Old City of Jerusalem … Yad Vashem … & a hairy ride home

Today was the day I was especially looking forward to – the day when we would spend significant time within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

And so we did, entering via the Dung Gate- one of several entry ‘gates’. No sooner in, we took in the Muslim Dome of the Rock with its distinctive golden dome – atop the Temple Mount; site of the magnificent but long destroyed temple of Jesus’ day.

From there to the ancient Pools of Bethesda and adjacent Church of St Anne- the site allegedly of the birth of Jesus’ mother – Mary. Beautiful inside; heightened by some glorious impromptu singing provided by tour groups from Nigeria and Korea – the acoustics are just wonderful. Then it was or group of 15’s turn – somehow Dale and I have been dubbed the musical ones of the group (if only they heard us sing or play!) so we gave the lead for some verses from Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art. This was a spine-tingling experience indeed.

On from there to walking the Via Dolorosa- the journey many believe Jesus actually took from his flogging all the way to the Cross. Nasser our tour guide did a great job explaining – it’s taken him 3 days t get used to us ( and us to him!) but we’re getting there now!

One of the highlights was surely the visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchure – a huge Greek Orthodox church with particular shrines etc marking the actual sites it’s believed Jesus died and was buried. We found this incredibly moving.

Oh – meant to say: at last, at our 4th attempt (got there at 6am) we finally got to say our prayers at the site @ the Church of the Nativity where it’s believed Jesus was born.

Anyhow after the COTH Sepulcher it was time for a great pocket- bread lunch together before walking through the Jewish Quarter to the Western/wailing Wall – what”s left f the wall to the west of what was the Jewish Temple. This is known worldwide as the most sacred of sites for the Jewish people – such is their historical veneration of the temple.

This all finished earlier than planned so off we and others were to Yad Vashem – the Holocaust museum. My feelings are still pretty raw and inarticulatable at this stage – other than to say I found it almost overwhelming, such was the plight of the Jewish people at the hands of Hitler’s evil Nazi regime. The horror and humiliation defies explanation. The Hall of Names and the Children’s Museum were both starkly memorable. I was moved to tears.

Also quite daunting was the taxi ride home – after getting nowhere at two West Bank checkpoints we finally made it back to the hotel via no checkpoint at all. Go figure!

Some of us have just returned from a memorable, relaxing over coffee at a restaurant on Mt Everest (I kid you not) with Abdullah – longtime Christian Palestinian friend f our tour leader Abe ATA. That said, fitting 8 fully-grown middle-aged adults into one Pajero had it’s challenges.

What a day. What a rich and holy yet hatred and suspicion-filled history this land has. Off to Nazareth tomorrow morning and looking forward to it.

Salaam/Shalom

DAVID

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