A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: MILROYW

Home sweet home

Day 8

Day 8 - 12th September 2014

Like any good event in life our Pilgrimage too was coming to an end. In the morning after breakfast we checked out of the hotel in Amman. By about 10.30 am we were at the Amman airport. Our flight to Kuwait was at 1.30 pm. After immigration formalities I spent some time in the Duty Free shops. We had still more time to spare. I occupied myself in my hobby, taking few more photographs.

Renuka, Jenat and me, the three passengers from Sri Lanka


Renuka, Jenat and Vasu


Sedric (Pastor) his wife Mali and Judy


Morton and Mary




Mary and me


(These pictures were taken at the very beginning of the tour as we boarded the bus for the first time)

Chris, the Company Director who accompanied us on the tour






Joss (Father of Philip- NZ)


Philip (Son - NZ)


The plane that took us to Kuwait


The rest of the journey back home was very much uneventful. We arrived in Kuwait by 3.30 pm. And then we had a five hour transit. Next flight was at 8.50 pm. Kuwait to Colombo flight was not crowded. At 5.45 am on the 13th September we arrived safely in Colombo. By 7.30 am I was back at home.

All in all it was a very satisfying and successful tour.

First of all I am thankful to my Lord God for giving me the opportunity.
Next my thanks goes to Chris and the other companions who travelled with me.

Last but not least: To all those who took the trouble to read this blog
Your comments are welcome

Posted by MILROYW 10:42 Comments (0)

Biblical Mount Nebo in Jordan

Day 7

Day 7 - 11th September 2014

By now our tour of the Holy Land proper is over. We saw and walked on most of the places that Jesus too walked while he was on earth as a fellow human. That I consider a great blessing.

Our next destination was the biblical Mount Nebo, the last resting place of Moses, 28km South West of Amman in Jordan.

This morning we checked out of Hotel Golan in Tiberius, Galilee. From Israel / Palastine (I am still confused about the borders of these two countries - we crossed them several times thus loosing track of the country in which I was) we drove to Jordan Valley Border Crossing to enter into Jordan.
Here we said good-bye to our dear friend and Guide John and the driver.


We visited Mount Nebo where Moses' unknown tomb is situated. This is the kind of landscape that we passed as we were climbing the Mt. Nebo. Little wonder the Israelites grumbled when Moses led them through this terrain in search of the Promised Land.

After 40 years leading the headstrong Israelites in the desert, Moses stood on the windswept summit of Mount Nebo and viewed the Promised Land of Canaan — after having been told by God “you shall not cross over there”.

As Deuteronomy 34:5-6 recounts, Moses died there in the land of Moab “but no one knows his burial place to this day”. Moses did, however, eventually reach the Promised Land. He and Elijah were seen with Jesus at the latter’s Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36).

Mount Nebo is now in western Jordan. At 820 metres high, it looks down 1220 metres on the nearby Dead Sea (which is about 400 metres below sea level).

Stone stele at the entrance to the Mt. Nebo site


Detail of Mosaic at Mt. Nebo






Outside the present-day shrine stands an enigmatic serpentine cross, the Brazen Serpent Monument. Created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni, it imaginatively merges the life-saving bronze serpent set up by Moses into the desert (Numbers 21:4-9) and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.








On a clear day, today’s pilgrims can see the panorama Moses viewed: The Dead Sea, the Jordan River valley, Jericho, Bethlehem and the distant hills of Jerusalem.



The Franciscan church on Mt. Nebo. When we visited the mount the church was closed to visitors for renovations. We could not go in.




The type of rolling stone that covered the tomb of Jesus


Mount Nebo is in the province of Madaba (4 km) which is famous for Byzantine Mosaic art. (We did not Visit Madaba.)
The remains of the oldest known map of the Holy Land, painstakingly assembled from more than a million pieces of coloured stone, lie on the floor of a church in the Jordanian city of Madaba.

This unique art treasure was designed by an unknown artist and constructed in a Byzantine cathedral in the middle of the 6th century.

It was rediscovered only in 1884, but its unique character was recognised only in 1896, after the new Greek Orthodox Church of St George had been built over it.

The discovery of the Madaba Mosaic Map, and mosaics in the remains of five more churches and other locations in the town, led to Madaba, 30km south of Amman, becoming known as “the City of Mosaics”.

We had a late lunch around 3.30 pm at a restaurant in Madaba and came to our hotel in Amman little early. After checking in we had free time to
do shopping on our own. Accompanied by the other two Sri Lankan ladies who needed some guidance, we walked to a shopping mall within the vicinity. But it was a quite a distance. After buying few things for the family at home we took a cab back to the hotel.

Our Hotel in Amman


Our room seen from my bed


Inner compound of the hotel




Posted by MILROYW 08:38 Comments (0)

Galilee - the province Jesus inhabited most

Day 6

Day 6 - 10th September 2014

Mount Tabor - Transfiguration of Jesus, Sea of Galilee, Church of Primacy of St.Peter/ Mensa Christi, Caphernaum-House of St. Peter, White Synagogue, Mount of Beatitudes, Yardenit - the Baptismal Site

Mount Tabor, rising dome-like from the Plain of Jezreel, is the mountain where Christian tradition places the Transfiguration of Jesus.

Scholars disagree on whether Mount Tabor was the scene of that event (described in Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9: 2-8 and Luke 9:28-36). However, it has throughout history been a place of mystique and atmosphere, where humanity has sought contact with the divine.

Mount Tabor stands some 420 metres above the plain in lower Galilee, 7km east of Nazareth. It held a strategic position at the junction of trade routes. Many battles have been fought at its foot.

Mt. Tabor at a distance, as we approached it

Church of Transfiguration


Alter with stained glass window bearing pictures of peacocks

And the apse of the church with the beautiful mosaic of Transfigured Jesus with Moses and Elijah on either sides and the apostles Peter, John and James.



In the corridors on either sides of the church are Chapels dedicated one to Moses

and the other to Elijah


Mount Tabor’s height affords uninterrupted panoramas. From the balcony of the Franciscan hospice, the view is of the plain of Jezreel, bounded by the Carmel range and the mountains of Samaria.
The fertile plain is called “the breadbasket of Israel”, a reminder that one of the meanings of Jezreel is “God sows”.



From Mt. Tabor we move on to the sea of Galilee around which Jesus performed many a miracle including Multiplication of loaves and fish, calming of the tempest and walking on the water and delivered many sermons. We enjoyed a boat trip in one of those large boats which they call Sea of Galilee Worship Boats. No sooner we entered the boat, a sailor hoisted the two National Flags, Sri Lankan and Australian (Israel flag was already there) which was followed by playing the National Anthems. Then the boat was steered to the middle of the sea and a prayer service was held with singing worship songs. The captain of the boat too was a renowned worship song singer.

Among Holy Land sites, the Sea of Galilee has changed comparatively little since Jesus walked on its shores and recruited four fishermen as his first disciples. A picturesque, harp-shaped lake set among hills in northern Israel, it is one of the lowest-lying bodies of water on earth (some 210 metres below sea level).

This freshwater “sea” is 21km long and 13km across at its widest point, with a maximum depth of 43 metres. Its other names include the Sea of Tiberias, the Lake of Gennesaret and (in Hebrew) Lake Chinnereth or Kinneret. Fed mainly by the Jordan River and drained by it, the lake serves as Israel’s chief water reservoir.

Jesus made the fishing town of Capernaum the centre of his itinerant ministry in Galilee, using the lake, its boats and its shores to spread his Good News. He calmed a storm, he walked on the water and probably even swam in the lake.

Miracles on the shore

It was around the usually serene waters of the Sea of Galilee that Jesus began his public ministry, teaching in the synagogues and curing the sick. Crowds flocked to him, “for he taught as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29).

Perhaps his best-known discourse, the Sermon on the Mount, is believed to have been delivered on the Mount of Beatitudes (also known as Mount Eremos). This small hill is on the lake’s northwestern shore, between Capernaum and Tabgha.

Tabgha is also the traditional site where Jesus fed a crowd of 5000 with five loaves and two fish. Later, across the lake near Kursi, he performed a second miraculous feeding.

The Heptapegon (“Seven Springs”) fishing ground off Tabgha was also the scene of a memorable post-Resurrection appearance.
The apostles had fished all night with empty nets. Just after daybreak Jesus appeared and told them where to find a miraculous catch. When the apostles came ashore, they found the risen Lord had cooked breakfast for them.

Acoustics aided parable

About 1km northeast of Tabgha is a small bay with exceptional acoustic qualities. Here it is believed Jesus taught the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-9) from a boat moored in the bay.

The semicircular bay, at the foot of the Mount of Beatitudes, is one of the most attractive places along the shoreline. It is called Sower’s Cove or the Bay of the Parables. The slope of the hill forms a natural amphitheatre, rather like a Roman theatre. Acoustical research has demonstrated that as many as 7000 people could hear a person speaking from a boat in the bay.

Pilgrims who test the acoustics, usually by reading the Gospel account, are amazed at how far the voice carries.

This location was also an appropriate setting for the story of the sower and his seeds. There is fertile black earth, rocky ground and plenty of thorns and thistles.

Sudden squalls are common

Because it lies low in the Great Rift Valley, surrounded by hills, the Sea of Galilee is prone to sudden turbulence. Storms of the kind that Jesus calmed (Mark 4:35-41) are a well-known hazard for Galilee fishermen. With little warning, mighty squalls can sweep down the wadis (valleys) around the lake, whipping its tranquil surface into treacherous waves.

Such storms often arrive in mid-afternoon, as the heat of the rift valley (averaging mid-30s Celsius in the shade) sucks down the cool air of the heights. After half an hour, the wind drops and the waves subside, restoring calm to the lake.

In 1986, during a severe drought when the water level dropped, the remains of an ancient fishing boat were found in the lakebed. It was old enough to have been on the water in the time of Jesus and his disciples. Dubbed the Jesus Boat, it is now on permanent display at the lakeside Kibbutz Ginosar.


After the boat ride in the sea of Galilee we went to Tabgha (Arabic form of the Greek “Heptapegon” = “the place of the seven springs”) which is located 2.1 mi. [3.5 km.] southwest of Capernaum. Although not mentioned in the Gospels, it marks the traditional site associated with Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes to feed 5,000 (Mark 6:30–44).


Inside this church of Multiplication of Loves and Fish you can see the rock on which the loves were placed and the famous mosaic representing the miracle which we find in many vestments used for Holy Mass.


In the picture is a traditional Mill Stone about which Jesus says to be hung on the neck and thrown into the sea those who scandalize the young ones




Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

The modern structure was built in 1933 and incorporates parts of an earlier 4th century church. At the base of its walls, opposite the main altar, foundations of the 4th century church are visible. In the 9th century, the church was referred to as the Place of the Coals. This name refers to the incident of Jesus' preparation of meal for the apostles, building a charcoal fire on which to cook the fish.


Mensa Christi

The church contains a projection of limestone rock in front of the present altar which is venerated as a "Mensa Christi", Latin for table of Christ. According to tradition this is the spot where Jesus is said to have laid out a breakfast of bread and fish for the Apostles, and told Peter to "Feed my sheep" after the miraculous catch, the third time he appeared to them after his resurrection. (John 21:1-24)



When Jesus began his public ministry he moved from Nazareth to Caphernaum making it his second home town. Caphernaum lay in a strategic position between the trading routs at that time. Thus his fame spread far and wide.

Modern church built over the remains of St.Peter's house where Jesus healed Peter's mother in law.

Through the fenced area you can see the foundations below

The octagonal remains are from a Byzantine church enclosing the house of St.Peter.

Excavations here have discovered some remains of ancient tenements.

The layer of black blocks of stone (second below the display board) are the remains of the synagogue of Jesus


Remains of the White Synangouge


A Roman Mile Stone - There are inscriptions of the Roman Emperor on them

The story would not be complete without a date palm!

We had our lunch at a restaurant by the sea of Galilee with St. Peter's fish!
Of the 27 species of fish in the lake, the best-known is nicknamed St Peter’s Fish. This species (Sarotherodon galilaeus galilaeus) belongs to the genus tilapia. Its Arabic name of musht (comb) refers to its comb-like tail.

The nickname refers to the Gospel passage in which Temple collectors ask Peter whether Jesus pays the Temple tax.

When Peter returns home, Jesus tells him to go fishing — “go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me”. (Matthew 17:24-27)


Almost next yard to the restaurant was the house of Mary Magdeline (one with a flag). These houses are fairly small in size.

From there we move on to the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus delivered the famous sermon on the mountain. Now there stands a octagonal church resembling the eight Beatitudes.




















Our last visit for the day was Baptism at the River Jordan. Some of the members of our group took part in it.








On our way back to the hotel we visited a Diamond Factory. It is said to be the biggest in Israel.




Some of our members bought diamond embedded jewelry from them.


Posted by MILROYW 10:44 Comments (0)

From Bethlehem to Nazareth

Day 5

Day 5 - 9th September 2014

Jaffa - House of Simon the Tanner, Herod's Palace and the Aqueduct, Elija's Cave in Mt. Carmel, Baha'i Shrine (Hanging Gardens of Haifa), Stella Maris Monastory, Church of Annunciation and Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth and Cana

This morning we checked out of Hotel Paradise in Bethlehem. Saying good-bye to Jerusalem we drove towards Tel-Aviv, the commercial capital of Israel. We did not stop in Tel Aviv but went past to a suburb, Jaffa.
Picturesque Jaffa, on the Mediterranean Sea just south of Tel Aviv, is where the apostle Peter received a crucial vision that changed his mind about accepting gentiles into the early Christian Church.

Peter was staying in the seaside house of a tanner called Simon and went up on the roof to pray.

He fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and a sheet lowered, filled with all sorts of animals, which he was told to eat. When he protested that some of the animals were unclean, a voice told him, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane”.

Realizing that “I should not call anyone profane or unclean”, Peter accepted an invitation to visit a centurion called Cornelius at Caesarea, about 48 kilometers up the coast, and accepted Cornelius as the first gentile to convert to Christianity (Acts 10).

Called Joppa in biblical times, Jaffa is one of the oldest port cities on earth.It was here that the prophet Jonah embarked for his fateful encounter with a whale (Jonah 1:3), and for centuries it was the arrival port for pilgrims visiting the Holy Land.[/i]

Jaffa offers no original sites to visit, but a disused private residence (formerly a mosque) behind Jaffa’s lighthouse is believed to stand on the site of Simon the tanner’s house.

Peter’s vision is commemorated at St Peter’s Church, on a Catholic property that overlooks the waterfront just off Kedumim Square. In this church you find pictures of Peter's vision, rasing of Tabitha and an uncommon pulpit depicting a tree.

Some connection to Greek Mythology
A chain of reefs protects the port, the northernmost called Andromeda’s Rock. Here, according to Greek mythology, the princess Andromeda was chained as a sacrifice to a sea monster, but was rescued by the monster-slayer Perseus, who then married her.

Mediterranean Sea



Archaeological site of Herod's Palace by the Mediterranean sea at Jaffa


and the Aqueduct that brought fresh water from the Mount Carmel, a long way off (some 16 km) to the pools of Herod,s palace.

I wanted to take a photograph of me by the Mediterranean Sea. I managed that one with the help of another tourist but forgot to get one from the other side with both the aqueduct and the sea behind me. May be next time, hopefully!

Open end of the aqueduct and its continuation through the country side.


Mount Carmel

The prophet Elijah’s fire-lighting challenge — one of the Old Testament’s most spectacular contests between Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, and a pagan deity — took place on the south-eastern summit of Mount Carmel.
Elijah called fire from heaven

Elijah’s challenge came during a period after successive kings “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (1 Kings 16:30).

King Ahab had married the Phoenician princess Jezebel. She turned his allegiance from Yahweh to her god Baal and had Yahweh’s prophets slaughtered.

So Elijah called on Ahab to assemble the 450 priests of Baal on Mount Carmel. There he challenged the priests to call on fire from Baal to light a sacrifice.

As the book of 1 Kings relates, Baal failed to respond to the priests’ cries. Then Elijah rebuilt the ruined altar of the Lord and offered a sacrifice. Immediately fire from heaven consumed the offering, even though it had been soaked in water.
It is marked by a dramatic stone statue of Elijah, sword raised to heaven as he slaughters a Baal priest,
................and a small Carmelite monastery, surrounded by a nature reserve.

A superb view takes in the plain of Esdraelon and southern Galilee.
On the plain below is the Kishon brook, where Elijah took the priests of Baal and had them put to death.

Mount Carmel’s most spectacular religious memorial, however, is the Baha’i Shrine of the Báb, which runs in manicured terraces up the northern slope. The site is a sacred place for Baha’is around the world.

Baha’i Shrine
also known as Hanging Gardens of Haifa

A golden dome, marble walls, granite pillars and manicured gardens cas===Your subheading here...===cading down a slope of Mount Carmel make the Baha’i Shrine in Haifa a spectacularly colourful attraction for visitors.

The shrine is the world headquarters of the Baha’i faith, a monotheistic religion committed to the unity of humanity and the fundamental oneness of all religions.

The shrine, built in 1953, contains the remains of Siyyid Al Muhammad (1819-50). Known as the Bab, he is revered as the prophet-herald of the Baha’i faith.

The shrine’s nine sides represent the nine major religions of the world. Its dome is covered with 14,000 gold-coated bricks.

Around the shrine are several other buildings of classical design, including the Universal House of Justice, the seat of the Baha’i governing body.

The shrine and its elaborate gardens are an important place of pilgrimage for Baha’is, who number more than 5 million worldwide. They also attract many tourists.


A view from the lower end of the garden

At the western edge of Mount Carmel is Stella Maris Monastery, the world headquarters of the Carmelites, a Catholic religious order.


A small cave under the monastery is held by a Christian tradition to be a place where Elijah occasionally lived — as people on Mount Carmel have lived in caves since prehistoric times.


Nazareth in Galilee is celebrated by Christians as the town where the Virgin Mary, aged around 14 years, agreed to become pregnant with the Son of God. It also became the home town of Jesus, Mary and her husband Joseph after the Holy Family returned from fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod the Great’s soldiers.
But being hidden from the public eye, nestled in a hollow among the hills of Galilee, it provided an ideal setting for the years of preparation Jesus needed as he “increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour” (Luke 2:52). It was also a place from which a young boy could watch the world go by: South of the village, a vantage point overlooked the Plain of Jezreel, where traders and travellers passed along a great highway between Babylon and Cairo.

Modern-day Nazareth is dominated by the towering cupola of the Church of the Annunciation. It is an Arab city, mainly Muslim, with an adjoining Jewish upper city of Nazareth Ilit, but a profusion of churches, monasteries and other religious institutions make it a major centre of Christian pilgrimage.

Church of the Annunciation

The massive two-storey Church of the Annunciation, in strikingly modern architectural style and colourfully decorated, is the largest Christian church in the Middle East.


Crypt that is traditionally held to be the house of Virgin Mary


Close by is the church of St. Joseph. Tradition says that this is built over the carpentry of St. Joseph but without much evidence.
A stairway in the church descends to a crypt where caverns can be seen through a grille in the floor. Seven further steps lead to a 2-metre square basin or pit with a black-and-white mosaic floor. This is believed to have been a pre-Constantinian Christian baptistry, perhaps used as early as the 1st century.


the place of first miracle of Jesus, turning water into wine.


Findings of excavations under the Franciscan church including a stone vessel


Having visited the house of Simon the Tanner, Herod's palace and the aquaduct in Jaffa, Elijah's caves, Stella Maris and hanging gardens of Haifa in Mt. Carmel, Nazareth and Cana we reached the new resting place at Tiberius by the sea of Galilee. Hotel Golan too was a good hotel. We had a very good view of the see of Galilee.

A view of the see of Galilee from our room at the hotel at dusk......

......... and dawn.



Posted by MILROYW 03:12 Comments (0)

More to see in Jerusalem

Day 4

Day 4 - 8th September 2014

Morning: Jerusalem - Garden Tomb, Via Dolorosa, Church of Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall

Afternoon: Ein Karem - Church of John the Baptist and Church of Visitation

To day we were in Jerusalem again and started with the Garden Tomb.
The main advocate of this site was a British army officer and administrator, Major-General Charles Gordon, who visited Jerusalem in 1882-83. Though he had no academic education in history or archaeology, a dream assisted him to identify the cliff as the place where Jesus was crucified. For years the site was known as “Gordon’s Calvary”, Calvary being Latin for Golgotha.
The Garden Tomb is certainly outside the walls of the Old City. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, however, is inside the walls — but it was outside until about a decade after the crucifixion of Christ, when the so-called third north wall was built by Herod Agrippa I.
All the tombs in the Garden Tomb area date from 7 to 9 centuries BC — the time of Jeremiah or Isaiah, rather than Jesus. But the tombs within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were new in the time of Jesus. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre also has longstanding tradition in its favour, indicating that it stands over the sites that the early Christian community venerated as the places where Christ died, was buried and rose again. The Garden Tomb site, on the other hand, was used by Christian Crusaders as a stable.
Despite its lack of authenticity, the Garden Tomb has an aura of calmness that encourages meditation.

Our group held a prayer service here.

This is a wine press.

The picture below is the Damascus Gate. In Jesus' time this was a very busy place because all the caravans from east and west met here to exchange their merchandise. The thin slots like openings in the upper part of the walls are watch towers.

Via Dolorosa / The way of the Cross

The path through the narrow alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem commemorates tortured Jesus bearing his cross. Along the route are 14 Stations of the Cross, 9 along the narrow streets and 5 inside the Church of Holy Sepulcher.

I: Jesus is condemned to deathChurch of Condemnation
II: Jesus carries his cross
theEcce Homo Arch, reaching across the Via Dolorosa. It is named after the famous phrase (“Behold the Man” in Latin) spoken by Pilate when he showed the scourged Jesus to the crowd (John 19:5). But the arch was built after Jesus stood before Pilate.

III: Jesus falls the first time

IV: Jesus meets his Mother
V: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross

VI: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
VII: Jesus falls the second time
VIII: Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem

On the wall of a Greek Orthodox monastery, beneath the number marker is a carved stone set at eye level. It is distinguished by a Latin cross flanked by the Greek letters IC XC NI KA (meaning “Jesus Christ conquers”).

The Way of the Cross winds through narrow alleys and bazzars. There are even motorcycles ...........

IX: Jesus falls the third time

The five Stations inside the church are not specifically marked.

X: Jesus is stripped of his garments
XI: Jesus is nailed to the cross

XII: Jesus dies on the cross

Under the alter of Jesus' crucifixion there is hole on the floor where you can put your hand and touch the rock on which the Holy Cross stood.

XIII: Jesus is taken down from the cross
This is the spot where it is said the body of Jesus was laid to prepare for the burial

XIV: Jesus is laid in the tomb

No photographs are allowed inside the Holy Sepulcher.

This pedestal is said to contain a piece of the rolling stone that covered the Tomb of Jesus

This is the entrance to the Holy Sepulcher

Church of the Holy Sepulchre
This is the steelframe enclosing the Holy Sepulcher






The entrance to the Holy Sepulcher from a distance


Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem covers what Christians believe is the site of the most important event in human history: The place where Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
But the pilgrim who looks for the hill of Calvary and a tomb cut out of rock in a garden nearby will be disappointed.
• Inside, there is a bewildering conglomeration of 30-plus chapels and worship spaces. These are encrusted with the devotional ornamentation of several Christian rites.
This sprawling Church of the Holy Sepulchre displays a mish-mash of architectural styles. It bears the scars of fires and earthquakes, deliberate destruction and reconstruction down the centuries. It is often gloomy and usually thronging with noisy visitors.
Yet it remains a living place of worship. Its ancient stones are steeped in prayer, hymns and liturgies. It bustles daily with fervent rounds of incensing and processions.
This is the pre-eminent shrine for Christians, who consider it the holiest place on earth. And it attracts pilgrims by the thousand, all drawn to pay homage to their Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Making sense of the church
Of all the Christian holy places, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is probably themost difficult for pilgrims to come to terms with.
7. A silver disc beneath the Greek altar marks the place where it is believed the cross stood. The limestone rock of Calvary may be touched through a round hole in the disc. On the right, under glass, can be seen a fissure in the rock. Some believe this was caused by the earthquake at the time Christ died. Others suggest that the rock of Calvary was left standing by quarrymen because it was cracked.
10. On the wall behind the stone is a Greek mosaic depicting (from right to left) Christ being taken down from the cross, his body being prepared for burial, and his body being taken to the tomb.
11. Continuing away from Calvary, the Rotunda of the church opens up on the right, surrounded by massive pillars and surmounted by a huge dome. Its outer walls date back to the emperor Constantine’s original basilica built in the 4th century. The dome is decorated with a starburst of tongues of light, with 12 rays representing the apostles.
12. In the centre is a stone edicule (“little house”), its entrance flanked by rows of huge candles. This is the Tomb of Christ, the Fourteenth Station of the Cross. This stone monument, held together by a steel frame, encloses the tomb (sepulchre) where it is believed Jesus Christ lay buried for three days — and where he rose from the dead. A high-tech photogrammetric survey late in the 20th century showed that the present edicule contains the remains of three previous structures, each encasing the previous one, like a set of Russian dolls.
13. At busy times, Greek Orthodox priests control admission. Inside there are two chambers. In the outer one, known as the Chapel of the Angel, stands a pedestal containing what is believed to be a piece of the rolling stone used to close the tomb.
14. A very low doorway leads to the tomb chamber, lined with marble and hung with holy pictures. On the right, a marble slab covers the rock bench on which the body of Jesus lay. It is this slab which is venerated by pilgrims, who customarily place religious objects and souvenirs on it.
The slab was deliberately split by order of the Franciscan custos (guardian) of the Holy Land in 1555, lest Ottoman Turks should steal such a fine piece of marble.

Three denominations share ownership
Ownership of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is shared between the GreekOrthodox, Catholics (known in the Holy Land as Latins) and Armenian Orthodox.

In Scripture:

The crucifixion: Matthew 27:27-56; Mark 15:16-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:16-37

The burial of Jesus: Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42

The Resurrection: Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10

Having completed the Via Dolorosa and the Church of The Holy Sepulchre we proceeded to visit the Western Wall (earlier they called it the Wailing Wall)

Western Wall

Judaism’s holiest place is the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Part of the retaining wall erected by Herod the Great in 20 BC to support the vast plaza on which he rebuilt the Temple, it is venerated as the sole remnant of the Temple.
In the exposed part of the Western Wall today, the seven lowest layers of stones are from Herod’s construction. Most of these stones weigh between two and eight tons.

Petitions with their grievances, request and prayers are stuffed between these huge blocks of limestone.
It is also the place where Jews down the ages have expressed their grief over the destruction of the Temple, their anguish giving the wall another name — the Wailing Wall.

But the wall is also a place for celebrations, especially of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs (coming-of-age ceremonies for Jewish sons and daughters).
There are eight gates to the walled city of Old Jerusalem. We passed through Herod's, Lion's and this Dung Gate and passed by the Damascus and Jaffa gates.
Dung Gate and Zedekiah's cave

We had our lunch at a restaurant and proceeded to Ein Karem where the churches of John the BAfternoon:aptist and Visitation are situated.

Ein Karem - Church of John the Baptist and Church of Visitation

Christian tradition places the birth of John the Baptist — who announced the coming of Jesus Christ, his cousin — in the picturesque village of Ein Karem 7.5km south-west of Jerusalem.

Luke’s Gospel tells of the circumstances of John’s birth (1:5-24, 39-66).

The angel Gabriel appeared to the elderly priest Zechariah while he was serving in the Temple and told him that his wife Elizabeth was to bear a son. Zechariah was sceptical, so he was struck dumb and remained so until the baby John was born.

In the meantime, Gabriel appeared to the teenage Virgin Mary in Nazareth, telling her that she was to become the mother of Jesus. As proof, he revealed that Mary’s elderly cousin Elizabeth was already six months’ pregnant.

Two sites for two houses
The two main sites in the “Judean town” of Ein Karem are linked to the understanding that Zechariah and Elizabeth had two houses in Ein Karem (also known as Ain Karim, Ain Karem, ’Ayn Karim and En Kerem).

Their usual residence was in the valley. But a cooler summer house, high on a hillside, allowed them to escape the heat and humidity.

The summer house is believed to be where the pregnant Elizabeth “remained in seclusion for five months” (Luke 1:24) and where Mary visited her.

The house in the valley is where John the Baptist was born. Here, also, old Zechariah finally regained his power of speech after his son was born, when he obediently wrote on a writing tablet that the baby’s name was to be John.

A huge stone set in a niche is known as the Stone of Hiding. According to an ancient tradition, the stone opened to provide a hiding place for the baby John during Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents — an event depicted in a painting on the wall.

The high altar is dedicated to St John. To the right is Elizabeth’s altar. To the left are steps leading down to a natural grotto — identified as John’s birthplace and believed to be part of his parents’ home.

— identified as John’s birthplace and believed to be part of his parents’ home.
Mary’s Spring
In a valley on the south of the village is a fresh-water spring known as Mary’s Spring or the Fountain of the Virgin. Tradition has it that Mary quenched her thirst from this spring before ascending the hill to meet Elizabeth.

Church of the Visitation

Completed in 1955 to a design by Antonio Barluzzi, the artistically decorated Church of the Visitation is considered one of the most beautiful of all the Gospel sites in the Holy Land.
A huge stone set in a niche is known as the Stone of Hiding. According to an ancient tradition, the stone opened to provide a hiding place for the baby John during Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents — an event depicted in a painting on the wall.

............... is known as the Stone of Hiding
In the lower chapel, a vaulted passage leads to an old well. An ancient tradition asserts that a spring joyfully burst out of the rock here when Mary greeted Elizabeth.
This is believed to be the site of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s summer house, where Mary came to visit her cousin. On the wall opposite the church, ceramic plaques reproduce Mary’s canticle of praise, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) in some 50 languages including Sinhala.
Mary then “went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country” — a distance of around 120km — “where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.” (Luke 1:39-41)

Inside the church of Visitation

Bronze statue of Mary and Elizabeth




In the vicinity is a Russian Orthodox Church


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