We started out with breakfast (delicous!) and our group photo on the steps of St. George's Cathedral.
We then headed over to Mt. Scopus, which means watcher. You can see Jerusalem from here. Iyad explained to us that there are three valleys that protect Jerusalem -- The Kidron Valley, the Valley of the Cheesemaker or the Central Valley (Tairopian) and the Potter's field (Jeropian Valley) -- which is where the garbage used to be burned. Jerusalem has two parts -- east and west. We are in East Jerusalem at St. George's which used to be part of Jordan.
The geography has changed since the time of Abraham -- it was more lush at that time than it is now. It was moving to hear the Biblical stories and watch Iyad point to where the area is, talking about the number of miles between the different sites. I kept thinking about Jesus walking from Galilee here. He wouldn't have taken the highway as we did yesterday which is a straight line (basically) to Jerusalem, but a route along certain paths and wadis. It would have taken Jesus 5 to 6 days to make the trip we did in about an hour and change. I kept thinking about our pilgrimage and the short walks we are taking. I'm looking forward to my sabbatical time when Steve and I will walk about 100 miles in 9 days from Melrose Abbey to Lindisfarne, taking some side paths. Walking to take in and absorb the walk, not zip through it. A slower, deliberately meditative walk. I wonder if that is what Jesus did? Was that one of the ways he prayed? Could he walk with the disciples in silence as Steve and I can do when we walk together -- lost in deep thought and prayer, or did they keep hounding him to talk with them, to share his thoughts?
After meeting with Archbishop Dawani we met with Iyad again to go over more the history of the area.
Iyad spoke about Golgotha which was a site for stones for the city -- afterwards it was used for crucifixions and then a cemetery using Kokh tombs. Where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was originally outside the gates of the city.
Iyad did a masterful job introducing us to the city (new and in ancient times) as well as the history of Christianity in the region. After reviewing the map we started on our walk to see the pathway/footprint of the old and the new.
We went into the church. We discovered, thanks to Mark, that the six religious denominations which control this property do not always get along! Of course, we knew that before today.
We looked, walked and looked some more. It was a beautiful introduction to the Church.
Here are some of the highlights:
The lower part of the stone of what was believed to be Golgotha, where Christ was crucified:
An Ethiopian Chapel:
Part of a limestone pillar that burned and exploded (yes, when limestone gets burned it can explode).
I was asked to light candles from the Holy Fire:
Steve with the Mosque of Omar behind him.
After we were done with our discoveries for the day, we were free to walk around the walled city and shop. We did, and took long walks as well.
Today I am finally feeling a bit more centered, but I still feel off-kilter. I think it may be a requirement to be here. There is so much to take in -- the history, the current situation, the people, the food -- so much to contemplate, enjoy, cry over, try to figure out. In the midst of all of the learning today, I kept asking myself, "Why?" Why this place, that time, this time, these people, all people? What is my role in all of this? It was a very humbling day!
We are leaving at 6:15 in the morning for Bethlehem, so this blog will not be as long as usual. More tomorrow.