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Come along with me as I attempt to navigate my way through a new country, school system, and life for a year!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Last Day in the Holy Land

 I began my last day in the Holy Land by trekking through the insane border crossing from Jordan back into Israel.  There is no way they could make it any more complicated!  For instance, after standing in line at window number 1, where they take your passport, you then queue up at window number 2, and all they do when you finally make it to the window is tell  you to pay an exit tax at window number 3 and to return to window number 2 with the receipt.  Why you don't go to window 3 directly from 1 is totally beyond me.  Then there are numerous lines to give up your baggage, get it back again, get on a bus that takes you across the bridge getting your passport back on the bus (they tried to give me someone else's passport on the bus, not a good system) then give up your passport on the Israeli side, get in line to have your baggage  x-rayed, (where anyone who has paid an extra $100 can go ahead of you in line), get in another line to be questioned about your reasons to go to Israel and any connections you might have there, then try to find your luggage in a big pile in a huge room, stand in line to get an Israeli visa, then in another line where all they do is punch a hole in the visa you just got. I mentioned to one of the fellows working at the x-ray machine that it seemed like a really busy day and he said it was actually one of the quieter days!  Three hours after beginning the process I was across and looking for a shuttle back to Jerusalem.

There were still a few things I wanted to do before I left.  I hadn't had time to explore Mount Zion yet, so that was first on my agenda for the day.  I visited the Room of the Last Supper, King David's Tomb, Dormition Abbey (where some believe Mary lived and "fell asleep" after Jesus' death), and Mary's Tomb (where others believe she was buried after she died).
Room of the Last Supper
 In the Crypt of Dormition Abbey

If Mary opened her eyes, this is what she would see above her head.
All around the crypt are chapels donated
by different countries.  This one is from Ivory Coast.

 From Mount Zion I circled around the walled city back to the Mount of Olives.  Despite the fact that I slept on the Mount of Olives every night while I was in Jerusalem, I really hadn't spent much time there during the daylight.  I made a stop at the Garden of Gethsemane then went to the Church of the Pater Noster, which is a church built on the spot where tradition has it Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's Prayer.  The walls of this church and courtyard are tiled with this prayer in 62 different languages.  Next stop was the Chapel of the Ascension.  This small chapel is built around the rock where Jesus ascended into heaven.  I waited until a big tour group from Poland left and I had the place to myself so I could  stand on the very spot and take a photo of my feet.
Garden of Gethsemane

Courtyard at Church of the Pater Noster

Standing on the Ascension Rock

Chapel of the Ascension

 One of the vicars at my church in the UK had traveled to Israel with his wife last year and gave an evening presentation of photos from their trip.  One picture that I really liked was taken from Dominus Flevit, which I had never heard of before, so my final quest in Jerusalem was to find this church and the view.  Dominus Flevit means "The Lord Wept" and this marks the spot recorded in Luke 19:41-42 where Jesus weeps over Jerusalem.

 "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it  and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes."
View from Dominus Flevit Window

View of Jerusalem from Outside Dominus Flevit

Visiting the Holy Land has been an extraordinary experience.  It's almost incomprehensible to walk in the same places Jesus walked when he was here on earth.  Having a mental picture of these locations now that I have visited them brings a whole new dimension to reading the Bible.  Experiencing just a bit of the Palestinian/Israeli struggle and talking with people who deal with the challenges every day was very eye-opening.  You've heard the expression, "wearing your religion on your sleeve," well I have no idea what that means, but in the Holy Land, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem, almost everyone wears their religion on their head.  Within just a few paces you can see Orthodox priests in their tall hats (which I've learned are called kalimavkion), nuns in their habits, Jewish men wearing either kippah or the furry shtreimel, Jewish women wearing snoods or wigs, Palestinian men wearing turbans or kufiya (the white or red-checked) , and Islamic women wearing anything from a simple headscarf to a full burqa.  I like that--I like knowing I'm surrounded by believers, even if they might believe something different than I believe.  And I like delving deeper into my own beliefs.  I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to visit this very special spot on the globe.   

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