By Sue Harding
Greetings after one whole week in the Holy Land!
It is another bright sunny day, but cool, not as windy as yesterday. A cool day for a long, 6-hour pilgrimage.
On our way to checkpoint to enter Jerusalem we said the Lord’s prayer in English and Greek, as security was on high alert due to the 2-day commemoration of Al Nakba, day of disaster, when the Palestinians were removed from their homeland and thrown into refugee camps following the May 9 Israeli Independence Day. We passed through a desolate no man’s land between Bethlehem and Jerusalem in a valley with terraced, rocky and steep hillsides.
Israeli military and police had closed both Damascus Gate and Herod’s Gate with barricades so we take an alternate route to get to top of Mount of Olives to begin our pilgrimage today. We first visited the Church of Our Father (Pater Noster) where the Lord’s Prayer is displayed in over 150 languages. The Pater Noster church is one of 4 places in Holy Land under French control because France sided with the Turks against Russia.
From there we made our way down steep roads to the basilica Dominus Flevit (the Lord Wept) with 4 large tear bottles around the dome and a mosaic of a mother hen on the altar recalling Jesus weeping over Jerusalem.
Continuing down a very steep road we came to the Garden of Gethsemane where we saw the rock of agony, olive trees dating back to time of Christ and an olive oil press representing Jesus under pressure to accept the will of God and where an angel comforted Him. The windows in the Church of All Nations are alabaster, letting in very little light, since the betrayal and arrest of Jesus all took place in the dark of the night.
We finally entered the old city through Lion’s Gate, walked through the Muslim Quarter to St. Anne’s Church and Pool of Bethesda surrounded by 5 porticos by the sheep gate, we ate our lunch of pita, cheese, tomatoes, hummus, nutella, chocolate, honey-sesame seed cake and loquats in the courtyard surrounded by hungry feral kittens and cats. We then entered St. Anne’s, honoring the mother of Virgin Mary, to sing the doxology in 4 part harmony. Then we enjoyed time for individual reflection and exploration around the Pool of Bethesda.
The next stop on our pilgrimage was the Garden Tomb where we each climbed in to see where the Lord may have been laid. In the beautiful gardens we celebrated Communion with our Lord while we enjoyed the singing birds, wafting breezes, and prayed for our journey. It was so peaceful, in spite of the helicopters flying over and tense feelings of military alertness, listening to people from all over the world singing favorite hymns in their own tongues to remember Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. The Garden Tomb offers a powerful ministry and witness to the world, and oasis of peace and refreshment in the midst of turnoil and strife.
Today we walked where Jesus walked, and felt His presence there.
Pray for peace in Jerusalem, Palestine and the Middle East.
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