Thanks to Yossi Vardi, we got one of the best tour guides around, Yossi Kalmanovich. I joined Lance Johnson who flew in that morning. Yossi is a professional tour guide and you could tell. His explanations were very thorough and balanced considering he was a very passionate and proud Jewish man. We first went to the roof of the University where we could see all of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. Then we went to Mount Olive where he pointed out the primary places and described the Muslim, Jewish and Christian stories. There were a variety of towers by different Christians who believed that the ascension of Christ happened in different places. The rock where Abraham took Isaac is also the place where Mohammed ascends and a stones throw away from where some Christians believe Jesus was crucified. After the bird's eye view of all of the huge variety of churches and mosques including the Mormon University and the Russian Orthodox Church, we went down inside the old part of Jerusalem. We wandered through the bazaars. People were not eating because of Ramadan, but the bazaar was bustling with activity as people stocked up on food for after Ramadan. There was a Muslim quarter, Greek Orthodox quarter, a Armenian Orthodox quarter, a variety of Orthodox Jewish... A huge variety of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish sects were represented and it was an almost unbelievable display of highly religious people mingling and sharing their holy places in what appeared to be a friendly and mutually respectful way. We visited a Church built on where some people believe Christ was crucified. There was supposed to have been an earthquake and a crack in the rock when he was crucified. The church shows a rock which had been cracked. I had never heard this before, but at the bottom of the crack, there is a rock that some believe is the skull of Adam and that Adam and Eve were also buried here. Another thing that I heard that I had not heard before was that the reason the year starts January 1 and not on the birthday of Jesus, December 25 was because Jewish boys are only officially considered alive after they are circumcised 8 days after birth. It was quite an overload of information and Yossi's ability to describe all of the various versions of each of the stories of the major religious and the intertwined nature of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian stories gave me a new appreciation for the extreme similarity and yet the ultimately unreconcilable difference between the three major monotheistic religions.

Yossi also explained the history of the various rulers of Jerusalem and what they built and tore down and why. You can see the difference in the layers of stones of temples that had been built upon temples. The graves of the Jewish waiting for the Messiah as well as the Muslim graves along the front of entrance of the main Temple area almost look like strategic military positions waiting for the return of their respective prophets. So much history and importance compressed into one small place. I'm sure it's not puzzling to people of these faiths, but to someone like me, I kept asking myself... why here?

We also visited the WWII museum, the Western Wall (the holiest place for Jewish), and got to see the West Bank wall, which looked as ominous as I had imagined. It wasn't a continuous wall, but for people who had to now travel over 10 kilometers to go around it, it certainly must feel like quite an obstruction.

7 Comments

"The rock where Abraham took Isaac is also the place where Mohammed ascends and a stones throw away from where some Christians believe Jesus was crucified."

I found the expression "a stones throw away" to be quite funny since the texts of all three religions have numerous references to stoning people to death. Who says they do not have something in common!

jews is derogatry. use jewish. if you're still there, you wouldn't want to offend anyone.

m: Interesting. OK. It is how they are referring to themselves here, but I will take your advice and edit my entry.

That's strange, I've always heard that Jesus was not born on the 25th:

http://www.neverthirsty.org/pp/corner/read1/r00372.html

"the West Bank wall, which looked as ominous as I had imagined. It wasn't a continuous wall, but for people who had to now travel over 10 kilometers to go around it, it certainly must feel like quite an obstruction."


Yes, quite the inconvenient obstruction to those people who would blow up buses with children . . . what an unfair world!

Andy, you are obviously not aware that Israel uses tens of thousands of laborers from the West Bank daily. They travel to Israel to work and they are all legally employed by Israeli businesses. The wall is designed to be a psychological barrier more than anything else. Israel could always refuse entry to the thousands of Palestinians who work for them, but that would be bad for their economy, so they do not. You cannot ignore this kind of fact and expect to be taken seriously. Your post is more of an emotive reaction than anything else.

The calends of January was the beginning of the Roman consular year (though not of its ritual year) even before the spread of Christianity. That the Nativity festival was put on December 25 (VIII Kal. Ianuarii) so that the Feast of the Circumcision (why don't they call it "Brissmas" ?) would fall on the calends of January is one possibility. The Christmas festival became popular at roughly the same time as the historical tendency in the Christian calendar, which multiplied festivals based on historical events in Jesus' life. Another possibililty is that the Nativity festival was set to December 25th (Latin "bruma", meaning "midwinter") for other reasons--historians, ancient and modern, disagree about the reasons--and that the Circumcision falls on the Calends of January merely by accident.

In some parts of Christianity the Feast of the Circumcision is now called the Feast of the Holy Name, either because of squeamishness about the custom of circumcision, or because the Name is considered of more universal significance.

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