An explanation of the title. We ate falafel pretty much everyday. Falafel and hummus. Hummus and falafel. IT. WAS. GREATNESS. So, the trip got dubbed “The Falafel Tour” and rightly so. What is a falafel you might ask? It is a ball of deep-fried goodness (made of ground chickpeas) that you can stuff in a pita, slather with some hummus and enjoy everyday of vacation…if you so desire!
Before this trip even started, we resigned ourselves to the fact that there wouldn’t be much time for sleep. When you haven’t seen some of your greatest friends in around nine months, there will be lots of late night convos! The lack of sleep was totally worth it. Each day was crammed full of seeing everything we possibly could see. For our first full day in the country we hit the ground running!
It would be hard to put this day into words. So, for the most part I will let the pictures do the story telling. I’ve been here before, but it will never get old.
Standing on the Mount of Olives and taking in the view of the Old City is pretty incredible.
“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over there and pray'”. (Matthew 26:36)
From the garden, we walked the Via Dolorosa. This is said to be the path that Jesus walked, with his cross, to the site of his crucifixion. It takes you by the sites of his condemnation and flagellation.
“And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.” (Mark 15:24)
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the traditional location of Calvary and the tomb where Jesus was laid. The church is home to Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.
These crosses were carved into the walls of the church by the Crusaders, during the First Crusade.
This church marks the traditional site of the birthplace of Mary and the home to Jesus’ maternal grandparents.
**Side note: this church is known for its awesome acoustics. Anyone can sound awesome singing. So naturally we sat down, made sure no one was singing and then proceeded to sing Amazing Grace. We hadn’t gotten two words out before the monk came over and chewed us out for not waiting our turn!! Apparently the folks taking pictures at the opposite end needed their chance. Needless to say, some members of our group were quite bitter over getting reamed by a grumpy monk that day!**
Next to the above church are the pools of Bethesda. This is the place where Jesus healed a man laying beside the pool. “Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” (John 5:8-9)
The Garden Tomb. This was one of my favorite spots. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it is really hard to imagine what things would have looked like because you are overwhelmed by the gaudiness of it all. This is a quiet place where incense isn’t being waved and people aren’t kissing all of the possible places Jesus may have stood. It was peaceful and gave you a chance to reflect.
My little buddy and me at the Garden Tomb.
First, many of the sites throughout the Old City are incredibly touristy and gaudy. There is so much incense burning and candle lighting and kissing of objects that it is really hard to focus on what took place there. There just seems to be a lot of extra hoopla. And, it is easy to find yourself really annoyed at the sight of it all and even critical at the groups that have control of the various sites/churches. These different religious groups may view worship very differently from how I view it, but they have preserved these locations and enabled us to still be able to visit the various places that were significant in the life and ministry of Jesus. And for that I am thankful.
The second thing pertains to the fact that there are several locations that are up-in-the-air…no one knows for certain where they took place. While at the Garden Tomb, I heard a tour guide make this statement: it does not really matter if we know for sure where certain things happened; what matters is that we know for sure they did happen. Whether Jesus Christ was crucified and buried at the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or at Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact that he lived a perfect life, died for us and rose again and conquered death. What matters is that he is no longer in that grave. He is alive and he is coming again!
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
**Just so you know…the pomegranate juice is Chuck Norris approved!**