Day 8. There are many great cities around the world that residents and visitors will attest to. And there’s Jerusalem. A city above all else, that billions of people from three religions revere. Where history shaped lives for millennia. It’s intoxicating to imagine what was, what is and what will be.
We started the day with a visit to a Catholic School that takes in children with challenging backgrounds and will not do well in normal public schools. We had known about this prior to departing USA, and many of us had bought multivitamins and school supplies to give to them. Each child at different age levels are given an individual learning plan. They typically spend three years with two years of follow up to ensure they are able to adjust to normal school life or vocational opportunities. They can help more with greater financial support. Giving does enlarge one’s life.
Next was a visit to the Chapel of the Ascension, on the Mount of Olives. This is where Jesus ascended to heaven. It was an enclosed space with openings to let light in. One of Jesus’ footprints is in the floor in this chapel. The other footprint is in the Al Aqsa mosque.
Chapel of the Ascension
We then walked to the Church of Pater Noster, where underneath is a cave where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. An Italian princess Aureli Bossi, completed the Church in 1847. It now has 185 translations of the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father.
The Lord’s Prayer in Aramic and Hebrew
It was a downhill walk to the Dominus Flevit (Church of Tears) where Jesus wept for Jerusalem. It was designed by the same architect, Antonio B. This church was closed. The altar windows faces Jerusalem.
Corners represent tears and four corners of the Earth
We proceeded to a viewing point on Mount Olive, with spectacular views of Jerusalem. Our guide George then provided a masterful commentary of Jesus last days, tracing his journey into Jerusalem and all the key locations in the vista in front of us. As George was a Catholic himself, he could appropriately refer to the scriptures and add the local Jerusalem teachings. History came alive in front of us!
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
There are Jewish and Muslim cemeteries in the Kidron Valley and just off the walls. For the Hebrews, they believe the bodies in this Jewish cemetery will be the first to resurrect, highlighting its primacy.
Our next stop was the Garden of Getsemane, where a small rectangular plot of olive trees are maintained.
Garden plot is approx 1200 square meters in size
Next to it is a very beautiful Church of the Agony (aka Church of All Nations, as ceiling murals have various countries recognized). This church is also designed by Antonio Barluzzi, aka Architect of the Holy Land. At the altar base is the Rock of Agony where Christ prayed at.
Mural above the altar
The entire ceiling is decorated like wise with different country symbols.
One of the stained glass windows
Other visits included The Last Supper Room and King David’s Tomb, both in the same complex.
Most sites we have visited so far are managed by a Christian organisation. These two sites are managed by the Israeli Ministry. Thus, the (not original) Last Supper Room had also been used for Islamic purposes, and this had some Islamic inscriptions and stained windows. There only Christian symbol allowed in this room is a metal Olive tree, the branches and shoots representing the ok from shoots from Jesse. The grapes represent the wine/blood and the wheat at the base of tree, represents the bread/body.
Next stop was the Dormition Abbey. The Abbey was where Mother Mary was taken up directly to heaven three days after she passed away.
A sculpture of a sleeping Mother Mary
Black Madonna and baby Jesus mural in the Abbey
Our final visit today was the Holy Sepulcher where we celebrated Mass at one of the chapels inside the Church. An unforgettable experience.
Chapel inside the Church of the Sepulcher where we celebrated celebrated Mass
After which, we lined up to view Christ’s empty tomb. Both empty tombs viewed today represent the beliefs and promises that Catholics believe in.