Tonight we had dinner with Muslim peacemaker extraordinaire Haj Ibrahim Abu Al-Hawa at his hospitality center in East Jerusalem on the Mt. of Olives. What a great story teller and generous heart. He works with Jewish, Christian, Druze, and Sufi religious leaders working for peace all around the world, but especially in Jerusalem and across the West Bank. He reminded us that no scriptures in the world tell us we need only love people like us, but that we need to go meet all our neighbors so we can love them and work for peace together.
We went up onto the Mount of Olives, where there is a magnificent view of the Kidron Valley and much of Jerusalem. The first church where we stopped was the Pater Noster (“Our Father”) church. It features a natural cave where Jesus used to teach his disciples and where one tradition says that Jesus taught them the Lord’s Prayer. Inside the church and around a lovely cloister, the prayer is written in 72 languages, surrounded by colorful tiles. The languages include many tongues of which we had never heard.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, there were at least two trees that were there in the time of Jesus. The church was built around the rock where Jesus flung himself down to pray for deliverance from his impending arrest and crucifixion, yet for God’s will to be done. It was enormously moving to be in this place.
The Dominus Flevit church commemorates the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem, knowing that the Temple would be destroyed by the Romans in the near future.
We went to a church that, according to one of the traditions, is the site of the tomb of Mary the mother of Jesus. We all had to duck down to pass through the tiny doorway into the actual tomb area.
After a security check, complete with metal detectors, we gained access to the famed Temple Mount, where Solomon’s Temple originally stood, succeeded by the Second Temple and Herod’s extensions of it. (The Temple was destroyed in 70 CE.) The most sacred part of the Temple, the Holy of Holies is now covered over by the Dome of the Rock, sacred to Muslims. This amazing mosque has a bright gold dome and gorgeous mosaics outside, mostly in green, blue, and yellow. A second mosque, Al-Aqsa is also there on what Muslims call the Haram al Sherief. Currently, only Muslims may enter these holy sites, but our guide went inside the Dome of the Rock and took some pictures for us.
We visited the Wailing Wall, and some of us left prayers in the cracks between stones. A Bar Mitzvah was taking place on the plaza nearby. Men and women had separate sections at the Wailing Wall. Some sat in chairs and read the Torah. Others bowed reverently in front of the wall as they prayed, or touched it with their foreheads. Many would leave the Wailing Wall by backing away from it.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher has sections administered by no less than 6 different denominations. It is built over Calvary–or Golgotha, the Place of the Skull–where Jesus was crucified. Since it includes the site of Jesus’ tomb, it is also the place of his Resurrection. The church was extremely busy, full of hundreds of people, some of them pushy. We saw a beautiful Catholic procession with Gregorian chant and candles.
We also did some shopping in the Muslim Quarter. Pastor Will and Birthday Boy Allan had their hair cut in the barber shop.