After leaving the hotel, we started our morning at the same place we ended the previous evening, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. This is the direction Jesus and his disciples would have come into the city from during the triumphal entry (Palm Sunday). Our tour for the morning would follow the path down the Mount of Olives they would have walked:
A wider view with the Kidron Valley between us and the eastern wall of the city. The large gold dome is the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine built on the site of the Second Temple. In the foreground is the largest Jewish cemetery in the world.
Our group taking in the view:
Before we began our walk, Gila had arranged a professional photographer to be there to take a group picture for us. A camel was also there that you could ride and several took advantage of the opportunity, including Betsey:
After that, we started our walk down the Mount of Olives. The first place we stopped was to see some caves with some bone boxes or ossuaries inside, some of them dating to the 1st century AD:
The next place we stopped is the traditional site of where Jesus lamented over Jerusalem and expressed his desire to gather the people like a hen gathers chicks. Here's Pastor Art reading that passage from Matthew 23 for us:
There's a church built on the site called Dominus Flevit (Jesus Wept), as well as restrooms, so we took a few minutes to explore the place. It's another good spot to get a nice view of the city. Here I am with the Dome of the Rock in the distance. Beyond that you can also see the gray dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the tower of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer:
The view from inside the Dominus Flevit church:
A nice mosaic on the front of the altar portraying the text from Matthew:
The outside of the church, shaped like a teardrop:
Onward from there, we continued to descend down the Mount of Olives toward the Garden of Gethsemane:
A view to the south across the Jewish cemetery:
Here are some of the very old olive trees in what remains of the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a much larger place in Jesus' day. Olive trees can live for thousands of years, so it's possible that these trees were young when Jesus and his disciples came here.
A closer view of the base of one of the trees with new shoots coming out of it. This is what Isaiah refers to in Isaiah 11 with the shoot that comes from the stump of Jesse:
There's a church on this site as well (get used to that) called the Church of Gethsemane. It was one of my favorite churches we visited. It's designed so that the inside reflects the feeling of being in the garden at dusk at the time Jesus and the disciples would have been there and there are several beautiful paintings at the front of the sanctuary depicting these scenes.
The painting behind the altar. This is the same scene that is depicted in the stained glass window behind the altar at Trinity Lutheran in Brooten where I serve; Jesus praying in the garden:
An overall view of the sanctuary: You can maybe see how the ceiling is decorated with stars and the windows are purple to diffuse the light and really make it feel like dusk. Like I said, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful sanctuaries we've seen:
After Gethsemane, we caught our bus and drove around the eastern wall of the Old City to the south side. Along the way we passed Solomon's steps, visible in the center of the picture next to the wall. These would have been there in Jesus' day:
Our next stop was the Upper Room where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples. It may not be the exact room, but it's in the general area of the city where they would have been and is the same type of room they would have used. Along the way walking to get there, we passed the Zion Gate. When Jordan occupied Jerusalem, this was part of the border. On the left was Israel and a place they now call Mount Zion. The pockmarks in the wall are from the fighting that took place here:
Another sight along the way was this statue of King David:
Inside the Upper Room, we sat and had a lengthy but wonderful conversation. Here is the door into the room:
Our guide Gila during our great conversation. She said it was probably the longest discussion she had ever had in that place and we all enjoyed it. I'd love to tell you all about it, but it will have to wait for another time:
On our way back to the bus, passing the Zion Gate again, we found a large group of young Israeli soldiers gathering for a picture in front of it. Service in the military is compulsory for young people, although they can request not to serve. We saw many groups like this touring some of the same places we were:
From there we drove through the modern city of Jerusalem out into what's called in the Bible the hill country of Judea. Along the way we passed this playground, so I thought I'd show you as an example that life in Israel is very modern and felt quite familiar to most of us, aside from the language and geography:
The hill country of Judea. Terraces along the hills are for agriculture:
Our destination here was the Church of the Visitation, where Mary traveled to see Elizabeth when they were both pregnant with Jesus and John the Baptist. The walk up to the church was probably the most strenuous of our trip:
The Church of the Visitation. You can see "Magnificat" in the pavement in front.
The decoration on the front of the church:
Opposite from the church was this large wall with the Magnificat written in many different languages:
For the Norwegians out there:
For those who prefer English:
Pastor Art read the story of the visitation including the Magnificat from Luke 1 for us, with the English words right behind him. I'm sure he planned it that way:
There was a small chapel we could look into, and this was one of the paintings inside:
And a statue outside in the courtyard. This became one of my favorite stories this last summer and fall as we had many women in our congregation who were pregnant, including my wife. There's something very human about the story that transcends time and culture to encapsulate the joy that typically takes place when pregnant women meet. No wonder Mary was inspired to sing such a beautiful song.
That's it for the first part of our first day in Jerusalem. I have to head to the bus to go back into the Old City during our free day here. Our last day in Jerusalem and then we begin the journey home! Peace to you all.