First Weekend in Jerusalem

On Sabbath, after church part of out group decided to visit St. Anne Church and the pool of Bethesda, which is right next door.   St. Anne’s church was originally built sometime around the years 422-458.  The Basilica of St. Anne’s is a plan building made of white stone.  Because it was built so early, it lacks the gaudiness of later cathedrals.  Nowadays St. Anne’s is best know for it’s mind blowing echos. (my words)  Travelers, pilgrims and others come to the church to pray and sing.  When we arrived, a group of pilgrims from was standing near the front singing in latin.  There are a couple statues of Mary and Jesus, as well as some crusader looking crosses and stars on the floor, other then that, that is all the decorations in the church.

While the one group sang to their hearts content, we took a walk around the Pool of Bethesda.  Seeing the ruins of the two pools along with the old dam and the roman arches, it completely blew away the image I had in my mind from the Uncle Arthur bed time stories.  As you can see in the images, the area where the pools were are very deep. This was not a shallow kiddy pool, you could swim if there was enough water.  Over the years, as Jerusalem changed hands different people added to the pool making modifications.

Sometime around the year 1130, a romanesque church was built dedicated to Mary’s mother, Anne. When Salah-ed-Din, recaptured the city, he turned St. Anne’s into a law school for the Koran.  After the Turks captured Jerusalem the church was left in disrepair, however pilgrims quietly continued to visit the church.  The church was given to the French as a thank you for their help during the Crimean war.  It was the Dominican Father’s of “Ecole Biblique”  that did some restorations to the basilica and the baths.

After our tour of the pools and cisterns, the church had mostly emptied out.  Walking back in we sat on the first row with a few other people. We took turns singing different hymns and at one point even had the church filled…  Would like to think it was because of our singing, but I doubt it.  The echos last a while in the church, this makes singing a round sound very nice.   A Catholic priest and some of his parishioners came in after a while and sang a song, it was very nice hearing them sing with as small choir, in latin.

After the basilica we headed up the narrow streets dodging cars,motor bikes and other pedestrians, weaving our way around small stands selling fresh fruits and vegetables as well as toys, clothes and shoes. Walking up the hill on our way out the the Herod’s GateI stopped at a place that claimed to be the garden of Geseiminy.  The location of this garden does not seem to be in the right location to be the original garden.  There were lined pathways with olive tree’s with huge trunks, along with a church in the background.

Continuing our walk up towards the Mount of Olives, we wound our way up the mountain.  As the path zigzags up the Mountain you get better and better views of the city along with the Dome of the Rock and the city wall.  Knocking out the power lines and poles and just looking at the old city walls, it is easy to imagine the city in bible times seeing the area around the city possibly filled with vineyards or gardens with travelers and merchants, walking in and out of the city.  We were not able to stay on the Mount until sundown, The view would have been stunning with the setting sun setting the dome on fire  and lighting the city from the side.  Maybe next time. 🙂

Have I mentioned that it is the month of Ramadan?  All the most of the shops close in the evenings and the feasting begins.  Last night as we arrived back to our hotel we saw a Ramadan parade just down the street.  Bob and I headed down there, filming and taking stills of the parade, the people and a spice shop that was open. 🙂  You see the Israeli’s and the arabs on tv in a frenzy, but in actuality they are not much different from us when we are enjoying a parade.  There was a boy on his bike racing up the street doing tricks and bouncing off of the cars that line the streets sometimes two and tree deep.  At one of the barricades it seemed like a several boom boxes had been set up.  There were people dancing near it while others talked and laughed.

Today we are back at Ramote Shapira, After our staff meeting this morning, we will be heading back to Lakhish.   Will post more tonight. Enjoy the photos.  🙂

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