Today, we headed into the city through the Dung Gate. Charming name, but it's the gate closest to our entrance to the Temple Mount.
Security is tighter than ever. We stood in a line facing two entrances, seemingly defunct now, and await our turn through the metal detector.
To our right, we can see the remnants of the old wall, the cornerstone, and the excavations going on. Ahead, a group of young Jewish men are trying to gain access to the Temple Mount, but the police are refusing them. One calls out that one of them is getting married today and wants to see the Temple Mount first.
We're finally allowed through, and it's up another ramp. To our left, we see the Wailing Wall.
It's smaller than I thought, though I did know it was divided by sexes. As we pass into the Temple Mount, several ladies in our group are stopped. Their skinny pants are too tight: they must cover their hips with their scarves. We were told previously no hard copies of Scriptures are allowed here so we are glad we aren't stopped for that, also.
To our right are the remains of the Second Temple columns and capitals and cornices.
Photos are taken, but one couple are caught touching each other, and the photo is deleted. He didn't catch the others who had just done the same. But we aren't here to mock their rules, and no one touches another for the rest of the time there. It's bright and clean here, with a good view. And it's so very big! There aren't a lot of people here, but we see those young Jewish men have been allowed to visit.
All of a sudden we hear a woman calling out in Arabic, "God is great!' She yells it over and over and we learn that such people are hired to call out these words, and this woman is directing it to the young Jewish men, who, by now, have made it to the northern end. Harassment of Jews here is commonplace.
I took a photo of Allan at the exact centre of the Temple Mount.
Inside the Dome of the Rock is the stone on which Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Jewish tradition reports that the world started on this spot. We are not allowed into the shrine, of course.
Rafe tells us that the writings on its outer walls are a warning to Christians about believing in Jesus. I can't help but wonder why the inscription is in Arabic only, when Christians of the period when this shrine was built more likely spoke Greek or Latin.
We keep moving, noting the Antonia Fortress, Pilate's home, off to our left.
We exit through the Lion's Gate and head up to the Garden of Gethsemane.
It's split into two gardens now, and we are given access to the quiet part, thanks to a Franciscan monk who unlocks the gate. We appreciate it, as the hawkers are thicker than ever before, calling out to you, stepping into your personal space, and in one instance, covering the head of a woman in our group with a keffiyeh, a common tactic used in pickpocketing.
In the solitude of the Garden, James reads from the Scriptures, and we're given a moment of quiet contemplation for which we all feel grateful. Allan and I find a quiet corner to read more:
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!
We recall from the Nazareth Village, the three presses that olives get, each harder than the last, and see the correlation to Jesus.
We leave and walk across the narrow street to the other garden. There is a tree there that is 2,000 years old, and also a church there, The Church of All Nations.
Inside, one woman in our group speaks quietly with me, but speaking is forbidden. At the altar is a large stone, said to have been the one on which Jesus prayed. Several Chinese tourists beside me begin to talk, and they are shushed again by that monk who shushed us.
After we left, we were besieged by hawkers again, and Allan barters with them for the purchase of two coin sets. I bartered with one man to buy two embroidered purses.
We soon learn the cost of coming to this Holy Site, but I will explain that tomorrow.