Day 12: Jerusalem
It was another cold day but without the wind from yesterday, it was MUCH more manageable and enjoyable! We began the day at the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews are permitted to visit. It was originally a retaining wall for the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple, begun by Herod the Great. We brought the intentions of our loved ones with us, written on tiny pieces of paper, and left them at the wall as we prayed.
Right next to the Western Wall is the bridge that leads up to the Temple Mount. It was there
we learned about Muhammad's journey to Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock. According to Jewish tradition the rock at the center inside the building is the location where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac. According to Muslim tradition it is upon that same rock that Muhammad made his night journey up to heaven. Only Muslims are currently allowed inside to see the rock.
We walked around the Temple Mount learning about the walls, gates, and biblical history of
the area. Then we walked down to the Church of Saint Anne, which was built over the site of a grotto believed by the Crusaders to be the childhood home of the Virgin Mary. Unlike most other Crusader churches, it was preserved by Muslim rulers due to their reverence of Mary. We sang Amazing Grace surrounded by Catholic and Protestant pilgrims alike. We chose a song that would be well known by all English speaking congregations. Right outside the church are the pools of Bethesda, where Jesus miraculously healed a paralyzed man.
While a few returned back to the hotel at this point, most continued on to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. It was an important stop to understand the history and significance of the State of Israel to the Jewish people. At night we made our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Golgotha and Jesus's burial. We had reserved a private chapel for our Sunday Mass, but found a crowd of people waiting and begging to join us for a Mass in English. Many had spent the weekend looking for English Masses and were unsuccessful. While this was supposed to be our final Mass as a group, we decided inclusivity was the way to go and what a beautiful Mass it was. Travelers from around the world came up to thank us afterwards with tears in their eyes.