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Monday, July 17, 2017

Holy Sites in Old Jerusalem

July 17 Monday

Sometimes experiences leave you with more questions than answers. Today I feel this after touring Old Jerusalem and holy sites for Muslims, Jews and and Christians. All three of these groups have commonalities, yet there is much conflict between them and over the running, care of and operation of holy sites. 

For political reasons, non Muslims have to enter the Noble Sanctuary via this bridge. We were required to have most of our legs covered and arms. You are not allowed to bring in religious icons or bibles. 

The Dome of the Rock is on what the Jews and Christians is the Temple Mount. Muslims do not acknowledge the history of the Jewish temples. This and the Al Aqsa Mosque or Al Harem Al Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary. Behind all of the stories of these sites, there is a religious component, an archeological component, and historical component, and a political component. 

The Al Aqsa Mosque is north of the Dome of the Rock, which is all on ground considered by Jews and most Christians as where the Temple Mount was. The fountain in front is for the washing of hands, feet, face and ears. This is in preparation for the prayer and hearing the word of God. Jews also have an ablution ritual as do some Christian sects. 

Israeli police (not soldiers) have more of a security presence because of what happened on Friday, but since the Six Day War in 1967, Jerusalem is not divided with control by the Jordanian kingdom, like it was before that. The state of Israel still does allow for the control of the Temple Mount by the Muslims, even though they won the war for the "unification of land in the bigger city of Jerusalem. It is all quite complex to explain here. If you are not a Muslim, you can walk around the complex but not go in, though before 2000 that was not necessarily the case. 

The Dome of the Rock is more of a sanctuary than a mosque and is where Muslims believe Abraham was told to sacrifice Ishmael and where Muhammad ascended to heaven. It is the third holiest site to them after Mecca and Medina. 

We then went to the Western Wall, which for Jews is a holy site where prayers can be more directly given to God. It is separated for men and women and you have to go through security both in and from the site. 

You can see the prayers placed by tradition here on small pieces of paper. The women and men often bring there Hebrew bibles here and read and pray. 

Many women I saw where very emotional. I found myself thinking much today about spiritual devotion, ritual and the concept and value of holy places. 

Will post photos below and explain them later. 

This area is the compromise area on another part of the wall for American and other Jews to worship who do not want to be separated by men and women. There has been a great deal of controversy over this and a compromise that has not been implemented as agreed upon. 

A bar mitzvah is taking place here, a common practice near the wall. The young person is brought to the wall to pray for the first time. Much singing and celebrating is done in the area but not right at the wall. 
Along the Via de la Rosa and Stations if the Cross. This third station is operated by the Armenians and in the Muslim Quarter.  The quarters were created during the British mandate, which was much later than the Stations of the Corss were created centuries ago. 

The third station is about when Christ had to actually carry the cross. 

Other stations. The last few of the 14 are in the Church of the Holy Sepulchure. 

Ethiopian Christians have this church at one of the stations. 

Outside the Chirch of the Holy Sepulchure, which parts of are operated by various Christians, the largest of which is the Orthodox Church and then the Roman Catholics, Armenians, Coptics and so on. You can see the differences inside in how they are decorated. 

At this church, the tradition holds that Christ was Crucifed (two photos above this one), his body washed and anointed (above rock), and his body buried in this cave which has become surrounded by this edifice (below). 

We then had lunch. I'm not a fan of deep fried food, but one cannot go to Israel without eating falafel. It was quite good, but not nearly as delicious as what I ate tonight at dinner (see video at end). 

Falafel might be the national dish of Israel. 

Looking out at the Old City from the Mount of Olives

We met a camel at the Mount of Olives. He/she liked Nathan, our Jewish tour guide. 

Perhaps the most special of the sites for me today, an old olive grove traditionally held to be the Garden of Gethsemane. The Fransiscan church below was built next to it in the early 20th century, atop a Byzantine church and one from the Crusaders' times. 
The Church of the Agony at Gethsemane

We had a talk at the hotel by a Jewish rabbi and acedemic. He really opened my eyes to the Israeli perspective about the Temple Mount. He works in conflict resolution, and discussed how complex the whole situation is. 

I went back to the market we were at yesterday because one of our tour guides today, Nathan, told us one of his favorite things to eat is a pita filled with a grilled eggplant and then veggies, egg, hummus and seasonings in non-creamy sauces. It was the best thing I've had while here. Nothing was in English, but luckily we had a map on how to get there and knew that is the only thing they served. 
I went with these ladies, Linda and Anika, from North Carolina and London, on a half hour walk to get there. 

Video of the making of the sabich. 

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