Jerusalem's Christian & Armenian Quarters

Trip Start Sep 27, 2008
Trip End Oct 18, 2008

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On our very first night in Jerusalem, we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall. Both were quiet with only a few visitors. In the next few days, we would return to both.

On that first night, we walked slow and quiet through the old, dark Church of the Holy Sepulchre, not fully comprehending what we were seeing. Inside this building is the rock of Golgotha (or what was once the hill known as Calvary) and the hillside of Christ's tomb. This church is the last 5 stations of the cross--built over the place where it is believed Jesus died and rose again. In the darkness, people light candles, kneel and bow, cross themselves and kiss the stones signifying where the cross stood and the marble slab where he was laid to rest. There are tears from many, others take photos in front of the sites, many light huge bunches of candles and then snuff them out to take home as souvenirs. There are some groups softly singing. A variety of priests watch the proceedings--and make sure that proper respect is rendered--both feet stay on the ground, hands stay out of pockets and that general order is kept.

The first night, we watched. Soaking it in. Laying our hands on the cold stone walls and floors.

The next day, we returned. This time we bought a few rosaries as we could take them into these places with us--sanctifying them I suppose. It was phenomenally crowded. Lines wrapped around the tomb. But now you could see the ceilings and the walls. We stayed in there for over an hour--watching the tour groups from all over the world, trying to identify the variety of priests we saw--Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Ethiopians, Copts, Latin monks, and many who looked like Rasputin from Eastern European regions.

I began then to wish that I had brought a world map to ask people to point to where they are from. Jerusalem must have had more varieties of humans than I've ever seen anywhere...Indian, Korean, Chinese, Eastern European, African, Americans, Mexicans, Europeans, and Arabs. A human stew.

We would return several times to the old church, mostly at night. Bryan bought a bundle of candles one night--and lit them in one big pyre--quickly snuffing them to bring home as souvenirs. One night we entered the tomb. Kneeling at the slab, touching the coolness of it. I lit a candle and wished that everyone could live in a satisfied peace...and we backed out of the chapel like everyone of faith did.

We stayed in the courtyard one night as the guards tried to empty the church and lock it up for the night. A wooden ladder is used to climb up, turn the key, then push the latch and pop the ladder inside via a dog-door in the ancient old door. I suppose someone (priests?) spend the night in there.

One day we climbed the steps to the tower of the Lutheran Church--steps in a series of 48-60-70. Up to a beautiful breeze and all around view of the old city. Another day, we took the rampart walk--from Jaffa Gate to Dung Gate. Nice walk and good views both in and outside the old city walls.

On Friday afternoon--after having been to Bethlehem in the morning, we followed the monks on a procession down the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem...the way of sorrows, the stations of the cross. It started near Stephen's Gate, by the way to the Dome of the Rock (closed to non-Muslims) and the Ecce Homo arch. All sorts of monks, nuns, priests and tourists gathered. Suddenly there was a mega-phone and the priests recited the passages of the stations in a couple of languages before we moved as a flock to the next station. The long line of followers stopped at each station--whether it was in the middle of a bustling Muslim Quarter street corner, or the quiet alcoves near the Holy Sepulchre. I was disturbed that some of the shopkeepers talked louder than the mega-phone and threw things back and forth over the nuns and monks. Jews and Muslims hustled and bustled through the narrow ways lined with Christians--going about their business. Calls came from the minarets drowning out the mega-phone. It was a reminder that here, Christianity is the minority. What a day...Jesus birth to the grave, and beyond :)!

On this trip, we talked more about our religious views than ever before. We are mutts of religion...a bit of this, a bit of that. Skeptical of the politics of religion--not sure which man's story to believe--and yet we are believers of God, of the beauty of nature, the goodness of dogs and animals. It became an on-going, pick-it-up-where-we-left-off conversation for the week in Jerusalem.

One night while having drinks and dinner in the Armenian Quarter, we discussed, debated, and laughed a lot about spiritual moments and our views. We e:mailed Mark "I'll preface this by saying we're having wine and beers, but after all we've seen today, we've decided we must be Quakers." To which Mark replied "The Holy Land has that effect on people...People in that part of the world have a tendency to produce more history than they are able to consume locally."

So this entry is supposed to be about the Christian and Armenian Quarters. What else can I say besides showing the pictures?
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Crystal on

I absolutely enjoyed these pictures and your entry. I hope that I can visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem one day.

ibrahim on

beautiful and tangible photos. quality job.

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