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Saturday, November 1, 2014

10/26: The Mount of Olives & Gdn of Gethsemane

On Sunday, October 26th, after taking Bus #75 from the Palestinian bus station at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate to the top of the Mount of Olives on the east side of Jerusalem, we toured sites holy to Christians the world over. It was an another type of religious experience in my opinion touring on a Sunday. Our first stop was the Chapel of the Ascension, below, where we were lucky enough to be the only visitors:

An attractive door on our walk down the hill.
As we walked down the narrow, steep winding road from the Mt. of Olives, we could see thousands upon thousands of Jewish graves nestled so peacefully on the sunny hillside.

Saw this sign for the Tomb of the Prophets and wandered in the grounds where we met the 63 year old Arab caretaker who had been born in the house on the grounds. He explained, before he so kindly gave us a private tour, that his family had been caretakers of the Tombs for three generations.
Descending into the Grotto.

Our very knowledgeable guide.
The guide told us that the tombs were for the prophets Malachi, Hakai and  Zecchariah. The tombs only had names on the stones, he said, not on the walls. People in that time were much shorter than the present day and that was why the tombs, that were always kept open, were only 1 m deep by 2 m long, he said.

Zeccariah’s grave was the only one to have a square arch, he stated. Jews come to leave written prayers in the crevices here just as they do at the Western Wall.

He pointed out the chisel marks but I don't hink they came out clearly in the photo, sorry.
This large open prayer area was also used for the preparation of the bodies for burial.

We continued our journey down the hill where we had a spectacular view of the city of Jerusalem including the gilded Dome of the Rock on Temple Mt. In the foreground below are more of the graves I mentioned above.

Next saw and walked inside Dominus Flevit, a place neither of us had never heard of before. A Mass was being said in Italian in the small church and another one in a chapel on the small rise above the church.

It was spellbinding listening to the simultaneously competing sounds of  both masses being said as well as the Muslim Call to Prayer being amplified over the neighborhood’s PA system.
Notice on the church exterior.

More views of the cemetery.

Leaving the church, we kept on walking on the road that seemed to go on forever down the hill
Behind the high walls was the golden dome of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Mary Magdalene that was unfortunately open for visitors 4 hours a week.

See, the dome IS indeed golden unlike what it looked like in the previous photo!

Another interesting doorway.
Entering the Garden of Gethsemane

One can only walk around the perineter of the small Garden of Gethsemane.

The front of the beautiful Gethsemane Sanctuary.

As we entered, a Mass for young, very fervent Italian pilgrims was just ending. It was like St. Frances Cabrini's Teen Mass on steroids.

I found it magical being at the Gethsemane Church of the Sanctuary because of its beauty, its stunning location and feeling the same spiritual connection to God.

 We returned to see more of the small Garden of Gethsemane in which the church is located.

 Directly across the street was the Tomb of the Virgin Mary which we visited next.

This bus driver had just been praying one of the many daily prayers required of  Muslims on this small carpet outside his bus.
Between the Mt. of Olives and the Old City high atop a hill, we walked through the massive area known as Kings’ Valley, an archeologist's dream come true, on our waqy back to the Old City.

The young man was playing his flute but I think Steven and I were the only ones anywhere close who could hear his lovely music.

Saw these 2 young boys cross this large empty swath of rocky terrain walking to our left and then a few minutes, I noticed them again, this time carrying huge sacks on their backs. Wonder where they were going and what they carried.

On another hillside was the Arab neighborhood of Silwan where friction between veteran Palestinians and newly ensconced Jewish settlers is not unknown. We walked along the street bordering the neighborhood for a bit and I must admit to our feeling a bit tense since we were the only foreigners about and we had been warned by the State Dept. a few days earlier to stay clear of that same area.
More photos of the Silwan neighborhood.

Leaving the Kings’ Valley, we finally ascended steps returning to the Old City.

We passed the City of David, Jerusalem’s ancient core, opting not to enter as we had seen quite enough of the city for the day.

Entered the Old City through Dung Gate, a gate we had not been through previously.

Looking back at the City of David – guess we’ll just have to save that for another visit if and when we return.
Entering the Old City via Dung Gate brought us directly into Western Wall Plaza that we've been to a few times already.

A new bride having her photo taken in the alleys of the Old City.

A special day indeed starting at the Mount of Olives, seeing fabulous churches, the Gardens at Gethsemane, row upon row of graves at the Jewish cemetery, the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, strolling through Kings’ Valley to the City of David and finally returning to the Old City through Dung Gate.