Our Penultimate Day in Israel

We had a very busy day in and around the Old City of Jerusalem today, commencing with a visit to the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall), the holiest place in Judaism.  We had intended to go up onto the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif immediately following, but enormous crowds had just arrived from several Mediterranean cruise ships, and then some sort of security incident involving potato chips — I’m not making this up, but know no further details — shut down access to the Mount for fully forty-five minutes, so we decided to put the Temple Mount visit off until tomorrow and to do the Jerusalem Archaeological Park instead.  It’s at the south end of the Temple platform, beneath the Herodian retaining wall.

The steps in the Park leading up to where the Huldah Gates were date to the first century, and it’s a virtual certainty that Jesus and his apostles used them to climb up from the Kidron Valley to the Temple platform.

We then walked through the Jewish Quarter, past remnants of the city wall that protected the western side of the city in the days of Lehi and Nephi — and that so surprised Joseph Smith (“Emma, did Jerusalem have a wall around it?”) during the translation of the Book of Mormon — and along the city’s ancient Cardo.

After a really good lunch of shwarma and falafel at one of my favorite Old City fast food joints, we spent a fair amount of time at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is surely among the most abominable places in the Holy Land and which is also one of my favorites.  It’s a loathsome and unpleasant spot, but, in my judgment, is very likely to be the actual location of Christ’s tomb.

From the Holy Sepulcher — also known, in Greek, as the Anastasis and, in Arabic, as al-Qiyama (both meaning “The Resurrection”) — we walked to the Basilica of St. Anne (the mother of the Virgin Mary), which is directly adjacent to what’s left of the pool of Bethesda.

Bethesda was, of course, the site of one of Jesus’ healing miracles.

We closed with a visit to the so-called Upper Room, on Mount Sion, and then to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, the traditional (and perhaps even real) site of the house of the chief priest, Caiaphas, where Jesus may have been imprisoned for a time.

I’ll write more about this later, I think, after I’ve returned to the States and have a little more time and a lot less jet lag.  It’s late here (roughly 10 PM), and, just like every previous night of this trip, I’m seriously running out of steam.

This may, perhaps, be my last blog post for at least thirty-six hours, as we’re out and about tomorrow (to the Garden of Gethsemane, for example, and the Garden Tomb, after the Temple Mount) and then, after dinner, head to the airport for the interminable and uncomfortable flight to New York.  (O frabjous day! Calloo!  Callay!  He chortled in his joy.)

Posted from Jerusalem, Israel.

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