Lawrence Davis, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Splash Magazines Worldwide, has just come from seeing a special panoramic view of Jerusalem. He was taken to a unique location overlooking Israel’s capital city by his tour guide Ossi from Rent-a-Guide Tours. So far, Ossi has been very informative and Davis is excited and thrilled to get to the next part of the tour: Via Dolorosa, the street in Jerusalem where Jesus walked to his crucifixion.
Ossi shows the group the Bethlehem Center and speaks about the city’s history. He explains that Bethlehem is very close to Jerusalem, so Jews and non-Jews used to both live there. However, after the Intifada, Bethlehem because very extreme and started shooting at the Jews. This prompted Israel to disconnect from them. Those from Bethlehem are able to come into Israel with special permission and they come with souvenirs to sell. Though they come into Israel, an Israeli can’t go into Bethlehem. Israelis will bring tourists to the border and then a local from Bethlehem will pick up the tourist, take him or her around and then bring the tourist back to the border.
The group then sees The Lion’s Gate. It is called that because both sides of the gate are decorated by two lions, so there are four lions in total. This gate was decorated in the 13th century, Ossi explains, and according to Christianity, entering this gate marks the beginning of Jesus’ walk to crucifixion.
Ossi shows Davis and his group the Garden of Gethsemane which is overlooked by the Church of All Nations. This church is where Jesus prayed during his last night and Ossi tells the group that it is called that because many nations came together to support it. “It’s a very interesting church, very nice,” he says.
The Golden Gate, according to Jewish tradition, is the gate in Jerusalem where the Messiah is supposed to come through explains Ossi. It was sealed by Sultan Suleiman I to prevent the Messiah from coming. As well, a Muslim cemetery was built right across the road to prevent the Messiah from coming since a Cohen (one with high status in Judaism due to descending from Aaron) can’t walk through a cemetery. The term Messiah is from the Hebrew name Mashiach Ben David, the son of King David. The root of the word Messiah in Hebrew means eternal, and Ossi puts it well when he says “this is the meaning of Messiah, the eternal, eternity.”
Walking through the Garden of Gethsemane, the group sees the oldest olive trees in the world. Davis enjoys the nice olives on the branches and learns that they are harvested in October. When Pope Saint Paul VI came to visit, he planted an olive tree, Ossi shares with the group.
Ossi explains that the Church of All Nations, also called Church of the Agony, was built in 1924 and it is the 5th church built there. The group goes inside this Roman Catholic church and looks at the 12 beautiful domes. Davis notices that there is one dome with a skylight that seems more important looking. Ossi confirms that it is the portion donated by the Vatican. He then describes the paintings inside the church. The first is a portrait of Jesus and the Apostles coming to the church after the Last Supper. Jesus asked them to wait for him because he wanted to pray and when he found them sleeping he got mad. The second painting shows his agony, because he knew what was going to happen to him.
Ossi points out that to the left is the place where Judas betrayed Jesus, leading to his arrest by the Romans. He then describes all the stations in Jesus’ journey in Via Dolorosa. The first station is where Jesus was judged and the second is where he was given the cross to carry. At the third station, he fell for the first time and he met his mother at the fourth. At the fifth station, Simon of Cyrene tried to help Jesus carry the cross and he was helped at the sixth station by Veronica, who gave him water. He fell for the second time at the seventh station and at the eighth station, he told women not to weep for him, rather to weep for themselves and their children. At the ninth station he fell for the third time. The last five stations are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and one can walk through them.
Davis’ group is able to see the public entrance to Temple Mount. Ossi shows them the blocked gates and then past the ruins, a stairway going up to Temple Mount. He says that the staircase is only part of the original one with the new stairs being a different size. To prevent running, the new stairs were built to make one walk in slowly since it is a very holy place. The group can also see the Wall, where they will be visiting later.
Ossi tells them that he also plans to take them to Mount Zion to see King David’s tomb, and then into the Old City to see where Jesus’ Last Supper occurred. The Jewish Quarter of the Old City is called the Cardo, which Ossi relates to the English word ‘cardiology’ because it is the heart of the city. He also plans on showing the group the Christian Quarter.
When they get to King David’s tomb, Ossi tells them that the floor is believed to be from the 2nd century AD. When the Muslims came to Jerusalem, the Ottoman Empire adopted the Jewish interpretation that this tomb is the tomb of King David. Since they accept King David as a very important person, they built a mosk up on the tomb to prevent the Jews from visiting, Ossi stated. It was first believed to be King David’s tomb in 1173, when it was noted by a Jewish writer. Benjamin from Tudela was a writer who travelled all over the world and wrote about how big each community was, what kind of facilities they had, and more. He mentioned in his book that this was the place believed to be King David’s tomb. King David’s tomb has a wooden Mezuzah outside of it, which prompts Ossi to describe how the religious came there and converted it into a synagogue. It is written in Hebrew ‘David, the King of Israel, is living forever.’
King David’s tomb is on top of Mount Zion, where Jesus and the Apostles came to celebrate Passover. After spending 7 days in Mount Olive and coming to Temple Mount every day, Jesus finally sent two of the Apostles to look on Mount Zion for an available place for all of them to celebrate Passover. They were seated on the stage, and the wall that Ossi shows Davis’ group did not used to be there so the area went back much farther. Ossi tells the tale of the Last Supper, the Passover Seder where Jesus told his Apostles to pick up their wine, representing his blood. He then told them to pick up their Matzah, unleavened bread, to represent his body, and said that one of them was going to deny him. Peter, who was sitting closest to him, said he would never deny him. They then left and went down into the Garden of Gethsemane where he was betrayed by Judas. This all occurred on a Thursday night. The following morning, Jesus was judged.
Ossi explains that the hanging arches the group can see were developed by Romans. As well, the Muslims converted it into a mosk because they believe they should convert any religious place into their belief. Ossi points out that on the right, they can see the first chapter of a Muslim prayer which reads ‘g-d is only one and Muhammad is the last profit of g-d.’ The area was controlled by the Turks for 400 years, until British General Allen conquered it at the end of WWI. During those years, Jews and Christians were both denied from visiting King David’s Tomb and the Last Supper location.
Ossi takes the group to see the Zion Gates, one of the gates built in the 16th century by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Davis’ group is amazed to see bullet holes in the gates from the Six Day War. Israeli soldiers came in through this gate and Lion’s Gate and captured the whole city on June 8, 1967. When they got Jerusalem back, Ossi said that some Israeli’s including military leader and politician Moshe Dayan “were crying like children” because it was so emotional for them to be able to touch the Wall again.
In the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Ossi talks about how the Quarter was completely destroyed by the Jordanians. Synagogues were replaced by mosks, and by Israeli law it doesn’t matter who a holy place belongs to, one is unable to destroy it. The Mosk in the Jewish Quarter replaced the Ramban Synagogue (Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman). 27 synagogues were destroyed, as were all the old buildings, so most houses in the New Quarter were rebuilt after the Six Day War. As a result, one can distinguish which homes are Jewish homes as the new houses are easy to spot. Prices for apartments in the Jewish Quarter are very, very high, Ossi reveals. After the Romans destroyed the city, one Roman Ceaser actually tried to rebuild the city out of the ruins. This led to the Bar Kokhba Rebellion against the Romans, because they wanted to convert the Old City into a pagan city, Ossi tells the group. During the rebuilding of the Old City, the Cardo was built. The Cardo is a beautiful avenue going from the Zion Gates approximately 1 mile to the Damascus Gate. Roofs shade the streets and there are many boutiques selling refreshments along the old roads.
Davis’ group is then pleased to have Ossi show them the oldest map in Jerusalem. It is from the 6th century and was found belonging to a church in east Jordan. On the map, Ossi points out the Cardo, the Zion Gates, Damascus Gates, the Golden Dome (which didn’t exist in the 6th century), and Jesus’ tomb. This map isn’t an original; however the original is in the Jordanian National Museum.
In the car, Davis, along with his Aunt and Uncle, pass Palestinians on the street. This provokes Ossi to explain that in the past only old Palestinian women used to cover themselves but now everybody, even students, keep covered. When talking about suicide bombers, Ossi declares that the main problem is their education. “They found in elementary school how they teach mathematics, they say if you have 30 children, 10 of them Jewish, 5 of them Christian, you kill the Jewish, you kill the Christian, how many left? Even if they’re going to achieve some agreement now, it’s going to take another generation to feed out the poison they are putting in for so long,” Ossi commented.
Ossi shares that the group is really standing on the original floor of the Cardo. They have maintained the historical part on one side and build new houses on the other side, while they continue the archaeological excavation. The group walks through the Jewish market and sees the old streets filled with shops and huts selling clothing, jewelery, and more.
Afterwards, Ossi brings them to the Church of Holy Sepulchre to see Jesus’ last 5 stations. Davis’ group visits the tenth station, where Jesus’ clothes were taken off and given to the people, and then eleventh station where he was nailed to cross. At the twelfth station, Jesus was crucified and at the thirteenth station, his body was prepared according to Jewish tradition. The last station is where he was buried.
Ossi shows the group the cross that is carried every Friday from the first station in Via Dolorosa to this church. It is a lot smaller than the real cross used for Jesus’ crucifixion. Ossi also points out a crack in the stone that was under Jesus when he was crucified. “See this crack? This was actually under Jesus Christ when he was crucified, and a drop of his blood cracked the stone,” Ossi marvelled. Ossi looks up and shows the group that it is written ‘ Jesus, from Nazareth, King of the Jews’ in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. One can also see the hole where the cross was stood. Ossi explains that it was a cave and the stone of the cave was moved away and replaced by the pavilion and two rooms. In the first room there’s a stone from Nazareth, symbolizing the beginning of the Christianity, and the tomb is the end of Christianity so it symbolizes the beginning and the end.
Jesus was crucified at the top of the hill where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son. “The symbol of Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end,” Ossi said. “ Abraham was asked to sacrifice his child, Issac, then the angel there stopped him and said don’t touch the child, take the ram, so what’s the connection? This is the beginning of monotheism, this is the end.”
To listen to Ossi explain this, click here: (Coming soon!)
Ossi points to the cave where the original cross was found and tells Davis’ group that 40 years after Jesus was crucified, the New Testament was written and it was forbidden during the Roman Empire to accept Christianity. This made it hard for Constantine the Great to identify the holy places until one of the bishops told Constantine’s mother that he knew where Jesus’ cross was hidden. When they found the cross, it was cut and pieces were sent to churches all over the world.
To hear Ossi tell this story, click here: (Coming soon!)
Ossi tells the group that some say if Jesus was crucified the traditional way he couldn’t pass away because you need more than two hours to die that way. However, Saint Peter was crucified upside down and it took just a few minutes for him to die, so Ossi concludes that Jesus was probably crucified upside down.
Arriving at the Wall, Ossi explains that this wall is believed to be the Western Wall of the Temple but in fact, it is only the platform that the Temple was built upon. It is believed to be part of the Temple because the gypsies were only allowed to come to this part of the wall if they paid a high amount. They did pay to come once a year, and for this reason it is thought to be the Western Wall. The stones get bigger and more decorated because they were made by Harold the Great. Ossi shows the group that there’s a frame to decorate the stone and the top was built by the Turkish Empire in the 16th century, Suleiman the Magnificent.
Visitors to the Wall leave little notes in the many cracks in between the stones. The wishes are collected once a month and buried on Mount Olive in the hopes that they will come true. The Wall is separated into a women’s side and men’s side, and many people have weddings and Bar Mitzvahs there. The top, the Temple Mount, is the Muslim part. Muslims used to throw stones down on to the prayers so now it’s controlled by Israeli forces. Ossi also says that the Torah is brought out during the holidays, and it is always written on goat skin since it’s a kosher animal. It is never painted; rather, its 52 chapters are always written by hand. Every week another chapter is read throughout the year, and then it starts again when the next year begins.
Davis and his Uncle put T’fillin on and pray at the Wall. Davis touches the Wall and walkes backwards when he walks away from it, as one is supposed to do out of respect. Davis says this is a memory that will never leave him and he calls it the highlight of his trip to Israel.
To read about what happens next in Davis’ trip to Israel, click here.
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