And hello 2016! I have had a wonderful few days here in Jerusalem, and I don’t even know where to begin. Since I last posted, my group has visited a number of important sites all over the holy city, so I will focus on a few of the highlights and show you all some cool pictures I’ve gotten!
A couple days ago, we visited the City of David, the original Cory of Jerusalem where the Old Testament narratives took place. This city is actually below what is now the Old City of Jerusalem, because it had been destroyed, rebuilt, expanded, and altered substantially throughout the centuries. Yet amazingly, there are some incredible ruins that have been excavated from the city. We saw what is supposedly King David’s old palace:
We saw the water shafts and the walls of the old city, and even climbed through an ancient sewer to the top of the Roman Jerusalem, where massive columns of stone formed an incredible wall that still holds up the city today:
That evening, I met my first round of long lost family! They were a delight, chatting up a storm about our family and old relatives from days past, the current situation about Israel and Palestine, and Arabic culture in the Mediterranian. We had a feast with arak, hummus, fattoush, roca salad, babaganoush, and my dish, mansaf, lamb cooked in a leban (yogurt) sauce. A delicious and delightful evening indeed!
The next day, we vitiated Mt. Herzl and Yad Vashem. Due to the particular nature of these sites, I did not take any pictures out of respect for those who have passed away. Overall, it was an interesting visit, because we could see the basis of Israeli civil religion and nationalism. They paint a story of success in getting their own state, upholding Herzl, the founder of th Zionist movement, the prime ministers and military who defend the country, and the heroes of various times in Israeli history. At the bottom is Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, which tried to tell the Jewish narrative in the Holocaust, representing a scar, a Shoah from which the Jews have ascended in order to ultimately have their own state.
Yesterday, on New Year’s Eve, we visited the Mount of Olives, a mountain east of Jerusalem where a number of important events in Christ’s life took place. These sites were powerful and very intersting, covering a number of unique and famous events in the gospels. Here is where Christ is traditionally said to ascend to Heaven, leaving behind a footprint in the rock:
We descended and visited the Church of Pater Noster, where Christ taught the apostles how to pray (according to some of the gospels), with a beautiful collection of the Our Father Prayer in over 150 different languages:
Then, we saw the Dominis Flavit, a lookout where Christ wept as he for told the later destruction of the Temple. Nearby was an amazing lookout where we saw a beautiful view of Jerusalem from the east:
For me, the most powerful site was the Garden of Gethsemani, where the Agony in the Garden took place. A beautiful garden of olive trees surrounded a rebuilt church housing the rock which Jesus prayed on moments before his death, leaving one with a sense of humility and hope upon seeing the site.
Last night, we celebrated the New Year (with arak, of course!), with good food, good conversation, laughing and story telling all night long. 2015, what a great year you have been to me. I can’t be more thankful for being able to spend the last few days of it here, in the Holy City, with friends and long lost family, enjoying the complicated, tense, and beautiful mosaic of Israel.