Jerusalem Old City
We begin the day in Jerusalem, the City of Gold, starting with a visit to the Mount of Olives just outside the eastern side of the Old City. The mount is home to the Church of All Nations with its brilliant golden mosaic depicting Jesus as the mediator between God and man. The church is in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus preyed before his arrest. From there we go on to Mount Zion and the Tomb of King David which is in the room below the Room of the Last Supper. We continue on foot down the Byzantine Cardo in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. We visit the Wailing Wall, the most sacred site in the Jewish faith and the last remaining outer wall of the Second Temple which dates back to around 19BCE. The Via Dolorosa takes us along the route Jesus took bearing his cross. The Via Dolorosa or Way of the Cross ends at the beautiful Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. You can enjoy the Christian and Moslem bazaars in the Old City’s narrow streets and buy some unique and authentic souvenirs before we make a brief tour of Jerusalem’s New City.
We begin with a panoramic view across Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and down over the ancient Jewish cemetery. Each part of the Old City can be clearly seen from this vantage point, you can see where the Holy Temple once stood on Temple Mount and the domes, minarets and steeples of the many mosques, churches and synagogues in the city.
We head down through the Kidron Valley (the Valley of Jehoshaphat) and get a look at the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed after the Last Supper; the Church of All Nations with its impressive mosaic and the ancient burial tombs of Yad Avshalom, Benei Hazir and Zechariah.
We pass the Dormition Church where it is believed that Mary ascended to heaven and then we visit the Upper Room or Room of the Last Supper on Mount Zion. Here Jesus had the Last Supper with his disciples and later appeared before them after his ascension to heaven (Acts 1:12-14). In the room beneath the Room of the Last Supper is the Tomb of King David, a Jewish holy site where his large cenotaph stands. Jews come to prey in front of the cenotaph which is covered with a velvet drape embroidered with symbols associated with David – a lyre, a crown and the words: «David King of Israel Lives for Ever.»
We enter the Armenian Quarter of the Old City through the Zion Gate, pass by the Armenian Church of St. James and go on to the Byzantine Cardo. The Cardo was the main thoroughfare through Jerusalem during the Roman Era and later was used during the Crusader Period. Today after extensive and ongoing excavation, stores fill the spaces under ancient arches on either side of the Cardo.
We continue through the Jewish Quarter and on to the Kotel or Wailing Wall. This was part of the outer supporting walls of the Second Temple. Jews come to prey here and place prayer notes between the huge stones of the ancient wall.
From here we follow the Via Dolorosa along the route Jesus took towards his crucifixion. We pause at the Stations of the Cross and then arrive at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus’ burial tomb is located within the church and where Christ was crucified. The church has been a Christian pilgrimage destination since the 4thcentury and is shared by several Christian denominations. Inside the vast church you can see impressive liturgical artwork, the Stone of Anointment where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial and the breathtaking Rotunda beneath the church’s largest dome.
Our exploration of Jerusalem ends with some retail therapy in the fascinating market place of the Old City.