As our visit to Israel winds down, and the appetite of our guests here for my enraptured narratives of ancient history wanes in the withering heat, our days are becoming shorter and more relaxing.
Today, we walked through the posh new Mamilla Mall to the Jaffa Gate, and into the Old City — one of my favorite experiences here.
We dipped briefly into the Armenian quarter, and then walked onto the misnamed Mount Zion, where we visited the coenaculum, the traditional site of the Upper Room (John Mark’s mother’s home), where the Last Supper occurred, where the resurrected Jesus appeared to the apostles, and where, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. I remember that, when I first visited this place in 1978 and the LDS person who had brought us there invited us to feel the spirit of what had transpired in that room, I was unimpressed and inclined to mock. The room is plainly too late, with a mihrab marking the direction of Mecca for prayer, a medieval or even Ottoman vaulted ceiling, and Islamic stained glass in the windows. But, back in the 1980s, I read an article by Bargil Pixner arguing for the authenticity of the site, if not of the building itself, and I found myself halfway convinced. At least I now take it more seriously than I did.
We then wandered through the Jewish quarter, caught a corner of the Muslim quarter, and ended up in the Christian quarter, where we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which I wrote about in an earlier post on this blog back about 4-6 weeks ago. (I would supply a link, but computer conditions are pretty iffy right now, and so I’m afraid, if you’re interested, that you’ll have to find that on your own for now.)
I both hate and love the Holy Sepulcher, and think it likely that it actually does mark the location of Christ’s burial and resurrection. It’s also a symbol of the fragmented state of Christendom, with its six squabbling denominations, etc. Visually, perhaps the best illustration of the problem is the ladder that still rests against its exterior wall about two or three stories above the entrance to the church. Nobody knows who put it there, but it was there — as shown in a photograph from the period — by at least 1852. Nobody can remove it, because to do so would be to upset the balance of power between the rival Christian sects by giving preference or status to the group that took it down. So, ridiculously, it stays. And has stayed for at least 160 years, and maybe much longer.
Posted from Jerusalem, Israel.