Jerusalem’s golden roof on the Dome of the Rock was shining bright the morning we arrive. This Islamic holy place stands on a site that is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Sadly you can’t go inside unless you are Muslim.
• To Jews, this is where Abraham was prepared to offer his son Isaac on Mount Moriah.
• To Christians it is where the baby Jesus was presented in the Temple. It’s also believed to be where he wasteaching when he was as a 12-year-old; – and drove the money-changers out of the Temple. For most of the 12th century, when the Crusaders controlled Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock was actually a Christian church.
• To Muslims the Dome covers the sacred rock where Muhammad prayed and went to paradise during his Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and back to Mecca.
If this sounds confusing then welcome to Jerusalem. Almost every religion has a piece of it.
One of the things I wanted to do in Jerusalem was walking the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering. The route is believed to follow the path that Jesus walked, carrying his cross, on the way to his crucifixion. There are 14 Stations of the Cross the first photo is from station four where Jesus met his mother. At the end of the walk is the church of the Holy Sepulchre is believed to be the place both of the crucifixion and the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.
Immediately inside the main door is the Stone of Anointing, a slab of stone under a row of eight lamps. It commemorates the place where the body of Jesus was prepared for burial. It belongs jointly to the Greek Orthodox, Catholics and Armenian Orthodox. The care of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is shared by no less than six Christian denominations: the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syriac Orthodox churches. To be honest with all the visitors and number of different religions it’s a very confusing place to visit and left me lacking any feeling of spirituality.
Next stop was the The Western Wall, or “Wailing Wall”. It is one of the most religious sites in the world for the Jewish people. Thousands of people journey to the wall every year to visit and recite prayers. They are there to say prayers, either spoken or written down and placed in the cracks of the wall. There are two sections, one area for males and the other for females. Funny story Mr. B was approached twice to donate to Jewish organizations.
Visiting the place on the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John was no where near a sacred experience. There is a large sign with a list of all the ways you can be baptized. You can choose groups or single, many types of clothing, many different religious ceremonies and the list goes on. Then when you are finished you can purchase Jordan River water in any type of container to take home with you. It was baffling and nothing like I thought it would be.
There were two places that I felt peaceful and spiritual. One was the Sea of Galilee. It was a large lake and a garden spot that was quiet with only a few visitors and no tourist traps or stores. Another was the Garden of Gethsemane it is an olive grove complete with gnarled trees surrounded by flower beds. Visiting the Church of All Nations, was the best experience I had in Jerusalem.
The last place we went was the Church of the Nativity, built in 333 AD and is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The door into the Church of the Nativity is ridiculously small, and you have to crouch to enter. The birthplace of Jesus is in a very small alcove under the main altar area and is marked by a silver star. We were told that on Christmas eve the service is televised worldwide. I’ll have to watch for it. Jerusalem was not what I was expecting and was disappointing but I’m glad our trip ended with the Church of the Nativity.