Thursday, January 5, 2023

Old Town Jerusalem and Ultra Orthodox Jews, January 5, 2023

I did a 3.5 hour walking tour of the religious sights in Old Town this morning.  It was excellent and I learned a lot.

The wall surrounding Old Jerusalem is 500 years old, 84 feet high, 4.5 km long and it took 4.5 years to build.  Different empires used different stone building techniques that are evident today-

not only on the exterior wall but also on the Tower of David-

37,000 people live in Old Jerusalem - 26,000 are Muslim and 6300 are Christian.  The others are Jewish or Armenians.  The Armenians were the first to accept Jesus as their Savior.  Armenian buildings in Old Town are marked with a cross and a sunburst-

The souk is comparable to the one in Marrakech, Morocco, if not even better.  Down one street, there are umbrellas in the roof to help keep it cool-

Roman roads were discovered when they put in the sewer-

Our first major stop was at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre-

which was built on the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.  According to John 19: 41-42, his tomb was close to the place of his crucifixion so the church encompasses both.  

Upon entering, there’s a stone in front of this wall below the hanging lights that people touch and pray on because after Jesus died, they believe he was placed here but our guide said the stone has no importance-

On the wall are huge mosaics that show Jesus’ death on the cross-

the preparation and mourning of his body-

as well as placing him in the tomb-

which is in the next room-

inside this shrine and under a rotunda-

The line was too long to see the tomb so I will go early tomorrow morning.  I do believe that Jesus lived and was a prophet but I have a hard time accepting religion when I think of all the atrocities committed in its n@me and the idea of making one feel guilty and unworthy of His love.  However, I am a very spiritual person and I had goosebumps the whole time I was in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre  so I’ve changed my plans about going to Nazareth tomorrow so I can stay here one more day and visit it properly.

In order to appease all religions in Old Jerusalem, certain parts of the church belong to certain churches-

The non-coloured area belongs to all groups so this makes it difficult to make decisions because all groups must agree. 

I visited the Greek Orthodox part-

The small Syrian chapel-

which contains the tomb of Joseph, Jesus’ Earth father-

as well as Saint Helena’s Chapel - Greek Orthodox-

which has a beautiful dome-

I kept descending and found a Catholic chapel-

and another-

Upstairs is the rock that Jesus’ cross was pounded into and where he died.  Not many were lined up-

The rock-

There’s a small shrine you have to crawl into on your hands and knees-

There’s a mosaic on the wall depicting the women at the empty tomb-

Jesus after the cross is taken down-

I will go back tomorrow to take my time and see more.  From here we walked to a lookout to see the Mount of Olives where numerous olive trees used to grow and from where Jesus ascended to heaven-

There’s a huge Jewish cemetery on the mount with over 3,000 graves.  It costs $45,000 for a plot-

Carrying on we passed by Abbey of the Dormition which is built on the site where Mary, Jesus’ Mom, died-

The Cardo in the Jewish quarter was the street of the market area.  It dates from the 6th century AD -

All that remains today are pillars-

Other excavations reveal a segment of the First Temple Period City Wall which was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians-

and segments of the city walls from both First and Second Temple Periods which were destroyed by the Romans in 79 AD-

Soldiers were hanging out in another excavated area, this one from the Roman Byzantine era.  It used to be a major thoroughfare for shopping-

We walked by Udi’s shop and he was sitting out front painting-

We visited the Room of the Last Supper where Jesus had his last meal with his disciples before his crucifixion.  It wouldn’t have actually been in this room but a few floors below-

There’s a mezuzah which is a small folded or rolled parchment inscribed by a qualified calligraphies with scriptural verses (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21) to remind Jews of their obligations toward God on the upper right side of doors-

We walked above the Western Wall-

on the way to Temple on the Mount.  While waiting in line, a band and singers went by-

Temple on the Mount is two mosques and non Muslims can only enter the sight for one hour twice a day.  The main praying hall is called Al Aqsa Mosque-

The main attraction though is the Dome of the Rock which was completed in 692 AD making it one of the oldest Islamic structures in the world-

I thought we were allowed to enter the mosque but I was turned away at the door.  So, I tried to convince a few Muslim women who were wearing 2 scarves to let me borrow one.  A woman sent her son into the mosque to get me a headscarf but the guards noticed me trying to cover my head and spoiled my plan-

The courtyard can hold over 400,000 worshippers-

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism.  The first temple was built in 957 BC but there have been no scientific excavations to prove this.  The second temple was built in 516 BC and destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  Orthodox Jewish tradition believes the third temple will be built when the Messiah comes.   This is also where Mohammed ascended to heaven.

It was a good morning!  I came back to the hostel and re-checked in, because I extended my stay too late, I had to change rooms.  Then, at 4:30 I joined another tour called Ultra Orthodox Jews.  It was led by a man who left the cult 20 years ago.  

We walked through an Ultra Orthodox neighbourhood. There are large posters on the street walls, this one telling people if they have been masturbating to come to a prayer meeting to repair their foundation-

Rabbis are like royalty.  Their descendants become the next rabbis.  The only thing in Jerusalem built from bricks is this Rabbi’s tomb.  There were 500,000 people at his funeral-

Walking down the street we heard many voices.  Boys were at “school” learning the talmud which is the primary source of Jewish religious law and theology.  They do not study the Bible because there is too much sex mentioned and they aren’t taught to read-

Only girls go to school, learning practical subjects so they can get jobs and support their families-

Marriages are arranged by matchmakers.  People are usually married by the time they are 20 if not before. Divorce is possible.  Once an engagement is announced, the couple will not see each other again until their wedding day.  They have sex once or twice a month and believe an erotic relationship can only happen with God.  

An interesting street sign-

There are charity boxes mounted on street walls because they are a very caring society-

The younger generation wants cell phones but this leads to learning about the Western world so flip phones are permissible but only for email and many google sites are blocked-

Cell phone stores explain via posters on the windows what cell services are available-

We visited a bookstore.  The Talmud has many volumes-

All fiction books will have some sort of a conflict that is sorted by the Rabbi.  There are NO books with any sort of reference to love or sex-

A Dad was buying his daughter some books-

Walking along the street-

Our guide explained that the Ultra Orthodox Jews are neurotic and afraid of the Western world.  They are not Zionists, nor a part of the Israeli state.  They function on their own with rules that are very conservative.  They believe the past was better than the present and they do not want to be a part of the modern world.  Their beards are spiritual symbols and they have pe’ot which are the two braids, one on either side of their head.  They are not supposed to ever cut the hair about their sideburn.  

More and more are leaving the cult as they become aware of the outside world.  Each family is different how they handle those who have left.

It was an interesting tour and they reminded me of the Hutterites.

It was a big day so tomorrow I think I’ll take it easy.  Time will tell!


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