Backpack Benji

Jerusalem.

Jerusalem! The ancient Biblical city full of incredible history.  A most holy site for Christians, Jews and Muslims.  Our first stop was at a vantage point along the Jericho Road with an excellent view of the entire city including the iconic Dome of the Rock – the Islamic shrine with its entire roof covered in pure gold which was built centuries ago.  We checked out some nearby stony, centuries old caverns, before making our way toward the walled city.


Along the way, we stopped at the Mount of Olives, a small mountain ridge which offers a unique view to the great wall surrounding the Holy City. Here there are over 150,000 graves along with many olive trees still growing.  Experts have carbon tested these trees and certified them to be the oldest olive trees in the world.  I went into the Chapel of the Ascension where a very solemn and sacred service was in progress.  The church was built upon the spot where Jesus ascended into heaven and where prophecy says he shall return and the mountain shall be split in two and the dead will be resurrected.  I walked down toward the Kidron Valley and to the Garden of Gethsemane, and then prepared to enter Old Jerusalem.


I entered Jerusalem via the Dung Gate, a gate inside the wall which was named after the location referred to in the Book of Nehemiah. Adjacent to the Dung Gate is the Temple Mount, which according to Torah law, is unable to be visited due to its holiness.  I next visited the Western Wall.  This ancient limestone wall was built by Herod the Great with the original foundations laid by the Biblical King Solomon, and is the holiest place in Jerusalem where Jews are permitted to pray.  Some Christians call this the Wailing Wall because they say the Jews go here to weep over the destruction of the ancient Temples – a term that many Jews actually find offensive.  Since the wall is part of the original Temple Mount and closest to where the Holy of Holies was located in ancient Israel, and since it is taught that after the destruction of the Temples, God removed his presence from his sanctuary and placed it on the wall, this is single place on earth believed to be where one can be closest to God.  Ancient Jewish Law states that praying here is as if you have prayed at the Throne of Glory because here is, in essence, the Gate of Heaven which is always open to hear prayer.  Doctrine further outlines that praying in the direction of Jerusalem, and specifically here – at this Gate of Mercy is beneficial in that the prayers from this ancient Israeli site ascend straight into Heaven.  I washed my hands and covered my head out of respect, and went to the wall to pray.  There is a practice of slipping written prayers into the crevices of the Wall, and I had mine ready.  My time at the Western Wall was a special moment of worship and I backed away as I left, in a sign of respect and reverence.


We next ventured out the Western Wall tunnels and along the Via Dolorosa, the way of grief, sorrow, and suffering, where Jesus bore his cross on the way toward his crucifixion. Jerusalem is quartered into four sections: The Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Armenian quarters.  Along the Via Dolorosa, we passed from the Muslim Quarter into the Christian Quarter – encountering many shops, cafes and hallways.  The road is made of stone and slanted upwards as we walked past the area where Pontius Pilate convicted Jesus to death.  I placed my hand in the spot where Jesus was said to have fallen against the weight of the cross, and fell against a wall for support, as I made my way toward the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  The Church contains what are essentially the two holiest sites in Christianity including where Jesus was circumcised and presented (purified) to the church, where he drove the money changers out, where he was crucified and endured His Passion on the Rock of Agony (the church is built over the rock of Calvary or Golgotha) and where he resurrected (the tomb encompasses the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea where Jesus was buried).


We made our exit from the walled city out of the Jaffa Gate (also called David’s Gate) named after the Port of Jaffa from which the prophet Jonah launched his journey. Just outside the gate is the Tower of David, a distinctive citadel built during the 2nd century.  While there, I enjoyed some fresh pomegranate juice from a local vendor.  Jerusalem was incredible and a must visit pilgrimage for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.


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