Friday, July 8, 2011

Last Day in Jerusalem, Looking Back--Barry

Marilyn and I spent 17 nights here at St George's College not far from the Damascus Gate leading into the Old City of Jerusalem.   This morning we leave for Tel Aviv to stay a night before our flight to Istanbul on Sunday.

The accommodation at the College was comfortable--you might call it "dorm room plus".   The "plus" part was having an en suite room.   We also had a nice view overlooking the courtyard and Cathedral tower.
Our room at St George's College--"home away from home"
Looking back over the last three weeks here and at the two other places we stayed in the Holy Land, I find it difficult to pick out the "highlights".   Nevertheless, I will give it a go this morning and record what first comes to mind.

--swimming in the Sea of Galilee when we went up north and stayed two nights at Pilgerhaus, a very nice German-run guest house on the shore of this Biblical lake, which is 700 feet below sea level.  The water temperature was not too warm or cold, just totally refreshing after long days on the bus visiting sites.   I didn't want to get out of the water.
The refreshing Sea of Galilee, at Pilgerhaus looking east

--seeing and touching the rock of Calvary where Jesus was crucified.  The Church of the Resurrection (a/k/a Holy Sepulchre) was built over this rocky outcrop which was in Jesus's time just outside the city walls.  The Church itself is remarkable--a dark and deeply historic place, with the original structure dating to the time of Constantine and his mother Helena in the fourth century.
Calvary shrine at Church of the Resurrection--Jesus's tomb is nearby

--renewing our baptismal vows in the headwaters of the Jordan River near Mt Hermon in the far north of the country, just a few miles from the Lebanon and Syrian border.
Jordan River headwaters (Hermon Stream) at Caesarea Philippi
--experiencing with painful sadness the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial.
A haunting sight from Yad Vashem
--visiting the Israel Museum here in Jerusalem, a very handsome and well laid out set of galleries and outdoor exhibits, including a fantastic 1:50 model of Jerusalem during the time of Herod and the Second Temple.   Coming towards the end of our trip, I found viewing this large display a good way to integrate the knowledge I acquired when first visiting places with our guides Najati (a/k/a Mike) and Father Andrew.
Jerusalem at the time of Jesus including Second Temple and Herod's Temple Mount (Israel Museum)
--driving to Haifa and back.   Over the course of our visit, I screwed up the resolve to rent a car for the day and to brave traffic on the Israeli roads (which really wasn't too bad).   We got out of Jerusalem for a day to drive to Haifa via downtown Tel Aviv.  Of the three large cities in Israel, Haifa, with its hilly site at the end of the Mt Carmel ridge overlooking the Mediterranean, struck me as the most attractive from a "liveability" standpoint.   The drive back up to and along the ridge was very scenic before we got mired in commuter traffic near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Haifa, from viewpoint near Carmelite monastery and Elijah's cave--unfortunately not enough time to ride "world's smallest subway", an underground funicular up Mt Carmel from downtown
When we shared our reflections toward the end of the course a few days ago, I said that Jerusalem, Israel, and the Palestinian cities we visited made a deep impression on me, but that it was going to take a  longer time for me to sort this out further.  I said this from both a Biblical perspective, in which coming here was a big "inflection point" in my faith journey, and from observing the current, very separate societies of Palestinians and Israeli Jews.   Before I viewed Jerusalem as a place I would visit once in my life and now I hope to return someday.
Oh, there was also time for some "retail therapy" in the Old City.    We can recommend a good jeweler near where this photo was taken on David St--they've only been in business here for 383 years!

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