|Western Wall (photo by Missy)|
The Western Wall is part of the wall that surrounded the Second Temple during Roman times. It is the closest place to the Temple's Holy of Holies where Jews are able to pray today, and is considered one of Judaism's holiest sites. A tradition exists for people to put prayers on small pieces of paper and to stick them in the cracks of the wall. (Jane found out that one Rabbi is responsible for taking all the papers out twice a year and that he buries the prayers as sacred things on the Mount of Olives.) A barrier divides the wall into two sections, one where men can pray and the other where women can pray. When entering the area, yarmulkes were provided for gentile men to wear. Today was one of the days when they set the wall up for Bar Mitzvahs. Most of the people on the men's side wore black, with black hats, white Jewish prayer shawls, and phylacteries. About 15 feet up the wall, a bush was growing out of the wall with birds landing in it. I couldn't help but think of Psalm 84: "The sparrow has found her a house...by the side of your altars." Jane said that on the women's side, many of the women were dressed up in high heels and their finest dresses as they looked over the divider to watch their sons' bar mitzvahs. I prayed at the wall for a bit, then laid a paper with prayers on top of hundreds of other prayers in a large crack in the wall about five feet off the ground.
|The Dome of the Rock (photo by Missy)|
After visiting those two sites, we visited three churches. The first was the Church of St. Anne, built over a cave where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is believed to have been born. The church was rebuilt in the 1800's and has excellent acoustics. Our group sang "Seek Ye First" together there. Next to the church are the ruins of the pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a lame man in John 5. In one spot, we could go down a flight of stairs and look down about 20 feet to the an excavation of a corner of what would have been the pools during Jesus time. Looking down at a place Jesus had been was quite powerful. (Most of the current city is 16-20' above where it was in Roman times.)
|Altar of Church of Mark's House (Greene photo)|
The second church was the Church of Mark's House. The church is built over the excavated upper room, where Jesus ate the last supper with his disciples, appeared to them after his resurrection twice, and where the Holy Spirit descended on Pentecost. The church is a Syriac Church, an ancient Christian group that still speaks and worships in Aramaic, the language Jesus himself spoke. They also have an icon of Mary and the infant Jesus that they believe was painted by St. Luke the evangelist on deerskin. The altar was gorgeous, as was the church itself, although it was fairly small and would be considered more of a chapel by us today.
|The Upper Room (Greene photo)|
After lunch we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (also known as the Church of the Resurrection), which is over the sites were Jesus was crucified, taken down from the cross, buried, and rose from the dead. The Church itself contains multiple chapels belonging to six different Christian groups, and has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times for various reasons. Today's visit was during the crowded part of the day, and we mostly walked around as a group and got explanations of what things were and how they came to be. Later in the trip, we will come back early in the morning when it is quieter. We will do the stations of the cross which include a number of stations in the Church, and have an opportunity to pray there more and go to its holy sites (today we saw them, but didn't wait in line to go to them).
From the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, we walked through the Old City to get back to the hotel. We were able to pass both the meat market today and the spice market. The spice market smelled much better.
Photo note: Since our camera is not synching with my laptop as anticipated, I can't include the photos Jane or I took. All of today's photos are by Missy Greene. More can be found on her facebook page.