Hello friends . . . grace and peace,
It was our earliest rising during our time in Israel but well worth it.
We gathered in the hotel lobby at 5:55 a.m. and walked to Herod’s Gate into the Old City. Father Kamall led us through the winding streets where there was evidence of some shops getting ready for the day but most of them still closed. We arrived at an area called Antonia Fortress, which was the location of military barracks dating to 19 B.C under the authority of Herod.
That’s where we started on Via Dolorosa, also known as the Way of Sorrow, which is intended to follow the route Jesus took from his condemnation by Pilate to his crucifixion. At each of the first 9 stations, a member of our group read the prayer, and then we quietly moved on to the next station.
Stations 10, 11, 12 and 13 are read in a courtyard on top of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was built at the site of the crucifixion and burial. We then entered the church for the final station and then took our turn going into the narrow entrance of Christ’s tomb. It’s not the actual tomb, but about 8 meters above the actual empty tomb.
The entire Via Dolorosa covers about 2,000 feet through the Old City. It is a sobering and inspiring experience, especially done in the early morning when few people are around.
We returned to our hotel for breakfast, took a short rest and then traveled by bus to the Israel Museum. The highlight was the outdoor model of Jerusalem as it appeared in 66 A.D., right before the Jewish Revolt against the Romans. The model, which covers about one acre, is at a scale of 50:1 and was the brainchild of a hotel owner who wanted to memorialize his son. It was originally displayed at a hotel but was moved to the museum ground in 2006.
It provided an ideal teaching exhibition for Father Kamall, who pointed out the key features of the city at that time, including the Temple Mount. We then toured the museum itself that included parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient artifacts, as well as priceless art of many kinds from earlier periods. It is the type of place that requires days to fully tour.
It was time to return to the hotel where we had a late lunch of lentils and fruit before taking the rest of the day to ourselves.
We are nearing the conclusion of this pilgrimage. We will travel to Emmaus on Saturday morning, visiting the Benedictine Monastery where we will have lunch with the sisters. We will then celebrate our final Eucharist of the trip at Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant. We then return to our hotel in Jerusalem, have our final dinner here and then are driven to Tel Aviv late at night to begin the long journey home. It will take us to Paris, where we’ll have a 7-hour layover at the airport, then fly to Chicago, scheduled to arrive there at 3:20 p.m. Sunday. Shalom.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6