Trip Start Dec 01, 2011
Trip End Jan 20, 2013

Flag of Israel  ,
Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jerusalem is to most the most sacred city in the world and has so much to see.  It has the history of the bible everywhere.   The entire city is within city walls and this is one of the most famous city walls in the world.  I think I have been to 4 of the top 10 city walls in the world.  Some of the others are Pingyao in China, Xian in China and Dubrovnik in Croatia.  I was allowed to walk on top of most of the other city walls from around the world, but these walls simply circle the city.  The city has 4 quarters (Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim) and has 7 gates (can’t name them all).  We stayed inside the walls near the Jaffa gate. There is a Gold gate on the opposite end of the Jaffa gate and this is filled in with cement.  Apparently the reason it was filled in was because Jesus once walked through this gate and some Christians believe when the second coming of Christ happens, he will first come through this gate.  The Jewish people also believe their messiah will come through this gate when he comes (hasn’t happened yet).  The Muslim’s filled this gate in to prevent the Messiah of both religions from every coming.  So… Here is a brief summary of what I saw in Jerusalem.  

 Western Wall (Wailing Wall)-This is the sacred site to Jewish people.  They all come to this wall to pray and kiss the wall.  You have to wear a cap to cover your head to get close to this site.  I wore it, but sure did not bow down to this wall.  The wall is roughly 50 feet high and behind it is the Temple Mount.  The Muslim’s built on top of this sacred site to cover up any history that might have benefited the Jewish religion and so what is behind this wall is sacred, but it can not be excavated.  The wall has cracks in it and people put their papers with their prayers to their God inside it.  I did not put a paper inside and did not read it.   Thousands of these notes make it into the cracks every day.  It seemed to me like a wishing well.  The Jewish Messiah sure has a lot of prayers to answer when he comes.  Women and men have separate sections of the mall.  

 Mount of Olives-Another famous site from the bible.  There are still olive trees here and some of them have been dated to 2,000 years old at the time of Christ.   This is almost simply a hill outside the city walls with a cemetery and a few other gardens and monuments.  
Garden of Gethsemane-A small garden where Judas betrayed Jesus and later hung himself.  I really enjoyed this site even though it was simple.  The trees looked quite old and I thought that was a lot better than having these new trees, so it looked original.  The garden area is fenced off, but you can still get very close to the garden.  There is a path around the garden.  This site is near the Church of All Nations.

 Church of All Nations-Nothing special here after I’ve seen nearly 1,000 churches, but has a rock inside where Jesus prayed.  

 Tomb of Mary-This site is inside a tomb where the Virgin Mary apparently died with her husband Joseph (debatable because he has a tomb somewhere else in Israel called Hebron?).  Her mother and father also died here and were buried on a different floor of this church also.  The actually stone sarcophagus is still in the bottom of the tomb, but the body is missing from the inside.  Many people got down on their knees and prayed in here.  

 Mary’s Birthplace-There is a small convent here now dedicated to her with a shrine.  This is 5 minutes walking from the place where she supposedly is buried.  

 Jesus Prison-This is near the Lion Gate entrance to the city.   This site really gave me goose bumps.  I saw a sign on a building saying Jesus Prison and thought nothing of it and passed on by it.  I later came by and walked 2-3 floors underneath this building and walked upon Barabas jail cell first.  Then on the 2nd level below the ground, I came to Jesus jail which has a small bench and door.  The bench is now a shrine.  

 Villa de la Rosa & Holy Sepulcher-There is several stations where Jesus supposedly held the cross.  There are 9 stations that start near the Lion’s Gate and lead up to the Holy Sepulcher, which they say is where the cross laid.  These station are where Jesus was supposedly sentenced, started carrying the cross, had crown of thorns placed on his head, fell down, met Mary, where Simon helped him carry the cross, where he fell again, then a girl helped wiped his head with her veil and when he fell again.  This walk ends at the Holy Sepulcher Church, which was built around the site where the cross lied.  This church was built in the 1200s by the crusaders and is quite impressive and they say contains all the places inside where Jesus was nailed to the cross, then buried and another one for where he was resurrected.  Each section of the church has a different shrine dedicated to where he was buried, where he was resurrected and where he was nailed to the cross.  This walk was very great.  I have always wanted to do it.  It did give me goose bumps thinking of all the pain he went through to get this cross to the hill and he didn’t have to do it.  

 Dome of the Rock-It took us 5 tries to see this place.  This is the place where Mohammed supposedly ascended to heaven.  Just a mosque if you ask me, but it is the most symbolic mosque to Muslim’s.  If you want to see this, you should plan your whole day around it.  It is always closed despite the guards telling us it was open and giving us hours.  Don’t expect honesty from the guards here.  It was built on top of the Temple Mount to get rid of the evidence that the Jewish religion existed.  The Jews want to dig underneath to get to their holy site, but because they built on top of this site, it can not be excavated.  

 King David’s Tomb & Last Supper Room-These sites are in the same building and are right next to a place where they say Mary fell into an eternal sleep.  The last supper room was interesting.  It is supposedly where the last supper took place on the Mount of Zion near the Zion gate.  Leonardo DaVinci made his famous painting based on this room.  It looks quite similar to the painting.  There is also another room in the Armenian quarter that is in a house and they also claim to have the same room used by Jesus in the last supper.  King David’s tomb is in the same building and there is no tomb there at the moment, but just an empty stone room with an inset in the wall where a tomb might have been.  This is a Jewish site and you have to put a covering to enter it.  There is one side for women and another side for men.  It is only a short wall that separates both sides.  

 City of David-David’s family once ruled this city.  The city is now rubble and it is just outside the city walls.  David’s family all were supposedly buried near here including King Soloman.  

 Palestine Wall-This is the wall that separates Israel and Palestine.  It is a pretty crazy wall that has graffiti all over it saying things like “Free Palestine.”  Palestine is the so called Holy Land.  Bethlehem, Jericho and a few other cities are in it.  Israel considers it part of Israel and says they will let it become independent once the wars stop, but the wars never stop.  This wall is very high and has barb wire at the top.  There are checkpoints to go into and out of the walls, but taxis and Arab’s.  Jews are not allowed into Palestine (at least what we were told).  The taxis are different colors so that they can be distinguished on where the car is from.  

 Garden Tomb-This is just outside the city walls.  It was closed on Sunday’s because it is Christian, so we had to squeeze it in on Monday.  The bible mentions Jesus being buried next to a garden and they think this is the garden where he was buried and the tomb is near it.  I think there is another place where they think he might have been buried also.  If there was a tomb where Jesus was buried, I would picture it to look like this, but don’t know how accurate this tomb is.  There was no inscription on it dating to the time of Christ.  

 Not all of Jerusalem is old.  There is a new town and it is brand spanking new.  There is a Mamila shopping center that is on a small hill just outside the city walls.  It has brick street that are brand new bricks and all of the newest stores are there including Top Shop, American Eagle and Abercrombie.  They have some pretty nice restaurants too.  A two minute walk further is Jaffa Street.  Jaffa Street is also new and has a very nice light rail that goes up and down.  No cars can go on this street.  The light rail is brand new and very quiet.  This street is clean and also has all the best restaurants, banks, post office and many shops with all the trendiest clothes.  It is not cheap on either street here.  

The only downside of this city was that it expensive and it is so old that a lot of the things have not been updated like our hotel heating and water.  Our kitchen was still gas stove with no oven.  It is a very loud city here.  They have some really loud microphones that remind the Muslim’s to pray.  We were far away from the Muslim quarter, but we could still hear the microphones at 4 AM.  On top of that, the church bells would go off every hour.  There were even times when two different Muslim micro phones would go off at the same time and compete with each other.  One of them sounded as if it was coming from the internet and losing the signal.  It was not so pleasant.  Having four different religious groups in one walled up city is a bit complicated.  The Christians, Muslims and Jewish all celebrate different Sabbath days, so if you want to see a Christian site, it is not open on Sunday.  Jewish ones are closed Saturday and Muslim’s are closed on Friday.  It is hard to get around without knowing what sites are open on each day.  It took us four hours of running around on our second day to see anything because everything was closed.  Some religions have to break for two hours for lunch break or praying.  The sites shut at this time and can go over their lunch breaks a lot of the time.  I’m not really sure how businesses in Israel can operate when they have certain religious groups that all operate on different schedules based on their Sabbath days.  It is quite confusing walking within the city walls.  Some stores on not open on some days because of this Sabbath and being in the Christmas season, one quarter has Christmas trees and lights, another has Hannukah candles and the other doesn’t celebrate anything for this season.  It is quite strange going from one to the next in such a short distance.  

 One of the things that really surprised me and kind of signaled a change in times is that some people read the bible at the sights; however they did not have a bible.  They had a cell phone with a downloaded version of the bible.  I thought this was strange.  There is nothing wrong with it, but the new generation doesn’t really want to carry around a 1,000 page book and instead just downloads the bible directly to their smart phone.  There is no way this would have gone on 10 years ago or even 5 years ago.  
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