Today we started off by heading to the Mount of Olives. This gave us a great view of the old part of the city and many of the places where Jesus traveled in his final days. From the Mount of Olives, we could see the Garden of Gethsemane, the road traveled by pilgrims on Palm Sunday, the City of David, the house where Peter denied Jesus three times, The Temple Mount and other places. As we were looking at the East Wall we could see the extensive cemeteries of the Jews, Christians and Muslims. Very impressive.
From The Mount of Olives, we walked down to the Tomb of Absalom where we had a brief service, all 140 of us. From the chapel, we had some great pictures of the Eastern Wall. Also, had some ossuaries wherein people were buried on the Mount. The person would be buried and a year later their relatives would come back and take their bones and place them in an ossuary, The length of which would be the length of the femur – the largest bone in the body. Then they would bury the bones. While in the chapel, we sang a couple of hymns and the acoustics were fantastic – would just resonate within the chapel. Then we headed on down the road where the Palm Sunday crowds walk into town and is possibly THE route Jesus also took into Jerusalem. This led us to the Garden of Gethsemane. This IS the place where Jesus prayed three times while the disciples fell asleep three times. The Garden is not as big as it was 2,000 years ago but there a number of absolutely HUGH olive trees. Not in height but in circumference. The church at Gethsemane was quite impressive. We spent a short time here then boarded the bus to Bethlehem.
After a fairly short ride and passing through the border wall into Palestine we arrived at Bethlehem. We went to the Church of the Nativity. Interesting in that there are three churches at this location. This is supposed to be the church that sits on top of the manger where Jesus was born. If it was not the actual site, it did give an idea of what a manager looked like. There were a LOT of people here visiting the Nativity. Interesting is the fact that Bethlehem was not a large city but only a few hundred inhabitants. Remember, we are in Palestine and you could hear the Muslim call to prayer at 1200 while we were at the Church of the Nativity. The Jews Palestinians and Christians are all mixed here. Granted there are only about 12% Palestinian Christians. After the Church, we went to eat and after that, we went to an olive wood factory that gets the branches from the olive tree and then carves them for sale. The building where we went is also a high-end shop selling the carvings and other items as well. Guess what – it was opened only for us today.
After we were done here we went to the Shepherds Field. This is a possible area where the shepherds received the announcement of the birth of Jesus. The terrain certainly would have been like it was 2,000 years. Did not realize but there are caves in the area where very likely the shepherds would have spent the evening with their sheep for protection. Visited the chapel there as well – very nice and then the bus back to the hotel.
By the way, on our way to Bethlehem, we let off our tour guide as he had been in the IDF and they were not to cross into Palestine. We picked him up on the way back to the hotel.