Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Walk Through the Old City, Jerusalem

I had occasion yesterday to walk on a different route around the Old City of Jerusalem. I am more familiar with the New Gate area, Herod's Gate and Damascus Gate, but yesterday, I was taken around to the Lion Gate and the Dung Gate, making my Old City Wall tour almost complete.

Our route took us through and past the Al Yousafeah Moslem cemetery that seemed to stretch on forever. But considering the age of the city itself, the expanse of the cemetery is probably not really surprising. 

What my companion pointed out to me across the way, however, was surprising. Even after two months, I find myself geographically challenged, especially when it comes to Biblical places.

Consider the above: this looks like yet another treed hill in the city, but in fact that area is fraught with religious and historical significance.

To begin with, you are looking at the Mount of Olives. The church on the right is the Church of All Nations. To the left, enclosed by a wall, is a very significant piece of geography:

The above is the Garden of Gethsemane itself, adjacent to the Church of all Nations.

There is more:

This hillside road (Al Makdisi) leading from west to east toward Gethsemane is the road that the Messiah is thought to be taking when he returns to inaugurate the Reign of God. I counted 27 tour buses on that route, and when I asked my companion about it, he thought that people were there in anticipation of the abrupt and unheralded Second Coming: "They want to be the first to see Him!" he opined.

The above is the unused, bricked-up Golden Gate that is said to have been closed by the Muslim leadership centuries ago when Islam was surging and there was tension with both Christians and Jews. This is looking back at the Old City from the earlier views of Gethsemane.

Got a bit ahead of myself here: the above is St. Stephen's/Lion's Gate, which we passed before we got to the cemetery.

The area of the Western, or Wailing Wall. What you don't see is the metal detector stations for men and women (separate, though adjacent entrances), and the Wall itself out of the picture on the right. It was Shabbat, and no time to be taking pictures near the Wall itself.

I did not think anything significant historically about our path through the souk in the Old City once we were past the Western Wall area, but it turns out to have been very significant: no less than the Via Dolorosa (literally, the Way of Sorrow or Pain), considered the route that Jesus was forced through on his way to crucifixion.

I find, given the swarms of people in today's routes (preventing contemplation), and the question of how significant these areas have been (or not) in my faith journey, that I need to reflect on them more. What you read here is little more than marks on a map: the story is yet to be told in any detail.


Hope said...

Does it feel a little surreal to be there?

Peter said...

There are surreal things about it, and some very real things, too.