Today began with the spectacular view from the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, to the Temple Mount with the iconic Dome of the Rock glistening in the bright morning sun. We walked through the ancient Jewish cemetery, via the Dominus Flevit Church (Latin, "The Lord wept"), all the way down to the bottom of the valley to the Garden of Gethsemane.
The landscape and the rocks we walked on and touched made a deep impression on me, much deeper than the buildings that had been erected at various times over the past centuries to commemorate particular moments from the gospels. To imagine that Jesus walked across this hill from Bethany had a greater impact on me, just like the ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane did more to connect my soul with the past than the church that was built there. However, I walked into the Church of All Nations just as a priest was celebrating the eucharist, and I joined the congregation in saying the Lord's Prayer. I have long liked to remember that we join with those who have gone before when we pray with Jesus, "Our Father..." Saying this prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane I felt in my bones the bond of divine love that makes us one.
We walked up to the old city, through the Lions Gate, and followed the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church has a great history and has brought forth many stories that will make you scratch your head (and, no, I won't begin to tell them, because it's way past midnight again and I need to go to bed...).
We ate lunch in the Armenian Quarter, before meeting Hana Bendcowsky, Director of the Jerusalm Center for Jewish Christian Relations, who introduced us to the fascinating variety of Christian traditions in the city. Then we continued our history hike and visited the Garden Tomb, another site beside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus might have been crucified and buried. Again, the sites built to commemorate particular events weren't nearly as helpful for connecting me with those events as the landscape and the city as a whole.
We wrapped up the day with dinner at the hotel and a walk (yes, another walk!) down Ben Yehuda Street, a pedestrian mall where people old and young were enjoying a lovely, cool evening. We looked at lots of tschotschkes, but I couldn't decide what to buy to bring back. Perhaps tomorrow?
I'm listening to Craig Taubman sing Hashkiveinu, a lovely prayer for bed time.
Grant that we may lie down in peace, Eternal God, and awaken us to life.
Guard our going forth and our coming in and bless us with life and peace, from now and to eternity.