Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A surprise holiday means we have time to be tourists!

In case you weren't aware, today is Shavuot. (Sha-voo- oat). Got it? It's a Jewish holiday, which means.... holiday for us! Woopee! Our offices were closed in the middle of the week so we had some extra free time. I and two other volunteers decided to take advantage of this opportunity to do a little exploring. Our top pics were all in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, so we spent over 6 hours today walking to these famous sites.
For those of you that don't know, I first visited Israel a year and a half ago. I came with my university and took a three week Bible course here. I fell in love with the cultures and people here and believe God might be leading me to work here long term somewhere in my future. All that to say, I had been to all the places we visited today when I took that course, but it was wonderful to return and see them again!
Our first stop was the tourist office. Although we were all excited to set out and see the sites, we had not brought a map of the city... kinda important so you don't end up in the wrong areas. So we grabbed a map and headed to our first stop: the room of the Last Supper/Pentecost/First Church and David's Tomb (at least the site where we remember it). Crazy right! It is amazing to think that all these huge events happened right where we were standing. As time past, the actual room of all these events has gone and others have been built up on top. There is this weird mix of cultures with the Tomb on the bottom level, room with Muslim and Roman influences on top, and then a minaret on the roof, but the whole site is historically very Christian. That's Jerusalem for you!
From there we decided to walk to the Mount of Olives. We got halfway up the hill and found out that the church on the Mount had closed until later in the afternoon, so we headed back towards the city. As we walked we past a huge gate that is currently sealed off. At the end of time, when Jesus comes back, he is supposed to enter Jerusalem through that gate. The Muslims don't believe this will happen, but just in case it does, they have sealed off the gate so no one can get in. They also have created a  huge graveyard in front of the sealed gate because no holy person would walk through a graveyard. But really, they don't believe it  will happen?!
So we headed back to the Old City and walked the Via Dolorosa. This is the route that Jesus walked to the cross. Unlike our Savior, who made it all the way from his sentencing to Golgotha, we stopped for pizza along the way. But we did ultimately make it to the Church of the Holy Seplechur which is recognized as most likely being near where Jesus was crucified. And we were there! But I will say, for all its grandeur, the church isn't where I can best remember Christ's sacrifice.... it is much too touristy. I would rather sit in a quite garden with my Bible.
We then headed back to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. The Garden is beautiful and has olive trees that probably date back to the time of Jesus. There is also a church next to it where you can sit and remember the event. It was so cool to sit and read the story in all the Gospels! Throughout the day whenever we got to one of the places mentioned in the Bible we would all pull out our Bibles and read about it! The stories really do come alive when you are standing right where it happened.
The first time I was here, as I was exiting the Garden, a man in his twenties stopped me and told me I dropped something! I didn't think I was holding anything, but I looked around, trying to figure out what he was referring to. What are you talking about? "My heart!" he then went on. "You dropped my heart." Thankfully, he was not there today.
We continued our hike up the very steep mountain and finished our tour by looking out over the Kidron Valley and the City of Jerusalem. It was the perfect way to spend Shavout

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