Travels

The Jerusalem of the Christians

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Nisan 17 of 5773.Holy Thursday for Christianity. 5.00 in the morning. We remember Grandma's cotters and her particular way of waking up in the morning ... "Who gets up early God helps"He always told us. He didn't know what reason he was going to have a day like today, a day she would have enjoyed like nobody else, and surely she has done it traveling with us, as she always does.

He huge gate of a Christian Basilica stands before us. We are just a few meters from entering and already from within emanates a halo mixture of mysticism and spirituality that we can feel in an overwhelming way. However, this moment of the day we will not tell chronologically. Its great symbolism in the Jerusalem that we have traveled today requires locating it in due course ...

If yesterday we met the origins of a magical city and its most Jewish corners, today that historical contextualization will help us to start another one of those indelible days In the memories of any adventurer. Do you remember yesterday when we talked about the Age of Roman domination, in full splendor of the Second Temple, and before the diaspora of the Jews? It is possible that this historical moment was not of great importance initially for the Jewish people although as we saw later it would be key in its dispersion. However, this was the time when the most influential character religiously speaking of the world was born in Bethlehem, Jesus.

Yesterday we started the day on the Temple Mount to continue walking on the Mount of Zion and the City of David and enter the Jerusalem of the Jews. Today however, we are going to start it in an area that we all have in our head, the Mount of Olives, through which we will go down to the Kidron Valley to enter the most Christian Jerusalem

It's 7 in the morning when we cross the New Gate leaving that first visit that we will tell you later. This Door, which we did not see yesterday, is the most recent of all existing since it dates from 1887, and was built to allow pilgrims access directly to the Christian Quarter. However, during the Arab-Israeli war it would be sealed and it was not until 1967 when it would open again until today.


 

The day is beautiful again, with a splendid sun, and our body is already shivering from what we have just lived, with what the day promises to be of those who do not forget. Thus, we border the walls to the East looking for the Arab Bus Station (very close to the Damascus Gate), since the number 75 will be the one we take although today we will take advantage of one of the great differences between an Israeli bus and a bus Arabic, the "power of improvisation."


As we get off, we see a white and blue bus arrive with the number 75 and unconsciously we make a hand gesture to stop us. What would have been ignored anywhere here becomes an impromptu stop. We get on and understand each other to pay 5.20 ILS per person to the driver. Go to the Mount of Olives in just over 20 minutes. ! Goal accomplished!

The Mount of Olives, congregation of sacred places

We believe that few people in the world have ever heard of the Mount of Olives. Believer or not, we all associate this location with the place where Jesus frequently performed his prayers and where many chapters lived in the New Testament were lived, having great importance also for the Jews. It will be here where we will begin our most Christian day with a descending route full of sacred areas ...

ISAAC STORY. Days like today it is very difficult to capture the feelings and sensations of Paula and mine in the same story. It is possible that one day Paula is encouraged to tell us what was going on in her head, and even her heart, in certain sacred places, but in the meantime it will be I who tells you about our descent through the Mount of Olives and the next chapter of the Via Crucis, from the point of view of a "non-believer".

The Holy Land, and especially Jerusalem, is a place where the personal point of view is more important than any location. If normally two people are not able to see the same for their mood, time of day, weather, etc ... SOMETHING influences SOMETHING ELSE.

While we think all this Bus 75 has already reached the high part where we will get off. Eye! The bus drivers if you say "Ascension Church" consider the Ascension Mosque and not the one we are looking for, which is fair next to the entrance of Augusta Victoria Hospital where the bus turns 180º and makes a stop (or you ask for it). Near here we decided to make our breakfast (32 ILS), in a "shabby" but with some local business charm.


 

Now if, with renewed energy, we enter a quiet enclosure that gives access to the Ascension Church (1) whose schedule is 8-17'30 (free) although we will not be able to access its 45-meter tower that says they have great views of the Judean Desert, although it is true that after crossing it all these days, and After the views from Masada, it is also not something that takes away our sleep.


 

We are in one of the most symbolic places on the Mount of Olives, the rock where Jesus laid his feet on Earth before ascending to the heavens, although it is true that unlike in other places we will visit today, this chapter of the scriptures if there is a little more to the faith of the visitor.


It is nice to walk through this quiet area at this time of the morning. In fact we took the opportunity to catch the occasional bun in a kind of Palestinian bakery of those that delight Paula (12 ILS) and almost without realizing it we passed another point of interest, although this less for us.

The Mosque of the Ascension (2) It is the place where the Roman Christians built a temple called Imbonom (390 AD), subsequently destroyed by the Persians (614 AD) and rebuilt by the Crusaders until Saladin, in 1187, transformed it into a mosque. Here you can also clearly see the Ascension stone. Also surely in the beautiful Russian Church that can be seen from the old city of Jerusalem and that stands out above these two on top of the Mount. In any case, this whole part is encompassed in the most esoteric way of today.


We keep going down and just in front we will find the Church of Pater Noster (3), open from 8'30-11'45 (free) and also known as the Church of the Eleona or Grotto / Basilica of the Our Father, since it is next to the cave where it is believed that Jesus spoke to his disciples.


 

The enclosure, above all, gives a feeling of total peace, especially at this time of the morning. Beautiful and well-kept gardens take us walking through walls full of text repeated in different languages ​​throughout its rooms. It is the Our Father that Jesus spoke to his disciples when they said "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples"Of course, there is no lack of Spanish.


 

Adjacent to this enclosure is also the Closing Monastery of Carmelitas (4) , founded in 1868 by the princess and the Tour d'Auvergne and that certain areas remind us a lot of the beautiful Monastery of Santa Catalina that we saw in Arequipa.


 

Although possibly the most comfortable area is the back, with good views of the city and a very well-kept garden. The sun begins to hit hard as every day since we are in Israel from certain hours.


 

Returning to the main courtyard we pass through a wall that contains a very special "Our Father" ... in Gallego! If we get everywhere, right Paula? There must be more than 30 languages ​​between all these walls ...


 

But we soon realize that today's visits will mean something different from what any country has been able to offer us spiritually before. Yes St. George's Monastery, the oldest city in Jericho or the subsoils of some sacred places like that of San Pedro de Gallicantu Yesterday they served as a prolegomen, it is to go down to the cave where it is believed that Jesus was praying with his apostles and the atmosphere becomes a certain uneasiness, as if there were still the ghosts of the past watching us around us.


 

The best views of the city, a viewpoint to history

We leave the place and continue down the hill, up to the Seven Arches Hotel, where we have no doubt why we are in the best viewpoint (5) of Jerusalem.


Jerusalem is a city to kick, where a rental car or a bus is more a nuisance than an advantage. Dozens of buses "rest" on the roads outside the old city, and reach this viewpoint sweetened by dozens of tourists at any time


After the huge Jewish cemetery that we will talk about later and that extends over much of the Mount of Olives, stands the beautiful golden dome of the Mosque Esplanade where we were yesterday.


 

If we had to choose an icon or a city symbol, we would definitely stay with this one, for its beauty and for all that it represents


But the great charm of Jerusalem from this viewpoint is to be able to observe so many sacred places of the three main monotheistic religions of the world in just a quarter of a distance: the Al Aqsa Mosque, the Dormition Church,…


 

San Pedro de Gallicantu and the churches of the Christian Quarter, including the impressive Holy Sepulcher, that rise in the area farthest from our sight


 

The tomb of the most ancient prophets

We do not want to get confused, since in the vicinity of the viewpoint, down just a few meters, there is a place that makes me especially excited, the Tomb of the Prophets (6), which only opens from Monday to Thursday, from 9 to 15 and whose price is the tip that one wants to leave (20 ILS).


 

We are in a place not very mentioned in the guides or the traveler stories, which we met thanks to our friends Vane and Roger from Street Travelers, and that is again in the subsoil of the mountain. Thus, we descend some dangerous stairs and a kind of cave without lighting receives us


 

Here there are no lamps, no lights, just a couple of candles that the villager gives us, which gives us the explanation of a place where the tombs of the main prophets of ancient times are found.


 

This is one of those visits that I really like, again without people. We are having a lot of luck throughout the trip. Perhaps somewhat gloomy, coming to "touch" the tombs where Haggai, Zachary and Malachi lie that the "grandmother cotters" had mentioned so many times and had so little meaning for us


Jewish cemetery and we continue the descent.

We return to the path of descent, in its steepest part. Antonio Banderas was staying in this area in the curious "The Body" movie that we used to see these days before sleeping "getting" on paper. On the left we begin to see another place of great significance


 

The current aspect of white rock without vegetation that surprised us first thing yesterday morning and we could not identify, is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries (7) in the world. Here the explanations given to us by the kind local of the Tomb of the Prophets, when he told us that Zechariah prophesied for thousands of years that the Day of Judgment will arrive and from here the dead would rise.

Here too, just as we saw in the Ben Gurion Memorial, the stones on the slabs make flowers, and honor their dead.


 

We descend a few more meters and reach the Dominus Flevit Church (8), open from 8'30-17, built in the place where it is said that Jesus saw the city closely and began to mourn for her.


At this moment a Mass is being celebrated, so it is a good time to enjoy its gardens, its views, and take a break before continuing our journey. We are in a location founded by medieval pilgrims

Dominus Flevit, "Mr. Cry"


 

We are in a simple church, like almost all that we have seen on the trip and that Paula is most proud of, far from the exuberances seen in other places of the world (a clear example of ostentation taken to the limit: the Vatican) and that has his main claim on a cross in a transparent window that indicates the place that Jesus saw. Really, a beautiful panorama


We follow the route taking some postcards (4 ILS). A few meters below is possibly the church that outside is most attractive of all our walk, and we already distinguished yesterday from afar by its outstanding typical Russian golden domes. Is the Russian Church of Mary Magdalene (9), whose limited access Tuesday and Thursday from 10 to 12 makes your visit very difficult


 

The reason for touring the Mount of Olives on a Thursday from 8 to 12, is that it has allowed us with all the tranquility of the world to let us go through its history without being pressured by the burden of schedules, and here we are, before a true architectural wonder


The interior does not disappoint at all, with a multitude of symbols in honor of Maria Magdalena, possibly the most controversial character in the history of Jesus since he has been associated roles from prostitute to wife of Christ.

This building, from where we also have a beautiful photo, was built by Tsar Alexander III at the end of the 19th century, and its exteriors of great convent (hence the limited hours) are worth visiting.


 

The Garden of Gethsemane, the garden of betrayal

Continue our walk to access to the left to one of the points that excite Paula about the way (and I will not deny it, also to me). Is the Garden of Gethsemane (10), emblematic place for being the place where Jesus retired with his apostles in addition to the place where he was arrested after the betrayal of Judas.


The place is meticulously maintained and fenced, preserving ancient olive trees and giving off a very special peace


 

Paula ... Paula? I take a moment and see Paula running away. A religious has taken some olive twigs and left them so that people can take them away as a "souvenir." There is no material object that we could buy that would make her happier (well, I get a collection of old bills that I like for 50 ILS after much bargaining).


There we go, loaded with twigs for moms, for us and for some very special corners of people who are no longer by our side, "gifts" only comparable to the beauty of the occasional corner of this wonderful garden


 

The Garden of Gethsemane today is adjacent to the Church of the Agony (11) or All Nations (8'30-11'30), built on the ruins of two others in the place where it is believed that Jesus prayed before being judged and crucified

Today it is the Franciscans who run this place and its mosaics represent Jesus carrying the suffering of the world (hence the Agony) and the rock where Jesus is supposed to pray, an area full of mysticism and spirituality even for someone who is not a believer like me


 

The Tomb of Mary, the most shocking subsoil

But if they asked me where I would stay in all of Jerusalem, if I could only visit one, and although Paula I think I could not rule out any because she looks really excited, for me it would be the next one we arrived, to the right of the previous one. we descend and already under the elevation of the land even in its access, the Tomb of Mary (12), open from 6 to 12


I think I will never be able to explain what I felt as I entered those stairs WITHOUT ANYONE TO MY SURROUNDINGS. Places such as the tomb of the prophets, the prison of San Pedro de Gallinatu or the Garden of Gethsemane had managed to get goosebumps for the atmosphere that was breathing there, but as it descended the steps that took us to the deepest underground From that location, my body shook more. I can't even imagine what was going through Paula's mind and heart in those moments, while we left aside what were small access to old houses in old Jerusalem.


No one could doubt that we are in one of the most important enclaves for Christianity, because the halo that each stone gives off from this dull and sad underground street, poorly decorated, is only comparable to the heavy atmosphere of long centuries of humidity in which it was immersed.

And in the center, just board the last step, a small room in which a small door gives access to the most exciting place we could find ...


 

... the structure where the Virgin Marí was buried once dead, by the disciples.

I will never know what happened in that place, nor will Paula want to tell me either, but sometimes my feeling is as if there was something Paula could see, feel, witness, that I was not able to understand.


The poor decoration is well true, which is complemented by huge rows of old brass lamps, which if possible give a feeling even more ... mmm ... gloomy? a place venerated initially by the Byzantines, and on whose foundations the Cruazados built leaving the legacy that we can see today


 

Undoubtedly, we would not stop recommending the one who can afford to do the tour in a downward direction, leaving this place to the end, because it really makes some difficult feelings to emerge.

A few meters from the door, on your right, a small cave called Ghetsemani Grotto or Getsemani (13), and again alone, makes us farewell.


 

It is one of the most original, beautiful and spiritual religious places we have enjoyed. A small cave with just a few wooden chairs and symbols, which delight any religious.


The Kidran Valley and the three graves

Ufs! At this time, in addition to being quite hot (always suffocated by the soda of all the places visited), the Kidran Valley or Cedron serves as a walk for our own meditation. A very pleasant road through that valley that serves as a separation between the Mount of Olives and the Old City and the City of David.

Also called Jehoshaphat Valley, it is mentioned on many occasions in the Bible as the valley of blessings. In fact this name is associated with the valley where King Jehoshaphat defeated the coalition of the kingdoms of Moab, Ammon and Edom.


 

Today, in addition to the charm of the walk that if we continued at the end we would join with yesterday's route at Dung Gate and the City of David, brings us closer to the Tomb of Josefat, the Pillar of Absalom (14) or the tomb of Zechariah (not to be confused with the prophet), in good condition if we consider that we are talking about a moment in history over 4000 years ago


 

It is curious to know that Absalom was always described as a coward, controller, murderer or traitor who conspired against his brother Solomon and his father David to seize the throne of Israel. Perhaps that is why there was a tradition of throwing stones against his grave lost by time, but that damaged the original structure.

Later, undoubtedly unmistakable because of its resemblance to certain structures of Petra or the recently seen Avdat in the Negev Desert days ago, we can distinguish a Nabatean archaeological site with two Doric columns where several members of the influential Beni Hazir family were attached and attached the tomb of Zechariah with a pyramid shape.


Time to ascend the stairs that take us from the valley to the perimeter of the walls of the Old City leaving the best view of it in its deceptive depth


Return to the most Christian Old City

Today we will access by the Gate of the Lions, one that we still did not know and that bears this name for the two sculptures of fierce-looking animals that flank it


It is true that it seems that they are actually tigers, the heraldic symbol of the Sultan Beybars of S.XIII, and that it also receives other names such as the Door of St. Stephen, Christian martyr stoned in a nearby area. We enter the historic center, the markets. We enter the Via Dolorosa


 

And here, as soon as you enter and follow our route, you will find the Church of Santa Ana (16) where we did not plan to enter because their schedule is 8-12 and 14-17, but it seems that they are throwing a large group and a smile does not dislike anyone. !!Here we go!!


 

In the heart of the old city is this enclosure that initially looks like a convent courtyard, but its archaeological zone is worth seeing especially by the biblical pool of Bethesda. Here it is said that it was the home of Joaquin and Ana, María's parents


 

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