05.10.2017 30 °C
Yesterday we ventured out to a cafe and treated ourselves to a massive breakfast. I mean massive! This was their "vegan breakfast", full of different condiments and side dishes, toast, potatoes, and coffee. I was stuffed after but it was all so, so tasty! Josh has been trying food he would never eat at home and he had an egg dish that he really liked and wants to learn to make now so he can have it at home. Breakfast wins.
Next we slowly made our way down to the entrance to the old city where our tour was meeting. Our guide was Yoni, from Israel, who knew so much about each different religion and the importance of all the sites we saw. He made sure he was giving us the facts and the traditions and telling us which parts are proven to be true and which parts are so deeply traditional, even without proof, that they are essentially known to be true. I really liked how he positioned everything.
We started off at King David's Tomb, where people were waiting in a small line to see his tomb and stop to pray. We also saw the inside of the Dormition Abbey, which was a church, then the Muslims took it over so it was a mosque, then the crusaders took it back so it was a church again. This was the theme of the day! I'm no history buff but this happened, like, a lot back then. This is also the site which once held the room of the Last Supper. It's not the original building, but it's the same site, so it's now known as the room of the Last Supper.
Next we walked through Zion Gate where we could see remnants of the last explosion where the gate was conquered, like 1000 years ago. We also saw the old walls (4000 years old) and the new walls (1000 years old). Yoni says in Israel new means 1000 years old or less!
Being a Monday there were a TON of bar mitzvahs going on! We probably saw about 5. Lots of 13 year olds turning into men on Mondays apparently!
Next we saw the Western wall. We saw two parts, one that doesn't segregate men and women, it was much much more quiet than the segregated part. The segregated part is the one in all the photos you see, but the first part we went is just as significant and it's where parts of Jesus's story take place, near where the currency exchange was. We got to touch the very old wall and Josh left a note, which is very common for people to do. We were literally walking in the same places that Jesus once walked.
Next we stood in line to get in to the Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock. As non-Muslims we can only enter for one hour during the day, on certain days, and if that. Sometimes the police will just close the gates! So in order to get past the security checks we got there an hour early, and while waiting we took turns entering the more popular part of the western wall as it's right next to it. As I entered and went to the right side for women only, there were tons of ladies up on a step looking over at the bar mitzvahs happening on the men's side. There were holy books all over and lots of women trying to get their spot on the wall to pray and leave a note.
As we waited outside for the doors to open our guide Yoni talked about the history of the Temple Mount. It is the holiest place in the world for Jews; it's where they believe the world was created from, and God gathered the dust to make Adam, the worlds first humans. But many Jews don't even attempt to visit since their Rabbi may not agree with it. You have to be purified of all of your sins in order to be in the holiest place in the world, and many think they cannot do that in this life.
The Temple Mount was taken over by Muslims in 638 CE and until present day the hold the site. So you cannot go inside the buildings unless you are Muslim, and if they suspect you aren't they will test you before entering! It is the third holiest place in the world for Muslims - it's where Muhammad came and ascended into Heaven. Because the Muslims have taken it over, and because it is such a controversial place between Muslims and Jews, the Israeli government is always here to police the area. You are not allowed to pray if you are not Muslim, couples are not allowed to touch each other at all, no handholding, no nothing. If you do any of the forbidden acts you will be promptly kicked out, and our guide says he sees it happen regularly!
Inside it was really quiet and there weren't a lot of people, we saw the grounds and the main two religious buildings, the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. It's a bit sad that the Jewish community can't visit inside the Dome where they believe the world was created. But if you even read through the Wikipedia page on this area you can see there's been a ton of battles and terrorism surrounding this site. I'm glad we got to see it!
Next we left and wandered the streets of the old town while the group ate lunch. Josh and I were still stuffed from breakfast, so I just got some dried fruit to munch on. After lunch we started to walk the stations of the cross called the Via Dolorosa. It is the road that Jesus walked with the cross from the time of his arrest to his crucifixion and resurrection. We walked through the stations eventually leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest place in the world for Christianity. We walked in and saw the stone where they laid Jesus to remove him from the cross. It is said to be the same stone! Lots of people were rubbing things on it to receive the holiness, some people just touched it and prayed.
Next we went to the different rooms of the church. The church was built long after Jesus died, but in the same place that the events happened. All over the church we saw crosses etched in the stone from when the crusaders took it over in the 11th century.
We went to a room that had a burial site from 2000 years ago. It was the burial site of Joseph of Arimathea the guy who gave Jesus the linens he needed in order to have his traditional Jewish burial. There were no tourists in there! There were people waiting in lines everywhere, but yet most people don't know that this is an actual 2000 year old burial site within the church that you can climb into!
Around the corner from that we saw the tomb of Jesus. Lots of people were waiting in line to go in and have their moment. Apparently it had just finished being renovated in March, so we have very good timing!
Next we went up the stairs to the spot where Jesus was crucified. Again, people were waiting in line to touch the stone where it was performed.
And with that we finished off our holy tour! It was all so interesting, Josh and I totally felt it was worth the cost for the almost 5 hour tour covering all of the main holy sites and pointing out things we never, ever would have known. With that we walked along the old roads back outside the holy city and back to our Air BNB to get off of our feet for a bit! We had a relaxing evening with dinner and drinks and then headed to bed.