Day Trip to Jerusalem

16 Dec

Temple MountOur first full day in Israel and I was jet-lagged. Not to mention shell-shocked as well over the fiasco with the kitties. Our sponsor, N., had lined up shopping outings for me with some folks who’ve been living here for a while and know the ropes. Those arrangements had been for last week when we had originally been scheduled to arrive. This week many people are back in the States for the holidays. She made a phone call to see if L. could take me on a run to the supermarket. Turns out L. was going to Jerusalem with S. and would I like to come along? Hmmm…if I’m able to remain erect it might be a good way to take my mind off the kitties. Why, yes! I’m going to Jerusalem!

L. picked me up early and we drove into Tel Aviv to pick up S. I should have paid attention to the roads but we were too busy talking about life in Israel. We picked up S. and were on the road to Jerusalem. L. and S. go to Jerusalem regularly and this time they had an agenda: go to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher first and early to avoid standing in a long line to view the tomb of Jesus. Stop at the Austrian Hospice for apple strudel in their Viennese-style cafe. Have lunch at their favorite hummus and felafel joint. Whoa! I knew I was in for a treat!

The Old City of Jerusalem is still surrounded by a wall dating from, well, Biblical times. One can spend an hour or so circumnavigating the city from atop the ramparts and some day I hope to do so. The perimeter of the city wall is surrounded by national parks and museums and the modern city of Jerusalem spreads out from there on all sides.

After stopping at Aroma cafe for a delicious cappuccino to go we headed for Jaffa Gate, our point of entry to the Old City. Thank goodness my companions knew where they were going because I know I’d have gotten hopelessly lost in the stone-paved streets, even though they are arranged in a grid of sorts. We passed by many enticing shops full of exotic wares. What an incredibly photogenic city!

But L and S pressed on towards the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. And with good reason. By the time we got there a line had already begun to form outside the site of the tomb of Jesus. I stood in line in awe of the surrounding architecture. Many different sects of the Christian religion have chapels and shrines throughout the structure. There’s an Ethiopian Coptic chapel, an Armenian shrine. The Greek Orthodox church has chapels and shrines on the sites of the most holy places relating to the crucifixion of Christ.  I was taking photos outside the chapel where the tomb of Christ is located when I was scolded by a Greek Orthodox priest who exclaimed “This is a site for worship and reflection. Put your camera away for now.” In just a few moments we were inside viewing the tomb of Christ. Actually it is a slab of stone about 4 meters above where Christ is said to have been buried. We also saw the Stone of Unction, where Jesus’ body is said to have been anointed before burial. And the site of the crucifixion was now occupied by an incredibly ornate shrine of the Greek Orthodox church. Visitors can view the rock of Golgotha (or Calvary) where the cross was placed.

We also visited the Western Wall. I am used to calling it the Wailing Wall but it seems now the accepted designation is Western Wall. About two thirds of the wall is approachable only by men. The other third is for female worshippers. We caught a glimpse of the gilded Dome of the Rock, al-Aqsa Mosque and the Mount of Olives.

We also did a fair amount of browsing in wonderfully exotic shops during our visit and stopped by the Austrian Hospice for our cafe und strudel. The Hospice is situated in an enchantingly beautiful setting in the heart of the Old City. It serves as a inn for travelers (I must get details on that!) and also has the Viennese-style cafe. There were tables indoors and many tables scattered about outside on the premises.

I now know why L and S make a habit of visiting Jerusalem. I’m sure I will return many times.

 

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