Greetings to all again from Jerusalem:
We started off today EARLY at the Rabbi's Tunnel in Jerusalem. For those unfamiliar with the layout in Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock now sits where the temple mount once was before its destruction in 70 A.D. The Wailing Wall is to the side of it. The Israelis have been excavating underground now for some time, creating a tunnel that runs along the western wall. We went down in the tunnel and were able to see the bottom layers of what they are excavating, which includes roadways that have been dated back to the time of Jesus, meaning he likely walked these same roadways. Quite incredible to see. Before entering the tunnel, we stopped briefly at the Wailing Wall to pray. There, Mark inserted Bishop Frank's photo int he wall and prayed for him there. He took a picture as well, which we'll show you when we get home. The tunnel visit took place at 6:30. That's a.m., not p.m. Ouch! We returned to have breakfast before taking off to Bethlehem. Although not very far away, it is now a complicated trip in the fact that Bethlehem is Palestinian controlled. What that meant for us was that we had to stop at the border, get out of our Israeli-run buses, change buses and then go across the gates. Quite a contrast in cities. The first thing we noticed was how run-down, dirty and neglected much of the city is. We stopped at the Shepherd's Fields, which to the best of their ability to figure out exact sites, is pretty darned close if not the very site where the angel appeared to the shepherds in the field to announce the birth of Jesus. Very pretty area. Lots of rolling hills. Then we headed to the Church of the Nativity (still in Bethlehem). Inside, the church was a contrast of elaborate decoration and yet plain construction. We saw the site where Jesus was believed to have been born. We fought our way back to the bus through a horde of street vendors who wanted to sell us everything from handbags with Jerusalem on it (OK, now, we're in Bethlehem. If we wanted Jerusalem bags we would have bought them in, hmmm, maybe Jerusalem.) to slingshots like David used to hit Goliath in the head. From there, we went falafel-ing at a nearby restaurant. We are getting quite hooked on these sandwiches, perhaps because it's the major source of lunchtime nutrition in the Middle East. Next, we did what all of us have been waiting for this whole trip: We went shopping! Bethlehem is known for its olive wood products, and we went to a shop owned by Christian Palestinians where we saw some absolutely breathtaking sculptures, artwork, jewelry, etc. The day ended at the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. It is hard to really explain what it's like to go through the museum. You are surrounded by so many things that stimulate your senses and emotions that it becomes quickly overwhelming. But it was a great way to end the day, and perhaps fitting as well to come back out of Bethlehem (under Palestinian control) back to Jerusalem right after that. We don't think it was planned that way, but it somehow seemed right. After many trips up and down the hills today, we are pretty tired and hungry! Tomorrow we visit the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion and a few other areas. Until then ...
Love to all,
Fr. Mark and Cindy
Olive wood knitting needles perhaps?