Thursday, February 07, 2008

His Final Hours

After wandering through the hallowed halls of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I was feeling in a very religious mood.

I decided to follow this up by walking to the top of the Mount of Olives.

This involved wandering through the alleys and side streets of old Jerusalem and up the famed Via Dolorosa.
It was essentially walking the path used for the Stations of the Cross in reverse.
Along the way, I got to see some of the Jerusalem locals... and their guns....

After walking through one of the gates in the walls, I started the slow and steep ascent up the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is a peculiar place. It overlooks Old Jerusalem and is actually a very small area of land. However, within this tiny area of land is an enormous number of churches, Jewish burial sites, mosques and other holy places.

The first place I arrived at was Gethsemane.
The garden that Christ spent his final evening in.

It was full of people, and yet it was incredibly peaceful. The sun was shining brightly through the olive trees and birds could be heard singing.
Apparently these olive trees have been dated at over 2000 years old. Who knows, they may even have been the trees that Christ rested on as he waited during those final hours....
Regardless, it was a beautiful garden.
I continued walking. Wandering into the Church of All Nations and passed the Russian Orthodox Cathedral which gleams in the sunlight.
As I came closer to the top, I reached the Dominus Flevit Church. Inside is the Lord's prayer, written in every conceivable language. After a long search, I finally found a language I could read!
I was trying to get to the top more quickly now. The sun was beginning to set and I didn't want to be trapped outside of the city, by myself, in hilly wilderness.

Probably not the best idea for the lone traveller.

So I kept pushing.

I wanted to reach the top, as it was here (according to everything I read) that there was a church dedicated to the place where Christ ascended to heaven.

Surely this would be a magnificent monument to Christendom!

.... strangely it wasn't.

Instead, what I found was a small, rather run down building. It's key inhabitants appeared to be pigeons. This small and understated building was in sharp contrast to the grand churches I had just been into. But once again, I found something beautiful in this. Whilst in the other places I was surrounded by noise and crowds of people, here I found myself alone. Here, I was able to stand silently and contemplate myself and what had come before me without distraction.
However, the sun was definitely setting now.

I needed to get back down to the city. So I started walking quickly and with purpose. Twice, I was nearly hit by cars. Eventually, I saw the reassuring sight of St Stephen's Gate.
As I walked through the city once more, I could hear the call to prayer emanating from the mosques, I could see the Rabbis walking towards the Wailing Wall and I could see nuns all along the Via Dolorosa, silently walking and praying.
Jerusalem is an amazing city.

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