Tag Archives: 2013

Phillip’s take on Jerusalem

11 Apr

Were I to even begin to try and do justice to my thoughts and experiences in Jerusalem, you’d be reading a book (don’t worry, I won’t do that to you). Rather, I’ll stick to some of the major themes on which I continually ruminated during the six days we were in Jerusalem.First, this trip was different for me. I’ve been to Jerusalem a number of times, and each trip is always different. So, from that standpoint, it was the same (lol). I mean by different that, before going this time, we both knew that it would be our last time going, at least while we live here in the Middle East. Our last trip was only 3 months ago with Rachel’s parents. After we’d returned to Jordan, I decided I already began planning this final trip to coincide with Easter/Passover and decided that I was going to make it the granddaddy of them all. We stayed longer than we have before. And this time it was just the two of us. That meant we set our own schedule (or, to be fair to Rachel, I set a schedule that she was gracious enough to more or less follow). Finally, I’d decided to re-read all the books and information I’d read previously again, along with some new material from recent archaeological digs, etc. I’ve usually given historical comments when we’ve visited sites about which I knew something, but this time I’d read about pretty much every site, so it was really like a tour. Honestly, it was as much for me as it was for Rachel. I process information out loud, so walking around a city that is so rich in history and culture, it helped me to take it in and appreciate it by talking out loud (thanks, RR).

A great view of the Western Wall complex (holiest site in Judaism - below) with the Dome of the Rock on top of the Temple Mount / Noble Sanctuary. It's quite busy due to Passover.

A great view of the Western Wall complex (holiest site in Judaism – below) with the Dome of the Rock on top of the Temple Mount / Noble Sanctuary. It’s quite busy due to Passover.

The southwestern portion of the city walls (which date from the 16th century AD as they stand now). This view is from "David's Citadel," which is actually an Islamic-period reconstruction of an earlier fortress that Herod had built. It's the most likely site of Jesus' condemnation.

The southwestern portion of the city walls (which date from the 16th century AD as they stand now). This view is from “David’s Citadel,” which is actually an Islamic-period reconstruction of an earlier fortress that Herod had built. It’s the most likely site of Jesus’ condemnation.

Second, in my preparation for the trip, I focused not only on the religiously significant material, but historically and culturally relevant material as well. I really wanted to get a holistic picture. For example, I really wanted to pay attention to the walls this time. The current walls around the Old City date to the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, a 16th century Ottoman Sultan. The story of Jerusalem’s walls is a long and complex one, about which there is some debate. There were already walls when David and his men took the city. Those walls remained and were expanded by the 8th century (at the latest) to the western hill. Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed them, and Nehemiah is said to have still found them in disrepair over a century later. They were rebuilt and expanded several times again, until the city was again laid waste by Titus and his troops in 70 AD (only a portion of the wall was left as a base camp for his troops for over 200 years!). Byzantines and Persians, Arabs, Mamelukes, Ayyubids, Ottomans, British, and finally, Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians have since fought around and over these walls. I thought of the many men who fought and died to possess and protect the city from those walls.

A view of the Temple Mount / Noble Sanctuary from south of the Old City. You can see the city walls.

A view of the Temple Mount / Noble Sanctuary from south of the Old City. You can see the city walls.

The southern portion of the western retaining wall that Herod had built for the Temple. The pavement is 1st century AD. You can see the initial portion of Robinson's Arch, one of the large arched stepped entrances onto the Temple Mount.

The southern portion of the western retaining wall that Herod had built for the Temple. The pavement is 1st century AD. You can see the initial portion of Robinson’s Arch, one of the large arched stepped entrances onto the Temple Mount.

I also really wanted to focus on the complex that stands atop what the Bible refers to as Mt. Zion, but what Jews have for a long time referred to as Mt. Moriah and the Temple Mount. It’s the spot David purchased and brought the Ark to rest upon. It’s the spot his son, Solomon, is said to have built a magnificent temple (well, not him exactly, more like harshly-treated Israelites and Phoenicians). The Temple was destroyed by that pesky Nebuchadnezzar, re-built by the returnees under Zerubabel, and then completely rebuilt by Herod the Great. Herod, however, didn’t just want to rebuild the temple itself; rather, he wanted to create a huge complex. So he cut away the bedrock to the north of the temple, filled in uneven areas to the east and west with fill, and created a series of underground vaulted chambers to support the southern portion of what is really an esplanade dozens of football fields squared. It was said that, if you hadn’t seen Herod’s temple, you hadn’t truly seen beauty. Ironically, it was finished only two years before the Jewish revolt began, and only six years before Titus’ troops razed it to the ground and pulled down its retaining walls. A portion of the western retaining wall to the temple complex (NOT the temple itself) is what Jews today call the Western Wall (or the Wailing Wall) and what constitutes the holiest site in Judaism. The mount was given the name Moriah because of the later Jewish tradition that says that it was on that same spot that Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac.

A close-up of the Dome of the Rock. It is inlaid with tiny painted pieces of tile, with verses from the Qur'an ringing the structure.

A close-up of the Dome of the Rock. It is inlaid with tiny painted pieces of tile, with verses from the Qur’an ringing the structure.

Atop the since-rebuilt walls of the mount sits one of the oldest examples of Islamic architecture (although it is not typical of Islamic architecture) – the Dome of the Rock. At the southern end of the mount, which the Muslims call al-Haram al-Shareef “The Noble Sanctuary,” sits the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Islamic tradition holds that it is from the rock upon which the Dome of the Rock sits that Muhammad ascended through the levels of heaven on a golden ladder and received, among other things, the commandment to pray 5 times daily. The same rock – a natural part of the bedrock of the mount – is thought by most scholars to be the location of the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple. Rabbinic tradition holds that that same rock was the first stone laid in creation (the foundation stone of the earth), as well as where Adam was created.

It is an awesome and strange place. You can feel the holiness afforded the site by so many, and yet it has become a site where politics and nationalism have collided more and more as well. Many Jews are eager to reclaim the mount and build the third temple, but some see this as something only the Messiah will accomplish. Arabs control it currently and, due to lack of Palestinian control over much of their land and lives, exercise their control with great jealousy and see any encroachment as a threat to Palestine.

Me sitting on stones that were part of Herod's western wall but were pushed down after the Roman general, Titus' men took the Temple Mount in 70 AD.

Me sitting on stones that were part of Herod’s western wall but were pushed down after the Roman general, Titus’ men took the Temple Mount in 70 AD.

Thirdly, I wanted to take in the city as a living city. Despite its small area (less than half a squared mile), it is home to at least 30,000 people, thus it is very much a living city. There are markets and stores just about everywhere you look, along with restaurants and a variety of establishments. The holy and historical are mixed in layers with the modern and, sometimes, the fabricated. Pilgrims of each of the three Abrahamic faiths come and visit, most of the time walking through and among the faithful of one religion to get somewhere else. To get up to the Muslim Noble Sanctuary (Temple Mount) you cross through the open Western Wall plaza. The Via Dolorosa (The way of sorrows, that is, the cross), the path tradition holds that Jesus walked with the cross to Golgotha, is largely in the Muslim quarter. The “Citadel of David” (actually a Hasmonean/Herodian palace that was rebuilt as a fort) straddles the line between the Christian and Armenian quarters.

We would often just wander around the old city from quarter to quarter and notice the different activities afoot in each quarter. It’s remarkable how diverse and different the modes of religious practice that take place in each quarter are, while at the same time how similar they are. Jerusalem represents so many things. History, faith, culture. It represents the central point for so many. It is a city of dreams, of longing. It plays a central role in the world to come in each of the three faiths. It is, however, a city of division and strife, with so many of those dreams and beliefs opposed to one another. It is often remarked that the different faiths tolerate each other in the city. That is true to a great degree. However, I think they tolerate each other because, aside from the police force that enforces it, each believes that, one day, they won’t have to tolerate the other anymore. One day, the city will cease being theirs only partially, and become theirs fully. One day, it will reflect the realization of their hopes and longings and faith.

My personal dream would be that their visions would change – that they would begin to encompass each other. That Jerusalem would ring with a diversity that is cherished, as it is already by me now. I love walking among Muslims gathered together to study the Qur’an on the Noble Sanctuary on my way to visit the Haredi Jews at the wall, the various churches in the Holy Sepulcher, etc. Jerusalem is a unique city, which has to be experienced to be believed. It’s something a little different for everyone. For me, it is the center of all of my interests and passions. It is for me, as it is for countless others, and has been for many throughout the past four thousand years, the center of the world.

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Easter 2013

9 Apr
Flowers at the Garden Tomb

Flowers at the Garden Tomb

Easter Eve Mass

We joined English-speaking internationals from all over on Easter eve.  It was a reflective, meditative service that Phillip and I both enjoyed thoroughly.  The congregation of sisters and convent guests began on the terrace with a candle-lit vigil; then there was singing as we processed down to the sanctuary.  There was a homily, singing, readings, communion, renewal of baptism, and prayer.  A two-hour service, but great preparation for Easter.  (Side note:  we opted not to do the terrace sun-rise service since it’d probably be another couple of hours long.  Sunrise and sitting still for hours is a recipe for sleep!)

The Convent

This is the third time that Phillip and I have stayed here (at the Ecce Homo Arch Convent/Pilgrim House which is run by the Sisters of Zion, a French group of nuns).  I LOVE the atmosphere.  Since we have almost a full week to spend here this time, our pace has been slower than either of the other times.  It truly feels like a retreat/rest form life in Amman.  I’m glad that Phillip decided on staying longer this time.  The accommodations are simple, but comfortable and beautiful.  Stone floors and walls, a common coffee room with wi-fi (of course!) that extends out to the terrace.  And of course, the million-dollar view!

Unique blossom at the Garden Tomb.

Unique blossom at the Garden Tomb.

The weather has been *perfect,* and I have enjoyed wearing [insert gasp] short sleeves with the skin above my elbows showing sometimes!  So this is day 5 of 7, and we’ve been here long enough to start to recognize people.  Many of the sisters we remembered from before.  Some of the guests whom we meet in passing are the 24 Biblical Program participants that will stay at the convent a total of 4 weeks for Passover/Easter study and travel.  If I have an extra $5,000 (x2 for Phillip, of course) lying around when I’m a little “riper of age,” I’d love to come spend a month retreat here and go through the study with Christians from around the world.  So cool!

The Garden Tomb.  This site and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are the two most visited by Christian Pilgrims.  While the Garden Tomb is outside the city walls and is the least likely of the two to be the actual site, it is my favorite because the atmosphere is very peaceful and full of natural beauty.

The Garden Tomb. This site and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are the two most visited by Christian Pilgrims. While the Garden Tomb is outside the city walls and is the least likely of the two to be the actual site, it is my favorite because the atmosphere is very peaceful and full of natural beauty.

Resurrection Day + Rednecks

A “redneck” for my intents and purposes shall be defined as:

someone who is so absorbed in his or her own world-view /experience/agenda that s/he will do and say idiotic things despite what negative consequences there may be for themselves or others who may be totally unrelated to the redneck’s world.

You might be a politically-charged-Jewish-redneck if you decide to cut in a 100 yard line of mostly foreign Christians in order to go up on the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, walk into the Alaqsa Mosque, start praying, and saying things like, “This is our land!”

You will ruin the opportunity to visit the mount for thousands of Christians and other non-Muslim visitors for the rest of the day.  My advice?  Maybe you should stop provoking the Muslims to throw rocks at you and go home and wash your beard which is much too long for 2013.  Keep it long if you feel that you must, but do trim it, and start worrying about your hygiene more than you worry about taking over the mount from the Muslim world.  And put on some shoes!  Nasty germs seeping through the soles of your feet as you walk around barefoot out here.  Gross.

4 ½ hours.  That’s the amount of time that Phillip waited in line to go through Israeli security to enter the Muslim-operated platform/hill of the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount.  (It has so many different names because each of the groups who has stuck its flag in the dirt on top has given it a different one.)  I waited half of that time with Phillip Easter morning, but decided to come back to the convent eventually.

The rolled away stone at the Garden Tomb.  (Jesus was not there, by the way. :)

The rolled away stone at the Garden Tomb. (Jesus was not there, by the way. :)

Monday, April 1 was (an almost!) redneck-free morning.  After the previous day’s fruitless line waiting, Phillip was determined to get in line at least before the throngs arrived.  We got up to a 6:40 alarm, quickly ate some cereal and were down at the entry ramp by 7:25am with just a handful of others.  They opened the entrance at 7:30 (I thought we were going to have to wait until 8:30!)!!  I was glad to have a cool morning to walk around the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary platform with Phillip.  It’s his favorite place in the world, I think.  We saw a boys’ school on the far north end that neither of us knew was there.  We passed by at the time they were doing their morning recitation of a Qur’an Sura.  It reminded me of saying the Pledge of Allegiance as a student in school.

The architectural feat of filling in that platform (which is 35 acres, or one sixth the size of the 0.35 square miles of the entire Old City) without the assistance of cranes, bulldozers and modern equipment is simply amazing.  You walk up there, and you are standing where the Old Testament sacrifices were made — an area that we (as Gentiles) would never have been allowed.  The area, now controlled by Muslims, is the third Holiest site in Islam.  Up until 13 years ago, they allowed anyone to pay a fee and enter the building which supports the Golden Dome of the Rock.  But thanks to Ariel Sharon (a former Prime Minister of Israel) and some of his buds, now only Muslims may enter.

The symmetrical building may be sitting over the place where the Holy of Holies once was… or just beside it.  For that reason and the fact that the exact place of the Holy of Holies is unknown, Orthodox Jews do not go up on the platform anymore.  The Chief Rabbi has forbidden it.  Thus, the importance of the Western Wall.  And thus, the craziness of the “rednecks” from yesterday is highlighted.

Even still, I noticed one Orthodox Jew with his kippa and hair noodles (which had been made a little flat by the humidity, I suppose) who was standing still, facing the Dome of the Rock as if he were praying or something.  A group of Muslim men who had gathered to read the Qur’an together were shouting at him to leave.

Bold.

And stupid.

After a few moments, he continued to walk around with two Israeli policemen and their machine guns in tow.  Some people are just asking for it.  At least we got up there before he or his friends caused any more troubles.

Easter Dinner

Lemon & berry sorbet with chocolate drizzle.  Easter dinner's dessert!

Lemon & berry sorbet with chocolate drizzle. Easter dinner’s dessert!

I was just thinking.  If I were going to plan an Easter meal, I’d choose lamb as the main course if I wanted to put a religious spin on the dining experience and rabbit if I wanted to go secular.  Think about it for a second.  Either of those would be a more appropriate choice than burgers or chicken wings, right?  Anyway, now back to my account of Easter 2013:

Phillip and I held back our appetites all afternoon on Easter Sunday in anticipation of a huge delicious meal at the convent – like the one they prepared at Christmas.  Imagine your dining experience over the span of 8 months.  Now, imagine that except for what you cook at home (and I cook a LOT at home), 99% of the food that is available when you eat out is:  (1) falafel, (2) shawarma, or (3) hummus.  Finally, imagine yourself wanting a break from that!  The thought of Western/European-style dining after months of Middle Eastern food!  Mashed potatoes, pot roast, braised chicken, steamed vegetables, dinner rolls with honey butter… Mmm!  Tonight!  Easter dinner!  Yay!!  I can’t wait to see what we’re having!

Mansaf.

We walked into the convent’s dining room, and they had prepared JORDAN’S NATIONAL DISH for the foreign Easter pilgrim guests – lamb atop turmeric rice with a hot yogurt sauce on the side.  Not exactly what we were hoping for, but great-tasting nonetheless.  I also enjoyed a Greek salad.  We never eat salad in Jordan – except when I make Tabouleh – but it’s not the same as a SALAD salad.  They served “Star of Bethlehem” wine, a dry red variety along with a lemon & berry sorbet with chocolate drizzle for dessert.  Phillip and I split a third helping of dessert, thanks to Phillip’s making friends with our Arabic-speaking Palestinian waiter.  It was all delicious and we were full — thank you, Ecce Homo Convent for a beautiful Easter week experience!

At the pools of Bethesda where a special  supply of water for the Jewish Temple was stored.  Also where Jesus healed a paralytic who'd been waiting at the pool for 38 years.

At the pools of Bethesda where a special supply of water for the Jewish Temple was stored. Also where Jesus healed a paralytic who’d been waiting at the pool for 38 years.

Bethesda Pool Ruins.

Bethesda Pool Ruins.

Bethesda Pools -- imagine this whole area (and others) filled with water!

Bethesda Pools — imagine this whole area (and others) filled with water!

We have since concluded our fabulous week in Jerusalem, returned to Amman, fought gastroenteritis with antibiotics one more time (and please, Lord, may it be the last while we’re in the Middle East), and returned to work.   Still catching up on our sleep, but we have 1,300+ photos along with hours of memories and stories to thumb through in the meantime.

Thoughts on Judaism + Islam

9 Apr
A view from the men's side of the Western Wall Plaza.

A view from the men’s side of the Western Wall Plaza.

The Western Wall as a location for worship

(continued from Good Friday in Jerusalem…)

Also, today, thanks to Phillip’s descriptions and a cool model on an underground tour that we took yesterday, I learned a great deal about the layout and historical sequence of the temple and the wall/mount that supported it.  The feat of getting those multi-ton slabs in position (over 30 rows high on the steepest hill slopes) is simply baffling.   I imagine it’s like looking at the pyramids; you stand there and ask out loud, “How did they DO that??”

The Western Wall.  The most holy place in Judaism.  Worshippers gather day and night to pray at the ancient stones -- this is the closest spot they can get to where the Holy of Holies once was on the platform above.

The Western Wall. The most holy place in Judaism. Worshippers gather day and night to pray at the ancient stones — this is the closest spot they can get to where the Holy of Holies once was on the platform above.

The Western Wall is the most holy place in Judaism.  As Phillip and I stood and watched the crowds pray at sunset on the eve of the Passover Sabbath (which just happened to coincide with Easter this year), I wondered what it must be like to worship in that way.  I have prayed at the wall myself, but that style does not constitute the bulk of my experience with prayer or worship.  No one is there to “lead a service.”  Men and women simply clasp their copy of the Torah or a prayer book – sometimes covering their faces with it, rock back and forth, and sway side to side as they recite the Hebrew that they have meditated on and memorized by heart.  They’re at the Western Wall because in 2013, it’s the closest spot they can get to where the Holy of Holies used to reside.

There is so much history here.  I’ve contemplated historic and contemporary relationships among Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  In one sense, Christians are to Jews as Muslims are to Christians.  I don’t mean just the order of “who came first,” but rather the claims of each.  Christians believe that the Messiah has come while Jews are still waiting for one.  And Muslims hold that Mohammed gave the final and most complete revelation from God because what Jesus taught had been distorted.  Within that A –> B –> C sequence of faiths, I wonder if Jews look at Islam and think, “Wow.  How new.”

Street Talk:  Interactions between Jews and Arabs

Stylin' the Orthodox way!

Stylin’ the Orthodox way!

First up, in my opinion, the Orthodox Jews make themselves an easy target simply by their beard style and clothing preferences – the men in particular.  The orthodox men also grow out the sides of their hair just above their ears.  Eventually, the hair starts to look like long, curly “hair noodles” jiggling to and fro as the grower walks.  In addition, during this (our third visit to Jerusalem together), the men have been wearing huge biscuit-shaped hats covered in dark brown fur – perhaps a Passover thing?  And the big punctuation mark after it all are the black, Chinese silk wrap-around robes with white stockings underneath.  They even dress their little boys in a similar way.  Hey, gotta start those hair noodles early!   I want to say to them, “Come on, guys.  You really are asking for any snickers that you come your way.  No one else on the planet dresses like that.”  I guess they don’t care.

Now, only a couple of times have Phillip and I observed non-friendly verbal interaction on the streets between the two groups (Jews & Muslims).  It’s interesting that within the 0.35 square miles of the Old City, the Arabs tend mostly to stick to their quarter and stay out of the Jewish quarter.  I’ve seen more Jews in the Muslim quarter by far, but they seem only to be swiftly passing through.  There’s no loitering with their Palestinian buds or hanging around just because they both happen to speak Semitic languages.

The Via Dolorosa in the Muslim quarter of the Old City.  The arch spanning the buildings on either side is where the Ecce Homo Arch Convent gets its name.

The Via Dolorosa in the Muslim quarter of the Old City. The arch spanning the buildings on either side is where the Ecce Homo Arch Convent gets its name.

Phillip and I have now lived 20 months in Jordan.  During that time, I have gone from being almost totally ignorant of the Israeli-Palestinian situation to hearing story after story (from my students in Amman to random taxi drivers) about the two groups’ mistreatment of each other and their interactions over the past half century.  Having dealt with and adapted to the lifestyle required by Jordan’s limited water resources on a daily basis since our arrival in August of 2011, and having been educated by historical facts as well as these personal accounts of intense bullying and violence from my English students, I have to say that my empathy lies almost completely with the Palestinians.Certainly, I respect the long-suffering of the Jews (at least from an outsider’s perspective); their saga through the ages seems to be “persecution.”  But, one would think that being on the receiving end of that stick for so long would make a victim more kind-hearted towards others with whom they share dealings.

Vendors line every nook and cranny of Jerusalem's Old City streets.  This shop is in the Armenian quarter.

Vendors line every nook and cranny of Jerusalem’s Old City streets. This shop is in the Armenian quarter.

Gaza.

The West Bank.

The bulldozing of acres and acres of private Palestinian homes to build Israeli housing settlements.

The Berlin-like wall that we can see from the convent roof top just south of the Mt. of Olives.

The border crossings that make you feel like you’re trapped in a human rat cage.

The strict control over who passes and who spends their life inside the run-down ghettos like the outskirts of Bethlehem.

“Even a bursting appendix won’t be your ticket out,” said the shopkeeper in Bethlehem from whom we bought our olive wood nativities.

Come on, people.  Do we learn NOTHING from history?

A night market on a street stemming from the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary Platform.  You can find just about anything in these markets -- and you're especially in luck if you like gummy candy!

A night market on a street stemming from the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary Platform. You can find just about anything in these markets — and you’re especially in luck if you like gummy candy!

Passover week coincided with Easter Holy week this year, so our favorite Jewish bakery was closed for most of our time in Jerusalem.  No leaven during Passover = no pastries or cinnamon rolls.  :(

Passover week coincided with Easter Holy week this year, so our favorite Jewish bakery was closed for most of our time in Jerusalem. No leaven during Passover = no pastries or cinnamon rolls. :(

Our last day in Jerusalem, Passover was over, so the bread came to life again!

Our last day in Jerusalem, Passover was over, so the bread came to life again!

Good Tractors + Good Friday

9 Apr
Watch your toes as these tractors frequently come through Jerusalem's Old City streets.

Watch your toes as these tractors frequently come through Jerusalem’s Old City streets.

continued from Jerusalem during Easter/Passover, March 2013…

Somewhat sleep deprived for 3 nights prior to our journey from Amman, Phillip and I took morning naps after breakfast today.  The extra hours further relieved the soreness in my legs from yesterday’s walking and rejuvenated us with energy for another day out and about.There’s lots and lots of walking in the Old City.

People do drive cars through the narrow, European-esque streets, but you do have stand with your back to the wall sometimes to give them sufficient space to pass.  And watch your toes!   (Side note:  they also drive small tractors through the streets that pull carts of produce.  Side note to the side note:  I saw a tractor driver texting while driving down the ancient streets.  I can hear the mothers of Jerusalem telling their sons, “Don’t text and tractor!”)

Still, the vast amount of “traffic” is on foot.  There are 4 quarters/quadrants that make up the Old City:  Muslim, Jewish, Christian, & Armenian (see map).  Anyone can walk through any of the quarters; the names are given I suppose according to the shopkeepers and residents that occupy each area.  Despite the names though, you will find churches in the Muslim quarter – like the Ecce Homo Arch Convent where Phillip and I stayed.

The convent has multi-level terraces (flat roofs) where we enjoyed many lovely views of the Old City.  We could see Christian Pilgrims carrying crosses down on the Via Dolorosa (just at ground level of the convent).  Their singing (in various languages) echoed through the stone streets and walls.  It was a very cool way to wake up the Saturday and Sunday of Easter.

Ecce Homo Arch Convent -- this is the place we stayed.  The multi-level rooftop terraces offered gorgeous views at every time of day.

Ecce Homo Arch Convent — this is the place we stayed. The multi-level rooftop terraces offered gorgeous views at every time of day.

The minoret tower (and speaker) are very close to the convent, and you WILL be woken up by the morning call to prayer!

The minoret tower (and speaker) are very close to the convent, and you WILL be woken up by the morning call to prayer!

Sunrise behind the Mt. of Olives as viewed from the convent.

Sunrise behind the Mt. of Olives as viewed from the convent.

For me, the highlight and most contemplative part of today (Good Friday) was visiting the Church of St. Peter in Galicantu.  Why?  Because although it is another “traditional” spot – as opposed to a definite spot – the stone cisterns beneath the church are undoubtedly quite similar to what would’ve been found beneath Caiaphas’ house where Jesus was kept after his arrest and where Peter denied him three times.  The Galilean accent gave Peter away; Phillip can tell you how accents in Arabic really associate the speaker with a particular place – much more so than an English speaker’s does.

Far down under the church of Byzantine (1st century rocks) was a small room/cistern that you could walk down into.  It was empty except for a small wooden stand where a book rested.  I turned some of its pages to find that Psalm 88 was printed in more than 50 languages.  I found it very descriptive for what Jesus might’ve been feeling during his imprisonment.

Inside a cistern at the church of St. Peter in Galicantu -- a room similar to the one at Caiaphas' house where Jesus would've been kept after his arrest.

Inside a cistern at the church of St. Peter in Galicantu — a room similar to the one at Caiaphas’ house where Jesus would’ve been kept after his arrest.

Psalm 88

1Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
2 May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.

3 I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
5 I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.

6 You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
7 Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
8 You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
9 my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?

15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.