Travels with V

Israel

On Temple Mount

Jerusalem part two

TEMPLE MOUNT ENTRANCE GATES LOWER PART, WAILING WALL FAR LEFT, DOME OF THE ROCK TOP LEFT, AL-AQSA TOP RIGHT

Going up to Temple Mount and the Islamic sanctuaries is not an easy task. First you have to pass the guarded gate at the entrance, but not through the big gates. Instead, if you ask a guard (there are no signs) you are directed to a much smaller gate on the right side, a gate that is often closed for visitors. Best chances to find it open is in the early morning. Then you may  be allowed to walk past the armed guards and walk the footbridge that you can see to the right of the wailing wall in the picture above.

At the end of the footbridge is a new guarded gate, leading in to the Temple Mount. Women must cover hair and shoulders before they enter. 

In the area there are several buildings and also ruins of old roman constructions. Most impressive is of course the incredibly beautiful Dome of the Rock with its intricate ornaments. It’s not a mosque today, but one of the holiest places for muslims, since inside lies a rock from where the prophet Mohammed is said to have been lifted up to the heavens.

Unfortunately this is off-limits for non-muslims. But the stunning mosaic on the outer walls are joy enough for the visitor’s eyes. 

The nearby Al-Aqsa-mosque is almost shockingly simplistic compared to its neighbour, just a plain square building wth a row of arches on the entrance side. But it is also one of the holiest places in the islamic world and lots of people wander in and around its premises. We see groups of women and children walking, singing or reading and discussing.

CALL FROM AL-AQSA MOSQUE TO FRIDAY PRAYERS

"Women have placed their handbags, rings and other personal objects on the slab to charge them with holiness."

Further west in Jerusalem’s Old Town is the Church Of The Holy Sepulchre, built on what is believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified and buried. The church is actually easy to miss, it’s in a courtyard and has a somewhat non-spectacular facade. But inside it’s like a christian shopping mall where different branches have their own “stalls” where prayers and ceremonies are performed. 

Right by the entrance to the church some women kneel in front of a big slab of stone, believed to be the place where Jesus body was lain and prepared for burial. The women have placed their handbags, rings and other personal objects on the slab to charge them with holiness. And good luck, probably. 

Further on inside the church, at the alleged place of the tomb of Jesus, there is a Greek-ortodox chapel. Endless ques lead up to the entrance. 

Actually there’s not much evidence that this is the actual spot for the crucifixion and burial. The first church was built in the 4th century in the spot where they guessed the events took place. But by then the city had been devastated twice by the roman armies because of jewish rebellion. To find the exact spot hundreds of years later seems like a very difficult task. 

In the next chapter we go underground, following in the footsteps of  a warrior king. We end up in a river of men in black in search of good luck. Finally we try to trick a restaurant chef to reveal the recipe for the best hummus in Jerusalem. 

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