A few of us got up early this morning to visit the Temple Mount. What an experience! Even though we were unable to enter the mosques (only Moslems are permitted), we were practically alone on the plaza and were able to see the mosques unobstructed.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest to Moslems (after Mecca & Medina).
The Dome of the Rock is more ceremonial and many times more beautiful.
It is referred to as the Holy of Holies and is magnificent from any angle.
After our visit we walked through the Old City to the Jaffa Gate to meet our bus for the trip to Bethlehem. The town of Bethlehem is located in the Palestinian Authority, so we actually had to cross a border from Jerusalem to get there (this area is part of the contested West Bank, a source of considerable tension here).
Our first stop here was at the Shepherd’s Fields church, built in what was once the likely valley where the angel announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds. Father John said Mass in a cave similar to the ones which dot this area.
We also saw the church, another of Antonio Berluzzi’s dramatic creations.
After a brief time for shopping, we headed for the Church of the Nativity, built above the cave where Christ was born. This church is the oldest in Israel.
Whereas all the others were destroyed by the Moslems in the 600’s and then again by the Mamluks in 1087, this church, which was built by St Helena (mother of Emperor Constantine), was spared. After looking at the church,
we visited the cave where Christ was born. We were also able to see the upper church where Christmas Mass is broadcast all over the world.
We headed back to Jerusalem with a lunch stop at Ramet Rachel Kibbutz (again) and then a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum. Lee & I have been to many museums of this type, but this one is truly special. The museum makes every attempt to actually personalize the holocaust, to put faces to the individual stories and names. The only negative was that there were far too many people inside the museum so that the crowds became a total distraction and took away much of the impact of the exhibits.
I wandered the extensive grounds and discovered some gems. Notable were
The Monument to the Jewish Soldiers & Partisans who Fought Against Nazi Germany
The Cattle Car — Memorial to the Deportees;
Warsaw Ghetto Square — Wall of Remembrance;
and the Children’s Memorial, perhaps the most moving of all the exhibits.