This is the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane. The word Gethsemane means ”oil press” and there are twenty-three very old olive trees here. The oldest tree in the garden has been carbon dated to 1092, a date almost coincidental to the first of the Crusades.
We walked the paths between the trees, again feeling the significance of this space and place where olive orchards stood through the centuries. There is a cave nearby that we later visited where the apostles supposedly slept. The site here matches the descriptions in the Bible pretty well.
Here is the view towards the Old City and Temple Mount.
Next we climbed the Mt of Olives again. On the way we visited The Church of the Tomb of Mary in a church down underground. It felt very Catholic/Orthodox with hanging lanterns and incense burning. Went down old stone steps to see “the tomb.”
The Pools at Bethesda are one of my favorite places to visit. The excavations here are surrounded by grounds with gardens and old trees with birds in their branches. It was peaceful and quiet when we visited and thought about Jesus coming to this very place to heal and bless.
This place was especially significant to me today, as I considered the cancer growing in my breast and my upcoming surgery. I am grateful for healing power and prayers of faith-filled friends and loved ones who are mindful of me, but most of all, I am grateful for my Savoir, Jesus Christ, who knows me and knows my needs. I felt Him near, here, today, as I also hope for healing.
1 After this there was aa feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
8 Jesus saith unto him, aRise, take up thy bed, and walk.
9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
10 ¶ The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.
12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?
13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.
14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.
These gardens are inside the site, which charges an entrance fee.
Here are the excavations. It’s amazing that so much remains, giving us an idea of what it was like when Jesus came here.
The pools were quite far below ground level, with steps leading down to the water.
My mind envisioned Jesus going down these very steps, as he went about doing good.
This beautiful Church of Saint Anne is near the excavation site. Everyone is invited to worship here, especially in song–the acoustics are incredible. We were thrilled that a visitor just behind us broke into song–“Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.” We joined our voices with his. Then he started singing, “I Am a Child of God,” and we knew we were in good company. It was Eric Huntsman (former Tabernacle Choir member) and his children visiting!
This morning we walked through the Jewish Quarter and out into the Western Wall area. Our plan was to visit Temple Mount, or the other side of the wall.
Here is an encased model of what the temple may have looked like:
And here is an aerial view of the Temple Mount today. The western wall is in the lower right corner. The Mount of Olives would be at the top.
To enter the Mount, you go through security and this ramp near the Western Wall.
Entering the Mount. This is Mount Moriah, where Abraham brought Isaac to be sacrificed and where Solomon built his temple. Here’s a look from the air. The Western Wall is in the top left corner. We entered from that side.
Here’s a bit from Wikipedia:
The Dome of the Rock (Arabic: قبة الصخرة, romanized: Qubbat aṣ-Ṣakhra) is an Islamic shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, a site also known to Muslims as the al-Haram al-Sharif or the Al-Aqsa Compound. Its initial construction was undertaken by the Umayyad Caliphate on the orders of Abd al-Malik during the Second Fitna in 691–692 CE, and it has since been situated on top of the site of the Second Jewish Temple (built in c. 516 BCE to replace the destroyed Solomon’s Temple), which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The original dome collapsed in 1015 and was rebuilt in 1022–23. The Dome of the Rock is the world’s oldest surviving work of Islamic architecture.
Years ago they let you go inside to see the stone where it’s believed Abraham brought Isaac (or Ishmael, according to the Muslim faith). Here’s what that stone looks like:
This evening we went to the bus station near the Damascus Gate. This station sits right below Golgotha, or place of a skull. Here’s an old photo of what it looked like before the bus station was there:
This is the traditional site of the Crucifixion.
We found a bus going to the Mount of Olives near the Augusta Victoria Church (or the Himmelfahrtkirche), where we went for a free Christmas concert.
The church was beautiful and many from the German-speaking communities came this evening for this fun sing-along concert. We loved being there, singing Christmas carols with others in German and English.
After the concert, we enjoyed refreshments and then wandered through the church, enjoying some fabulous artwork and a collection of old photos of the Old City.
This church is not far from the BYU Jerusalem Center. It was a wonderful evening.
We came home to a fun Austrian dinner at the hospice–schnitzel, spaetzle and goulash soup.
The Tower of David is right by the Jaffa Gate. It stands on another pile of excavations that date back 2500 years. Towers and citadels here have been demolished and rebuilt through the centuries. Now there’s a really nice museum inside the tower that shows the history of Jerusalem through time.
There was once a moat around the side of this tower.
This is just inside the Jaffa Gate.
We went back outside the gate to go to a modern Jewish mall not too far away. Claire remembered getting good Hanukkah donuts there when she was a student here.
We found the famous bakery and the delicious donuts!
We went back into the Old City through the New Gate in the Christian Quarter, where the Christmas Markets were held. The vendors have gone, but we saw what remains.
Here is the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu, a Roman Catholic church on the eastern slope of Mount Zion, just outside the old city walls. This church is dedicated to the event from the New Testament known as the Denial of Peter. The church takes its name from the Latin word “gallicantu”, meaning cock’s-crow.
This site is believed to be the location of the palace of Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest who sat in judgement over Jesus, where Peter’s triple denial took place. Here are some of the views from looking back at the Old City and looking across at an Arab neighborhood.
On the north side of the church is an ancient staircase that leads down towards the Kidron Valley. This may have been a passage from the upper city to the lower city when Jesus was here. Many Christians believe that Jesus followed this path down to Gethsemane the night of his arrest.
On this drizzly afternoon, we sat under our umbrellas at this site and listened to music from Rob Gardner’s “Lamb of God,” including the song about Peter’s betrayal. For me, being in the actual place always cuts my heart to the core. This is one of those places.
Here’s a bit from Wikipedia about the excavations below ground level in the church:
Beneath the upper church is a chapel which incorporates stone from ancient grottos inside its walls. Down a hole in the center of the sanctuary one can see caves that may have been part of the Byzantine shrine. These walls are engraved with crosses left by fifth-century Christians.
Ancient underground chambers
On an even lower level there is a succession of caves from the Second Temple period. Since tradition places the palace of Caiaphas on this site, many believe that Jesus may have been imprisoned in one of these underground crypts after his arrest; however, these caves were normal in many Roman-era homes, and often served as cellars, water cisterns, and baths.
Here’s a look at the beautiful interior of the church: