Friday, April 18, 2014

Journey to Jerusalem: Historic city yields wonder, emotion, spectacle


Cookie takes a moment to meditate and give thanks for her return to a favorite city at the Western Wall, Jerusalem.
The Dome of the Rock , sacred Muslim
shrine, circa 685, offers gorgeous mosaics
 and  is an Islamic architectural  monument.

NO CITY on the planet makes such an emotional impact on so many people.
Jerusalem, the proud capital of Israel, sits handsomely atop
a plateau in the Judean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It has survived centuries of upheaval, invasion, plunder and celebration.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre figures prominently
in the Easter week remembrances when thousands visit. 
It remains one of the most beautiful, cohesive and oldest cities in the world, considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
WE WERE struck by the beautiful light -- and the peaceful nature of the people.  Although it is a bustling, busy city, Jerusalem has an underlying feeling of reverence.  Within a mile, we visited the historic Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall, all iconic, historic sites crucial to understanding the major world religions which share this diverse city and revere its sacred past.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
  the site of Christ's tomb, is sacred to believers.
Israel's eight million people live in an area a bit smaller than New Jersey.  About 840,000 people call Jerusalem home, with Jews comprising about 61 per cent, Muslims about 35 per cent, Christians and other faiths the remaining four per cent.

The spectacular Dome
of the Rock against
the Jerusalem skyline.
Cookie lights a candle for departed loved ones in Jerusalem.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been preserved for centuries.
EASTER TIME in Jerusalem is a wondrous spectacle for all faiths. Many Christian rituals have roots in Jewish traditions. The celebration of the Jewish festival of Passover, for example, commemorates the exodus of Jews from captivity in Egypt.  Passover has been mixed with Easter for centuries.  The Hebrew word Pesach, originally meaning Passover, came to mean Easter as well. Holy Week and Easter in Jerusalem mingle as members of both faiths celebrate their rich cultures. The magnificent Dome of the Rock is also a visitor's must. This stunning 7th-century Jerusalem edifice enshrines the rock from which Muḥammad is said to have ascended to heaven.
A journey to Masada in the Judean desert is a great day trip from Jerusalem. The rugged
 natural fortress  is a symbol of Jewish bravery and tenacity.  It overlooks
 the Dead Sea.
AS LENT draws to a close, native sons and daughters might avoid Jerusalem. They may celebrate their heritage at Masada or Galilee, or even with a float in the Dead Sea. But many Christians consider an Easter visit to Jerusalem a priority on their bucket lists. THE SPECTACLE in Jerusalem is thrilling, as locals and pilgrims celebrate Holy Week in the Holy City. 
THE CULMINATION of course is Easter Sunday. Even for non-believers, celebrating the events of Jesus’ life at the sites where they occurred is moving. Easter Week   began last Sunday with the celebration of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, greeted by cheering throngs.  Palm Sunday mass was celebrated at the monumental Church of the Holy Sepulchre with the palm procession following. Thousands of Christians from around the world joyfully marched from Bethphage, singing in many languages, down the western slope of the Mount of Olives across the Kidron valley and into the Old City. The next days were for praying and meditation.
Yosh Wickman  and Bruce Keller at the Dead Sea, another Israel site.
THEN ON HOLY Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper was celebrated at the Holy Sepulchre followed by ceremony with the Franciscans on Mount Zion, and a meditative holy hour with the actor portraying Jesus, leading up to his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.  A memorable candlelight procession followed to the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu where Jesus is said to have spent the night after his arrest.  I always light candles for my departed loved ones.
The colorful fabrics of Arab people attract the eye.
The crucifixion marked Good Friday, followed by Easter Vigil and vespers, the climax of the week, in the Basilica of the Resurrection. 
ON EASTER Sunday, mass was again celebrated for throngs at 8 a.m. with a procession around Jesus’ tomb.
Many pilgrims follow the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa. They also celebrate Christ’s funeral at the Sepulchre, an event unique to the Church of Jerusalem, reenacting the deposition of Christ’s body into the tomb.
THERE IS so much to do and see in Israel!  I've been lucky to make five visits, and I hope for another.  The culture is rich and varied, the amalgam of people, history and architecture are thrilling.  The people are warm, witty, proud and welcoming.   The food is fabulous. The beauty of the villages and particularly glorious Jerusalem has an unforgettable staying power.

Cookie's favorite tree, the jacaranda, was
in bloom throughout a recent trip through
Central America, Colombia and west Mexico.
COMING UP:  Speaking of beauty, the glorious purple jacaranda tree bloomed a path for us for nearly a month as we departed San Diego to visit seven countries south of us. Our recent transit of the Panama Canal segued to Central America with its variety and wonders.  We also stopped in Puerto Vallarta, made famous in the early 1960s by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor during filming of "The Night of the Iguana." Sure, there are drugs.  But the delights trump the fear, with fabulous food, adventurous people, and the glories of the natural world of birds, monkeys, trees and waterways. Remember to explore, learn and live and join us Wednesdays and weekends:

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