At the request of the family we’re hosting here, we front loaded a lot of the biggest sites in the Jerusalem area. We got up this morning, for example, and headed directly to the Western Wall.
Afterwards, we went up on the Temple Mount, and then we walked from there down to the Sisters of Sion Priory, where there is a fragment of what may be the lithostrotos or stone pavement from the ancient Roman Antonia Fortress, which was attached directly to the northwest corner of the ancient temple enclosure. Inscribed in it are symbols related, so it is said, to an ancient “king game” in which a condemned prisoner is permitted to be “king for a day” before being put to death. Some have thought — though others have doubted — that this might be the very floor upon which Jesus was mocked and scourged by the Roman soldiers.
The Antonia Fortress is Station Two of the traditional Catholic “stations of the cross.” Station One is the Church of the Condemnation, the traditional location where Pontius Pilate pronounced sentence upon Christ and released Barabbas to the mob. It’s only a hundred yards down the street.
From there, we visited the remnants of the pools of Bethesda, where the New Testament describes Jesus as having performed a miraculous cure, and St. Anne’s Church, immediately adjacent, which is the traditional location of the birth of Marry to St, Ann and St, Joachim. We then walked out St. Stephen’s Gate and headed off to Kibbutz Ramat Rahel in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot, where I stayed for roughly 2.5 months in spring of 1978 after I had left the Hotel Vienna. I’ve been there twice or three times since, but find it unrecognizable today. We had lunch there, then went to the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden on the Mount of Olives, which we walked through en route to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations.
After a brief visit there, we concluded the tour with the Garden Tomb. I’ll elaborate on these things later, when I’m not about to crash headfirst into my computer keyboard from sheer jet lag.
In the evening, my wife and I went out again to our Palestinian friend’s house in Abu Tur, which I find out is an Israel name for the area that the local Palestinians dislike. They prefer to be seen as living in the area of Silwan, or ancient Siloam. We had a wonderful dinner there, with his wife and three boys, of home cooked stuffed grape leaves and stuffed zucchini, followed by excellent Palestinian kunafa.
Posted from Jerusalem, Israel.