Yesterday Kathy and I once again toured around the Old City. We went with the same touring company that we did the free tour with, this tour however was at cost but we were taken to a completely different part of the Old City and were able to see some pretty incredible things. We started out at the Church of Holy Sepulchre again, but this time we went inside. It’s pretty amazing how a church was built around where these hill tops were standing. This history of the church is pretty spectacular and our tour guide Moki did an amazing job telling it. There used to be a lot of fighting and blood shed over this church because there are so many different religions staking claim to it and to areas of the church. However in the 19th century the status quo agreement was signed and put into place and is still used today. The agreement states that at the time it was put into place nothing at the church can change. The leaders of the churches agreed at that time to what the church would be like and who owned what and it was decided that nothing would change from that point on. Moki spoke about how only a few weeks ago he saw a group of men standing over a hole in the floor trying to decide who owned the pipe that burst. And anytime changes have to be made to the church it will take years to determine how to do that without disrupting the status quo agreement since that seems to be the only thing preventing blood shed again.
There were many other amazing things to see inside the church….the area where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial and the people weeping at that holy spot, the tomb where Jesus was buried and then rose, and the area in the ceiling where the only light comes in that tradition states is where Jesus rose to heaven. We walked through the different areas of the church and saw a Greek Orthodox service taking place, we saw the Catholic chapel and the Armenian chapel. Pretty cool to see so many religions practicing in one place and knowing an agreement set up in the 19th century is what is still keeping the peace.
After a quick stop for lunch we went back to the area of the Western Wall to get in line to go up to the Temple Mount. This is an incredibly holy site for both Jews and Muslims. There is quite a bit of security going up to the Temple Mount and also on the Temple because of this; however, there have not been an hostile acts there in about 10 years. Side note about the Temple Mount is that you cannot bring any weapons on the mount or a Bible. Since it is such a holy Muslim site they forbid any Christian writings. It is also a place where practicing Jews will not go since it is basically too holy. The Temple Mount is only open for a short time for tourists since it is such a holy place practicing Muslims have daily prayers up there. It was a remarkable site to see, there is a huge mosque and then the Golden Dome of the Rock. There are beautiful views of Mount Olive and the Jewish cemetery there. On one side of the mount is a series of archways that are believed to be to be the place where when Jesus returns to the earth is where those on earth will line up to be taken to heaven. So the cemetery is important since they will be first in line, so the tradition says.
After we left the Temple Mount we headed toward the spot where the Last Supper took place. We walked up the steep and often scary steps to a very small room that seemed like it would have been part of an attic. The room today isn’t anything spectacular, it is now being used as a Christian chapel but has in the past also been a Muslim chapel.
We finished our tour where it started at the Jaffa Gate, it was an exhausting day but pretty incredible too. I absolutely love the history here and hearing about all the religions that have staked claim to this area and consider it to be such a key place to their religion and tradition. It is pretty amazing. Oh and so you can enjoy it too here’s a link to pictures gallery.me.com/robinflynn1