The seemingly bare spaces on the hillside is the cemetery. This picture was taken from the Southwest corner of the old city, looking Northeast.
The view from the top of the Mount of Olives is classic. It's probably the most commonly used picture of the Holy City today.
From here we walked down the lane that wound around and took us to the bottom of the valley and the Garden of Gethsemane.
We passed various levels of the cemetery on the way down. Some of the tombs date all the way back to Biblical days.
We passed near a Russian Orthodox church about halfway down whose golden domes sparkle brightly above the treetops. The church was built in 1886 to honor Mary Magdalene.
About halfway down we came to the church of Dominus Flevit, (The Lord Wept). This church was built by the Crusaders on the spot where it is believed Jesus visualized the destruction of Jerusalem and cried. It is build in the shape of a teardrop. There are ancient tombs right next to the church.
From that little church we wandered on down and eventually arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane - or what's left of it. Civilization has closed in around the ancient garden and has shrunk it down to less area than the size of a basketball court. It is now surrounded by an wrought iron fence so visitors cannot actually wander through the garden itself. But it is full of ancient olive trees and it's not difficult to imagine Jesus and His disciples sitting here.
Next to the garden is the Church of the Assumption, which is built over a large rock that is believed to be the rock where Jesus knelt to pray, and also over the sight where it is believed Mary, His mother, was buried. This church was also built by the Crusaders.
(The rock in the floor where it is believed Jesus prayed)
On this simple journey from the top of the Mount of Olives to the bottom of the Kidron Valley I couldn't help but think, once again, of the lyrics to "I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked."
That Jesus knew before
I saw the mighty Jordan roll,
As in the days of yore.
I knelt today where Jesus knelt,
Where all alone he prayed.
The Garden of Gethsemane,
My heart felt unafraid.
I was there. I was walking the very paths that Jesus Himself may have traversed. I was in the area of the Garden of Gethsemane and I knelt by and touched the rock inside the church where it is very possible Jesus prayed. What an incredible and humbling feeling it was. It still is.
There is no way for anyone today to know exactly where Jesus prayed in the garden or on the Mount of Olives. There is no way to be sure exactly where He was born, where He was crucified or where He was buried. The sites that are sacred today are the traditional sites that Christians have believed to be authentic and have preserved. Archaeological evidence does suggest that some of them are seemingly authentic but none can be proved without a doubt. That is - while the Garden of Gethsemane is authentic, the rock inside the church may or may not be where Jesus knelt to pray. It cannot be proved.
Believers over the years have built churches on the sites of most of these places. I found myself annoyed that the sites were covered with churches and that people must enter the churches and wait in line(s) to see the traditional site of the birth of Christ or the tomb where it is believed He was laid following his death. But I changed my mind when it was explained to me that if those churches hadn't been built on those sites, the sites themselves probably would not have survived at all. They would have been covered up by civilization by now. And I supposed that's true.
From the Garden of Gethsemane we got back on the bus and drove up to the top of Mount Zion to the traditional site believed to be the upper room where the Lord's last supper was held. The room isn't like I have always pictured it to be and is not the original room. But it is believed to be built on the actual site of the original.
On the way we drove past the Southern wall of the old city and parked near the Zion Gate in that wall.
We walked to the Southwest past this group of Muslims who were listening to a leader (hidden behind Yair). They may have been on a tour themselves.
We went into the area around the Dormiton Abbey, the Byzantine church built on the site where it is believed King David is buried. The site of the Upper Room is also in this area.
The Upper Room was down one of the passageways that led through this maze of buildings. We stopped outside and Dr. Marr read the scripture to us before we went upstairs.
(The Upper Room)
We climbed the narrow stairs that went around to the back side of the building and entered the room. The columns were the things that I wasn't expecting. In my mind the Upper Room was a large, open room that would have had large open windows and plenty of light. Of course, this is a room built to memorialize the room and was built in the architectural style of the Byzantines. So it wouldn't live up to my expectations.
When we left here it was time to get back on the bus. Next stop - Bethlehem. But as this is getting a bit long and there is so much to say about Bethlehem, I will wait until tomorrow.