This is the view from the BYU Jerusalem Center. Our guide was very funny, when he found out we were Mormon, he took us up there even thought it wasn't actually on the itinerary. It was neat to see it, though.
Outside our Hotel. The drivers here are as skilled as Turks, with just as much temper. It made us feel right at home.
This is the Church of the Ascension. It is believed that when Jesus ascended into heaven he stepped on a stone and the stone still holds his footprint. Let me just clarify right now, that I realize that a lot of these holy sites cannot be verified, or can be interpreted differently by different religions (like for instance - the Eastern Orthodox Church believes that they have the body of Mary in a Tomb, but the Catholic Church has a shrine marking the site where Mary was taken up into heaven "without tasting death".) I am not going to try and figure out what really happened where, (although, if I did maybe I'd be a genius and be showered with wealth. Either that or burned as a heretic) Anyway - I am just going to show pictures of where we were - and let you take it for what it is.
This is the site where Jesus looked out over the City of Jerusalem, and knowing what was to come, wept. That golden ball is the Dome of the Rock. You can tell what Dallen thought of all this "holding still and posing for pictures" nonsense.
One of my favorite sites! You can tell by the number of pictures I posted! =) This is the Garden of Gethsemane. This is one place that is truly verifiable, and the Holy Spirit was very strong here. It was a very peaceful and reverent place. Many sites have been over-run with vendors trying to sell to tourists, but there are a few of the important places that are respectfully kept holy. It was so surreal to think that the trees that we were standing in front of, had been there since the time of Christ (though they had regrown from the roots after the Romans cut them down in 70AD).
This is believed to be the rock that Jesus knelt upon and bled onto when he took upon himself the sins of the world.
This is Hayden playing peek-a-boo outside the Church of All Nations. He was wrapping everyone he met around his little finger. He was such a good sport, walking everywhere (well, usually running) and singing to himself. When we'd enter a church, he'd turn to us and say, "Shhhh...be wewent (reverent)" and then proceed to sing "I Am A Child of God" really loud.
I snapped this from the bus window. I just thought it was neat to see the street signs in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. I also thought it seemed just a little surreal to see road signs with things like "Mt of Olives" or "Sea of Galilee 10 km".
I'm not sure if Hayden is throwing a fit or worshipping, so I am going to go with worshipping to make me feel better as a mom. =)
The kids were such good sports about the food. On the Arabic side of the city, the food was very much like what we have in Turkey. (Here the kids are eating a pita type sandwich called shawarma. They actually liked it as long as the sauce was left off) But on the Jewish side, it was a lot more American/European. We tried to find them burgers and pizza whenever possible. Because believe it or not, we were with a family that had even pickier eaters than me and my kids! Also check out the soda cans - the sprite is in Hebrew and the Coke is in Arabic. Cool huh?
Most of the holy sites were underground (because of course the landscape has changed in 2000 years) Here we are at the entrance to Jesus' birthplace, the Church of the Nativity. You walk into the Church of the Nativity and take steps down to the stable and manger. The boy on the right in the red shirt is part of the family that traveled with us, and the guy in the burgundy shirt is Michael's brother Robert (talking to his wife - the ever awesome Jenna) We were so lucky to have two other families with us. It made losing Bennett that much harder to do. (But not impossible, as he proved to us a couple of times - he just had to be more creative.
Once downstairs, they have the spot of His birth covered and marked by a shrine. You can reach inside the hole and touch the stone.
Then to the other side is the manger where He slept. It is that little trough looking area on Hayden's left.
The inside of the Church of the Nativity. (which is the oldest Christian church in the Holy Land being built in 565 over an older church from 333. The Persians who sacked the city and tore down all the other churches in the 600's spared it because inside was a mosaic of the wise men who were from Persia.)
The Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem.
Outside the Church of the Shepards
The Church of the Shepards marks the spot in Bethlehem where the angels appeared to the shepards watching their flocks, and announced the birth of Christ.
Border crossing through the West Bank on our way to Tiberias. The tour guide casually mentions where we are while my husband says, "COOL!" and snaps pictures and I try not to wet my pants. The barrier fence between Jewish controlled and Palestinian controlled areas can be seen on the left side of the picture.
Outside the Church of St. Anne near the Pool of Bethesda.
Original foundations and cleansing pools. (Notice how far below ground they are now - like I said before, a lot has changed.) This is called the Pool of Bethesda. It is where Jesus cured the paralysed man that had waited for 38 years. See John 5:5-8
This is the Via Dolorosa or Way of the Cross. These are the paths Jesus walked while He carried His cross on the way to Calvary. They have "Stations" along the way that mark things that happened to Him as He struggled with His burden. For instance, the places where He stumbled, the places where He asked the women of Jerusalem not to weep for Him, and some people believe He left His hand print on one of the walls when He leaned against it for support.
All along the way are statues and tributes to this Great Sacrifice. The conclusion I came to, was that regardless of exactly where each thing happened - the Atonement happened. And if anything, my kids and I got an even greater reverence and appreciation for what Jesus did. It made it so much more real to all of us. I chose not to get caught up in the nit picky of the speculation, and just savor the spirit surrounding these Holy places.
The doorway to the Ecce Homo. Meaning "Behold the Man" This is where they placed a crown of thorns on His head and dressed Him in a purple robe and brought Him out to the people. See John 19:5 Inside the Ecce Homo Convent, they had a few artifacts including these small tombs. These are the original caskets used by the Jews for the remains of their sons that were killed when Herod ordered all the babies 2 and under to be slain. We all hugged Hayden a little tighter after seeing those. In the midst of all this holiness, leave it to the kids to bring in some humor. Semi-inappropriate no less. We entered a shop who's back wall was part of the Roman fortress of Antonia where Pilate lived. (our guide recommended we have a look). Well the boys found an "artistic sculpture" of a young lady, and decided to giggle and pinch her bum. I hope this isn't sacrilegious.
The Greek Orthodox Shrine built on the site where it is beleived that Jesus' cross was placed. This site was very difficult to get close to. Obviously everyone wanted to touch the ground where His cross stood. The line was two hours long, mostly because of Easter and Passover
Are you still with me? I warned you this would be long!
You aren't allowed to take pictures right in front of the Wailing Wall, this is as close as you can get. We were able to go to it an touch it. It was kinda cool seeing it stuffed with prayers. For those of you who don't know, the Wailing Wall is the original western wall of Solomon's temple. So once again, it was awesome to touch history.
The road that Jesus walked as a free man from the last supper to Gethsemane, and then as a prisoner after Judas betrayed Him. Dallen said something interesting to me when he saw people kissing the stones of the road. "Mom, why are they kissing the stones?"
"Well, this is the road Jesus walked, and they are thinking of what happened here"
"Are they thinking of the road, or Jesus?"
Ahh the wisdom of a child. No judgement, just stop-you-in-your-tracks innocence. I kind of let that be my mantra for the rest of the trip. Sometimes the sites become the focus instead of the miricles that took place on them.
I thought of that again when I saw Mary's tomb. From what I have ever read about her, she seems humble and quiet. I wonder what she thinks of, looking down on all this ceremony.
The Tomb of King David. I just had to get a picture of the first site we've been to in almost two years where the men had to cover thier heads instead of the women!
Okay, I've got to divide this up, or we will never get through it. I've been working on this for days, and I keep getting interrupted. (What, do I have four kids or something?) I'll post what I have so far, and finish tomorrow.