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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Dome of the Rock, the Garden Tomb and Crossing into Jordan

Before I headed to the Allenby Bridge to cross into Jordan for second half of my Spring Break, there were a couple last sites I wanted to visit in Jerusalem.  I had tried a few times to go to the Temple Mount to see the Dome of the Rock, but but had been refused entrance as only Muslims could enter during the times I was there.  So on this day, I made sure to get there early during the time Christians could enter the site.  The gold-capped Dome of the Rock really is beautiful shining in the sunlight.  The site itself is very controversial.  It's on the site of the original temple, and for that reason sacred to the Jews, but they are not permitted access.  Entry is controlled by Muslims, but Jews are also forbidden entry to the compound because it is a violation of Jewish law.  The precise location of the Holy of Holies, (from the time of  first and second temples) which was only entered by the high priest, is not known, so the entire compound is off limits.  Also, prayer is not allowed at the site unless it is Muslim prayer, and many little prayer groups, segregated by gender, were scattered around the area.  There were people going into the Dome of the Rock, so I asked if I could go in.  The guard asked if I was Muslim, and I replied that I was not.  He asked me why not and asked me how old I was. I told him I was 55.  He said that would be a good age to convert and that I could come back after I did.  Hmm... not likely.   I've been in lots of other mosques, following the custom to cover my head and take off my shoes, but for some reason this one is not open to Christians.  It was nice to see from the outside, however.

There was one more place I wanted to see before heading to Jordan.  The "Garden Tomb" is believed by some to be the location of the sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea where Jesus was buried, rather than the site at the Holy Sepulchre, which is generally accepted to be the actual site.  Here's what the Garden Tomb website has to say on the matter:

The Garden Tomb is an alternative site to the famous Holy Sepulchre for you to consider the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Garden is a beautiful place in which you will discover several things that were all here on the night Jesus died and which match the accounts in the four Gospels. We never claim to be in the right place as we could never prove that; but where Jesus died is of little importance compared with why. So here we ask you to open the Bible and see what it says about these vital Christian truths.

One way or the other, it is a nice garden and was very near the place I was catching my ride to Jordan.

Some people think this is the actual
 "Place of the Skull", Golgotha. 
Lovely Garden

Entrance to the Garden Tomb
This one is empty, too!

I'm inclined to believe that the actual site of Jesus' crucifixion burial and resurrection are the sites at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre inside the Old City, but it was also interesting to visit this place.  There were no bones in either tomb, so I'm happy with that. 

Near the Garden Tomb I caught a ride to the Allenby Bridge border crossing into Jordan.  It's a little tricky.  You have to get out on the Israeli side and enter a building where they check your passport and your entry visa for Israel and pay an exit fee then take a shuttle bus across the bridge into Jordan where you get out and they again check your passport and your Jordanian visa.  Getting a visa to Jordan ahead of time was a very long process which I was really nervous about, as I didn't get it until just 2 days before I left the UK.   When I finally got the message that my visa had been approved I had to miss a half day of school to go to the Jordanian Embassy in London.  For some reason, visas are not available at the land crossings into Jordan, only at the airport if you fly into the country.  Anyway, I had my precious visa, so they let me in the country and I found my ride into the capital city, Amman. 

My week in Israel was amazing, and now I'm ready to see what the second half of my spring break, a week in Jordan, has in store!

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