Easter in Jerusalem: Where Jesus walked

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  • Steps through Via Dolorosa  (Photo: Peabod) Steps through Via Dolorosa (Photo: Peabod) Photo by: Picasa
  • Station three on Via Dolorosa  (Photo: Peabod) Station three on Via Dolorosa (Photo: Peabod) Photo by: Picasa
  • Site where Pilate condemned Christ  (Photo: Peabod) Site where Pilate condemned Christ (Photo: Peabod) Photo by: Picasa
  • Olive trees in Gethsemane  (Photo: Peabod) Olive trees in Gethsemane (Photo: Peabod) Photo by: Picasa
  • Narrow street in Old Jerusalem  (Photo: Peabod) Narrow street in Old Jerusalem (Photo: Peabod) Photo by: Picasa
  • Merchant in Old Jerusalem  (Photo: Peabod) Merchant in Old Jerusalem (Photo: Peabod) Photo by: Picasa
  • The Dome of the Rock in Old Jerusalem  (Photo: Peabod) The Dome of the Rock in Old Jerusalem (Photo: Peabod) Photo by: Picasa
  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre   (Photo: Peabod) Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Photo: Peabod) Photo by: Picasa
  • Christ's crucifixion path  (Photo: Peabod) Christ's crucifixion path (Photo: Peabod) Photo by: Picasa
  • Jewish graves at the Mount of Olives  (Photo: Peabod) Jewish graves at the Mount of Olives (Photo: Peabod) Photo by: Picasa
  • Cemetery & the Dome of the Rock  (Photo: Peabod) Cemetery & the Dome of the Rock (Photo: Peabod) Photo by: Picasa
  • The Old City of Jerusalem  (Photo: Peabod) The Old City of Jerusalem (Photo: Peabod) Photo by: Picasa

CHARLOTTE, April 2, 2012 — Jerusalem has been a crossroads of religion for centuries. For travelers to the Holy Land, it’s those constantly changing layers of history that make a challenging destination to absorb. Unlike Rome’s Colosseum or Notre Dame in Paris or the Tower in London, much of Jerusalem lies buried or undiscovered.

Guides often tell you, “This may not ‘be’ the site, but we know it’s ‘near’ the place where it happened.”

Many visitors annually make pilgrimages to the Holy Land to experience places familiar to them from biblical text. As a result, not being able to see specific locations where particular events took place can, at times, be frustrating.

There tends to be a void that lies just beyond the grasp of someone seeking confirmation of lifelong beliefs.

A good example of this conflict occurs at Via Dolorosa, Latin for the “Way of Grief” or the Way of Suffering, which is the path that Jesus took while carrying the cross to his crucifixion. Today, a labyrinth of narrow passageways between a myriad of shops and stalls lines the route from the Lions Gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Each year thousands of pilgrims walk the route, a distance of just under a half a mile, as the most significant highlight of their journey. Fourteen stations mark the way, representing important events that occurred during Christ’s excruciating ordeal. 

Unfortunately, the route of the Via Dolorosa has changed a number of times over the centuries, which means that it is virtually impossible to do the walk as Jesus did it.  In Christ’s day, the path was relatively straight from beginning to end.  Though the Old Jerusalem of today retains many ancient sensations, the layers of history have buried Christ’s original course, leaving much to a visitor’s imagination.

Thankfully, the historic stations provide specific locations to aid travelers in comprehending the dramatic events of the day. Among the most popular are stations one, two, three, four, seven and nine.

Numbers one and two are said to mark Jesus’ encounters with Pontius Pilate.  Many scholars now believe however, that Pilate made his judgments in another part of the city at Herod’s Palace; an example of the conundrums faced by visitors attempting to attach meanings to their faith.

Stations three, seven and nine signify locations where Christ is said to have fallen during his arduous trek. Earlier accounts claim that Jesus stumbled seven times. The falls have become a tradition, but there is no evidence that Christ literally dropped to the ground in the true sense of falling down.

The fourth station claims to be the site where Jesus encountered his mother though there is no mention of any such meeting in the New Testament.

This is not an indictment against a visit to the Holy Land. Rather it is meant to emphasize that the anticipated epiphany has some limitations. Having said that, the beginning of the Easter story does feature some inspirational sites that conjure scenes that probably look very much at they did 2,000 or more years ago.

One of Jesus’ favorite places was a mountain ridge just beyond the walls of the Old City called the Mount of Olives. It was so named because of the olive groves that once covered its slopes.

Used as a Jewish cemetery for more than 3,000 years, there are roughly 150,000 graves at the site.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus traveled across and down the mount riding a donkey to enter Jerusalem. Though the olive trees no longer spread across the slope, thousands of graves can be viewed from its summit. The golden light that pervades the city, especially in early morning or late afternoon, is awe inspiring. 

From the crest of the mount, the Old City exudes an aura that feels much as it was two millennia ago.

Also visible from the Mount of Olives is the Lions Gate which is situated just a short distance away across a small valley. The gate marks the entrance Christ used for the last walk from prison to his crucifixion. While the walls of the Old City may have changed over the centuries, they still surround the dusky desert hues of a place that altered the course of history for all mankind.

The serpentine road down the Mount of Olives to the of Gethsemane just below will give even the hardiest traveler a workout. It is deceptively steep and can have you rubbing your calves when you arrive.

Gethsemane is not large, and here the olive trees do survive. With their ancient, gnarly appearance, the trees create a sensation that they could have actually been there during those historic events. It was at the Garden of where Judas betrayed Christ, arriving with soldiers, high priests and Pharisees to arrest him.

Jerusalem is a city where three great religions converge. It has witnessed more than its share of conflict and, if history is any indicator, it will continue to do so. The layers of time will continue and, who knows, maybe more history will disappear than will be uncovered. 

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC, founder of The Magellan Travel Club which creates and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more. Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others. As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 69 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries.

 


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

 

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