Thursday, May 18, 2017

Holy Land Day 5

Guest Contributor Jessica Kok

Much like the many layers of conflict in the Holy Land, Jerusalem is layers built upon layers of city. It has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. The walls of the old city mark what was once the city of David—now a World Heritage Site. 

For Islamic, Jewish, and Christian traditions, the city of Jerusalem holds much spiritual significance, and the status of Jerusalem remains one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the international community  treats East Jerusalem as Palestinian territory occupied by Israel, Israel has a stronger claim to sovereignty over West Jerusalem. Jerusalem also houses some Israeli institutions such as the Hebrew University and the Israel Museum. 

Mount of Olives

The major sites on our itinerary included the Temple Mount with its Western Wall, Stations of the Cross, Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. For us, it was a day filled with rich history and stories, but also a day of coming to terms with the importance of place and wrestling with moments of spiritual high or doubt.

Something that stuck with many of us: Jerusalem was a center of commerce and activity before Jesus’s time, and has never stopped being just that--right up to today! So as we walked about the hectic bazaars, saw the old gates nestled beneath the modern ones, and the magnificent temples and mosques built above the ruins, we took in the remnants of humanity's creativity in the rarest of forms.

The Garden of Gethsemane is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. This is
where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before his crucifixion.
Courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
A glimpse of the crowds at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Reese and Ned acted as our guards, regulating the entrance to a cave where you can peer through a tiny hole in the door and see the birthplace of Jesus.

Mint lemonade at a restaurant tucked into the busy streets of Jerusalem!

Church of all Nations / Basilica of the Agony
When asked, the fellows might give you a variety of highlights from this roller-coaster day: drinking the best mint lemonade in the world; singing the doxology in the depths of a 2000 year old cistern; bartering for “Jesus sandals” with 50 shekels; and getting yelled at by some intense shop owners. Personally, I will never forget following Rahel back to this little shop, tucked into a nook of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre’s courtyard, where an old Ethiopian woman was selling small trinkets. Though I couldn’t understand a word as they carried on a conversation in Amharic, I could see the old woman’s eye’s twinkle and her face glow as Rahel gently engaged with the items in her shop as she talked. People from all nations, backgrounds, and walks of life come to the Holy Land, and we definitely experienced that here!

Outside the Old City stands the Garden Tomb, where many believe Jesus's burial and resurrection took place.
The guide at the Garden Tomb pointing out a possibility for the site of Jesus' crucifixion, on the edge of this rock that overlooked the road leading past Jerusalem. 
Rahel and Christina exploring Jerusalem
Overhead view of the Western Wall--pictures aren't allowed up close.
Because we were in Jerusalem on a Saturday, West Jerusalem was completely shut down for the Jewish Sabbath. As we made our way towards the Western Wall, the contrast was palpable between the ever-bustling markets to the quiet, clean streets of the Jewish quarter. At the Western Wall, the men and women are separated. We approached the rows of chairs, and some us wrote our prayers and stuck them into the cracks of the wall—the closest you can come to the Temple's Holy of Holies.

We came back to the Murad hotel for dinner, and rested up for our first day of camp the next day. Though it was our last full day of touring and we were beginning to feel the travel catching up with us, we met with the Palestinian Young Life leaders and made final preparations for Camp.

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