Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Morning of Marys; an Aternate Gethsemane

Rachel and I have been trying to squeeze in as much as we can before we leave, even if it is only through a quick outing for an hour or two here or there.  For instance, Tuesday after I taught my class, we left the JC from the lower gate and hurried down to Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives.

Church of Mary Magdalene

Right above the Basilica of the Agony is a lovely Russian Orthodox church dedicated to Mary Magdalene.  Its golden onion domes are a landmark on the Mount of Olives, but it is only open for visitors on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

The painting portrays Mary Magdalene presenting an egg to the emperor Tiberius.  As she was about to hand it over, it turned red as a symbol of the Romans guilt in crucifying Jesus.  Was this, some wonder,  the root of our tradition of coloring Easter eggs?

The grounds of the Church of Mary Magdalene provided some stunning views, and pictures, of the Dome of the Rock across the valley

Tomb of the Virgin Mary

We then went to the Tomb of the Virgin Mary.  This ancient Christian shrine in the Qidron Valley is a strong contender, opposed to the claims of the House of Mary outside of Ephesus in Turkey.  The original church here was destroyed in the Persian invasion of A.D. 614.  Muslims left the crypt untouched, because they respected it as the tomb of the prophet Isa (their name for Jesus).  The Crusaders built a church here, which was destroyed by Saladin, who once again left the crypt itself untouched.

The current structure, which lies almost wholly underground, was later rebuilt by the Franciscans, though it has been controlled by the Greek Orthodox since 1757.


Gethsemane Grotto

A narrow path right of the door of the Tomb of Mary leads to the Grotto
Many Latter-day Saint pilgrims, and those of many other denominations, make sure that they visit "the Garden of Gethsemane" when they come to Jerusalem. Today that usually is taken to be the old (but not biblically old) olive trees around the Basilica of the Agony.  That church contains a stone under its altar reputed to be where Jesus prayed the terribly night before his crucifixion.

But another, older tradition placed Jesus' prayer and suffering to a cave in the immediate vicinity.  This grotto was later revealed by archaeologists to have contained an actual olive press (Gethsemane means "place of the olive press."  Hence it is possible that olives from trees in this area may have been brought here to be pressed.  While the popular image of Jesus praying on a rock under a tree persist in our minds, it is also possible that he retired to a cave for privacy that difficult night.

Rachel entering the grotto

Hard to see in this pic, but the cave roof is painted with stars
"Stay awake and watch with me!"

Sleeping disciples on either side of the altar

Double-headed Byzantine eagle on a yellow imperial banner!

Pictures on the walk home . . .

Golden Gate

Mount of Olives

Rachel took this to remind us of an East Jerusalem problem: trash

JC lower gate

Monday, July 30, 2012

One of Our Last Family Nights in Jerusalem

Making our way through the rose garden next to our balcony
Our last family night here will be Monday, August 6.  But since that is the night before we leave, something tells me that it will be a rather frantic evening.  So we decided to spend the evening of Monday, July 31, on the grounds of the Jerusalem Center.  We sat around and talked about some of our favorite memories of our year here.  We re-enacted a few things, such as rolling the olive press, for Samuel.  We got some pictures of the sunset over Jerusalem.  And we ended it all with a spirited game of tag on the upper lawn.

On our walk around the grounds, Samuel correctly identified many of our fruit trees, including this pomegranate tree
Samuel remembering harvesting olives last fall
The north side of the center grounds, one of my favorite places
My girls at my favorite spot on the north side.  A private spot for reading and prayer, it gives a great view of the Holy City
Samuel trying the big olive press used for crushing
Here he got some help from Dad
This may be one of my favorite pictures
Samuel getting positioned for our family game of tag

Last Field Trip: The Dead Sea

Sorry parents and friends of this semester's students.  I did not even take my camera up to Masada or down to the Dead Sea, preferring to enjoy actually looking at and enjoying these sights for the last time rather than taking a bunch of pictures. But I do have a few pictures of our hike up the canyon at `En Gedi and from Qumran.

[For descriptions of all four sites, and many more pictures see the Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 posts.]

Poster collage of our favorite biblical beast: the hyrax!

Off-duty soldier with her gun

Wadi David

Cave 4 at Qumran