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Our Trip to Israel - Day Three - Jersusalem

Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem 
Having lived my life thinking I'd probably never visit the holy city, I found myself there for the third time, having passed through it the day before on the way to Masada and again on the way back.  Before the week was out, we visited four times.  It was only an hour away from Tel Aviv.  Israel is a small country geographically, something you begin to grasp as you move around it.

Before we dive in, a small production note. The photographs you see here were all taken with our respective phones.  We also carried a Ricoh Theta S 360 degree camera. We forgot it on Day Two, but remembered to take it for Day Three.

You will be seeing many photographs from the Theta S beginning with this one below. You can move your mouse pointer over an image to look around 360 degrees and also fully over your head and down at your feet.  You can also zoom in with your mouse wheel.

I cannot guarantee how this type of image will work on your mobile device.

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Our first stop was at the Garden of Gethsemane, the site at the base of the Mount of Olives where Jesus prayed before entering Jerusalem.

Garden of Gethsemane

The garden is just south of the Old City.

These walking tours are fast paced. There is simply no time to take notes, and the flow of information is never ending.  I am not going to have a lot of information in this post -- mainly impressions.

We entered the Old City through the Zion Gate, seen at the lower left of this map.

Old Town Jerusalem, Good Friday, March 25, 2016 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Being that we were on a bus tour, of course one of the first places they took us to was a place to shop.

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When we came out of the shop, I thought how nice the ambiance was.  I could hear chanting, singing and music as we moved down a narrow street rapidly filling with people as we worked our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

At this point in our vacation, between the jet lag, and just not having a need to do so, I'd lost track of the days of the week. Embarrassingly late, it occurred to me that today was Good Friday.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is shared by several denominations including the Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox Churches among others.  And the keys are held by the Muslims who unlock the church every morning, and secure it each evening.

The music I was hearing was a procession of one of the denominations.  We had a brief period between services to move into the church.  The crowds were immense. Soldiers and police were all over. Apparently the Old City had had a number of stabbing attacks recently.

The Church of the Sepulchre covers Calvary  (Golgotha), the site of Jesus' Crucifixion, the Stone of Anointing where his body was prepared for burial, his presumed tomb, and site of the resurrection.

Most of my visualizations  of Jesus' last day were shattered by visiting this church, and the visits to the Via Dolorosa stations on the streets nearby.  I was surprised how close together they were.  When, as a child, I pictured Calvary, I pictured a hill like I knew in Northern Pennsylvania.  And I pictured Herod's castle to be like the castles of England I saw in movies.  In fact, everything was smaller and much closer together than I imagined.

This makes sense; everyone had to walk everywhere.

I had to walk carefully in the church. People were moving in all directions and the ground was amazingly uneven with slopes, steps, ramps and stones forming the walkways. I wanted to avoid a sprained ankle as much as possible, so I never stopped to take a photo with my phone.

Instead I used the 360 camera. I can raise that above my head and snap a photo without stopping.  There is not a viewfinder on it so no photo composition is even possible.

And, I didn't want to be one of those people -- of whom there were already too many -- who stopped suddenly to take a photo, or worse, a selfie.  And at times, I passed the camera off to my wife.

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Near the entrance

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The stairway leading up to Calvary was closed that day.

Update 4/6/2016: The church is in desperate need of repair, as the New York Times story published today discusses.

Update 11/5/2016: The tomb was opened for the first time since the 1500s for some repairs.  Again, the New York Times reported

Forgot to put in this photo.  This is the Zion Gate. The potmarks to the right of the gate are damage from Jordanian artillery shells fired in the 1966 war.

We had the opportunity to visit the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, and to pray at it.  The wall is the only remaining part of the Second Temple, destroyed in 70 CE.

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And finally, we visited a chapel built by Crusaders on a site they believed the two story building had been where the Last Supper was held.

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To get to all these sites we moved through the various quarters of the Old City, the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian quarters.  

Purim, a Jewish Holiday commemorating the saving of the Jews at the hands of the Haman in the Persian Empire was being celebrated that day as well. 

The holiday is celebrated by dressing in costume.  It was celebrated in Tel Aviv on Wednesday and Thursday. In Jerusalem it is celebrated a day later since word reached the city a day later, so it was fun seeing the adults and children who live in the Old City dressed up in their various costumes as we moved about the city.

The story is recorded in the Book of Esther.

We ended up doing a complete circle of the city.  My Google Maps track is not complete for the day.  The lines should connect at the bottom.

As you'd expect, there were some cell dead cell areas in the old city.

This post does not do the city justice. It was simply too crowded, and our tour too fast paced to take in and process the grandeur of what we were seeing that day.

You can read the first of this series, Day One - Tel Aviv and Day Two - Masada and the Dead Sea.

Days Three to Five coming soon.

If you have read Day One prior to this, I have tweaked it a couple of times already.  

One story I forgot that happened on Day Two on our way to Masada :
As our bus left Jerusalem heading East, the guide Eli told us how we were on the road the Jericho.  It was on that road from Jerusalem to Jericho that the Samaritan helped the injured man, and put him up in an Inn.  Since there is only one high spot on that road, it is likely any Inn was located there, so it is a lot of certainty where the events of the Good Samaritan took place, if indeed it was not just a metaphor.


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