Our first stop is Solomon’s Quarries, inside the belly of Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount and site of the Old City) and used from the 10th century BC to the 4th century AD. We’re told it’s the largest man made cave, discovered again when a man followed his dog’s barking. Cats are abundant here, like on the Temple Mount, (dogs are not allowed) in order to keep the place rat free. Freemasons hold ceremonies here occasionally, and the most notable was Charles Warren, before he was recalled to London to investigate Jack the Ripper.
Some of us take a golf cart down but the rest follow Yossi deep down to Zedekiah’s Spring, a myth that claims this last king before the exile cried and his tears created the spring. In reality, it’s seepage from a leak in the sewer lines.
Amid the ruddy stones and the trickle of water, Yossi plays for us, and the light music is in sharp contrast to the idea of slaves, with sweat and blood and oxen, brought the large stones from the temple. With the exception of a middle-aged Muslim woman, we are alone down here.
|deep in the cave|
|Our guide plays for us|
We leave and head for the Herodian Gate and end up at Saint Anne’s Church, the most perfectly preserved Medieval church in Israel, most likely because it was taken over by the Muslims until it was purchased back by the Christians. Yossi asks us who Saint Anne is. I take a stab at it and say “someone’s mother”. A fairly safe bet. Anne was the mother of the Virgin Mary. Mary was most likely born in Jerusalem.
|Our son-in-law's initials. I snap this photo for him.|
|Very organized graffiti!|
|Okay, which way do we go?|
|The city is nearly always busy!|
|One friend keeps up despite an ailment|
|A shopping mecca!|
|Beautiful grounds of a beautiful church|
|Looking up above the entrance|
|One of Saint Anne's furry friends|
|These ruins go way down!|
|Imagine having this view from your home?|
I peek over the railing to the ruins 50 feet below, the early part of the city and see the remains the Pool of Bethesda (which means House of Grace) and its colonnades. Our guide reads from John 5: 1-15, the story of the man who was an invalid for 38 years and tried to get into the water each time an angel stirred the water, but wasn’t fast enough.
Yossi tells us that in winter, the rain would slip into the water from a spring and stir it. Some scholars believe that it was a pagan pool and the story has been invented, yet, time and again, we see Jesus seeking out pagans and sinners and using places of pagan worship to preach. I think again of the brutality of the temple of Pan, mentioned in an earlier post.
|It's hard to believe the ancient city was so far down.|
|one of the colonnades|
There are many layers to the invalid story. Jesus had asked the man if he wanted to be healed, as some didn’t because they earned a living as beggars. Also, Jesus healed him on the Sabbath, something the religious leaders of the day didn’t like.
In the church, the apse is acoustically lovely, and we sing Amazing Grace and Hallelujah, and after, listen to another woman sing another beautiful song and a priest adds his voice to the chorus. I visit the grotto downstairs to see the traditional site of Mary’s birth.
|A friend with one of the priests|
|Inside Saint Anne's Church|
|One of the ways down to the grotto|
|Saint Stephen's Gate|
Our next stop is more exciting. The Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was betrayed!