The National Hotel, where we are staying for our eight days in Jerusalem, is located in the Palestinian sector of East Jerusalem, as I said earlier. It is run by Palestinians and specializes in Palestinian cuisine, which is awesome. We have had a great stay in this beautiful place and have been treated with much grace and friendliness by the staff as well as the residents of the area. The problem, however, is that vacationers have been scared off by the recent attacks against Israelis and foreign visitors. Since this city relies upon tourists and is usually filled with them, this year they seem to be staying home or vacationing elsewhere. We experienced the same thing in Egypt two years ago when the locals begged us to go home and tell our friends not to fear this place—we need tourism. And just as when we traveled in Egypt we have never felt unsafe here. We make it a point to move out among the people and get to know them as best we can in the hustle and bustle of this place.
This morning we decided to stay close to our home base and minimize the walking. Kathy wears a Fitbit and normally has been averaging five miles a day walking. But because it turned hot here (95 degrees today, with humidity) we decided not to go too far from home. So we went about two blocks away to the see Garden Tomb. This place rivals the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in that both claim to have the possible place where Jesus was crucified and buried. The tradition of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre goes back to the time of Constantine (4th Century A. D.). Chapels and churches have been built one after another over the place since that time and it is a very old tradition. But it appears that the place was inside the walls during the first century (Jews would never allow a burial within their city). But the tradition of the Garden Tomb only goes back about 150 years. And yet it has several things that make it the possible place of crucifixion and burial. For one, it is located just outside the Damascus Gate of the city. The Romans always preferred to crucify people in plain view of everyone else to discourage insurrection. Also, the place was a garden (as Scripture indicates) and has a hill next to it that looks very much like a skull (it was called “the place of the skull” in Scripture). As they dug there they found a rock hewn tomb that was constructed for a family burial plot (Jesus’ tomb was donated by Joseph of Aramathea) and it had an inscription on the inside wall when they discovered it that was a cross with the Greek letters alpha and omega (what Jesus called himself in the book of Revelation). So it appears that someone in the distant past once thought this was Jesus’ burial place—perhaps Christians made this a holy place since the beginning. While we were there we realized that the students in the crowd of English speaking tourists were all from Pepperdine University—Eric’s alma mater. So we introduced ourselves and had a great conversation about mutual friends and interests. Somehow on these trips we always seem to run into someone who knows someone we know (!)
We then went a few blocks further and found the Rockafeller Museum, just across the street from Herod’s Gate (on the north wall of the city). It is a beautiful building containing items from every period of Jerusalem starting from pre-history to the modern day. The nice thing about it—it’s entry was free.
We concluded our activities today by having lunch in a small street shop across from the Damascus Gate and then went back to home base to cool off. We plan to go out later when it is cooler. Jerusalem sits on a mountain top 2,500 ft. above sea level. The breeze blows nicely at this altitude so it always cools off at night. We’ll be back later.
Bud & Kathy
Bud and Kathy Downs are making another trip to the Lands of the Bible-- first Turkey and Greece (from May 11 to 22) and then to Israel (from May 22 to June 8). We invite you to join us through our travel blog. We intend to post regular updates and pictures of Bible sites.