Saturday, October 3, 2015

Jerusalem and Bethlehem

Our visit to the Western Wall was on the Sabbath, so no photos were permitted.  I was able to touch this mezuzah on our way out.  The experience was incredible.  Our guide explained the belief that God is embodied in the stone of the wall (I am probably not relating this in the most elegant way.)  About 80% of the wall is reserved for men, separated by a low divider from the women's allocated area.  There are plastic chairs lined up in rows facing the walls, filled with women mostly in silent contemplation or prayer.  Others are davenning at the wall, with Torah books in hand  From the women's side one can hear the singing and praying of the men.  A most moving and powerful experience.  Roving the open area outside the wall are what our guide referred to as the "morality police" - but I was impressed to see that these were lay people, respectfully explaining to tourists the prohibition of photos due to the holiness of Shabbat. 

Pedestrian crossing signs are just a little bit different - notice the hat on the figure?
The museum storing the Dead Sea Scrolls - pointed out from our coach as we drove past

An observant couple heading toward the Jaffa Gate

An ancient pita bakery along the Via Dolorosa (the walk of sorrows; this is believed to be the path taken by Christ, carrying his cross, on the way to his execution.)  The aroma was heavenly!  

Exterior detail of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The church is managed (?) under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox faith.  There are also many Franciscan brothers present; we learned that the Franciscan order is very present in holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.

A peek in to the courtyard across the piazza from the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Mosaic depicting Christ being taken from the cross, seen upon entry to the church
Depiction of Christ on the Cross directly above the stone marking the site of the Crucifixion

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  This is the spot upon which Christ's crucifixion is believed to have occurred.  A steady stream of pilgrims from around the world duck under the altar to kiss the stone. 

Pilgrims lighting candles in the area of the Crucifixion 

Worship at the spot of the crucifixion.  The spot under the altar is obscured by the candles.

Mosaic depicting Christ's body being prepared for burial.  This is situated near a large flat marble stone which pilgrims believe is the stone upon which Christ's body was laid

Walking down the Via Dolorosa

Dome inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Prayer station in the grotto of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  This is approximately 3 floors under the spot of the crucifixion.

Another altar; some believe that this is the stone upon which Jesus' body was prepared for burial

Main altar of the church

Pilgrims at the stone where Christ's body was prepared for burial.  Some kiss the stone; others lay flat on it, with arms spread.  Others rub their purses on the stone (for good luck or wealth) while still others bring flower petals to rub into the stone.

Another view of the Via Dolorosa

Stopping at one of the stations of the cross (signified by the round metal plaque midpoint of this photo.)  The plaques have roman numerals signifying the station. 

A rock in the wall near the seventh station of the cross; this stone is believed to have the imprint of Jesus' hand, created when he stopped with his burden for a moment.

the handprint in the stone

Church of All Nations located atop the Mount of Olives.  Many countries sponsored a dome with their national symbol worked in mosaic.

The main domes; the pattern of the mosaic represents a night sky filled with stars

Stained glass cross within the Church of All Nations

Palestinian Coke purchased outside the Church of All Nations

View of Jerusalem showing major Holy Sites of 3 faiths - Al Aksa Mosque, Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall

awkward jump - my plate at the wonderful buffet lunch at the King David Hotel.  Best. Hummus. Ever.

The Church of the Nativity is located within the Palestinian Authority.  We were required to stop at the border for a Palestinian Guide for this portion of the day.  After crossing the border, our bus pulled into an underground garage with souvenir shops, after which we took escalators to the street level, and one of the largest KFC outlets I've ever seen.

Our Palestinian Guide. 

Our Israeli Guide

Collection box within the Church of the Nativity

Candle offerings in front of an icon of the Madonna

to the left of this icon is a narrow, steep set of stairs down to the grotto where it is believed that Christ was born. 

This star marks the spot of the stable where Jesus was born

This display, about 8 feet across from the birthplace site, is believed to be the site of the manger where the Christ Child was laid after his birth.  Our group of about 30 had this sacred space to ourselves for about 5 minutes, during which our Christian Palestinian guide led us in a verse of "Silent Night."  Afterwards our Israeli tour guide said "THAT NEVER HAPPENS."

Church of House of Saint Joseph in Bethlehem

Jerusalem Cross.  Explained that the cross in the middle represents Jesus and the four smaller crosses represent Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - alternately it's said to represent the five stigmata suffered by Christ

Poster in the Palestinian Authority - Arafat and Abbas

The wall separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem, e.g., Palestinian Territory from Israel (this is the Palestinian side)

Another view of the wall

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