Discovering East Jerusalem, four days before Christmas

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

Dateline: East Jerusalem. Today, we are exploring East Jerusalem and its environs, as we await with great expectations the Christmas of 2015. We are starting quite late in the morning after the daily Mass that our two chaplain priests co-celebrated in the special prayer room in our hotel. We are starting along the Saladin Street and going northward away from the Old City Walls. This street is a modern site where shops, restaurants, and appliance stores are located. But we are not buying as yet because we do not want to carry a lot of baggage while touring the whole of East Jerusalem. We just take it lightly and slowly as most of us are senior citizens.

The first historic site is the Garden Tomb, which is largely believed to be the site of the Tomb of Jesus. This is close to the site of the Crucifixion, outside the walls of the city. We stopped for awhile and pray inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Then we went to the Rockefeller Archeological Museum across the road from Herod's Gate. Inside this museum are numerous artifacts taken from the ancient and medieval times. There are Stone Age artifacts and elements of the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Al Aksha Mosque in the eighth century. It was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and is now annexed to the Israel Museum.

Then we went to the Tombs of the Kings. Despite its name, this burial site is exclusive to the family of Queen Helena of Mesopotamia who converted to Judaism in AD 50 right here in Jerusalem. Then we started our climb to Mount Scopus, Mount of Olives, and later to walk down to the Valley of Kidron. It was here that the Roman army led by Titus and Vesupian camped for the night before they executed the final siege and attack of the city. The Valley of Kidron is generally believed to be the site where the Last Judgment shall be promulgated. This Valley of Kidron is actually what the Bible refers as the Valley of Jehoshapat. And this is a very important religious and historic site visited by millions every year.

At the northern end of Mount Scopus in the Mount of Olives is the Commonwealth cemetery, the burial place for 2,472 Christian and Jewish soldiers who died fighting in the British Army during the First World War. A memorial also honors one thousand Muslim and Hindu soldiers buried in a separate graveyard in South Jerusalem. In the edge of Mount Scopus is the Hadassah Hospital and at the crest of the mount is the Hebrew University in Mount Scopus. This academic institution opened in 1925 and is now one of the best and largest universities in the entire Middle East.

In the Mount of Olives, we also visited the Mosque and the Chapel of the Ascension, and just a few steps away is the Pater Noster Church. Near the Tombs of the Prophets is the Dominus Flevit, marking the spot where Jesus Christ wept when He contemplated on His vision of the future destruction of Jerusalem. We also visited the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, which is an iconic site impressing us with onion-shaped domes of gold built in 1888 by Czar Alexander III. Then we proceeded to the Catholic Church of the Garden of Gethsemane and the magnificent Basilica of the Agony or the Church of All Nations.

We also visited the Tomb of the Virgin and the Tombs of Abraham and Zechariah, respectively.  Our day ended in the Fountain of the Virgin in the Arab neighborhood of Silvan. It was anointed by King Solomon as the only source of water for the entire Jerusalem. Today, we have finished one whole day again of a tiresome series of walk which is good for the body, and a lot of prayers, which are good for the soul. We are eagerly awaiting for Christmas as we prepare to go to Bethlehem and sleep with the shepherds, while waiting for the breaking of dawn on Christmas Day. It is cold here, it’s three  to five  Celsius and we are missing the Philippines. We are missing Cebu. We are missing our family and friends. Shalom.















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