Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Israel Travelogues: Visiting The Mount Of Olives Second Part


After visiting Pater Noster we had to walk down on a quite steep road towards the Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetary. The road was turning several times and as it did so you could look into long side streets or have a quick look at the different buildings you passed by. Sometimes it was not so easy to guess what you saw: from the distance, and looked at it in a rush without seeing the specific markers it could be a synagogue built in an oriental style or a mosque too. There were also flowers, purple ones, may be oleanders blossoming in Mid-January.

You can enter the Jewish Cemetary on the Mount of Olives freely but there are several rules what you should consider. One of them is that you are not allowed to take photos in the cemetary. There is a group of Ortodox Jewish men standing at a distant corner of the cemetary controling if the rules are kept. If they feel so that the peace of the dead was disturbed by the behaviour of the visitors they can ask people to leave and close the gates of the cemetary.

It is an interesting cultural experience to stand in the most famous Jewish cemetery of the world. Already two and a half million people have been burried here during the last four thousand years. According to our guide Ryan, as morbid as it might sound, there is usually also a coffing traveling with you towards Israel on the plane because of the high importance of this cemetery among the Jewish people living all around the world. In ancient times it was forbidden to burry the dead inside city walls therefore the cemetary is located outside the ancient walls facing the old city.

After the cemetary the next stop is Dominus Flevit. As a reference to the Biblical story of Jesus breaking down crying after having a vision of the distruction of Jerusalem the chapel is built in the shape of a teardrop. From here you have again an excellent view on the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. If you look right you will see also the golden onion-shaped domes of the Church of Mary Magdalene with the city of Jerusalem behind it.

The following stop is the Garden of Ghetsemane and the Church of All Nations. For its symbolic meaning the part of the garden what you can visit is somewhat small but the story of the olive trees is still inspiring. It tells about beginnings and continuation as olive trees are famous for it that you can easily plant a new tree from a simple branch. The branch what Pope Francis put to the soil couple of years ago is already a small tree which is above one meter high.

Just as we were approaching our final stop of the tour the prayer time of Muslim practicioners was about to start. It hit me by total surprise how beautiful the call to prayer was because I have never heard it before. There was something very intimate and unifying in it that at the end of the day when we saw all these sites of different religions we could also hear this beautiful chant. 

Our last stop was the Church of the Assumption which was my favorite from all the sites we saw that day. The church has a very special atmosphere: firstly because it was built under ground level and you enter it by walking down the stairs which is a quite unusual architectural solution. Secondly because it displays all major characteristics of eastern orthodox churches. You find here beautiful icons, dimly lit chapels and metal incense burners hanging from the ceiling which create a mystical atmosphere and a unique place for art lovers. Some of the famous Armenian Crusader queens are buried in this church as well.

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