Sunday, January 18, 2015

Solo Jerusalem

As part of our program, we spent last week in Jerusalem! From Monday-Thursday, we attended a seminar at Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum). Every day we listened to lectures about different aspects of the Holocaust, as well as getting to go through the museum a few times. We heard a LOT of interesting things... it was kind of a lot to sit through 5 lectures a day about something depressing, but for the most part I really enjoyed it! 

And now onto more exciting things... I stayed a few extra days after the seminar to have more Jerusalem time. Because it’s kind of a cool city, you know? 

On the last day of the seminar, I showed some girls from my program the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


On Friday morning I did some shopping. This was my first time being alone in Jerusalem! I love shopping alone and taking my time.

Entering the Old City:


Old City markets:



From my time in Jerusalem last year, I knew about this place where you can go up on some rooftops and have a cool view. I happened to be up there at noon when all of the church bells started going off!

Famous churches-


It was also pretty close to Dome of the Rock, but there were sadly some things blocking what would have been a great view.


View of JC from there as well-


After that I got some lunch in the Jewish Quarter before things started closing for Shabbat, and then crossed to the other side of the Old City.

My next stop was St. Anne’s Basilica. It’s a pretty place by Lion’s Gate with a church, garden, and some ruins. The ruins are (allegedly) of the Pool of Bethesda, a site where Jesus healed someone.

This whole site is owned by France, so I got to see l’un de mes drapeaux préférés! The church is from the Crusader era.



The ruins looked pretty because they were green! I NEVER saw this color green during my first trip to Israel in the summer.



On a related note, while I was visiting the church, it started pouring rain outside (the cause of the green!).

Every Friday, Franciscan monks lead a procession down the Via Dolorosa while chanting Catholic-y things and explaining the Stations of the Cross. It’s supposed to follow Jesus’ path from Pontius Pilate’s palace to the Crucifixion. I was planning on doing that because I’ve only done it once, but I guess monks aren’t into getting rained on because they cancelled it due to the weather.

Oh well. Here’s the beginning of the procession, the Church of the Flagellation.


I headed back across the Old City to Jaffa Gate, and in the process got extremely wet. There aren’t very good drains, so I was basically wading through water... and the streets are too narrow to use an umbrella. I was planning on sticking around in the city and going to the Western Wall, but instead I decided that I just wanted my warm hotel room and dry socks and called it a day. It was cold, what can I say.

On the way back to the hotel, I learned that when it rains ultra-Orthodox Jews unashamedly wear plastics bags on their heads to protect their fancy hats. Some of them have hoods like the guy on the left, but I saw LOTS of plastic bag hats this week. I decided this guy deserved to have his picture taken because he rudely bumped into me. Justice haha.


On Saturday morning, I went to church at the JC and REALLY enjoyed going to church with more than 10 people like I normally have to haha.

After church, I went on a guided tour of the Mount of Olives. I didn’t spend a lot of time there during my study abroad, so it was fun to have a chance to go back and visit places that I’d only seen once or not at all.

The first place we went to is supposed to be the site where Jesus ascended to heaven. The best part is that you can even see Jesus’ footprint hahaha. I was super tempted to take off my shoe and see how my foot size compared to Jesus,’ but I didn’t know if everyone would think that was appropriate...




Besides the footprint, the other interesting thing is that this site used to be a church, but was converted into a mosque. Why? Because plot twist: Muslims (sort of) believe in and respect Jesus as a prophet. So typically in history, whenever Muslims conquered and reconquered the Holy Land, they didn’t destroy Christian churches, but just casually switched them over to mosques.

Just down the road from there, we came across a HUGE Israeli flag. Our tour guide said that this is the house of the only Jewish family that lives on the Mount of Olives. Apparently the land has been in their family since the Ottoman era. All Jews were kicked out of East Jerusalem after 1948 while the Jordanians controlled it. The family moved back in 1967 when Israel took control of all of Jerusalem. They are NOT wanted in the neighborhood, and according to the size of the flag don’t care about being wanted in the neighborhood. At least 10 armed soldiers protect the house at all times, and their car has to have metal mesh on all the windows for when people throw rocks at them. The tour guide said this very nonchalantly.


So back to Jesus. Our next stop was the Pater Noster church. It commemorates the giving of the Lord’s Prayer. Accordingly, the Lord’s Prayer is displayed in about 150 languages.. including some very random and interesting random dialects. I was excited to find Alsacien!






Our tour guide recited the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew and talked about how in recent scholarship people think Jesus was actually probably speaking more Hebrew than Aramaic. He would have known both, but in his time Hebrew was more commonly spoken by the common people than Aramaic. Fun fact: a few months ago Netanyahu and Pope Francis argued about this. Anyways, I obviously haven’t researched that... but I like to think what the tour guide said is true since I speak Hebrew.

These pictures are from starting to walk down the Mount of Olives. You really can never have too many pictures of Dome of the Rock. Not possible.



The next church we went to is called Dominus Flevit- meaning ‘Lord wept’ in Latin. It’s supposed to be the spot where Jesus prophesied that the temple would be destroyed- hence the perfect view of the Temple Mount. Jesus was standing on the Mount of Olives and looking at the temple while saying the prophecy. Of course, in Jesus’ day the Temple of Herod was standing where the Dome of the Rock is now.

Most churches are built facing east, but in this church the altar faces the Temple Mount to commemorate Jesus’ prophecy- and also so you can take exciting pictures of the altar cross and the Dome.



From Dominus Flevit, you can see the Russian Orthodox church of St. Mary Magdalene. We didn’t go inside, but I’ve been inside already so that’s cool.


Our next stop was the Garden of Gethsemane site. There’s an olive tree grove and a church. 




The last stop on the tour was Mary’s Grotto. It’s a Greek Orthodox church (in a cave!) with the graves of Mary, Joseph, and Mary’s parents. And by their ‘graves’ I mean the things that this particular church says are their graves.




I kind of like this little place because it looks so ancient and there’s all these crazy lanterns everywhere. It would be a fun place for a Halloween party. Although I assume that would be considered inappropriate. 

That concludes my Jerusalem sightseeing for the weekend! After my tour I made my way over to the bus station and headed back to Haifa. Sadly, now vacation time is over and it’s time to work on some final papers. My first semester here is almost done!

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