Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The Dome of the Rock or Temple Mount, whichever you prefer. This is the where it all began. The rock beneath the dome is considered the foundation stone of the world - where Adam was formed by God. Sacrifices took place here, Abraham was here, Noah too and Solomon built the first temple here. As you can see it is now a mosque where it is believed that Mohammad ascended to heaven. Jewish people cannot go near it because they think it is too sacred for them.  Christians are not allowed to set foot inside the mosque because the Muslims won't let them. Only Muslims can pray anywhere near here and inside the mosque but if anyone else tries to pray or bring a religions object near the mosque they will be instantly ejected by security. The Dome of the Rock is in the Old City of Jerusalem and considered the most sacred place for Jews and Muslims.

Maria touching the locked door at the Dome of the Rock.

Captain Steve looking through a crack in the door to see the actual rock in the center of the mosque. A few Muslim women had a talk with Steve right after this picture was taken.

The tomb of the Virgin Mary is in the grotto. The air was filled with smoke from a Greek Orthodox mass was going on at the time as you can see from all the smoke.

This is the Greek Orthodox mass taking place in the tomb of the Virgin Mary. The priest in the black robe was impressive looking!

The sign at the entrance to the tomb of the Virgin Mary.  You just can't do anything these days :)

Touching the footprint of Jesus at the Church of the Ascention

The actual tomb of the Virgin Mary

The cave in the desert where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  they were hidden for nearly 2,000 years before being found and preserved.

The eastern part of Jerusalem is in Palestine territory as you can see from the poster in our hotel. We didn't know that when we reserved the hotel but it was in a great location near the old city.

Damascus Gate with all of the vendors waiting to greet us every day. 

Maria has the light blue colored top on as she makes her way to the Western Wall (Wailing Wall). This is the woman's side of the wall that is separated from the men's side by another wall. The woman's side is much smaller than the men's side for some strange reason.

The Dead Sea scrolls were written by a religious sect who occupied this area in the desert. The temperature was well over 100 degrees at 8:00 am! 

Masada! There is a cable car that takes tourists to the top of Masada. Masada was the last battle site for the Jews before being defeated by the Romans. Instead of being captured, the 960 men, women and children committed mass suicide immediately before the final battle when the Romans finally breached the defensive wall. These Jews preferred death as opposed to slavery at the hands of the Romans. This site is revered by the Jewish population today.

The top of Masada in the extreme heat!

Some of the old fortifications atop Masada.

The cable car route down from Masada with the Dead Sea in the distance.

The warning sign stating that it was too dangerous to run down from the top of Masada to the base.

Captain Steve must have missed the sign?  It was a long way down the Snake Trail in the extreme heat!

The Dead Sea!

Mud bath in the Dead Sea. Even Maria floated and paddled around before getting coated in the invigorating mud!

Captain Steve needed to cool off after running down the Snake Trail.  The Dead Sea mud was a bonus!

Maria and the Camel.  They both have nice smiles!

The Dome of the Rock (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem.  Probably the most photographed place on Earth, or so they say.

As is the time honored tradition, Maria stuffs her note into the Western Wall.

Captain Steve putting the required yamaka on before approaching the Western Wall.

Captain Steve being closely watched by the person in the black hat as he stuffs his note into the Western Wall.

The tomb of Jesus is behind Maria in the Church of the Holy Sepluchre

Yes, we are in Israel!

Typical street inside the Old City of Jerusalem

 The Western Wall (Wailing Wall). The women's side is on the right and the men's side is on the left.

 The main entrance to the Dome on the Rock (Temple Mount). No, we can't go in there!

Another street in the Old City. As you can see, it is not handicapped accessible!

Solomon's quarry that was dug beneath the old city. This is where all of the building material came from to build the temples, churches and buildings in the old city.  These tunnels go everywhere beneath the city and they hold secrets that have not been uncovered as yet. Most of the tunnels have been sealed off for over 2,000 years so who knows what may lie beneath the city?

 The Palestinian flag.

The site of the crucifixion with Maria at the spot.

Maria placing her crosses on the anointing rock where Jesus was laid after he was crucified and anointed with oil.

The ancient City of David and the thousands of tombs waiting for the judgement day.

The third Station of the Cross with a group carrying a replica cross in their travels around the old city. Many groups do this which causes even more confusion in the Old City.

At the city of David!

Kind David's Tomb in Jerusalem.  David was the first king of Israel and highly revered.

The tree marks the place of the Last Supper in Jerusalem. This site is another very sacred place.

This is Zion Gate, another entrance into the Old City. The holes in the rocks are bullet holes from the Israeli troops attacking through here to gain entrance to the Old City in 1948.  Besides the bullet holes the Israeli troops tried to blow up a section of the Ottoman wall but of course that failed.  The walls are impenetrable! The fighting outside this gate was described as fierce.

Hezekiah's tunnel that we had to squeeze through. This mystical tunnel is thought to have carried water to the City of David but others don't believe that story and think it actually runs under the Old City to provide access to something hidden there.

The Garden Tomb. This is another place that some think is where Jesus may have been buried. We wanted to make sure we had both possibilities covered so we came here too.

This is the door to the Garden Tomb, right around the corner from our hotel. There is a beautiful garden outside the cave that is away from the noise and confusion of Jerusalem.

The inside of the Garden Tomb.

The stench of urine hung like a shroud in the stifling August heat as we stood before the massive Gate of Damascus, the entrance into Jerusalem’s Old City, the holiest city on Earth for all Christians and Jews. 

Muslim merchants shouted and entertained everyone with their antics as we tried to squeeze past their many overflowing souvenir and food carts nearly blocking the entrance into the city.  Throngs of people surged into and out of the city through this gate from sunrise to sunset and beyond every day of the year.

Struggling to find a clear pathway into the city we finally stood inside the massive Ottoman limestone walls, face to face with the ancient holy past.  Behold, and what did we see?  Piles and piles of trash lining the narrow pathways that snaked in all directions past the myriad of Christian churches, Greek Orthodox churches, Armenian churches, Russian Orthodox churches, Synagogues and Mosques.  They need more street sweepers in this place!

Before us, on the side of a hand hewed church wall was a chiseled Roman numeral, faded by the ravages of time.  This was a station of the cross where Jesus actually walked. 
We were now walking in the footsteps of Jesus!  Chills ran down my spine, as I finally comprehended that we were walking in the exact footsteps and path that Jesus walked over 2,000 years ago.  This was why we had sailed so far - to see the Old City of Jerusalem.

Maria and I began our own pilgrimage at the first Station of the Cross, where Jesus was condemned to death by Pontius Pilate, and followed the path to every subsequent Station until we found ourselves facing the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, looking for station number 10.

Heathen Steve took a deep breath and entered through the massive wooden doors that guard the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Inside the doors we found peace.  Peace from the yelling throngs of Muslim merchants selling their wares, peace from the wandering crowds among the pathways throughout the old city, peace from the stench and mounds of trash strewn about the pathways and peace that comes from reverence for the holiest place on Earth for Christians.

We found stations 10, 11, and then station 12, the exact place where Jesus was crucified and died upon the cross.  Calvary, the site of the crucifixion.  There was a heavy silence from those who were gathered there, some kneeling in prayer, others with heads bowed and everyone with a profound sense of sorrow.

With heavy hearts we continued our search for station 13 and finally the last station, Station 14 – the place where Jesus was laid to rest in the cave.

Deep inside the ramparts of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and in the exact center of the Church is the rock, the remains of the tomb, where Jesus was placed after his crucifixion.  Touching the rock is a centuries old tradition among pilgrims to the holy land and we were no exception.  The line to get into the grotto was long but worth the endless wait as we squeezed inside and laid our hands upon the rock.  We were kneeling at the holiest place on Earth for Christians. 

A Catholic mass had just ended with the priest doing exactly what we were doing, touching the rock as billows of smoke from burning incense swirled around his head.  The moment was truly mystical and magical, all at the same time.

The priest who guarded the grotto softly urged us to leave so that others may enter in our place.  Our visit to the grotto and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre seemed to have ended so quickly but will remain in our hearts forever.

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

No comments:

Post a Comment