Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The City of Miracles

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Jerusalem - Day 2

Wow! I don't know where to begin today. Our guide, Yuval, picked us up at 8:30 and we were off. The skies were cloudy and it was raining. I didn't have much hope for scenic overlooks. We drove around our neighborhood some and then went up to the Haas Promenade area overlooking the city. It was still raining so we toured a local kibbutz.

By the time we drove back to the promenade, the sun was starting to ,an appearance. Great views of the Old City and the Mt. of Olives. You can also see, what Yuval called the suicide bomber fence. We hung out there until it got too cold.

From the overlook, we went into the Old City. We parked and
walked along the outside of the Wall to the Archaeological Park. A short film on the beginning of the Old City and the Temple by Herod. We then toured the site and viewed the huge building stones. So massive, the camera wasn't wide enough to capture the length - and who knows how deep they are!!
Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into four uneven quarters, although the current designations were introduced only in the 19th century.Today, the Old City is roughly divided (going counterclockwise from the northeastern corner) into the Muslim Quarter,Christian QuarterArmenian Quarter and Jewish Quarter. The Old City's monumental defensive walls and city gates were built in the years 1535-1542 by the Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
A lot of what was uncovered happened fairly recently. After the first Gulf War, the tourist industry basically died. The government said you can have unemployment, but you have to join the archaeologists and dig! So the whole tourist dependent population starting digging.  It is incredible what has been uncovered.

The next stop was King David's Tomb:
The thousand-year-old building that houses the Tomb of King David on Mount Zion in Jerusalem is almost always thronging; some have come to pray and pay homage to Israel’s famous king and ancestor of the Messiah, while others pour over sacred texts all day long in the anteroom next to the tomb. Jews have streamed here for centuries to recite the Psalms written by David, whose life teaches many lessons about human nature.  
The tomb is covered with a velvet cloth embroidered with the words David Melech Israel Hai Vekayam, the first song many Jewish children learn, which evokes the sense that David’s spirit is still with us. 
On to the the room that is thought to be the site of The Last Supper. which is in the western part of David's Tomb complex.  When we walked by, they happened to be shooting a film - this has happened to us several times on this trip.

Next up, something I have been looking forward to for a long time - the Western Wall:
The Western WallWailing Wall or Kotel: the Place of Weeping is an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the "Western Wall". The wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as theTemple Mount, in a large rectangular structure topped by a huge flat platform, thus creating more space for the Temple itself and its auxiliary buildings.
Surprisingly,  there was no one there. As is Jewish law, men go to one side and the women go to other.I took off to the women's side and  took the prayer I wrote and put it in the Wall. It was a challenge to find a space. I met up with the guys and we continued our tour.

Next came the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was a really big deal - here is where several churches all co-exist:
The church contains, according to traditions dating back at least to the fourth century, the
two holiest sites in Christendom: the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, known as "Calvary" in Latin and "Golgotha" in Greek, and Jesus's empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected. Within the church proper are the last four (or, by some definitions, five) Stations of the Via Dolorosa, representing the final episodes of Jesus' Passion. The church has been a major Christian pilgrimage destination since its creation in the fourth century, as the traditional site of the Resurrection of Christ, thus its original Greek name, Church of the Anastasis.
Today the wider complex accumulated during the centuries around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre also serves as the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, while control of the church itself is shared between several Christian denominations and secular entities in complicated arrangements essentially unchanged for over 160 years, and some for much longer. The main denominations sharing property over parts of the church are the Greek OrthodoxArmenian Orthodox  and Roman Catholic, and to a lesser degree the Egyptian CoptsSyriacs and Ethiopians
We continued on to the ancient Cardo  - the main Roman Road and through the Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Quarter got demolished in 1948 and Israel lost control of after the War of Independence. After the 6 Day War in 1967, they regained control and started to rebuild. However,  the government did not want to cover up the city underneath. So they allowed the new building to continue if it was raised up on posts so that the excavating could continue underneath. It is quite a system. The old with the new.

We walked through the old streets and up the famous Jaffa Gate.  Headed down to the new Mamilla Mall and had a nice lunch at Roladin. Walking back through Zion Gate to pick up the car and go to the Israel Museum. It was getting late but we had time to see the scaled model of the original Old City:
Model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, which reconstructs the topography and architectural character of the city as it was prior to its destruction by the Romans in 66 CE, and provides historical context to the Shrine’s presentation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Originally constructed on the grounds of Jerusalem’s Holy land Hotel, the model, which includes a replica of Herod's Temple.
Also got to see the Shrine of the Book:
The Shrine of the Book houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world, as well as rare early medieval biblical manuscripts. The scrolls were discovered in 1947–56 in 11 caves in and around the Wadi Qumran. An elaborate planning process of seven years led to the building's eventual construction in 1965 which was funded by the family of David Samuel Gottesman, the Hungarian √©migr√©, the philanthropist who had purchased the scrolls as a gift to the State of Israel.
The building consists of a white dome over a building located two-thirds below the ground. The dome is reflected in a pool of water that surrounds it. Across from the white dome is a black basalt wall. The colors and shapes of the building are based on the imagery of the Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, whereas the white dome symbolizes the Sons of Light and the black wall symbolizes the Sons of Darkness. The interior of the shrine was designed to depict the environment in which the scrolls were found. There is also a permanent display on life in the Qumran, where the scrolls were written. The entire structure was designed to resemble a pot in which the scrolls were found. 
The  Knesset is across the way from the museum. We drove over there to see the giant brass menorah - which was something to see.
It was designed by Benno Elkan (1877-1960), aJewish sculptor who escaped from his native Germany to Britain. It was presented to the Knesset as a gift from the Parliament of the United Kingdom on April 15, 1956 in honor of the eighth anniversary of Israeli independence.
The Knesset Menorah was modeled after the golden candelabrum that stood in the Temple in Jerusalem. A series of bronze reliefs on the Menorah depict the struggles to survive of the Jewish people, depicting formative events, images and concepts from the Hebrew Bible and Jewish history. The engravings on the six branches of the Menorah portray episodes since the Jewish exile from Eretz Yisrael. Those on the center branch portray the fate of the Jews from the return to the land to the establishment of the State. It has been described as a visual "textbook" of Jewish history.
Our last stop was at the Mt of Olives overlooking the city and the huge Jewish cemetery. Along the way Yuval pointed out many of the cities landmarks.

It is late and I can't think anymore. I am sure I have left something out or probably got something wrong - it was so much to take in. It was a great day even with the rain and the cold. The sun came when we needed it to. Thank you Yuval for some great memories.

Next time.... The Western Wall Tunnels

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Jerusalem - Day 2

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