Sunday, October 10, 2010

Holy Land Tour Day 6

Saturday in Jerusalem - The Sabbath

Panorama of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives
 across the Kidron Valley
 We discover at the outset that here in Jerusalem you get a breakfast comprising only of uncooked items - salad, bread rolls, cereal as it is the Sabbath.

We begin our tour from the Mount of Olives which is a great spot to take in a view of the Old City sitting within the new City of Jerusalem.

We walked down the steep Palm Sunday road to the Garden of Gethsemene. The Garden is simple but well maintained and sits next to a fabulous Church of All Nations.

A short bus ride and we are in the Old City of Jerusalem within the walls and begin to walk the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa). The fourteen stations wind their way into the heart of the old city. Our guide tells us he has never seen it so busy. Keeping sixteen head swivelling Australians together is proving to be quite a challenge. Nevertheless we only lost Fred and that wasn't for that long!

A quieter moment on the Via Dolorosa
We enjoyed several terrific stops on the Way of the Cross including St Anne's Church which is renowned for its fabulous acoustics, several groups in the Church at this time just burst into song us included. The Sisters of Zion Convent is built over the water cistern of the old city and we took many slippery steps down to walk on the ancient pathway. It would appear that the present day street level is roughly 3 metres above the level of pavement and buildings in Jesus' time.

The Austrian Hospice is at the corner near Station 4 and a climb to the roof is rewarded with magnificent views of the hustle and bustle of life below.

Another falafel lunch and we are recharged the rest of the Stations, which inevitably become harder to find amid the market stalls along the market streets. Eventually the street becomes an open square with hundreds of people gathered in groups being addressed by their tour guides in various languages before entering the large doorway ahead which is the entry to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Vast crowd in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
 Chaos is probably the best description of our visit to the place of our Lord's crucifixion and burial. The five Christian denominations that occupy Jerusalem's largest church are all conducting some sort of liturgy or event simultaneously. The Armenian Orthodox seem to be the dominant group and we witnessed the spectacular blessing of various parts of the church in their care. It was  shoulder to shoulder MCG type crowd.

Peter and June who were attempting to capture the very best photographic moment became trapped halfway up a staircase when the thurible carrying deacons ascended the stairs and they did not know where to go - the rest of us were shoved up against the wall or sent packing down the stairs. Nevertheless it was high drama and a great spectacle and another great day in the Holy City.

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