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Status Quo – Forever – in Jerusalem?

Status Quo – Forever – in Jerusalem? – Is a depiction of our day in the city where law mandates status quo.  If that’s the case, is there any hope at all for peace?  We left wondering….  Read on – it’s not a post about Religion – it is a post about Architecture and history that might make you THINK about the concept of religion and where we might find WORLD PEACE!

You can also watch videos if you scroll to the end!

FRIDAY OCTOBER 2 – The Old City of Jerusalem

We awoke in our hotel – The St. Andrew’s Scottish Guest house.  Showered, dressed, and grabbed the partial bottle of sparkling wine we had not finished and headed down to our BEST breakfast on this vacation!!!

Patio Dining for Breakfast – just like home……

They had pastries, FRUIT of all types, including pomegranates and a do-it-yourself squeezer, cheese, eggs, and more. The chef even made us a cup of “Turkish” coffee (the mid-eastern version of espresso).  We didn’t know at the time that this would be the BEST breakfast of our trip!  What made it the best is that it was beautiful fresh whole food that was culturally unique.  The ships breakfasts are good but we are really glad we spent the night in Jerusalem or we would have missed out on this Breakfast! We ate outside on the patio, overlooking the Kidron Valley, with the Old City and Dormition Abbey (location of the Last Supper Room) in the background.  What a beautiful beginning of our day!

Quite a view – wouldn’t you agree?

Dormition Abbey (location of the Last Supper Room) on the hill in the distance, just outside the Zion Gate

After a leisurely breakfast we  –  took a peek inside the Sanctuary of St. Andrew’s Scots Memorial Church.

Then we headed back to our room, packed our bags, checked out (and had the front desk store our suitcase).  At the front desk they gave us a cartoon map of the Old City, and a few directions, and we were off headed towards the Old City on foot. We walked a nice path thru the HaPa’amon Garden, and past The Montefiore Windmill. This is a “Dutch Style” windmill, and looks most strangely placed. It was the first structure built outside the Old City Walls, and was conceived as a solution to the over-crowded conditions, at that time, in the Old City. It was the first of two “Dutch” windmills we would see in Israel. The second time, were three red windmills in Haifa. We continued on thru the beautiful fully landscaped Mitchel Park, stopping in Teddy Park to admire, and take photos of a large globe sculpture called the Centre of the World. The globe is a Renaissance map depicting Jerusalem as being at the center of the three continents.

We joined the throngs of people, and Jewish pilgrims, ascending the hill that enters into the Jaffa Gate, next to the Tower of David.

Inside the Sally Port, past the Jaffa Gate, we were treated to a harp concert by an “Angel”.

The large area inside the gate was HEAVILY manned with Israeli police. The unique thing about their police is they have only ONE weapon – an Assault Rifle over their shoulder.  I was trying to take their picture without being noticed….

We headed straight off towards the KotelTunnels. Rob had been unable to contact them prior to our trip and we were optimistic that we might still get a tour. NO LUCK!!! You must make reservations months in advance. AND… they do not monitor their email very well – so allow up to a week for a reply back concerning available dates/times. We then went thru security, YES, you must go thru a metal detector and have your bags searched, just to get into the Western Wall, or Kotel, area.

The Men’s side is on the Left. Rob took this one picture from far back.

There is a large open area that is divided by a wooden wall into male and female areas. We each went to our respective sides. It was FULL of all varieties of Jewish Pilgrims here for the holiday. On the men’s side, there was a continuous line of men standing with their hands, and sometimes a prayer book, against the wall. Behind this line were older men with “seats” that contained a shelf for a book. There were wheeled cars full of various books scattered about. While waiting for a spot at the wall, a group of young and old men started dancing and singing while holding hands in a circle. There are NO photos of this, as we were unsure IF it was proper or allowed. When you Travel Like An Architect™ you RESPECT others. Later I learned there was a scroll in a metal container being held by a person in the center of the circle. Many men and young men came with clear, zippered, plastic cloth containers full of “branches”. They would remove the “branches” and perform a ritual shaking them, and changing direction. These packages contain: A etrog/citron, a palm branch, two willow branches, and three myrtle branches. The six branches are bound together and referred to collectively as the lulav. With these four species in hand, the worshiper recites a blessing and waves the species in all six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down).

After FINALLY getting up to the wall – you have to be FAST to get a place to stand – I wandered over to a round arch opening (Wilson’s Arch) in the side of the adjacent wall. There was a steady stream of traffic coming and going thru the opening. I walked up and into the opening where a man was sitting with his hand out. All the men entering were putting coins in his hand – so I did the same. At the time I thought it must be a voluntary admittance fee. The arch led to a long 2-story room full of wood book shelves and cabinets. The place was PACKED with men. About half-way into the room a young man came up to me and spoke English. He asked me for money. I then learned that “panhandling” is an honorable tradition on this holiday. Unlike Christianity which teaches that “the love of money is the root of all evil,” Judaism considers wealth a divine blessing. This is why Judaism has the custom of asking for lekach. It is an opportunity for a person with money to help someone else. The response is NOT the western one of giver as the hero, helping the poor, but one of thanks – thank you for providing me a way to help another and recognize my blessing. The young man took my little bit of change and then ASKED me about me…. I spoke with him for about 10 mins., him explaining all the goings-on in the area we were in. At one point he said “Don’t you want your picture next to the Torah Ark – a wooden box containing over 300 scrolls. I jumped at the opportunity for a photo in this area. Before leaving we took a selfie, and then I shot a quick movie.  Talita will put together the video next week so stop back to see it!  or subscribe to our YouTube Channel to be notified when it is posted.

While I was on the Men’s side, Lynn was at the Women’s side….  Here is her experience.

Rob and I parted ways and I cautiously approached the Western Wall on the Women’s side.  I was observing and attempting to detect what you were supposed to do there. Many women were praying from chairs and from books – and many were standing close to the wall touching it.  Well – I decided that I was going to do that! I had been told by a friend that ONLY Jews were allowed to pray there, so I was out to prove him wrong…   My practice is not to pray to ask for things but to meditate and feel sensations while listening to thoughts within myself, and that was what I was going to do at the wall.  But I knew for a fact that no one would know if I was praying or meditating, or Jewish or not!  I covered my head with my scarf because most heads were covered and I wanted to fit in.  I worked my way through the crowd, until I was directly behind the women that were touching “the wall” – and there I waited for one to step away so I could get in….  I stood calmly while beginning my ritual in my mind.  I have my thing memorized so I don’t need a book and the process I use walks me through all aspects of my body and life.  “I now intend to bless purify and cleanse my etheric body” – with a deep breathing pause as long as is required to feel my etheric energy balance, then on to the next one.  I take off my shoes so that my bare feet connect with the earth in a grounded way.  It was really hot – I like hot so that was good, and soon a woman stepped away from the wall and I stepped in.  I was thinking that if ever there were a place to feel divine energy it would be here.  I believe God is not a guy in the sky with a boat load of rules – but an energy that we call Love and Light – the source of pure joy.  So I was expecting to feel it and to gather some into myself by touching the wall while I did my daily ritual.  After stepping up, I placed my hand on the wall and began where I left off….  I do think the wall was buzzing with this energy – and I spent about 20 minutes there in silence with only myself, my mind, body and soul….  I was not looking around to see what anybody else was doing, I had my eyes shut and was focused only on me.  I can’t say that I felt anything miraculous happen but my practice continues to evolve as every day I gain a more thorough understanding of the subtle bodies of my aura and my Chakras and how I can effect them with pure intention.  I do admit that I have recently found peace.  I found it inside myself through this daily meditation practice.  I really don’t understand why most people are looking for peace somewhere out side of themselves – it just isn’t logical.  People look to others for happiness and for love – when it isn’t provided there is blame – when all that is really necessary is to claim it for yourself…. to quote my favorite song writer Greg Gallello “you can’t get it back till you give it away”. When I was finished I opened my eyes and stepped away from the wall.  I was going to turn my back to the wall and walk away when I realized that others were walking backwards while still facing it, so I did that.  You know – when in Jerusalem you do as the people in Jerusalem….  I walked slowly backwards until other women turned away.  When I looked up I noticed a public wash basin was right there.  I don’t know if I was supposed to wash my hands first or after – – – but it was definitely too late to do it first and it sounded like a good idea to me since I just stood with my hand on a public wall where many other hands had been…  so I headed there.  The wash basin had pitchers in it – and I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do – so I made it fast!  OMG – there is a certain way to do everything around there!

Sorry I did not take any pictures to share – it didn’t seem right.  You wouldn’t go into a church during a mass prayer and take pictures would you? I did enjoy the people watching while waiting for Rob at our agreed upon meeting place 🙂  I saw the most curious thing that day – many many dark haired Jewish Parents hauling around red-haired toddlers and babies…….  (I always notice red hair)  I am now wondering if the red haired children are special – if they are there for a reason if they have a job to do, and how did all the dark haired people get them?  OK…. back to Rob

I (Rob) wandered back to the plaza where eventually Lynn and I rejoined each other. I told her about my experience in the tunnel, and we attempted to find the women’s balcony so Lynn could see into the area where I had been. We had no luck, and decided to move on as there was still MUCH to see.

We came out of the Kotel on El-Wad St.. This is the major shopping street in the Muslim Quarter. It is a VERY narrow stone “road” that looks more like a sidewalk. It is gently sloped, with steps. At each step are narrow ramps, originally used by wheeled carts, but now used by scooters. Vendors are tightly set into stores along the sides. It is more like an enclosed mall than an outdoor street.

Sindbad Spices caught our attention, as the owner was outside lighting “rocks” that burned and smoked (we later learned frankincense and myrrh). The proprietor Frias Abo Shmisih invited us down into his AIR CONDITIONED store. He had dozens of small barrels of spices, teas, and more incense in round containers lining each side of the store. It made for a beautiful colorful display!

He would take small samples of things and either ask us to smell, or taste.  He had kind eyes.  Lynn was making it her thing that day to give a smile and make eye contact with local people.  She claims that she could tell who was happy and who was not.  This man was. While sampling, we noticed he also sold Arabian Coffee, to which he responded by asking if we wanted a cup. We said yes, at which point stools were set in the middle of the shop, he freshly ground some coffee, and then dashed a few stalls down where another vendor had hot water. He came back with the coffee on a tray, spoons, etc. We sat, drank, and enjoyed each others company for 20-30 mins. We exchanged stories, and photos, of our/his children. He attempted to explain to us why the Dome of the Rock had been closed that day, you can hear what he said when the video is complete, next week.  Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to be notified when it is uploaded, or check back here.  Upon finishing our coffee, he put our selections into bags, made a label for each, and sent us on our way.

We continued to explore, however, because of the holiday none of the stores owned by Jewish Vendors were open. We were intending to walk the “Via Dolorosa” (the name of a street that means Painful Way) – because that is what you do in Jerusalem…  We really didn’t know exactly where we were, so checked the map and headed in the direction of the street. Heading north on El-Wad we intersected Via Dolorosa, passing east between the Austrian Hospice to the north and the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate and American Catholic Church of our Lady of Spasm to the south. The Armenian Patriarchate is the Second Station of the Cross – and NO, we did not do the stations in order, but we will show them in order here….  Oh, and here they are, in case you don’t know them – I know I didn’t….

The stations of the Cross that are found consecutively along the Via Dolorosa (the Painful way)

These are also the concepts that are depicted in imagery that appears in Catholic and Orthodox Churches all around the world.  I think that modern religions have totally lost the symbolism of the concepts by trying to interpret them literally…

I was wondering – when you go into these sacred buildings, do you envision, that they were here, when the event that they honor took place, or do you realize that the building was built on a piece of sacred land, many years later? People don’t even think any more.  But if they did, I suspect that, they think the buildings were there…… they let others tell them what they see, and then go with it, without even questioning the likelihood.  Something I would call the root of all evil in modern day religion…  We aren’t supposed to be told what to see, what to hear or what to think, and every religion is doing just that.

At the junction of Via Dolorosa we turned east and entered the Greek Orthodox Partorium Church (The Prison of Christ) – and YES, we are in the Muslim Quarter. It was the Greeks who identified this as the location where Jesus (Baraba) and the two thieves where held. We entered the Chapel, and descended TWO levels below the current city to see the prison cells.

Who was Baraba I ask Google…. and here is what I find.  Hmmmm….

After leaving the Orthodox Church we continued up hill and under the Ecce Homo Arch, Station II. The arch was originally thought to be one of the stations, but common thinking is it was part of the old triple-arched gateway, built by Hadrian, as an entrance to the Roman Forum. We next entered the Roman Catholic Ecce Homo Monastery. Inside the Chapel, the arch continues thru the outside wall and frames the tabernacle under a Byzantine cross on a gilded mosaic backdrop.

So this arch (it was actually a series of three, one large, and two small on either side of the large, depicted here) was constructed to “mark the spot” – the arch itself was part of the original eastern gate to the “Roman City”.  It was constructed 135 years after the death of Christ, at the supposed place where Pilate presented Jesus to the people with the words “Ecce Homo”  (Behold the Man) John 19:5  Then even later yet the arch was encapsulated into the church!

You can understand this just a bit better by looking at a 3D image at a Google Map link – HERE  use your mouse to pan around to see the whole room from the inside – our photos were taken from behind a glass wall that has been erected.  The locations above are all part of the Second Station of the Cross at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa (The way of Pain)

Exiting the Monastry we continued up hill towards the Lion’s Gate. At this point an older man started walking along side us. He asked where we were from, and started telling us about where we were.

We mentioned we were disappointed that we had not been able to see the Temple Mount. He then “invited” us to come with him up a long ramp to a set of “guarded” doors/gates. We entered the Courtyard of the Al-Omariya School (Previously the Grounds of the Antonia Castle). This courtyard is Station One where Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to death. It also has an EXCELLENT view of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.

We took photos and talked about the history of the area. He then motioned for us to follow him – talking all the time.

We descended the ramp, and crossed the street and entered the Second Station, the courtyard of the Roman Catholic Chapel of the Flagellation. The courtyard has traditionally been considered the location where Christ was flogged based on identification of ancient Roman flagstones, discovered beneath The Church – the stones have now been identified elsewhere however. The interior of the Chapel was, however, well worth the visit – there is a very dainty (NOT Orthodox) alter set in the center of three gorgeous stained glass windows.  It was a more familiar type of church to me – as my Father and Grandfather were Lutheran Ministers….

During our entire trip we learned that MANY of the sacred spots were incorrectly identified very early on, shrines were built, political control changed, Chapels were erected, and destroyed, and historical locations became quite murky….  maybe even Folkloric.

Leaving the Chapel of the Flagellation, we headed to the Chapel of the Condemnation, located across the courtyard in the same compound. This chapel has a marble alter, in a niche, with a beautiful curved mural depicting Christ on the steps with the cross. An interesting feature of this church is the Roman period floor, found next to its western wall. Typical of floors of that era, it is made of very large, striated stones that kept people from slipping as they walked. When you Travel Like an Architect™ you are always looking at, and photographing, the details.

As we left this Franciscan compound we realized our “guide” had “attached” himself to us. This often happens, and we have to determine if we are going to be willing to pay/tip or if we need to tell him/her to get lost. We decided he was nice, polite, clean, friendly, and MOST knowledgeable, and we could spend hours trying to do this scavenger hunt on our own… so on we all went, west down the Via Dolorosa. Sometimes we spend more time looking at the details than the main [tourist] attraction. Seems we had the same problem here. At the Third Station we saw the circular emblem, and walked through the interior of the Armenian Catholic Church but there were signs that said “No Photos Please” so we obeyed.  I do believe we did miss the exterior High Relief above the door.  Don’t remember it at all.  This whole experience was overwhelming for us – like a religious Disneyland….

Our next “stop” was Station Five, the Franciscan Chapel of Simon of Cyrene (the man who helped Jesus carry the cross when he stumbled here). Next to the entrance is a stone with a hand print, supposedly formed, when Jesus stumbled and put his hand there. Rob put his hand in here while Lynn said ICK!!! think of all the people who touched it.

Looks like another stone that has been built around and left exposed…

We continued on, with out guide – still in the Muslim Quarter! Station Six was simply a door, not from antiquity, with the numeral VI. According to tradition, the door marks the home where Veronica handed Jesus her veil to wipe her face. Adjacent to this is The Chapel of Veronica, which was not open – YES, when you Travel Like an Architect™ you try ALL the doors.

Station Seven, almost at the end of the Via Dolorosa, is another well marked door. This is where Christ fell for the second time. It is also the location of a Franciscan Chapel which was also not open. At the time of Christ, this was The Justice Gate, and the edge of the City.

I guess this guy was guarding the door….

And… at the very end of the Via Dolorosa, and the edge of the Muslim and Christian Quarter, is Station Eight – a stone, in the wall, with a Latin Cross and Greek Lettering which translated means “Jesus Christ Conquers”. Traditionally this is the location where Jesus consoled the crying women of Jerusalem-OUTSIDE the original Old City.

At this point our guide thanked us, gave us instructions on the remaining Six Stations, and directions to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where all but one are located. In retrospect it seems he did not want to leave the Muslim Quarter. Based on the time he had spent, I gave him $10.00. He insisted he did this for a living, and wanted $20.00. This was quite typical of Israel – EVERYONE in tourism (except Sam) were out to rape the tourist. Rather than cause conflict I paid him what he wanted – I think they count on this.  In looking at the photos we took – it seemed he either was in a hurry or didn’t want to be seen with us.  I felt like I was walking in the mall with a teenage daughter….

So off we went, on our own, towards Station Nine, marked by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, where Jesus fell for the third time.

We did get a look inside this Church, and it was UNUSUAL!! Not organized, or fancy, but rather like a living room of donated items. The Copts are the oldest Christian community in the Middle East, tracing their roots back to Egypt, and Saint Mark around 42AD.

Outside the Coptic Patriarchate are the arched and domed structures of the historic Deir al-Sultan the Ethiopian Orthodox Monastery. These odd structures are, surprisingly, located on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There are two domed chapels and the tiny rooms in the long structures. The structures are in disrepair as the Coptic Church claims ownership of the site, and contend the clergy who live at the site, are squatters.

AND….. Yes, this is on the ROOF of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – a building that is jointly custodied by SIX denominations: The primary custodians are the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic Churches, lesser custodians are the Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox. Next stop: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – which contains Stations Ten thru Fourteen, and is one of the most Holy of Christian Sites – and YES, it is in the Christian Quarter. Interestingly the site is originally the location of A Temple of Aphrodite. In the second century, when Hadrian made major modifications to the Old City, a temple to Venus was constructed over this site. In 325/326 Constantine replaced the temple with a Church, built as two connected churches over the two different holy sites – Golgotha and the Tomb. A large domed basilica was placed between an enclosed colonnaded atrium (the Triportico) containing the traditional site of Golgotha, and a rotunda (the Anastasis) which contained the rock-cut room where Jesus had been buried. This building is CRAZY!! You walk here, and there, and connect up, down, thru and between sacred places – remember all the different religions must have an area that represents “them.” Between 614 and 1028 the building, burned twice, suffered thru three earthquakes, and the rampages of war. From 1028, until the present day, renovations and improvement have been ongoing. Major renovations occurred in 1808, 1959, 1972, and 1994. In 1947 the steel beams were attached to the Aedicule to prevent it from completely falling apart. The building is in poor shape due to the lack of a common “owner”. ANY part of what is designated as common territory can not be touched without consent from all communities. Since 1192 The Muslim Nuseibeh family have been the “door keepers” while The Joudeh Al-Goudia family are entrusted as custodian to the keys of the Holy Sepulchre.

The entrance to the Church is a bit difficult, and tricky to find. We wound our way down the outer Via Dolorosa, thru a narrow path by way of a local market, or souq, and eventually we found ourselves in a small courtyard, parvis, with two large arched doorways ahead. Only the left-hand arch has a door, the other entry has been bricked up.

We entered thru the one large wood door. It is GIGANTIC.  In writing this post we learned about the process for opening the door each day…. See it here

To the right of the doors outside is a stone stair (NO HANDRAIL) leads up to Station 10 – The Chapel of the Division of Garments. We negotiated this slippery, LARGE, steps but could only look thru glass doors to the chapel beyond. The steps are used primarily as seating for tired pilgrims.  We neglected to take a picture of it… I can remember being really TIRED by this time.

Just to the right, after entering, is a small arched opening that leads up about 12′ – this is “mount” Golgatha, or the hill/rock on which the cross was raised. AND Yes, it is now inside this church. Two of the Stations of the cross are up there: To the right is The Eleventh Station, belonging to the Franciscans – The Chapel of the Crucifixion. This chapel contains a bronze alter and beautiful 12th Century Mosaics, including the main one behind the alter depicting Christ being nailed to the cross.

To the left is The Twelfth Station, belonging to the Greek Orthodox – The Chapel of Calvary. The alter in this chapel is the exact location of Jesus’s cross, and pilgrims can bend down, under the alter, and touch the rock. To the sides of the alter, enclosed in glass, are the two locations of the thieves crosses. This is a HIGHLY metallic (gold, brass, silver, and tin) room filled with brass oil lamps – oil lamps even hang from the cross behind the alter.  During the building of the Church, Constantine’s mother, Helena, is believed to have rediscovered the “True Cross”, which tradition holds that when she found three crosses she tested each by having it held over a corpse and when the corpse rose up under one, that was the true cross.

Notice the person kneeling under the alter at the exact spot where Jesus’ cross had been embedded in Mt.Golgatha

We left this upper area and descended down an even steeper set of narrow stone steps. At the bottom of the stairs, and still in the main entry area of the building, is the Thirteenth Station – This station is where Jesus was taken down from the cross, laid on The Stone of the Anointment, and anointed with a mixture of myrrh and oil. Highly venerated by the Orthodox, the area is filled with candlesticks and oil lamps. There is a WONDERFUL (and very big) mosaic on the back wall depicting the Unction.

There is NO logical flow thru this building. We headed to our right – something we Architects find is a innate behavior for people. This took us around the outside of the Catholicon where we stopped briefly at the Greek Chapel of the Derision, the Armenian Chapel of Division of Robes, and the Greek Chapel of St. Longinus.

Coming all the way around took us into the heart of the building, the large Anastasis (or Rotunda) housing the Fourteenth Station – The Tomb! There was quite a line around the tomb, and we questioned IF we really wanted to stand in it. So we wandered the perimeter of this room which has 12 alternating columns, pillars, and windows (which are currently blocked off).

At the Alter of Mary, the two parts of a single column belong to the original Hadrian’s temple. At the back of the Rotunda is one of the oldest portions of the building, the Syrian Chapel. LYNN IS STANDING AT THE ALTER HERE. Because of the conflict in Syria, and contested ownership of this area by the Armenians, the elements are severely degraded and in disrepair.

A small passageway in the wall leads to the Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, who offered his own tomb to Jesus.  During our walk we determined the line appeared to be moving fast enough, and we did want to see what was in the “BOX”.

The “box” is the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre – The Edicule, with its onion-shaped cupola, consists of a vestibule or passageway, the Chapel of the Angel, that leads to the narrow burial chamber where on the right is the rock-cut marble bench on which the body of Christ was laid. We got in the line and wound around the exterior of a red marble “box” that is now supported with large (UGLY) steel beams. At the entrance was an Orthodox Priest who was controlling traffic – you can not go in until someone comes out, and BEWARE you stay to long, and he will come in to scold you. When our turn came we ducked thru the VERY tiny, and low doorway, and entered the ante-chamber – the Chapel of the Angel.

The original rock had been conserved in its entirety until the church’s destruction in 1009. Constantine destroyed the original subterranean antechamber in a remodeling that was to create a burial chamber free of walls and surrounded by balustrades. When you Travel Like an Architect™ you really wonder about some people’s ideas of “improvement”.

Beyond the Chapel of the Angel is a VERY VERY small burial chamber entered thru a SMALL white marble doorway decorated with a bas-relief of the Resurrection . Inside the chamber are 43 lamps that burn day and night. The burial “shelf” where the body was laid is to your right as you enter. There is almost room for two persons kneeling, and two persons behind standing.

We exited the Edicule thru the same doorway we entered. We next made our way to the impressive Katholikon – the large room In front of the Edicule, where the Crusaders originally built their Choir of the Canons, now presided over by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. The room is topped with a large dome containing windows and a mosaic of Christ. Where the Choir of the Canons once sat, the Orthodox have erected their Iconostasis flanked by the Patriarchal Thrones of Antioch on the right and Jerusalem on the left. Beneath the floor of the Katholikon, near the current apse, is the apse from Constantine’s Martyrium Basilica. Based on various Biblical references, this location is seen to be the geographical center of the world coinciding with the site of the divine manifestation. A rose-colored circular stone marked with a cross marks this spot.

I found a couple more pictures that I can not specifically tell you about but they were in the area of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for sure!

As we exited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre compound, tired, heads spinning from all the history. It was mid-afternoon, and we were ready to work our way back to the ship. We wound our way thru the bazaar, towards the Jaffa Gate where there was free WiFi at the tourism building. Along the way we were enticed into another Fresh Squeezed Pomegranate Juice and the Shawar’s Bakery.  We took a video of the Pommegranate juice experience – watch for it to post on our YouTube channel, next week..  Don’t want to miss it? Subscribe.

I wish you could see the old guy sitting inside the bakery – Dressed like a Sheik in all white robes and a keffiyeh! I didn’t want to be obnoxious about taking his picture so we sat down on a stoop across the street from his store!

This is where we got delicious bakery and ate it immediately.  We were so hungry that I don’t even remember what it was…. We then worked our way to the wifi location. Our Guide Sam had come thru with a taxi recommendation, and we called him: Mr, Golani, 0548141176. He was with a customer, but said he could pick us up at our hotel in a couple hours. Since it was only a 20 min walk back, we decided to work our way back to the hotel via the Zion Gate, and MAYBE King David’s Tomb (outside the city walls, but VERY visible).

SO…… Into the Armenian Quarter, past the Tower of David, we went. The Armenian Quarter is clean, has far fewer people, and no shops/stores, but many taverns. About half-way to the gate we noticed an open door to the Armenian Covenant of St. Jacques – otherwise know as the Cathedral of St. James. The door to a covered passage was open, so we went in.

Right down on the left was the entrance to the church and when we got there we could see scaffolding and construction. We leaned out to take a look, and a photo.

A gentleman “Sartin” in a guard uniform quickly came over to tell us the cathedral was closed for renovations. We explained we were Architects and construction and scaffolding were as interesting to us as what was inside. We thanked him, turned, and started to leave. He then asked us if we had seen the Armenian area, Ummmm…. no….. we thought you had asked us to leave. He then motioned for us to follow him, and off we went thru the covered area and out into a large open compound of buildings.  We were inside the Armenian Quarter that was surrounded by a wall.

Inside this compound are a hospital, schools, and more. It is a HUGH community. According the guard, the Armenians have been in the Old City longer than ANY of the others. He explained he was born in Jerusalem, his father was born in Jerusalem, he has a Jordanian Passport (“the king is good to them”) but considers himself an Armenian Citizen. He has a brother living in the United States, and for him “The Holy Land” is Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Amid smiles and hugs we left him guarding the 800 year old, ORIGINAL, door to the compound. He delighted in showing us how it still could be moved with a single finger. It is maintained, and gets its color from, the used lamp oil. This quarter was a refreshing end to a rather confused city that lives day-to-day, even hour-to-hour in Status Quo.

We continued south without interruption, and easily exited the Old City thru the Zion Gate. We asked for directions, as now we had to return to our hotel, and our taxi back to the port, without any side trips-including getting lost. Unfortunately the directions we received sent us along the outside wall of the Old City, and back to the Jaffa Gate. From there were walked the parks and arrived at our hotel with little more than a 10 minute wait for our cab.

Our ride back to Ashdod, the port, and the ship were quite uneventful. Our cab driver was nice, and even stopped at a C-Store so we could get bottles of water. With our ship cards in hand we had NO trouble getting thru the security gate and into the port. We did have to “help” him a little in navigating the container boxes and cranes. We could see the Azamara Journey, but it was not an EASY route.

Mr. Golani – a reputable English speaking cab driver in the Jerusalem area!  Phone: 0548141176

He was referred to us by:  Sam Eli Salem

Email –

Phone – +972-544-828207

Sam speaks perfect English and several other languages fluently!

We arrived and were greeted pier side with water, cold towels, and a dozen “Welcome Back’s” – and “How was your Stay”. I guess the suitcase we had in tow was a give away that we had spent the previous night in Jerusalem. It felt good to “be home”. We had a pre-shower drink, a shower, An Azamazing Dinner, with wine, and a late night of entertainment (as we did not have to be up early tomorrow).

Our entire visit in Israel was complicated by the celebration of two Jewish holidays . OUR opinion is there were MANY MANY Jewish people who had come to the Old City to celebrate Sukkot. This was further complicated in that September 13, 2015 was the last day of the Shemitah Year – another MAJOR Jewish celebration that occurs every 7 years. And, of course, Shabbat – Judaism’s day of rest.

The Holy Land Area is amazing for the simple fact that, ancient history has been preserved.  It is like a religious Disneyland because people come from all over the world to experience it.  My experience there really made me think, and perhaps connect some dots….  Religious people in the Holy Land and all over the world are living their lives just like the Via Dolorosa – The way of Pain.  They are in constant conflict – while living the Status Quo – in a world where the only thing constant is change!  Each religion is focused on rituals that were taught to them and handed down through the generations.  They each believe that they are RIGHT but the sin in that matter is that in order to believe that you are right you have to judge another as WRONG.  When you live your life in this manner – you are indeed assured the Via Dolorosa, the way of pain.  When you pass down the tradition of being RIGHT – you are teaching your offspring to evaluate and Judge others, something that is supposed to be reserved only for God.  When we learn to judge as part of religion – our ability to judge becomes our internal torch – and some carry the torch too far – even using it for destruction!

What would the world be like if we were ALL right

and that was OUR Status Quo?

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!

The Status Quo term comes from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  It is an official collection of historical traditions and influences, of rules and laws, which establish the relations, activities, and movements that are carried out in those parts of the church where ownership is shared by different Christian denominations – Read more CLICK HERE

We really covered some turf this day…… After doing the research required to do this post we have decided that we would surely love to return some day – perhaps take you with….. Who wants to explore more? Give us a call at 815-516-0300

Rob and Lynn Belles are seasoned travelers and Cruises Inc. Travel Agents

Gathering up the best experiences on Earth to share with you

for the purpose of inspiring you to go into the world with peace and kindness and learn all about the rest of humanity………..

If you enjoyed our Middle East Trip and are thinking about doing one yourself, here is a link to a similar itinerary occurring in the future on a line that we recommend.

CLICK HERE for pricing and info – Call for details 🙂

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We travel to get away and to be together, to learn and to teach, to experience and become wise, to turn off the news and ignore the clock, to connect to the world in a peaceful way all while leaving a bit of our wealth with someone else who needs it more than we do.  We know you could do this too or we wouldn’t be promoting it.  Go ahead step out of your comfort zone and dream a little then let us show you just how affordable your dreams really are!

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