Day 6 Jerusalem

Day started and stayed cold and wet. Little consolation to be told by our guide Peter that eastern Israel really needed the rain. 


Just a few minutes to the 'frontier'; a check point out of the West Bank through segmented concrete walls that we guessed were almost 5 metres high.


First stop St George's Anglican Cathedral - a beautiful building in the same warm limestone as much of the architecture of this region and dating we noticed from pretty much the same year as St John's. The diocese covers all of Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria. Not the easiest diocese to travel in.


The communion service was in traditional Anglican form but alternated between Arabic and English. It was rounded of with a skilful rendition of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in Dm at quite the quickest pace I can ever remember hearing it played.


Over coffee I got chatting to an American archaeologist from Wyoming over here for several months. Talked about the synagogue at Magdala we had seen. He explained that one problem the academic community faced was the delay in publication of findings about archaeological sites. Magdala and many others were still unpublished. Meanwhile digging in the West Bank caused controversies of its own. There were those who thought that it was wrong to publish finds from the occupied territories.


The Wailing Wall, part of the Western Wall of the temple mount: we all had to pass through metal detectors to enter the large square at the lower side of which is the Wall. It didn't always look like this. One hundred years ago there were buildings close packed up to the Wall to which Jews had been traditionally allowed access once a year. In 1967 the moment Israel took over east Jerusalem this area, known as the Moroccan quarter was bulldozed to allow easy access to the Wall and to enable a lenthy programme of archaeological investigation to continue. One goal of this is to discover conclusive evidence of the Second temple built by Herod, and then so see if there is any evidence that this was the site of Solomon's temple. This archaeology itself has been controversial especially a programme of tunnelling under the temple mount which has provoked fear from the Muslim community that this might cause damage to the foundations of the great mosque, the Dome of the Rock.


We were allowed to go up to the Wall, men in their section, women in theirs, but it was raining quite hard at this point though the traditionally garbed Jewish men didn' t seem to worry as long as they put a plastic bag over their hats.


Next was lunch. Most important, it was warm and we were beginning to feel quite cold and damp. When it rains there is a lot of surface run off down the pavements and roads which can make them quite slippery. We had seen a lady go over moments after it started to rain in Bethlehem yesterday.


One of the less well known sights as far as I was concerned was Gordon's Calvary. General Gordon, the same soldier who met his end famously in the Sudan, reported that while he was in Jerusalem he had had a revelation which identified a strange rock formation just outside the city gate as Golgotha, the Skull rock. This revelation was taken seriously enough for the British authorities to then purchase the stones and they have remained in their original state ever since. This is more than can be said for other 'historical' locations which have the layers of one tradition of veneration after another encrusted on so thick that the original rock, or whatever it is, is barely visible.


After lunch we went to the edge of the city and to two neighbouring locations, the Church of the Visitation with which the Magnificat is associated, and then the Aim Karem church associated with the birth of John the Baptist and the Benedictus. Interesting but by now we were really wet and cold and even hearty renderings of hymns couldn't stop some of us wondering how soon we would get a hot shower.


Good news is, one hot shower later I am just finishing off this description of today before we go down to dinner. RL