, and I thought I was in pretty good shape. Of course, Jerusalem was built on a mountain, so you are either walking up or down steps or on slippery streets that are in some spots 4000 years old. I guess I was just lucky they were stone and that wasn’t always true either. After 4000 years, nothing is straight anymore. Well you get the scene – tough walking.
Jerusalem is surrounded by a 12 meter high wall built by Suleiman the Magnificent, the greatest of the Ottoman Turkish sultans. Why did a Turkish sultan rebuild the walls of Jerusalem that had lain in ruins since the Crusades? Even though he had personally never seen the city; a dream told him he would be devoured by lions if he did not. Dreams have proved throughout history to be quite powerful.
We entered the walled city through the Jaffa Gate. This gate is among the few structures not deliberately obliterated on the orders of Rome. The gate was left standing to show there had once been a city that had been no pushover to subdue. Each of the subsequent rulers of Jerusalem rebuilt their fortifications beside the Jaffa Gate.
Then on to the Petra Hotel, which in its heyday- late 1800’s was Jerusalem’s most elegant accommodation. It is now a backpacker’s hostel. Pretty dirty, I must say. After about four flights of creaky wooden stairs, we found a spectacular view of the Old City.
We then tried to visit the Temple Mount, but due to a Palestinian skirmish, it was closed. I guess the Israelis won because there was no shortage of their Israelis soldiers. I don’t think I saw any Palestinians. We did make the Western Wall (Wailing Wall). As you can see in the photo, the men have lots of area to pray and women are given a tiny spot. We did find a good spot for our prayer letters. As Tom was leaving the wall, he was interviewed by Israelis TV. They asked him if he had known that the Israelis police battled the Palestinian demonstrators with guns and tear gas. He had to admit that he had not, but he had certainly seen the number of soldiers. The soldiers are so young, and it is mandatory that everyone join. They then asked him if he still planned to go to the Temple Mount. He told them, “Absolutely, that is one of our reasons to come to Jerusalem.” We won’t know whether it is open until tomorrow. If it is open, we will be there. When we were getting ready for dinner, we watched Jerusalem on Fox News. Yes, we even get Fox News in English on our room TV. They made it sound as if Jerusalem was under siege, and we didn’t even know about it and were only a few feet away from the skirmish.
We did visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at Golgotha. We saw the Stone of Unction, which is the marble slab that Jesus was laid on before burial. One of the most moving moments of the day was watching people, one right after the other, rubbing clothing on the slab. It is said that if you bring clothing from an ill loved one, Jesus will often cure the person. The term, “Knock on wood” comes from the same source. When the three crosses were found, they knew they were the crosses used in the crucifixion but did not know which one held Jesus. An ill child was brought in and asked to knock on the crosses. Of course, when he knocked on the cross that held Jesus, he was cured. There is a huge altar built over the place of the crucifixion and another over the entrance to His tomb. When I was in Rome, I felt I was in a holy city, but Jerusalem is so much more. People praying everywhere. In the church of the Holy Sepulcher, people were everywhere saying the rosary. I knew my prayer life was a little weak, but didn’t realize that I really need to step it up a notch. The Jews, of course, take the prize for prayer. Men and women, both, walk the streets with their prayer books.
All this in one day! There is so much more, I could tell, but it is time to head off for another day of touring.