Friday, March 04, 2011

Project Israel- Jerusalem

On our last day, we visited the Old City in Jerusalem. First we headed to the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall), where people have placed prayers for centuries. I was honored to carry the prayers of my family, friends, and my congregation to this holy place.

The Western Wall is part of the Temple Mount built by Solomon, and expanded several times by various rulers. Currently the Temple Mount occupies 35 acres, making in the largest man-made platform in the world, and is the site of the Dome of the Rock- the 3rd holiest site in Islam (it contains the rock from which Mohammed is said to ascended to Heaven). This is the site of the First and Second Temples (built by Solomon and Herod, respectively), as well as Mt. Moriah, where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac (according to Christians and Jewish tradition) or Ishmael (according to Muslim tradition)- Genesis 28 and   Surrah 37, respectively.

We then walked through the Old City to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is a mish-mash of various chapels venerating the site of Jesus' crucifixion, his tomb, and the "Center of the World", where it is said that God collected the clay used to make Adam.

 Me venerating the site of Jesus' crucifixion, inhaling the incense. Very cool.

The aedicule over the site of Jesus' tomb. Pictures were not allowed inside.

Next we walked out of the Old City, stopping by the Lithostratos (Greek for "pavement"), where first century paving stones that Jesus may have walked on the Via Dolorosa (Latin for "Way of Sorrows"). One of the stones has a game etched into it that Roman soldiers played when charged with a condemned prisoner. We also visited the Convent of the Sisters of Zion, whose Basilica contains the Ecce Homo (Latin for "Behold the Man") arch, over the site of the old Fortress Antonia, where Pilate condemned Jesus. This is the traditional beginning of the Stations of the Cross.

Then we drove up to the Mount of Olives, which provides a spectacular view of Jerusalem. While we were there we saw the President of Chile giving a statement to the media, marking Chile's official recognition of the State of Palestine.

About halfway down the Mount of Olives is the Sanctuary of the Dominus Flevit (Jesus Wept), where Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), mourning that they misunderstood his message of peace on earth. Behind the altar is a window overlooking the city, where the Dome of the Rock is clearly visible. Wonderful symbolism.

At the bottom of the Mount of Olives, heading right into the Kidron Valley, is the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Basilica of the Agony of the Lord. The olive trees outside the church are estimated to be as old as 2,500 years, which means they very well could have been witnesses to Jesus' suffering in the garden just before being arrested. Right in front of the altar in the church is the stone on which Jesus is said to have laid and wept, asking God for a way out. This is my absolute favorite gospel story, because it shows how human Jesus is.

Tomorrow is the long journey home. More pictures, video, and longer reflections about this pilgrimage will be posted in the coming days and weeks.

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